It's a measure of how bad it's gotten. Iraq is a land of corruption, lawlessness, and human rights abuses. Armed gangs wander the streets, terrorizing the populace. The rule of law doesn't reach these gangs and the military either can't or won't do anything to stop them. The whole thing is rapidly spinning out of control and the Bush administration seems uninterested in doing anything about it. They are Iraq's untouchables.
They aren't insurgents or terrorists, they're american contractors. Private security forces or, as they were once known in more honest times, mercenaries or brigands. They're the 'other' face of the US presence in Iraq, undermining our legitimacy. And they've cost at least one officer his life.
Greg Mitchell, Editor & Publisher:
Col. Ted Westhusing, a West Point scholar, put a bullet in his head in Iraq after reporting widespread corruption. His suicide note -- complaining about human rights abuses and other crimes -- was addressed to his two commanders, including Gen. David Petraeus, now leader of the U.S. "surge" effort in Iraq. It urged them to "Reevaluate yourselves....You are not what you think you are and I know it."
"A few weeks before he died, Westhusing received an anonymous complaint that a private security company he oversaw had cheated the U.S. government and committed human rights violations," Mitchell tells us. Westhusing finally chose death before dishonor. He was found dead in his trailer in Camp Dublin, Baghdad. The army investigation determined that his death, at the age of 44, was caused by a "perforating gunshot wound of the head and Manner of Death was suicide."
Says Robert Bryce, in a great piece in the Texas Observer, "The disillusion that killed Ted Westhusing is part of the invoice that America will be paying long after the United States pulls its last troops out of Iraq." From that article:
...The lack of personal support began to wear on Westhusing. His friends in the U.S. began seeing his mood darken. His e-mails became less frequent and more ominous. Westhusing began having increasingly contentious conflicts with the contractors from USIS [U.S. Investigations Services, a private company owned in part by the well-connected and influential Carlyle Group]. There were ongoing problems with USIS's expenses, and Westhusing was forced to deal with allegations that USIS had seen or participated in the killing of Iraqis. He received an anonymous letter claiming USIS was cheating the military at every opportunity, that several hundred weapons assigned to the counterterrorism training program had disappeared, and that a number of radios, each of which cost $4,000, had also disappeared. The letter concluded that USIS was "not providing what you are paying for" and that the entire training operation was "a total failure."
We all know how seriously concerns about corrupt private contractors were taken, both by the administration and the military. Col. Westhusing's complaints to Gen. Petraeus fell on deaf ears. Investigations were begun, but went nowhere. In September of 2006, almost a year after Westhusing had finally had enough and got out the only way he thought he could, USIS put out this press release:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 20, 2006 - Georges Jaoudeh, who works as a Protection and Training Liaison Officer in Iraq for USIS's Professional Services Division (USIS-PSD), has been awarded the Joint Civilian Service Commendation Award. Jaoudeh is part of the PSD team in Iraq that supports the U.S. government's highly specialized national-level police training.
Jaoudeh was commended for his many accomplishments over a 14-month period in Iraq that included his superior leadership in recruiting Iraqi officer and sergeant candidates for specialized police training at the National Training Academy in Baghdad.
USIS PSD was awarded a re-compete contract to provide this specialized police training in Iraq earlier this year, and has run this program for the U.S. government since May 2004.
An officer commits suicide, rather than oversee this bunch of bandits, and they get a freakin' Joint Civilian Service Commendation Award and a new contract.
That Gen. Petraeus couldn't or wouldn't deal with security contractors in Iraq shows just how bad we've let things get. Either we allow this because we're tolerant of corruption or because we have no other choice -- the military is so stretched that we need companies like USIS to make up the difference.
The Bush administration has been enabled by the 'good soldiers' since before this war began. The 'good soldier' is the one who does as he's told. It was former Gen. Colin Powell who lent the lies about WMD and terrorism the appearance of legitimacy before the UN. But, when Powell began to show independent thought, he was gone. The administration's current good soldiers are Gens. Peter Pace and David Petraeus. If they begin to show independent thought, they'll be gone too. Good soldiers aren't a rare resource -- there are plenty of career-minded generals waiting to take their place.
There's no longer anything honorable about this war, if there ever was. The only reason it's still being fought is because Iraq can't be lost while George W. Bush is president. Let some other executive take that historical bullet. We aren't fighting for the nation, we're fighting so there won't be an unfortunate and embarrassing section of the George W. Bush Presidential Library. People are destroyed, human rights abuses are committed, and crimes are rewarded to protect a very small man's ego.
We keep being told that opposition to the war undermines troop morale. But here's a question; how many soldiers have left a suicide note saying they couldn't go on because people were protesting the war? It's not debate that undermines the troops, it's the crime and corruption and just plain lousiness of the whole rotten mess. It's the lies and the cover ups and the war crimes. It's knowing you'll come home to find your benefits cut or yourself stuck in a moldy room at Walter Reed. It's the absolute inability to serve their country with honor, given the circumstances.
And all to save one man embarrassment. One way or another, people are paying for the Bush legacy with their lives. This can't go on.