Oil has hit $132 a barrel, which could be why Dick Cheney felt comfortable addressing graduating cadets at the U. S. Coast Guard academy in Connecticut on May 21 while wearing a ten-gallon cowboy hat.
(Why he thought a Texas Pope hat was an appropriate look for New London is a mystery, unless Arby’s unveiled a line of men’s formalwear with their new Bacon Beef sandwich.)
Cognitive dissonance is nothing new for our VP, who surreally told the new Coast Guard officers that the troop surge in Iraq “has succeeded brilliantly.”
“The only way to lose this fight is to quit. That would be irresponsible,” Cheney said. “More than that, quitting would be an act of betrayal and dishonor.”
Betrayal to, and dishonor in the eyes of….Dick Cheney, presumably.
The TV Guide summary of Cheney’s commencement speech might read: ‘VP pre-emptively shames Coast Guard in anticipation of his horrible policies overturned.’
Quitting the fight he invented may be an act of dishonor, but allegations of mismanagement, corruption, cronyism, over-billing, and fraud among contractors directly related to his ex-company apparently don’t bother Mr. Cheney so much.
KBR (a division of Haliburton), DynCorp, and a third firm, just landed a 10-year contract worth up to $150 billion… and there’s still nobody watching the cash register.
KBR has been accused – again — by ex-employees of engaging in brazen racketeering, according to Bruce Falconer of Mother Jones.
“Three whistleblowers before the Senate’s Democratic Policy Committee (DPC) accused U.S. private contractors of looting Iraqi palaces and ministries, stealing military equipment, fencing supplies destined for U.S. troops, and even operating a prostitution ring.”
Former KBR employee Frank Cassaday told the committee:
“The ice foreman was cheating the troops out of ice at the same time that he was trading the ice for DVDs, CDs, food, and other items at the Iraqi shops across the street.”
Cassaday later said that he observed co-workers bringing stolen U.S. military equipment to the KBR camp, including artillery round detonators, rocket launchers, and rounds of small arms ammunition. The thefts of U.S. military equipment and supplies, wrote Falconer, are so pervasive they are nicknamed “drug deals” by KBR employees.
But KBR officials don’t like a snitch.
When Cassaday told his KBR superiors what he’d seen, KBR security officers held him in his tent for two days, transferred him into “protective custody” for four more, then transferred him to work in a laundry, “against his will.”
Linda Warren, another former KBR employee, told the DPC that KBR employees performing construction duties were not only “…looting, but they had a system in place to get contraband out of the country so it could be sold on eBay. They stole artwork, rugs, crystal, and even melted down gold to make spurs for cowboy boots.”
Ms. Warren, too, was sucker-punched by KBR brass: her vehicle was taken, her access to phones and the Internet were cut off; she was eventually transferred out of Baghdad.
Barry Halley, a former project manager for a Dyncorp subcontractor, told the committee, “A co-worker… was killed when he was traveling in an unsecure car and shot performing a high-risk mission…I believe that my co-worker could have survived if he had been riding in an armored car. At the time, the armored car…. was being used by a manager to transport prostitutes from Kuwait to Baghdad.”
This is not new allegation for Dyncorp. Dyncorp has been accused by ex-employees of being directly involved in human trafficking and child prostitution rings as early as 1999.
Ex-DynCorp employee Ben Johnston,an aircraft-maintenance technician, blew the whistle on DynCorp’s practice of buying underage girls in Bosnia for use as sex slaves, according to a 2002 article in Insight Magazine by Kelly Patricia O’Meara.
“(The girls) were from Russia, Romania and other places, and they were imported in by DynCorp and the Serbian mafia. These guys would say ‘I gotta go to Serbia this weekend to pick up three girls.’ They talk about it and brag about how much they pay for them – usually between $600 and $800. …(T)here was this one guy who had to be 60 years old who had a girl who couldn’t have been 14. DynCorp leadership was 100 percent in bed with the mafia over there.”
Johnston too, was sacked for these revelations; a RICO statute (Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization Act) lawsuit was filed on his behalf in Texas.
Christine Dolan, founder of the International Humanitarian Campaign Against the Exploitation of Children, told O’Meara:
“(W)hat makes this more egregious for the U.S. is that our purpose in those regions is to restore some sense of civility. Now you’ve got employees of U.S. contractors in bed with the local mafia and buying kids for sex! ….The message we’re sending to kids is that it’s okay for America’s representatives to rape children.”
The DPC, a partisan committee, sadly has no power to pass legislation, but it did wring its hands – and it will “refer allegations to the Department of Justice and the Pentagon’s Inspector General for further investigation,” the DPC’s communications director told Falconer.
Senate Republicans have blocked measures that would boost increased oversight for private military contractors.
Still a whole lot of cowboy hats in DC, fiends. Yipeee.