Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Tale Of Two Species

Homo sapiens var. Virtus et Integritas

Senator Russ Feingold leads with his efforts to cut off all war funding:

Sen. Russ Feingold forged ahead of even the liberal pack last week when he promised to lead an effort to cut all funding for the war in Iraq.

"I have consistently called for the redeployment of our military in Iraq," he said during a Senate hearing. "But that advice has not been heeded. And now Congress must use its main power, the power of the purse, to put an end to our involvement in this disastrous war."

Is he going to be successful in that effort? No. Is he going to be accused of turning his back on our valiant troops? Yes.

But, given the fact almost no one, aside from President Bush and a handful of men who hope to succeed him in 2008, seems to believe the escalation the president plans in Iraq will succeed, perhaps we ought to see Feingold's message as being the only one that makes sense.

If we're losing in Iraq - and the president pretty much said we are - and if our plans for winning won't work - and the nation's leading military figures and many Republican leaders say they won't - what sense does it make to keep asking our sons and daughters to die there?

Homo sapiens var. Servus Dollaris Omnipotentis

In an important and profoundly upsetting investigative piece at PlayboyOnline, Richard Cummings reports that National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley, with the help and expertise of high-ranking Lockheed Martin official Bruce Martin, in 2002 fabricated a rationale for the invasion of Iraq:

In November of 2002, Stephen J. Hadley, deputy national security advisor, asked Bruce Jackson to meet with him in the White House. They met in Hadley's office on the ground floor of the West Wing, not far from the offices of Vice President Dick Cheney and then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. Hadley had an exterior office with windows, an overt indicator of his importance within the West Wing hierarchy.

This was months before Secretary of State Colin Powell would go to the United Nations to make the administration's case for the invasion of Iraq, touting the subsequently discredited evidence of weapons of mass destruction. But according to Jackson, Hadley told him that "they were going to war and were struggling with a rationale" to justify it. Jackson, recalling the meeting, reports that Hadley said they were "still working out" a cause, too, but asked that he, Jackson, "set up something like the Committee on NATO" to come up with a rationale.

Jackson had launched the U.S. Committee on NATO, a nongovernmental pressure group, in 1996 with Hadley on board. The objective of the committee, originally called the U.S. Committee to Expand NATO, was to push for membership in the NATO military alliance for former Soviet bloc countries including Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

What Bruce Jackson came up with for Hadley this time, in 2002, was the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. The mission statement of the committee says it was "formed to promote regional peace, political freedom and international security by replacing the Saddam Hussein regime with a democratic government that respects the rights of the Iraqi people and ceases to threaten the community of nations." The pressure group began pushing for regime change -- that is, military action to remove Hussein -- in the usual Washington ways, lobbying members of congress, working the media and throwing money around. The committee's pitch, or rationale as Hadley would call it, was that Saddam was a monster -- routinely violating human rights -- and a general menace in the Middle East.


Still, there is another way to view Jackson's activities. As The New York Times put it in a 1997 article, "at night Bruce Jackson is president of the U.S. Committee to Expand NATO, giving intimate dinners for senators and foreign officials. By day, he is director of strategic planning for Lockheed Martin Corporation, the world's biggest weapons maker."

That's how D.C. works. Many of the people making decisions have been in and out of the same set of revolving doors connecting government, conservative think tanks, lobbying firms, law firms and the defense industry. So strong is the bond between lobbyists, defense contractors and the Pentagon that it is known in Washington as "the iron triangle." And this triangle inevitably gets what it wants. Why? Because in the revolving door system, a defense contractor executive can surface as an official in the Department of Defense, from which position he can give lucrative contracts to his former employer, and his prospects for an even better paying job in the private sector brighten. Former aides to members of congress become handsomely paid lobbyists for the companies they were able to help in their position on Capitol Hill. Such lobbyists can spread their corporate-funded largesse to the friendliest members and their aides on the Hill. And so on.


Bruce Jackson is a perfect example of this. While vice president for strategy and planning for Lockheed from 1999 to 2002, Jackson, by his own account, was also "responsible for the foreign policy platform at the 2000 Republican National Convention," to which he was a delegate. (The platform involved a dramatic increase in defense spending.) His title at the convention was chair of the platform subcommittee on foreign policy.


But forget Jackson. In 2002, he was on the outside. Stephen Hadley, looking out of the windows from his West Wing office, was on the inside. Sure, Hadley had the requisite government experience for a deputy national security advisor. He had been an assistant secretary of defense under Bush's dad. But he had been through the revolving door, too: Stephen Hadley, the point man for justifying the invasion of Iraq, had also lawyered at Shea & Gardner, whose clients included Lockheed.

Of course, all the frothing at the mouth about lobbyists, money and special interests can seem from outside the Beltway as much ado about nothing. The government hands out contracts. The beneficiaries or those who want to be beneficiaries buy steak dinners for the officials who hold the purse strings. Big deal. The problem, though, is that, upon closer scrutiny, this is not how the system works. It's actually much more sinister than that, allowing the interests of America to be subverted by the interests of corporate America. As you'll see here, your elected officials did not deliberate on how best to protect their constituents, decide bombing Iraq was the best way and then order some provisions and weapons. On the contrary, this is the story of how Lockheed's interests, as opposed to those of the American citizenry, set the course of U.S. policy after 9/11.

For the war companies, things have worked out perfectly. Whatever the rationale for the invasion of Iraq, business is booming. Not long after Bush took office, Lockheed Martin's revenues soared by more than 30 percent, as it was awarded $17 billion in contracts from the Department of Defense, a far cry from the lean years of the Clinton administration. (Under Clinton, it did win $2 billion in contracts with the Department of Energy for nuclear weapons activity; recently Bush called for 125 new nukes a year, opening up new contract horizons in that area, as well.) Its stock went from 16.375 in October of 1999 to 71.52 in June of 2002. As professor of finance at the State University at Buffalo Michael Rozeff observes, "the stock market anticipates many events."

Lockheed Martin reported 2002 sales of $26.6 billion, a backlog of more than $70 billion and free cash of $1.7 billion. And that was before the war in Iraq.

I urge you to read the entire piece. This is several degrees of magnitude beyond outrageous.

Courage and integrity, Ladies and Gentlemen. Resolve to support only that handful of humans in our government who are possessed of those qualities. And demand--better still, work toward--the removal from office of those who so clearly are not.

(Hat tips to Blue Gal and Truly Equal.)

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