Douglas Feith’s Platinum Parachute
Douglas Feith, the recently resigned undersecretary of defense, who just happened to be one of the main people who for years on end advocated for a war in Iraq, and who in large part developed the disastrous policies for the war in Iraq, planned ahead for his retirement and will not be seen in the unemployment line.
On January 27, 2005, the Washington Post announced: "A principal architect of the Defense Department’s postwar strategy in Iraq … will leave his post this summer."
The announcement came after years of rumors that top administration officials had decided that Feith had to go, but were dissuaded by Donald Rumsfeld who argued that his ouster would be viewed as an admission that the war in Iraq was a mistake. But the administration had definitely reduced Feith’s authority over the past 2 years.
In announcing his departure, Feith claimed he was leaving for personal reasons, citing the desire to spend more time with his children. "For the last four years, they haven’t seen me a lot," he told the Post.
He used the standard administration exit line. Sort of like the noticeably absent in light of Katrina, ex-FEMA director, Joe Albaugh, who left his job to spend time with his family. Joe was Bush’s chief of staff when he was governor of Texas and his campaign manager in 2000. Once Bush took office, Joe accepted a gig as director of FEMA.
Like Feith, when he announced his resignation, Joe said, "Now I am going to take the opportunity to spend some time with my wife and children."
I sure hope Doug spends more time with his kids than Joe did, because judging from hindsight, Joe should have been a psychic. He somehow knew at the beginning of March 2003, that he should quit FEMA and go into the business of securing reconstruction contracts in Iraq for wealthy clients before the first bomb was dropped. And his family could not have enjoyed much quality time at all with Joe, being he opened up New Bridge Strategies for business within a few short weeks of leaving the White House.
At the time, Josh Marshall, who writes a column for the Washington newspaper, The Hill, said that he believed that each new piece of legislation needs a catchy title, and came up with title "The Bush Crony Full-Employment Act of 2003," for the $87 billion allocated for rebuilding Iraq.
According to Josh, New Bridge was actually an outgrowth of Haley Barbour’s lobbying firm, Barbour Griffith & Rogers. Josh says he reached that conclusion after he learned that both firms were located in the same office space. And also because Lanny Griffith was the CEO of New Bridge and Ed Rogers was the vice president. Sounds like a logical conclusion to me.
When the company began, the New Bridges official web site said, "the opportunities evolving in Iraq today are of such an unprecedented nature and scope that no other existing firm has the necessary skills and experience to be effective both in Washington, D.C., and on the ground in Iraq." That phrasing was quickly changed.
How could it get any sweeter than this? Joe quits FEMA, moves into the office space of one of the most successful and powerful GOP lobbying firms in the country and starts advertising for clients who want to win reconstruction contracts in Iraq.
First Brother, Neil Bush, also jumped on this money train and landed a $60,000 a year consultant contract with a principal in New Bridge. According to Neil’s testimony in his divorce deposition in March 2004, in return for his salary, he took phone messages for about 3 hours a week.
However, 3 people contacted by the Financial Times of London reported seeing letters written by Neil that recommend business ventures promoted by New Bridges in the Middle East. So we had Neil being paid an annual fee to "help companies secure contracts in Iraq," the Times reported.
I’m not too worried about Doug Feith ending up in the unemployment lines because following in Joe’s footsteps, Feith and his law partner stayed very busy behind the scenes planning for Feith’s retirement when it came time to leave the White House.
The Iraqi International Law Group
Before Feith was inducted into the Bush administration, he was the Feith half of the Feith & Zell, law firm in Washington. His partner, Marc Zell, simply renamed the firm, Zell, Goldberg & Co, when they decided to set up shop to start cashing in on the Iraq contracting business.
According to The Hill, Zell, was helping with international marketing for a concern called the Iraqi International Law Group. Billing itself as a group of lawyers and businessmen interested in helping investors in Iraq, the venture was run by Ahmed Chalabi’s nephew Salem, who doubled as a legal adviser to Iraq’s governing council, of which his uncle was a member.
How powerful was Feith in awarding contracts? Extremely. According to a June, 2004, by an article in Time Magazine entitled, "The Paper Trail: Did Cheney Okay a Deal? Feith is the person who approved the controversial no-bid contract for Halliburton in Iraq. Time Magazine quoted an email sent by Stephen Browning of the Army Corps of Engineers, that said the contract for construction of oil pipelines was approved by Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith "contingent on informing WH tomorrow. We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w VP,s [Vice President,s] office.
Browning, later said in an interview that he wrote the memo after he and retired Lt Gen. Jay Garner met with Feith. According to Browning, Feith told him that he had already informed Cheney’s office. The email was dated March 5, 2003, and Halliburton was awarded the contract three days later with no bids tendered by any other companies.
If he could pull this off for Halliburton, what he could do for the IILG, goes without saying. According to its web site, the IILG was made up of lawyers and businessmen who claimed to have, "dared to take the lead in bringing private sector investment and experience" to the war-torn country and offered to "be your Professional Gateway to the New Iraq."
The way it was set up, nephew Salem was charge of the IILG and Feith’s partner, Zell, was in charge of international marketing. The IILG’s website claimed that it was the only firm worth consulting. "At IILG, our task is to provide foreign enterprise with the information and tools it needs to enter the emerging Iraq and to succeed," it said.
"Our clients number among the largest corporations and institutions on the planet" it said, "They have chosen IILG to provide them with real-time, on the ground intelligence they cannot get from inexperienced local firms or from overburdened coalition and local government officials."
Imagine that, the top firms on the planet. "Many firms outside the country purport to counsel companies about doing business in Iraq," the web site read. "The simple fact is: you cannot adequately advise about Iraq unless you are here day in and day out, working closely with officials at the CPA, the newly constituted governing council and the few functioning civilian ministries [oil, labor and social welfare, etc]."
The truth is, the IILG was nothing more than another one of many front companies, in a web-like profiteering network, that was specifically set up to funnel tax dollars through Iraq and back into the pockets of the Bush gang.
And talk about blatant. When the company was set up, its website was not registered to Salem Chalabi; it was registered under the name of Marc Zell, located at the very same address as Zell, Goldberg & Co.
According to Salem, quoted in the National Journal, Zell was IILG’s "marketing consultant" and had been contacting law firms in Washington and New York to ask if they had clients interested in doing business in Iraq.
This tied in with an announcement by Zell, Goldberg & Co, that it had set up a "task force" dealing with issues and opportunities relating to the "recently ended" war in Iraq, and to assist companies "in their relations with the United States government in connection with Iraqi reconstruction projects as prime contractors and consultants."
Of course Zell made no mention of the firm’s ties to the infamous nephew Salem or the IILG. Zell said it was working with the Federal Market Group, an organization which specialized in helping companies win government contracts, which boasted of having a 90% success rate.
Considering all of its boasting about high level connections, IILG was also rather modest about the family ties of its founder. The website did not mention that he was the nephew of Ahmed Chalabi even once. Geez, I wonder why.
Implementing The Iraq Profiteering Scheme
Feith had been pushing for the ouster of Saddam for years. In 1998, him and Richard Perle sent a letter to President Bill Clinton proposing that the US team up with Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress to get rid of Saddam. Clinton refused.
As we all know, Ahmed had strong support within the Pentagon. In fact, two of his staunchest supporters were Feith, and Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board.
Perle, an assistant defense secretary during the Reagan administration, was appointed by his old crony, Donald Rumsfeld, to lead the board in 2001. Its a well-known fact that the board exerts tremendous influence when it comes to war policies.
As soon as Bush took office, Perle, Feith and Ahmed Chalabi all started working diligently together to get the war in Iraq off the ground, with Ahmed providing bogus intelligence about WMDs and bragging about a secret network within Iraq which could take over running the country after the invasion.
"There was a close personal bond, too, between Chalabi and Wolfowitz and Perle, dating back many years," according to Seymour Hersh in the May 5, 2003 the New Yorker.
"Their relationship deepened after the Bush Administration took office, and Chalabi’s ties extended to others in the Administration, including Rumsfeld; Douglas Feith, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy; and I. Lewis Libby, Vice-President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff," Hersh wrote.
"With the Pentagon’s support, Chalabi’s group worked to put defectors with compelling stories in touch with reporters in the United States and Europe," Hersh said, "The resulting articles had dramatic accounts of advances in weapons of mass destruction or told of ties to terrorist groups. In some cases, these stories were disputed in analyses by the C.I.A." he noted.
Almost immediately after September 11th, "the I.N.C. began to publicize the stories of defectors who claimed that they had information connecting Iraq to the attacks, Hersh said.
For example, in a October 14, 2001, interview on PBS "Frontline," Sabah Khodada, an Iraqi Army captain, said that the 9/11 attack "was conducted by people who were trained by Saddam," and that Iraq had a program to instruct terrorists in the art of hijacking. Another defector, who was identified as a retired lieutenant general in the Iraqi intelligence service, said that in 2000 he witnessed Arab students being given lessons in hijacking on a Boeing 707 parked at an Iraqi training camp near the town of Salman Pak, south of Baghdad.
Feith then fed this type of INC data into a fabrication mill operating at top speed known as the Office of Special Plans and some of the information processed through the OSP was not even shared with official intelligence agencies. In many instances it was passed on to the National Security Council, Cheney, and Bush without having been vetted by anyone besides this group of nitwits.
And they had to know that much of the information was false. A former high-level intelligence official told Hersh that American Special Forces units had been sent into Iraq in mid-March 2003, before the start of the war, to investigate sites suspected of being missile or chemical- and biological-weapon storage depots. "They came up with nothing," the official told Hersh. "Never found a single Scud."
A 46 page report, based on a 15-month investigation, titled, Report of an Inquiry into the Alternative Analysis of the Issue of an Iraq-al Qaeda Relationship, was released on October 21, 2004, which said, "There is ample evidence that the Bush Administration had a predisposition to overthrow Saddam Hussein before the 9/11 attacks."
The report accused Feith’s office of compiling "selective reinterpretations of intelligence" that went beyond the views of American spy agencies in order to help make the case for an invasion of Iraq.
The report concluded that Feith and his staff were convinced that a relationship existed between Saddam and Al Qaeda, and that the office had advanced that perspective by trying to change the intelligence community’s views and "by taking its interpretation straight to policymakers."
"That alleged relationship," the report said, "coupled with the assertion that Iraq possessed stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), was the major argument presented by the Administration for invading Iraq."
Relying on selective reporting, irrespective of credibility and reliability, Feith’s briefing concluded the following:
Iraq had "more than a decade of numerous contacts" with al Qaeda;
there were "multiple areas of cooperation" between Iraq and al Qaeda;
Iraq and al Qaeda had a "shared interest and pursuit of WMD;" and
there was "[o]ne indication of Iraq coordination with al Qaeda specifically related to 9/11," presumably a reference to the alleged (but doubted by the IC) Atta meeting in Prague.
The report states that there are no known intelligence reports, other than those provided by Feith’s office, that could explain where this view originated. "A pattern emerges of senior administration officials exaggerating the extent of the relationship in public statements which more closely reflect the Feith analysis" than those of the intelligence community, it said.
As an obvious example, the report said Feith’s office repeatedly asserted in the months leading up to the war that lead hijacker Mohammed Atta had met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague in the spring before the September 11 attacks, an account that the CIA dismissed because evidence existed that Atta was elsewhere at the time.
And in at least one case, according to the report, the Pentagon office included the purported meeting in a report sent to the White House, but omitted it from the version of the same report sent to the CIA.
The meeting was then constantly referred to by senior administration officials, and especially Cheney, as evidence of a possible Saddam link to 9/11. In fact, Cheney said the Feith analysis was the "best source of information," according to the report.
However, not only had the alleged meeting never been "known," at the time of the briefing to the White House, the Intelligence Community was skeptical in late spring 2002 that such a meeting ever took place. Yet in September of 2002, Feith called the meeting a "known contact" in a crucial misstatement about the intelligence, since it indicated a link which did not exist.
"The professional objectivity and independence required in the assessment of the Iraq-Al Qaeda relationship, a major reason given for going to war, were compromised to support a predetermined policy — to present the government of Saddam Hussein as a serious threat to the security of the United States" the report wrote.
Finally, relative to the attacks, the final 911 Commission Report itself said that the "Intelligence Community has no credible information that Baghdad had foreknowledge of the 11 September attacks or any other al-Qaida strike."
Inventing bogus intelligence was bad enough but during the pre-war planning, the military experts were systematically excluded from participating in that process as well. In the end, Feith and the OSP had so grossly underestimated the Iraqi resistance that it caused General Tommy Franks, who led the invasion in Iraq, to call Feith "the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth," according Bob Woodward’s book Plan of Attack.
Feith and the Defense Policy Board
The DPB is a group of 30 people, who for the most part were chosen by Rumsfeld and Feith, that advises officials on whether to go to war or not. Many of its members are literally making a fortune off a war which they had been promoting for years. At least 9 members have ties to companies that won more than $76 billion in defense contracts during 2001 and 2002.
Feith excluded many top Middle East experts from the State Department from playing any meaningful role in the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). Feith’s office and the CPA were tasked with awarding reconstruction contracts in Iraq.
So this was another sweet setup. Feith was deciding who would get contracts, at the same time that his middleman law partner, Zel, was hustling up business deals in Iraq for rich clients. Of course, for members of the Bush war profiteering club, this was merely business as usual.
Among the firms that have profited the most, are those with consultants serving on the DPB, many of which were hand-picked by Feith.
Some of the construction and defense companies with direct ties to DPB members include Boeing, Bectel, TRW, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Booz Allen Hamilton, along with smaller players like Symantec Corp, Technology Strategies and Alliance Corp, and Polycom Inc.
How much money was up for grabs when it came to doling out defense contracts? For starters, during the major combat phase of the war, the US military launched over 800 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Iraqi forces, according to figures released by the US Navy.
At a price of about $569,000 each, replacing those missiles no doubt generated a lofty amount for Raytheon Systems, the Pentagon contractor for Tomahawks. Close to a 100 more missiles were fired during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Occupation forces later launched over 19,000 guided munitions in Iraq, most of which came from the US, according to a report on Operation Iraqi Freedom published by the US Central Command Air Forces on 30 April 2003.
There was a $10.3 billion proposal for the development of a missile defense program in Bush’s 2005 defense spending budget, of which Lockheed Martin would be heavily involved in, according to a report from the World Policy Institute.
Northrop Grumman, the country’s third largest defense contractor, secured contracts to build new weapons systems such as the unmanned predator drones. The firm is the prime contractor for the Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). Bush proposed $12 billion for UAV development for the years between 2004 – 2009. Northrop earned a company record of $11.1 billion in defense contracts in 2003.
And Bush is funneling our tax dollars to known crooks. Northrops Vinnell subsidiary was awarded a $48 million contract to train the new Iraqi Army, even though Northrop was forced to pay $191.7 million in penalties over the previous 4 years.
In less than a year after he took office, Bush got rid of regulations implemented by President Clinton that barred contracts for companies convicted or penalized for crimes during the previous 3 years. Clinton strengthened the rules before leaving office, and said that repeated violations would make a company ineligible for new contracts. Bush suspended the regulations within his first 3 months in office. By December 2001, he had revoked them entirely.
Who Else Is Raking In War Profits?
Lets look at a couple members of the Defense Policy Board. Former CIA Director, James Woolsey, is a prime example of how the revolving door never stops spinning for this gang of war profiteers. After he left the CIA, Woolsey remained a senior advisor on intelligence and national security issues, and specifically the war in Iraq. When the war began, he worked for two private companies that did business in Iraq, and was a partner in a company that invested in firms that provide security and anti-terrorism services.
At the time, Woolsey was a vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton. In that role, less than 2 months after the war began, he was a featured speaker at a May 2003 conference titled "Companies on the Ground: The Challenge for Business in Rebuilding Iraq," at which 80 corporate executives paid $1,100 to attend. He spoke about the many potential business opportunities in Iraq and about Bush’s decision to steer reconstruction contracts to US firms.
With Woolsey in a Vice President position, Booz Allen became a subcontractor for a $75-million telecommunications contract in Iraq. Of course in true Dick Cheney style, Woolsey denies any involvement in that work. But then, it really does not matter whether he was directly involved or not because as VP of the company he would get a cut of the profits resulting from any contracts the firm enters into.
Soon after 9/11, Woolsey wrote an op ed piece in the Wall Street Journal saying a foreign state had aided Al Qaeda in preparing the attacks and named Iraq as the leading culprit. In October 2001, Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz sent Woolsey to the UK to hunt for evidence to link Saddam to the attacks.
Before the war, Woolsey was up to his neck in war planning. In addition to sitting on the DPB and giving direct advice to Rumsfeld, he was a founding member of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI), an organization set up by the WH in 2002 to help garner public support for going to war in Iraq.
They actually put together a promotion team to rally support for the war funded with our tax dollars no less. Tell me this scheme wasn’t well planned and directed.
Before the war, another DPB member, Margaret Bartel, managed the funds channeled to Amhed Chalabi’s exile group, the INC, including funds for its bogus prewar intelligence program on WMDs. Once it began, Bartel went on to head a consulting firm which helped investors find Iraqi partners.
Bartel established Global Positioning and told the LA Times that the firm’s primary purpose was to "introduce clients to the Iraqi market, help them find potential Iraqi partners, set up meetings with government officials and provide on-the-ground support for their business interests." So here was another sweet set up.
As for the chairman of the DPB, Richard Perle was a "special government employee," subject to federal ethics rules, including the rule that bars the chairman from using his public office for private gain.
Perle decided to resign as chairman after a little ethical problem came under scrutiny in March 2003. It was discovered that at the same time that he was advising the Pentagon on war policies, Perle had been retained by the telecommunications company Global Crossing to help overcome opposition by the Department of Defense and the FBI to the firms proposed sale to a Chinese company.
The agencies objected to the sale citing national security and law enforcement problems, because it would put Global’s fiber-optic network, used by the US government, under Chinese ownership.
According to a legal notice that Global was preparing to file in bankruptcy court at the time, Perle was set to make $725,000, including $600,000 if the government approved the sale of the firm to the joint venture of Hutchison Whampoa Ltd, and Singapore Technologies Telemedia Pte, a company controlled by the Singapore government.
Perle was quick to pipe up to reporters and make the distinction that he was not involved in the lobbying of Defense Department officials, that his job was merely to advise Global on the process of gaining approval. That sure put my mind at ease.
In the end, I don’t think its likely that Feith will end up in the welfare lines. Due to careful post-White House planning, I think its safe to say that Feith and his band of cronies will enjoy financial benefits for life, just so long as their never-ending war policies are carried on by their successor.
Evelyn Pringle is a columnist for Independent Media TV and an investigative journalist focused on exposing corruption in government. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.