"A South Carolina defense contractor pleaded guilty yesterday to bilking the Pentagon out of $20.5 million over nearly 10 years by adding hundreds of thousands of dollars to the cost of shipping spare parts such as metal washers and lamps....In one instance, in 2006, the government paid C&D Distributors $998,798 in transportation costs for shipping two 19-cent washers....Among the invoices was a 2004 order for a single $8.75 elbow pipe that was shipped for $445,640, according to the documents. Also that year, a $10.99 machine thread plug was shipped for $492,096. Last year, six machine screws worth a total of $59.94 were shipped at a cost of $403,436."
"One after another, the men and women who have stepped forward to report corruption in the massive effort to rebuild Iraq have been vilified, fired and demoted.
For daring to report illegal arms sales, Navy veteran Donald Vance says he was imprisoned by the American military in a security compound outside Baghdad and subjected to harsh interrogation methods.
....He had thought he was doing a good and noble thing when he started telling the FBI about the guns and the land mines and the rocket launchers — all being sold for cash, no receipts necessary, he said. He told a federal agent that the buyers were Iraqi insurgents, American soldiers, State Department workers, and Iraqi embassy and ministry employees.
The seller, he alleged, was the Iraqi-owned company he worked for: Shield Group Security Co.
'It was a Wal-Mart for guns,' he said. 'It was all illegal, and everyone knew it.'
Vance says he blew the whistle, supplying photos and documents and other intelligence to an FBI agent in his hometown of Chicago because he didn’t know whom to trust in Iraq.
For his trouble, he says, he got 97 days in Camp Cropper, an American military prison outside Baghdad that once held Saddam Hussein, and he was classified a security detainee.
Also held was colleague Nathan Ertel, who helped Vance gather evidence documenting the sales, according to a federal lawsuit that both have filed in Chicago. In it, they allege that they were illegally imprisoned and subjected to physical and mental interrogation tactics 'reserved for terrorists and so-called enemy combatants.'
Vance says he has stopped talking to the government.
....Robert Isakson filed a whistleblower suit against contractor Custer Battles in 2004.
He alleged that the company — with which he was briefly associated — bilked the U.S. government out of tens of millions of dollars by filing fake invoices and padding other bills for reconstruction work.
He and his co-plaintiff, William Baldwin, a former employee fired by the firm, pursued the suit for two years, gathering evidence on their own and flying overseas to obtain more information from witnesses. Eventually, a federal jury agreed with them and awarded a $10 million judgment against the now-defunct firm, which had denied all wrongdoing." [more]
"The Government Accountability Office reports that more than 100,000 AK-47 assault rifles and another 80,000 pistols that Washington thought it was providing to Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005 are now unaccounted for. More than 100,000 pieces of body armor and a similar number of helmets have also gone missing."
"Watchdogs are warning that corruption in Iraq is out of control. But will the United States join efforts to clamp down on it?"
A few months later, in March 2004, your company magically wins a contract from the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq to design and build the Baghdad Police College, a facility that's supposed to house and train at least 4,000 police recruits. But two years and $72 million later, you deliver not a functioning police academy but one of the great engineering clusterfucks of all time, a practically useless pile of rubble so badly constructed that its walls and ceilings are literally caked in shit and piss, a result of subpar plumbing in the upper floors.
You've done such a terrible job, in fact, that when auditors from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction visit the college in the summer of 2006, their report sounds like something out of one of the Saw movies: "We witnessed a light fixture so full of diluted urine and feces that it would not operate," they write, adding that "the urine was so pervasive that it had permanently stained the ceiling tiles" and that "during our visit, a substance dripped from the ceiling onto an assessment team member's shirt." The final report helpfully includes a photo of a sloppy brown splotch on the outstretched arm of the unlucky auditor.
"To travel to Iraq, would-be contractors needed permission from the Bush administration, which was far from blind in its appraisal of applicants. In a much-ballyhooed example of favoritism, the White House originally installed a clown named Jim O'Beirne at the relevant evaluation desk in the Department of Defense. O'Beirne proved to be a classic Bush villain, a moron's moron who judged applicants not on their Arabic skills or their relevant expertise but on their Republican bona fides; he sent a twenty-four-year-old who had never worked in finance to manage the reopening of the Iraqi stock exchange, and appointed a recent graduate of an evangelical university for home-schooled kids who had no accounting experience to manage Iraq's $13 billion budget. James K. Haveman, who had served as Michigan's community-health director under a GOP governor, was put in charge of rehabilitating Iraq's health-care system and decided that what this war-ravaged, malnourished, sanitation-deficient country most urgently needed was...an anti-smoking campaign."
“If you had a complaint about the cafeteria, Michael Cole was the man to see. He was Halliburton's ‘customer-service liaison,’ and he could explain why the salad bar didn't have Iraqi produce or why pork kept appearing on the menu. If you wanted to request a different type of breakfast cereal, he'd listen. Cole didn't have the weathered look of a war-zone concierge. He was a rail-thin twenty-two-year-old whose forehead was dotted with pimples.
He had been out of college for less than a year and was working as a junior aide to a Republican congressman from Virginia when a Halliburton vice president overheard him talking to friends in an Arlington bar about his dealings with irate constituents. She was so impressed that she introduced herself. If she needed someone to work as a valet in Baghdad, he joked, he'd be happy to volunteer. Three weeks later, Halliburton offered him a job. Then they asked for his résumé.
…Whatever could be outsourced was. The job of setting up town and city councils was performed by a North Carolina firm for $236 million. The job of guarding the viceroy was assigned to private guards, each of whom made more than $1,000 a day. For running the palace–cooking the food, changing the lightbulbs, doing the laundry, watering the plants– Halliburton had been handed hundreds of millions of dollars.
Halliburton had been hired to provide ‘living support’ services to the CPA. What that meant kept evolving. When the first Americans arrived in Baghdad in the weeks after Saddam's government was toppled, all anyone wanted was food and water, laundry service, and air-conditioning. By the time Cole arrived, in August 2003, four months into the occupation, the demands had grown. The viceroy's house had to be outfitted with furniture and art suitable for a head of state. The Halliburton-run sports bar at the al-Rasheed Hotel needed a Foosball table. The press conference room required large-screen televisions.”
How does one reconcile the demand for small government with the desire for an imperial army, apply the phrases "personal initiative" and "self-reliance" to corporation presidents utterly dependent on the federal subsidies to the banking, communications, and weapons industries.... It was the only point on which all the authorities agreed, and no matter where the words were coming from (a report on federal housing, an essay on the payment of Social Security, articles on the sorrow of the slums or the wonder of the U.S. Navy) the authors invariably found the same abiding lesson in the tale—money ennobles rich people, making them strong as well as wise; money corrupts poor people, making them stupid as well as weak.Link
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