Blackwater, the biggest army of mercenaries in Iraq, is making a killing out of our tax dollars
1. Making a Killing: America's Private Army and the Business of War
By David Zlutnick/indybay
On January 20th the Iraqi resistance shot down a Blackhawk helicopter killing thirteen American soldiers. Three days later, just hours before Bush would give his State of the Union address, a Little Bird helicopter was shot down, killing five more Americans—but this incident didn’t make nearly the amount of news as the former. While the five men died in combat, they were not members of the US military. They were employees of Blackwater USA, the shining star in a new breed of corporation specializing in private soldiers—also known as mercenaries.
These private companies are part of a huge surge in the outsourcing of war, which is extremely evident in Iraq, as well as Afghanistan, Colombia, Haiti, and numerous other countries. Private contractors are the second-largest con- tingent of the “Coalition of the Willing” with a ratio of about one armed con- tractor for every two American soldiers. This is up from a ratio of one to sixty during the first Gulf War. The Pentagon estimates the number of contractors at around 100,000—but this is only an estimate because after four years in Iraq the military is only now beginning a survey to find the size of its contractor force.
According to the Government Accountability Office, approximately 48,000 of these contractors are working in Iraq as private soldiers, about six times the number of British troops in the country. Their roles include everything from operators of US military aircraft to security guards to bodyguards for high-level officials to interrogators (such as the CACI employees involved in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal).
For political purposes it is in the interests of the US government to build a large army of private soldiers. Even though 770 contractors have been killed in Iraq and 7,761 have been injured, they are not included in the official US death toll. Perhaps even more have been killed but the Pentagon doesn’t track contractor deaths, citing military regulations as the reason for this lack of oversight. Figures have to be deduced from insurance claims filed through the Depart- ment of Labor. Plus, if contractors are used for missions that are not quite legal or want to be distanced from official policy, their actions are completely deniable as they are not employees of the US government. This is the case along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, where American forces are not allowed to venture into Pakistani territory.
With the job being so risky, what would attract so many to private companies? Well, Blackwater has been known to pay its employees $365,000 per year, compared to the $36,000 an average US soldier makes. No wonder so many former military personnel are signing up with a private employer instead of re-enlisting.
Blackwater is able to pay its soldiers so much because they have received $505 million in contracts from the US government since 2000. Three hundred twenty million of this has been since June 2004 alone, when they received a no-bid contract to guard diplomats and staff in Iraq. With this amount of money the company has been able to build the largest base for a private military in the world, acquire a fleet of 20 aircrafts (including helicopter gunships, a Boeing 767, and even a zeppelin), develop its own armored vehicle called the Grizzly, and build up a force of 20,000 soldiers.
The scariest thing about Blackwater and other such companies is that they currently lie in a legal no-man’s land, under no authoritative jurisdiction from any US or international law, nor the Geneva Conventions. In fact, when L. Paul Bremer—whose personal bodyguards were a specialized Blackwater team—was placed in charge of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), one of his first mandates was to make contractors immune from Iraqi law.
In October, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham inserted a clause into the 2007 Defense Bill attempting to place contractors under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the code of laws for the US military. Proponents of expanded controls on contractors initially saw this as a small victory. In response Peter Singer, an expert on private military companies at the Brookings Institution, said “contractors’ ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ cards may have been torn to shreds.”
However, Doug Brooks, president of the International Peace Operations Association, a lobbying group represent- ing military contractors, disagrees and insists that the clause would not cover all military firms. “It might be doable for Defense Department contractors, but it’s not a panacea,” Brooks says. “It’s a square peg in a round hole.” And he’s most likely right. As many of the contracts are not through the Defense Department—especially those of most companies in a “security” role, the ones most likely to engage in combat and therefore needing a means of accountability the most—military law would not apply. Blackwater’s operations, for instance, are conducted under a variety of agencies, including the Department of State and the CIA, among others.
"The lack of a legal framework for battlefield contracting has allowed certain rogue contractor employees to perpetrate heinous criminal acts without the threat of prosecution,” said Democratic Congressman David Price. One such incident occurred this past Christmas Eve when an off-duty Blackwater contractor shot and killed an Iraqi contractor. The Blackwater employee was quickly sent back to the US and fired, although there is no indication he will be extradited to Iraq to face trial. The history of armed contractors in Iraq is filled with similar stories.
Price has recently introduced legislation that he hopes will apply more generally anyone “employed under a contract (or subcontract at any tier) awarded by any department or agency of the United States Government, where the work under such contract is carried out in a region outside the United States in which the Armed Forces are conducting a contingency operation.” However, it is not clear that such legislation will pass a vote on the House floor.
Many Americans first heard of Blackwater back in March of 2004. Four Blackwater guards were ambushed as they were driving through Fallujah. After being shot and burned, two of their mutilated bodies were hung from a nearby bridge. This episode—captured on video and broadcast around the world—became the excuse for a three-week attack on Fallujah that April, and subsequently another operation that completely destroyed the city in November, killing around 5,000 Iraqi fighters, hundreds of civilians, and 95 US Marines.
The families of the four men killed in Fallujah have sued Blackwater for wrongful death by cutting corners on the mission, saying the company violated contract by sending out the private soldiers without the weapons and manpower they were promised. In response, Blackwater has countersued for $10 million, targeting the family’s lawyer, Richard Nordan. They argue that by suing for wrongful death, the family is in turn breaching the dead soldiers’ contracts.
The most interesting fact about the families’ lawsuit, however, is that Blackwater has been unable to get the lawsuit dismissed or stayed. They have been arguing that their work is an extension of the military and therefore is not subject to the jurisdiction of civilian courts. As their strategy seems to be failing, Blackwater has asked a federal court to move the case to arbitration. It is necessary “in order to safeguard both [Blackwater’s] own confidential information,” their attorneys say, “as well as sensitive information implicating the interest of the United States at war.”
This is very dangerous for Blackwater and other companies providing similar services, as this case could become a precedent, making every death of an employee a potential lawsuit. As of fall 2006, Blackwater had nine pending lawsuits from dead employees’ families. But it seems that the most damaging part of the case to Blackwater—and what they are most afraid of—might not be the bad PR or the price of losing the lawsuit, but instead the fact that sensitive information that they have so far been able to keep private might be made public.
Private companies, unlike government agencies, are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, and for the past two years this has prevented members of Congress from getting the government to explain the details of Blackwater’s contracts in regards to billing and payment. But this case might be a chance for a rare peak into the secretive company.
One part of the contract under scrutiny in the lawsuit, for instance, has revealed that Blackwater was paying its soldiers $600 per day but charged its client, Regency Hotel and Hospital Co., whom the deceased men were escorting, $945 per day. Regency was in turn a subcontractor of ESS, a division of Compass, who was subcontracted by Halliburton’s subsidiary KBR. There have been no documents showing how much each of the other companies added on to these charges by the time it reached the top contractor, Halliburton, who then billed the US government. Under Halliburton’s $16 billion contract they are only allowed to rely on the US military for armed protection and not private firms. If too many documents of this nature are released, there’s a possibility it could ultimately threaten Blackwater’s ability to win contracts.
This shouldn’t be too big of a problem, however, as Blackwater has so far won only no-bid contracts. And with a global market opening as quickly as it is now, plenty of new opportunities have arisen. For example, the head of the mission in Washington for Southern Sudan’s regional government, Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, recently announced that he expects Blackwater to start working with security forces in the next few weeks, although this has not officially been confirmed by Blackwater.
Sudan was placed under sanctions in 1997 after the US accused the government of supporting terrorism. Bush lifted the embargo this past October, giving Blackwater the ability to operate in the country legally. The company was apparently hired because no state was willing to send troops to aid the southern Christian militias, which have allied themselves with the Muslim government following a peace accord in order to fight off the other rebel groups. The conflict in Southern Sudan was separate from that of Darfur, in the west, but the government whose support has aided the Janjaweed in its extermination of as many as 450,000 non-Arabs in that region is the same.
Blackwater has big plans for Sudan, and wants to use the situation in Darfur to prove its ability to operate in a “peacekeeping” capacity. It has been pushing the idea for sometime to members of Congress and high-ups in the military, saying it can send in a large ground force aided by gunships for air support in a moment’s notice. Gary Jackson, Blackwater’s CEO, seems pretty confident about their future in Darfur. “We are going to field a brigade-sized peacekeeping force,” he says. “You can quote me on that.”
While Blackwater soldiers begin to operate in Sudan, their deployment will likely increase in the Middle East as well. Their 2004 “diplomatic security” contract with the State Department was part of much larger plan called the Worldwide Personal Protective Service (WPPS) program, characterized as designed to protect US officials as well as "certain foreign government high level officials whenever the need arises,” according to official documents. Other than Blackwater, several other high profile private military firms are included in the WPPS, such as DynCorp and Triple Canopy.
Blackwater’s contract under the WPPS is for five years and the payment is supposed to be a total of $229.5 million. However, after only two years in the program it had received a total of $321,715,794. The State Department has not been able to provide an answer as to why the firm has received almost $100 million more than required for only half the work that is due. And the contract still has two and a half years left.
During Bush’s State of the Union address he asked Congress to approve two immense military buildups. First, he requested “an increase in the size of our active Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 in the next five years. A second task we can take on together is to design and establish a volunteer civilian reserve corps. Such a corps would function much like our military reserve.” Bush, however, was not the first to mention this idea. Blackwater CEO and co-founder Erik Prince, a huge campaign contributor to Bush and the GOP, presented his plan for a “contractor brigade” of private military firms at a military conference two years ago.
KBR’s CEO Bill Utt said they plan on increasing the size of their force in Iraq in response to Bush’s announcement of sending more troops. The company now has over 500,000 resumes on file for people seeking employment in Iraq, Kuwait, or Afghanistan. With every troop “surge” the private military business gets an extra boost as well.
Former Secretary of Defense Phillip Coyle sees this privatization of war as directly related to the occupation of Iraq, where contractors now perform jobs previously done by US soldiers. “Obviously the military could do it,” Coyle says, “but indeed the Administration is looking for places to get more troops for Iraq.”
The 21,500 combat troops Bush is sending into Iraq will have to be supported by 28,000 additional US military men and women, a government assessment recently concluded. This makes the actual number of US soldiers being deployed around 50,000 at a cost of $27 billion according to the Congressional Budget Office. Exactly how many more contractors will arrive in Iraq as a result has yet to be determined, but with the current ratio of nearly one contractor for every soldier, we can expect it to be a significant number.
2. A desperate Army is scraping the bottom -- by JOSEPH L. GALLOWAY/McClatchy Newspapers
An Army already stretched painfully thin is now being asked to find the additional 25,000-plus troops to man President Bush's escalation in Iraq and, it's now obvious, prepare for additional combat rotations next year.
All the easy sweeping up of manpower already has been done. All the obvious moves to rob Peter to pay Paul have been carried out just to keep this unending war going.
Now comes the hardest part: Units that are completing their second or third yearlong combat tours are being extended for another four or six months. Other units, now home for their promised 12 months with their families, are being told they will go back to combat sooner than that.
Army National Guard units that'd already served the maximum time on active duty, in combat, are being told that the rules have changed, and they're again being called back for Iraq service.
It doesn't matter that those Guard units were ordered to leave virtually all of their equipment in Iraq and have had none of it replaced so that they might actually train for the eventuality that has befallen them. Nor does it matter that there may not be equipment and vehicles waiting for them in Iraq when they get there.
Nor does it seem to matter that, four years into this war, there still aren't enough sets of body armor to provide one for every soldier sent to Iraq in this escalation.
Or that in the fervent search for bodies to fill the quotas the Army has begun combing the lists of wounded soldiers and re-evaluating their fitness to return to the war, rating some soldiers who are no longer physically able to even wear the 35 pounds of body armor good to go.
That might be one solution to the scandalous treatment of soldiers on outpatient status at Walter Reed Army Hospital - rate them good to go and send them back to Iraq.
The Army, that once-magnificent Army we counted on as our shield in a dangerous world, is being bled to death in the streets and on the roads of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Politicians only now are talking about adding 100,000 more soldiers to the Army and Marine Corps, when that's something that should have begun on Sept. 12, 2001.
Where and how do they propose to find and enlist 10,000 or 20,000 more troops each year when it is literally all the recruiters can do to find enough young men and women to fill the existing quota of at least 80,000 each year?
Again, all the cheap fixes have been used. They've raised the maximum age for enlistment from 35 to 42. Should we kick that higher, say 65? Then you would have your choice: Medicare or boot camp?
We've doubled the number of convicted felons permitted to enlist. We've lowered the minimum standards to allow for more high school dropouts, more people who test in the lowest quarter on mental aptitude, more people who are tattooed from elbow to ear.
And we've boosted enlistment bonuses to $25,000. Sign on the dotted line, young man, and you're on your way to boot camp and Iraq with money in your pocket.
Of course, if the economy does a meltdown there could be a boom in enlistments and all our problems would be solved.
If this war continues much longer it may be hard to postpone that economic meltdown. The Defense Department budget is now running at half a trillion dollars annually. The war in Iraq costs more than $2 billion a week. The long-term costs of Bush's great adventure in taking down the late and unlamented Saddam Hussein are now estimated at perhaps $2.5 trillion when lifetime health care for thousands of wounded and disabled soldiers and Marines is figured in.
If the war ended today it would cost $65 billion to repair and replace the equipment worn out or destroyed in Iraq.
All of these costs are being pushed down the line to be borne by our children and grandchildren and their children in the form of burgeoning budget deficits seen and, as yet, unseen.
When is someone, somewhere in this country going to stand up and demand an accounting for all we've lost in a foolish, unjustified and unnecessary war in the wrong place, against the wrong people, at the wrong time - conducted by a president who got every bit of it wrong?
When are we going to cut our incredible losses in Iraq - human, spiritual and monetary - and get back on the road to being a better country and a better people whose leaders believe, as we do, in the U.S. Constitution and habeas corpus and the right to privacy?
3. The American Ghosts of Abu Ghraib
by Sam Provance / ConsortiumNews.com
Editor’s Note: Former Army Sgt. Sam Provance was one of the heroes of the Abu Ghraib scandal, the only uniformed military intelligence officer at the Iraqi prison to testify about the abuses during the internal Army investigation. When he recognized that the Pentagon was scape-goating low-level personnel, he also gave an interview to ABC News.
For refusing to play along with the cover-up, Provance was punished and pushed out of the U.S. military. The Pentagon went forward with its plan to pin the blame for the sadistic treatment of Iraqi detainees on a handful of poorly trained MPs, not on the higher-ups who brought the lessons of “alternative interrogation techniques” from the Guatanamo Bay prison to Abu Ghraib.
The Congress, which was then controlled by the Republicans, promised a fuller investigation. Provance submitted a sworn statement. But Congress never followed through, leaving Provance hanging out to dry. Then, in February 2007, he went to a special screening of the documentary, “Ghosts of Abu Ghraib,” and learned more than he expected about why the scandal died:
For those of you who have not heard of me, I am Sam Provance. My career as an Army sergeant came to a premature end at age 32 after eight years of decorated service, because I refused to remain silent about Abu Ghraib, where I served for five months in 2004 at the height of the abuses.A noncommissioned officer specializing in intelligence analysis, my job at Abu Ghraib was systems administrator (“the computer guy”). But I had the misfortune of being on the night shift, saw detainees dragged in for interrogation, heard the screams, and saw many of them dragged out. I was sent back to my parent unit in Germany shortly after the Army began the first of its many self-investigations.
In Germany, I had the surreal experience of being interrogated by one of the Army-General-Grand-Inquisitors, Major General George Fay, who showed himself singularly uninterested in what went on at Abu Ghraib.
I had to insist that he listen to my eyewitness account, whereupon he threatened punitive actions against me for not coming forward sooner and even tried to hold me personally responsible for the scandal itself.
The Army then demoted me, suspended my Top Secret clearance, and threatened me with ten years in a military prison if I asked for a court martial. I was even given a gag order, the only one I know to have been issued to those whom Gen. Fay interviewed.
But the fact that most Americans know nothing of what I saw at Abu Ghraib, and that my career became collateral damage, so to speak, has nothing to do with the gag order, which turned out to be the straw that broke this sergeant’s back.
After seeing first-hand that the investigation wasn’t going to go anywhere and that no one else I knew from the intelligence community was being candid, I allowed myself to be interviewed by American and German journalists. Sadly, you would have had to know German to learn the details of what I had to say at that time about the abuses at Abu Ghraib.
Later, Republican Congressman Christopher Shays, who was then chair of the House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations, invited me to testify on Feb. 14, 2006, so my sworn testimony is on the public record. [See: www.humanrightsfirst.info/pdf/06214-usls-provance-statment.pdf ]
On June 30, 2006, dissatisfied with the Pentagon’s non-responsiveness to requests for information on my situation, the Committee on Government Reform issued a subpoena requiring then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to produce the requested documents by July 14. I heard nothing further. I guess he forgot. I guess Congress forgot, too.
Thanks largely to a keen sense of justice and a good dose of courage on the part of pro bono lawyers and congressional aides, I made it through the next two and a half years of professional limbo, applying my computer skills to picking up trash and performing guard duty. Instead of a prison sentence, I was honorably discharged on Oct. 13, 2006 and began my still-continuing search for a place back in the civilian world.
Producers for Rory Kennedy’s documentary “Ghosts of Abu Ghraib” were among the journalists who interviewed me—discreetly—in Germany. On Feb. 12, 2007 I attended a screening of that documentary. What happened there bears telling.
Walking into the fancy government building to see the documentary proved to be a bizarre experience. Hardly in the door, I saw a one of the guests shaking his head, saying in some wonderment, “The young woman at the front desk greeted me with a cheerful smile; Abu Ghraib? she said. Right this way, please.”
The atmosphere did seem more appropriate for an art show than a documentary on torture. People were dressed to the nines, heartily laughing, and servers with white gloves were walking about with wine and hors d’oeuvres.
I managed to find one other person who was also in the film, former Gen. Janis Karpinski, with whom I shared the distinction of having been reduced in rank because we refused to “go along to get along.”
I had wanted to talk to her ever since the abuses at Abu Ghraib came to light. We’ve been on the same page from the beginning. She seemed happy to meet me as well, but so many others wanted her attention that serious conversation was difficult.
Everyone shuffled into the theater and Gen. Karpinski’s and my presence there was announced briefly during the introductions. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the showing was to be followed by a discussion led by Sen. Edward Kennedy (who was there from the start) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (who arrived only after the introductions).
It was largely because of the interest that Sen. Kennedy took in the Army’s retaliation against me that I escaped the Army’s full wrath for truth telling. And Sen. Graham initially had approached me when he heard of my situation, not even realizing at the time that I was from South Carolina. So I was looking forward to what I expected would be an unusual bipartisan challenge to the practice of torture.
When the lights dimmed and the documentary started, I began to be affected more emotionally than I had expected.
It was the words of the other soldiers that touched me most deeply, because I could relate to them; I knew those soldiers on one level or another. I got worried I might not make it through the screening, that I would break down right there.
Ironically, it was my anger at their plight that kept me composed. Everything in the film was all too familiar to me. The soldiers explaining they were just following the orders of their supervisors; the higher-ups vigorously shifting blame from themselves onto soldiers of lesser rank—the whole nine yards.
And to see those Iraqi faces again—the broken hearts and ruined lives of innocent Iraqi citizens detained, abused, tortured. And the systematic cover-up, with the Army investigating itself over and over again, giving the appearance of a “thorough” investigation.
After the film, Senators Kennedy and Graham took seats on the stage to begin their discussion. I was shocked to see it descend into heated debate.
Sen. Graham began saying things that I couldn’t believe I was hearing. He made a complete 180-degree turn on the issue of torture from when I had spoken to him on the phone not long after the Abu Ghraib scandal was exposed.
Now he was portraying Abu Ghraib as a place where only a handful of soldiers resided (you’ve heard of them, the so-called “rotten apples).” I felt betrayed.
Worse still, the only officer Graham saw fit to criticize (he assumed in absentia) was Gen. Karpinski. And he laid it on thick, asserting forcefully that she should have been court-martialed because she was the reason things went awry.
The senator argued that Karpinski (who was responsible for overseeing 17 prisons with military police, most of whom had not been trained in detention operations) should have driven from her headquarters to Abu Ghraib for random middle-of-the-night checks. He then saw fit to contrast her behavior with what Graham described the due diligence he exercised nightly as an Army lawyer in checking the “dormitory.” (sic)
…and sick. Anyone who knows much about Abu Ghraib knows that all kinds of Army brass lived and worked there, and that it was host to visits by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, U.S. pro-consul Paul Bremer, Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, Gen. Geoffrey Miller (in charge of “Gitmo-izing Abu Ghraib), Gen. Barbara Fast, and even National Security Council functionary Frances Townsend.
They were all there. I don’t know how many, if any, saw fit to check the “dormitory.”
During the discussion/debate, Sen. Graham seemed to be speaking in support of virtually everything that we opposed – and that had been exposed in the documentary – throwing all reason out the window. He dropped a bombshell when he began defending the practice of torture itself, using the torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as an example. He cited the “good stuff” gleaned from treating him that way, as if to say, “it works!”
This raised again the question in my mind about just what kind of person professionally tortures somebody, and what kind of mentality would approve of it? (I found myself almost wishing such people could hear the screams—almost, because I would not wish that on my worst enemy.)
The obvious answer is: Sadists. Which is what the administration called the military police in the infamous photographs. And what was seen in them was small stuff compared to what else happened—and continued to happen even after the abuses at Abu Ghraib were exposed.
Benjamin Thompson, a former U.S. Army specialist at Abu Ghraib, has told Reuters that exposure of the scandal “basically diverted everyone’s attention away from anything that was not in the photographs… as long as we didn’t stack people and make pyramids, we were doing a great job.”
This reminds me of my wonderment at President George W. Bush’s public advocacy last fall of the “alternative” interrogation procedures in what clearly is one of his favorite CIA programs. Perhaps better than others I can imagine what has been tucked under the rubric of “alternative” techniques, the alleged success of which the President has advertised and has been picked up in the captive corporate media.
At one point Sen. Graham asked the audience who among us considered Army specialist Joe Darby a hero. Darby was the one who initially gave the Abu Ghraib photos to Army investigators. Pausing just a few seconds, Graham used the momentary silence as a cue to continue talking about how the American people really don’t care about torture.
For me, the worst part is that I have found this to be generally true. It is more convenient for people not to care. By and large, they are far more prepared to accept official explanations than to take the trouble to find out what is really going on. For, if they found out, their consciences might require them to do something about it.
Sen. Graham’s demeanor was downright eerie in the way he chose to relate to the crowd…beaming with a kind of delight and mocking the outrage that he must have seen building.
This reminded me of my experience in Iraq, where I would hear soldiers discussing their abuse of detainees. It was always cast as a humorous thing, and each recounting won the expected—sometimes forced—laugh.
But now I am in Washington, I thought. Has everyone been bitten by the torture bug? I was sickened to watch a senior senator and lawyer flippantly dismiss what happened at Abu Ghraib, and act as though he knew more about the abuses than the people, like me, who were there.
Sadly, Graham is not the first elected official who has become part of the problem rather than the solution.
Unrest was spreading in the audience to the point where some were threatened with ejection. People were yelling at Sen. Graham from all over the theater and for a moment I thought a riot might ensue.
But Sen. Kennedy’s response pierced the darkness with the white-hot light of truth. Clearly, he was just as uncomfortable as most of the rest of us at what we had just witnessed, and he spoke in a straightforward way against what is just plain wrong.
For me, his comments came in the nick of time. I was beginning to feel not only betrayed, but a little crazy. Was this really happening? Later, I was happy to be able to shake Sen. Kennedy’s hand as he left the theater.
At the end, producer Rory Kennedy brought a portable microphone to Gen. Karpinski where she sat in the audience and, directing her attention back to the stage, explained to Sen. Graham that Karpinski was present and that it seemed only fair to give her a chance to comment on his remarks about her.
She rose and, in quiet but no uncertain terms, accused Graham and the general officers involved in Abu Ghraib of “cowardice.” Then she noted that as a South Carolinian she intended to work very hard to ensure that he would not be the senior senator beyond January 2009.
As to the merits of his charges against her, Gen. Karpinski revealed that she had actually pressed hard to be court-martialed and to appear before a jury of her peers, to get the whole truth up and out. She explained that the Army refused her request, presumably because a court martial might jeopardize the Pentagon’s attempt to restrict blame to the “few bad apples.”
Graham was initially taken somewhat aback, but he recovered quickly. He offered no apology. Rather, he attempted to trivialize what had just happened with the jovial remark, “Well, I guess I lost your vote!” Smirk. Smirk.
Make that two votes.
Afterwards, it was back to high-society small talk and wine, while I looked for someone to really talk to. A reporter who has been covering the issue from the start sought me out and told me something that made me want to cry.
“You know we’ve talked over the years and I have followed your case, but I just want to tell you that I have found everything you’ve said to me all along to be true.”
For so long people have tried so hard to discredit either me or my testimony. Now the dust had settled for a moment; it was encouraging to know the truth can still stand tall.
I ended up hanging out with Janis Karpinski and later walking her to the Metro station. I gave her a big hug and told her I’d always be her soldier. Then, as she went down the escalator I saluted her, and she returned my salute.
“Thank you,” she said. “Anytime, General!” I replied. Anytime.