Why Bunny Greenhouse Sits in a Corner

by SHERWOOD ROSS

Bunnatine Greenhouse sits in a cubicle in a far corner of an office in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers(USACE) headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C., where, she says, "I am treated like a non-person." Months crawl by yet her immediate supervisor just can’t seem to find the time to meet with her to discuss a work assignment. The taxpayers of the United States of America pay her salary, but, oddly, no demands are made of her.

That’s a sad plight for a dynamic woman executive who is the cover girl of the July/August issue of "Fraud Magazine." She’s not written up for being on the wrong side of the law, only on the wrong side of the Bush White House, now a law unto itself. "Fraud" is published by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and Ms. Greenhouse is the recipient of the association’s coveted 2006 Cliff Robertson Sentinel Award. She’s been showered with honors and the subject of laudatory press. In another America in another time, an Administration might well have been proud of her.

Instead, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has trashed the American Dream of this African-American woman who rose by her own bootstraps from poverty in Rayville, La., to become the highest U.S. contracting civilian in USACE. Hers was the responsibility for passing on $23-billion in contracts annually. A personnel file stuffed with gold star evaluations attests to her zealous guardianship of the public’s money.

So why is the woman everyone calls "Bunny" made to sit in a corner, punished like a spoiled child? As she told "Fraud" editor Dick Carozza, it’s over her refusal to sign off on billions of dollars worth of no-bid, no-compete contracts that are enriching Halliburton Corp., the government contractor previously headed by Vice President Richard Cheney.

In the run-up to the Iraq invasion, Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root(KBR) was named sole source contractor for the Restore Oil Contract, a contingency plan to douse any oil well fires that might break out. Greenhouse discovered there were other bidders qualified to do the job besides KBR.

KBR officials showed up at a USACE planning session on the award when none of their competitors were allowed in the door. After KBR presented its planning update, the session continued over other budget projections that could clearly give KBR insider knowledge of future Iraq campaign operations. Greenhouse wanted KBR out of the room. It’s a conflict of interest to have a prospective award recipient involved in the planning stages for missions not yet officially announced, she said.

Greenhouse’s worst fears were realized when KBR, in an action mocking the competitive bidding process, got a no-bid, five-year award when a one-year contract would have sufficed in an "emergency." Greenhouse penned her reservations directly on the contract documents. Otherwise, she said, "there would have been a major risk the five-year strategy never would have been revisited, and no follow-up on limited competition would have been instituted as promised to the American public."

Under the original contract Greenhouse was asked to sign, even if Halliburton fouled up, it couldn’t be dumped. After she cried foul, she was demoted from her top contracts’ oversight job in the Senior Executive Service to a mere program manager.

It should be noted, before the Halliburton rip-off, Greenhouse single-handedly wrought a revolution in the Defense Base Act insurance law that saved the Pentagon $20-million in its first six months of operation. Over time, her action may save taxpayers hundreds of millions spent on insurance premiums to cover military contractors working abroad.

Looking back, Greenhouse says, "I was never accused of having engaged in any act of impropriety. I was never called on the carpet to defend my actions or inactions for any business judgment I made during the contracting process."

Three Congressional Democrats wrote Rumsfeld asking if it wasn’t a fact Greenhouse’s demotion was retaliatory. The Defense boss, so eager to bring justice to the people of Iraq, did not deign to respond about injustice in his own office. Now, Greenhouse says, every action toward her is designed to inflict as much humiliation as possible.

Greenhouse told "Fraud" she is proud to be called a whistle-blower. (She’s got a plaque from the Giraffe Society for people who stick their necks out to show for it.) She defines this as one who "exposes government and corporate misconduct, violations of the law, threats to the public safety, or actions that violate the law." And she concludes with words Mr. Rumsfeld might underline: "Integrity in government is not an option: it is an imperative." Being a true American, she plans to sue.

Absent the honest oversight of bunny Greenhouse, Iraq has become what one official who served there called "a free-fraud zone." Billions, not millions of dollars, likely have been stolen from both the Iraqi and American peoples.

In the words of Rep. Henry Waxman (D.-Calif.): "The largest single recipient of Development Fund for Iraq funds was Halliburton. The company vastly overcharged to import gasoline into Iraq and to provide other oil-related services. These overcharges, which exceed $200-million, were billed to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But U.S. officials arranged for over 80% of them to be paid out of the DFI."

And this undoubtedly explains why Bunny Greenhouse sits in a corner: it’s to keep her out of the way. Come to think of it, if contracts are rigged to shut out Halliburton’s competitors, can you imagine how the Bush White House rigs contracts to sell Iraq’s oil?

The Greenhouse affair reminds me of the old Chaplin comedy set in Nazi Germany when a man who being set upon by the Gestapo yells he is going to call the police. It’s just as hilarious for Bunny Greenhouse to expect legal contract regulations to be observed by a Pentagon waging an illegal war of aggression. The motivation of the totalitarian state is, after all, greed: greed first, greed last, greed always, and nothing less than greed.

SHERWOOD ROSS writes for newspapers and magazines. Reach him at sherwoodr1@yahoo.com.


 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Binoy Kampmark
Live Death on Air: The Killings at WDBJ
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire