“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Weapons of Mass Corruption or Media Hit; Where Will it Lead?

Iraq Weapons Are a Focus of Criminal Investigations

Published: August 28, 2007

BAGHDAD, Aug. 27 — Several federal agencies are investigating a widening network of criminal cases involving the purchase and delivery of billions of dollars of weapons, supplies and other matériel to Iraqi and American forces, according to American officials. The officials said it amounted to the largest ring of fraud and kickbacks uncovered in the conflict here.

The Reach of War

The inquiry has already led to several indictments of Americans, with more expected, the officials said. One of the investigations involves a senior American officer who worked closely with Gen. David H. Petraeus in setting up the logistics operation to supply the Iraqi forces when General Petraeus was in charge of training and equipping those forces in 2004 and 2005, American officials said Monday.

There is no indication that investigators have uncovered any wrongdoing by General Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, who through a spokesman declined comment on any legal proceedings.

This article is based on interviews with more than a dozen federal investigators, Congressional, law enforcement and military officials, and specialists in contracting and logistics, in Iraq and Washington, who have direct knowledge of the inquiries. Many spoke on condition of anonymity because there are continuing criminal investigations.

The inquiries are being pursued by the Army Criminal Investigation Command, the Department of Justice, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, among other agencies.

Over the past year, inquiries by federal oversight agencies have found serious discrepancies in military records of where thousands of weapons intended for Iraqi security forces actually ended up. None of those agencies concluded that weapons found their way to insurgents or militias.

In their public reports, those agencies did not raise the possibility of criminal wrongdoing, and General Petraeus has said that the imperative to provide weapons to Iraqi security forces was more important than maintaining impeccable records.

In an interview on Aug. 18, General Petraeus said that with ill-equipped Iraqi security forces confronting soaring violence across the country in 2004 and 2005, he made a decision not to wait for formal tracking systems to be put in place before distributing the weapons.

“We made a decision to arm guys who wanted to fight for their country,” General Petraeus said.

But now, American officials said, part of the criminal investigation is focused on Lt. Col. Levonda Joey Selph, who reported directly to General Petraeus and worked closely with him in setting up the logistics operation for what were then the fledgling Iraqi security forces.

That operation moved everything from AK-47s, armored vehicles and plastic explosives to boots and Army uniforms, according to officials who were involved in it. Her former colleagues recall Colonel Selph as a courageous officer who was willing to take substantial personal risks to carry out her mission and was unfailingly loyal to General Petraeus and his directives to move quickly in setting up the logistics operation.

“She was kind of like the Pony Express of the Iraqi security forces,” said Victoria Wayne, who was then deputy director of logistics for the overall Iraqi reconstruction program.

Still, Colonel Selph also ran into serious problems with a company she oversaw that failed to live up to a contract it had signed to carry out part of that logistics mission.

It is not clear exactly what Colonel Selph is being investigated for. Colonel Selph, reached by telephone twice on Monday, said she would speak to reporters later but did not answer further messages left for her.

The enormous expenditures of American and Iraqi money on the Iraq reconstruction program, at least $40 billion over all, have been criticized for reasons that go well beyond the corruption cases that have been uncovered so far. Weak oversight, poor planning and seemingly endless security problems have contributed to many of the program’s failures.

The investigation into contracts for matériel to Iraqi soldiers and police officers is part of an even larger series of criminal cases. As of Aug. 23, there were a total of 73 criminal investigations related to contract fraud in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan, Col. Dan Baggio, an Army spokesman said Monday. Twenty civilians and military personnel have been charged in federal court as a result of the inquiries, he said. The inquiries involve contracts valued at more than $5 billion, and Colonel Baggio said the charges so far involve more than $15 million in bribes.

Just last week, an Army major, his wife and his sister were indicted on charges that they accepted up to $9.6 million in bribes for Defense Department contracts in Iraq and Kuwait.

Investigations span the gamut from low-level officials submitting false claims for amounts less than $2,500 to more serious cases involving, conspiracy, bribery, product substitution and bid-rigging or double-billing involving large dollar amounts or more senior contracting officials, Army criminal investigators said. The investigations involve contractors, government employees, local nationals and American military personnel.

Questions about whether the American military could account for the weaponry and other equipment purchased to outfit the Iraqi security forces were raised as early as May of last year, when Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia and then the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent a request to an independent federal oversight agency to investigate the matter.

But federal officials say the inquiry has moved far beyond the initial investigation of hundreds of thousands of improperly tracked assault rifles and semiautomatic pistols that grew out of Senator Warner’s query. In fact, Senator Warner said in a statement to The New York Times that he was outraged when he was briefed recently on the initial findings of the investigations.

“When I was briefed on the recent developments, I felt so strongly that I asked the Secretary of the Army to brief the Armed Services Committee right away, which he did in early August,” Senator Warner said in a statement.

An Army spokesman declined to comment on the briefing by the secretary of the Army, Pete Geren. In a sign of the seriousness of the scandal, the Defense Department Inspector General, Claude M. Kicklighter, will lead an 18-person team to Iraq early next month to investigate contracting practices, said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary.

Mr. Morrell said Mr. Kicklighter, a retired three-star Army general, would stay in Iraq indefinitely to investigate contracting abuses, and was empowered to fix problems on the spot or take action if his team identified potential criminal activity.

Congressional officials who have been briefed on the Defense Department inspector general’s inquiry said Monday that one focus would be on weapons, munitions and explosives. In addition, Mr. Geren, the Army secretary, is expected to announce later this week the creation of a panel of senior contracting and logistics specialists to address any systemic problems they identify.

Senator Warner’s request last May for an independent federal oversight agency to investigate the accountability of weapons and equipment given to Iraqi security forces underscored concern about the issue.

That federal agency, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, responded with a report in October 2006 that found serious discrepancies in American military records of where thousands of the weapons actually ended up. The military did not take the routine step of recording serial numbers for the weapons, the inspector general found, making it difficult to determine whether any of the weapons had ended up in the wrong hands.

In July 2007, the Government Accountability Office found even larger discrepancies, reporting that the American military “cannot fully account for about 110,000 AK-47 rifles, 90,000 pistols, 80 items of body armor, and 115,000 helmets reported as issued to Iraqi security forces as of Sept. 22, 2005.”


  1. Hey, whaddya know. You roll into a country whose previous system of gov't was fueled by bribes, corruption and tribalism, and you hand out stacks of hundreds and lots of guns, expecting everyone to suddenly act Swiss and play nice.

    Which is more stupid, handing out money and guns to corrupt, tribalist officials or manufacturing outrage that corrupt, tribalist officials acted the way they always have when we handed out money and guns?

    Golf Foxtrot in the house.

  2. According to the .fedgov...

    We're gonna get hit again!

    A refreshing no-shitter from Vice Admiral John Scott Redd (ret.)at the National CounterTerrorism Center.

    Remarkably devoid of the Chertoff-esque obfuscation and Bushite pollyannaism.

    "What I’ll tell you about bin Laden is if we knew where he was, he’d either be dead or captured. It’s that simple. [He’s] obviously a tough target. That whole area is a tough target. And my standard answer on OBL is: remember [convicted Atlanta Olympics bomber] Eric Rudolph. Nobody likes to hear it but, I mean, here’s a guy [who was on the run] in the United States of America. We had unlimited access—the FBI, local law enforcement—and the guy hid out for an awful long time just by keeping a low profile. One reporter said the other day, “Well, gee, you’ve got all this great overhead stuff and various surveillance things.” I said, “Yeah. I’d trade those for about three great human sources.”"


    "We’ve got this intelligence threat; we’re pretty certain we know what’s going on. We don’t have all the tactical details about it, [but] in some ways it’s not unlike the U.K. aviation threat last year. So we know there is a threat out there. The question is, what do we do about it? And the response was, we stood up an interagency task force under NCTC leadership. So you have all the players you would expect: FBI, CIA, DHS, DIA, DoD, the operators—the military side comes into that—participating in an integrated plan, but integrated in a much more granular and tactical way than we’ve ever done before. This is my 40th year in government service, 36 in uniform and almost four as a civilian. This is revolutionary stuff, and it is affecting the way we do business."


    "This is a long war. People say, “What is this like?” I say it’s like the cold war in only two respects. Number one, there is a strong ideological content to it. Number two, it is going to be a long war. I’ll be dead before this one is over. We will probably lose a battle or two along the way. We have to prepare for that. Statistically, you can’t bat 1.000 forever, but we haven’t been hit for six years, [which is] no accident."


    "We have done an incredible amount of things since 9/11, across the board. Intelligence is better. They are sharing it better. We are taking the terrorists down. We are working with the allies very carefully. We are doing the strategic operational planning, going after every element in the terrorist life cycle. So we have come a long way. But these guys are smart. They are determined. They are patient. So over time we are going to lose a battle or two. We are going to get hit again, you know, but you’ve got to have the stick-to-itiveness or persistence to outlast it."

    Funny - his words imply some kind of national effort. One critique. Lack of End-State.

    We knew the defeat of the USSR and the death of communism was the End State for the cold war.

    What is the End State for this Long War?

    Status Quo in the middle east with the loonies in check? Dubai the Model? Israel enlarged? Israel reduced? No more Wahabism? The mullahs dnagling from ropes? Waziristan a grease spot? What is it?

    You could motivate more of the country to the fight with a clearly defined End State. We don't have that. Anywhere.

    It's all defense. Right now our End State is keeping the barbarians at the gate in perpetuity. That will mean our defeat.

    The Vision Thing again. Gotta sell the country on the End State beyond "go shopping" and "stay the course".

  3. Oh, I think that's it's worse than just a case of Iraqi corruption.

    I recall a thread, where the price of ammo, in Iraq, was discussed.

    The storyline based upon the costs to the insurgency and how long they could be maintained. There was a line in the story, how a US supply officer was selling the ammo to the insurgents. This piece of traitorous treachery went unremarked upon.

    I let it go because there was no name attached and thusly could have just been considered a morale buster, inserted by the media outlet.

    On the other hand, corrupt Army officers are not a historical anomaly, though not the norm, either.

    The idea that none of the weapons supplied to the Iraqi Federal Police made it to the militias is fanciful. The Federal Police are a extension of the Shia militias, part and parcel.
    That is why, when Iraqi Police Lts are arrested, then ambushes of MNF patrols ensue in retaliation.
    The Brits, in Basra, had just that scenario occur when that female medical officer, the friend of the Warrior Prince, was killed by a IED, post a police arrest operation.

    Success has a thousand fathers, while failure is an orphan, up for adoption.

    The multiple recriminations of Iraq are just beginning. General P and his staffers, they will be tarnished. Because of what they did and did not do, both past and present.

    It will be hard to pin the Dereliction of Duty on E4s, this time.
    Be assured it will be attempted.

  4. Even Dennis Ross, another of the famed "experts" has finally come on board with my proposal of accepting the realities of US power projection, taking the inititive and declaring the Iraqi Adventure a success. The US should dictate the "end game" in Iraq, not be buffetted by the actions of others.

    Instead, we ought to be asking how we can use the process of our disengagement to affect the behavior of Iraqis and their neighbors. Our baseline objective should be to make sure that Iraq's problems are contained within Iraq. But we can still hope to achieve more than that. We can still hope to create a managed transition to an Iraq that has a central government with limited powers, provinces with extensive autonomy, and some means for sharing revenues.

    Achieving such a transition is worth one last try. To do so, we should do three things. First, we should declare the surge a success and announce that we will negotiate a timetable for our withdrawal with the Iraqi government. This would give Iraqis input into the timing and shape of the withdrawal and doesn't simply impose it on them.

    He has two other ideas, but they are diplomatic eyewash. Not harmful to our efforts, but not central to success.

    The link is at RCP.

  5. JACKSON, Miss. (Associated Press) -- Mississippians need to skip the gravy, say no to the fried pickles and start taking brisk walks to fight an epidemic of obesity, experts say. According to a new study, this Deep South state is the fattest in the nation.

    It also became the first state to crack the 30 percent barrier for adults considered obese, with West Virginia and Alabama just behind, according to the Trust for America's Health, a research group that focuses on disease prevention.

    Aside from being a butt of late-night talk show jokes, the obesity epidemic has serious implications for public policy.

    If current trends hold, these states could face enormous increases in the already significant costs of treating diabetes, heart disease and other ailments related to extra weight. The leanest state in the rankings was Colorado, with an obesity rate projected at a much lower 17.6 percent.

    "We've got a long way to go. We love fried chicken and fried anything and all the grease and fatback we can get in Mississippi," said Democratic state Rep. Steve Holland, chairman of the Public Health Committee.

  6. While many will howl (especially you rat) over the claim of "success" (I point you to your numerous snide remarks regarding the success in South Iraq). I've been advocating, ever since we stuck our finger in the trap) of announcing our intention to withdraw and commencing a negotiation with not only the Iraqi government, but many of the numerous factions in Iraq, its neighbors, the Europeans, and the UN over the details and what is to follow.

  7. Them Mississippians Just need to take Aerobics Lessons from Idahoean Craig.

  8. Exactly, ash.
    Success cannot be proclaimed, and then stay on and continue the fight.

    If there is success, then the fruits of that success must be tasted.

    The Administration, while declaring success, has lower level minions, like Mr Crocker, lamenting the British decision.

    They cannot have it both ways. If the Iraqi are successful, we stand down. That was the promise, as yet undelivered.

    It is the hypocrisy I chastise.
    The Brits should be gone from Basra, not ineffectually holding on at the airport.
    All they are is a target.

    If the Surge is a success, US troops should be leaving, as they have been from Mosul and Tal Afar.

    We should be withdrawing from Anbar, the locals have it well in hand. That is what success entails.

    Coalition combat forces leaving, or the claims of success are patently false.

    Claims of success followed by statements and claims that we are still years away from standing down, that is spin so thin as to be comical.

    Senator Warner is right, Mr Ross is right. Start for the doors, it'll cause the Iraqi to focus on the issues important to US. If the do not accomadate US, we should leave, even quicker. Not threaten them with a talk of coups and palace intrigues.

    Without the timeline to withdrawal, agreements on an extended small footprint US presence, the talk of success, as in Basra, is just meaningless hot air and rhetoric.

  9. What is it about
    Meaningless Hot Air
    that's "Wrong"
    If it's good for Business?
    We talkin BDS again here?

  10. What follows is up to the Iraqi, not the UN, the EU or anyone else.

    The Iranians and the Sauds are not going to agree on the future of Iraq. They are diametricly opposed to a solution.

    Christopher Hitchens asks a question
    Which Iraq War Do You Want To End?

    Myself, I want the US involvement in the Sunni v Shia sectarian strife to end. Whether that war continues without US, matters little, as long as it is contained to Iraq. It could boil over in Syria to no ill effect on US or our allies. In fact if it did engulf Syria, that'd be a "good thing".

    One reason why the US is supplying the Sauds with $20 Billion USD in modern weaponry, to contain the conflict to Iraq.

    But to bring "Peace" to Iraq, that'd take 20 years and 500,000 troops, a restructuring of their education system, their legal system and the destruction of the tribal system.

    None of which will occur.

    We tried to accomplish those goals with 120,000 troops, in three years, and failed miserably.

  11. She knew the correct tag line, doug,

    For the children

    So she was the winner.
    See, it's still all good.

  12. Bush is our first Authentic
    "For the Children"
    Bask in his Compassion.
    While you can.

  13. Whoever said women had to be able to talk anyways?

  14. Who wooda thunkit. SAT scores drop again.

  15. No Problemo, AlBobo,
    The NEA will just apply the "correction" of ANOTHER Hundred points onto the scores.
    ...for the children.

  16. Like the good old days trying to read a radio TTY machine during severe sun flare activity.

  17. Idaho Statesman's Report on Craig The Statesman is the big Boise newspaper of record.

  18. Iran willing to step up to plate, and fill Power Vacuum when USA exits Iraq.

  19. HERE is Hugh Fitzgerald's argument in a nutshell.

  20. Remember the Clinton Standard, bob.
    Oral copulation and satisfaction is not really sex, strictly speaking.
    Mr Craig could thusly be telling the truth, in a manner of speaking.

    What's a little tongue amongst strangers, certainly not real sex.

    It also would depend, of course, if one was the tonguee or the tonguer.
    As more than one prison inmate has related, passing is not the same as catching. While from my perspective, they're all happy fellows.

    But I'm from the wild frontier, the land of Mr Kolbe and both sexual permissiveness and ambiguity amongst politicos.

    Our happy Congressman did not hide in the shadows, he, at least, had the courage of his convictions. Though I don't think he was ever even charged, prior to Arizona repealing it's laws pertaining to "lewd and lascivious behavior", sodomy and "open and notorious cohabitation" in 2001.
    In AZ it was all about tax revenues, the State gaining $500,000 in increased revenues by repealing those archaic morality based laws.

    We value the dollar, more than the rightousness of ignored legislated morality.
    But we still are one of the skinnier States, the trans-fats not over coming 110 degree heat.

    If Mr Craig had been practicing his wide stance, here in Phoenix, he'd have been a-okay.

  21. dRat,

    Here is an article that expresses what I think you were trying to on the Vick thing:

    Why Vick is alone in the doghouse

  22. :) Well, Rat, distinctions without a difference, according to the Idaho Family Alliance, who are even now throwing Craig to the wolves. They said, parenthetically, that they had gotten many emails from gay groups whooping and hollering with 'glee' about Craig's downfall, and Idaho Family Values Alliance thought this odd, a better response would be to pray for Mr. Craig. I think the best response would be to pray for his poor embarrassed wife and those poor kids.

  23. If you have time on your hands, big debate in Vegas between Ron Paul, d'Souza etal on Too Much War, or Not Enough

  24. Basicly, but it's not even about cruelty to the dogs.
    The greyhound racing industry destroys thousands of them, in the pursuit of champions.

    I'm not a big football fan, didn't even know who Vick was, prior to the all the hoopla.

    I've never seen a dog fight, in real life, nor have I ever seen a bull fight, though cock fighting, that is fun to watch.
    Seen calves and steers damaged, then destroyed at ropings, but not often. Seen more cowboys hurt by bulls than calves or steers injured by cowboys.

    Seen horses killed in precision riding accidents, collisions at speed. Seen polo players dragged across the field, hung up in the stirrup. Busted legs for sure.

    Saw that race horse, Barbaro, blow his leg out at the Preakness, on TV, they eventually had to put that gelding down. With no outrage directed at the Sport of Kings, or extending Barbaro's agony in an attempt to "save" it.

    Bear baiting with dogs, that was once all the rage, entertainment for the upper classes and the masses.
    Moralities vary, with time and locale. What Vick did was illegal, the morality or immorality of dog fighting, I'm not sure of that Standard, as it is ever changing. The further the society gets from "the farm and the woods" the more sterile it wants to become.

    We've come a long way since Rome and the spectacle of men battling to the death and public execution by lion.

    But still the outrage over Mr Vick, it seems out of proportion to the crime, as compared to pedophiles, rapists and murderers.

  25. I've been to Europe once, and saw the bullfights in Spain. Dad saw the bullfights in Portugal. There is some truly great horsemanship, and trained horses there in Portugal. I wouldn't get rid of either practice in those countries, if the people there want them, as it goes so far into the past, really is a beautiful spectacle, and what's a world without some traditions from the past in some of these countries. I know it's tough on the bull in Spain, but but the heck, ole!

  26. As for Mr Craig, an example of being in the midst of a societies shifting moral stance.

    What once was shameful and almost beyond redemption, now celebrated in many cities across the Americas.

    The morality standard of tattoos, another interesting moral shift of societal standards.

    Bloodsports once was accepted as a "part of life" now deried as cruel and unusual. What was once considered abnormal and morally suspect, now if not celebrated at least excused.

    Mr Craig's real crime, hypocricy. It is by that petard he will be hoisted.

  27. "It is physically impossible to keep a straight face while thinking of the 'wide stance' defense." So says the WSJ

    They say Craig is not a hypocrite, just 'weak'.