Why do people who know about corrupt mercenaries in Iraq keep "committing suicide"?
That's the question Frank Rich doesn't ask today. Should he have? Rich gives two examples (and it would be interesting to know if there were more). Both are connected to Price's Blackwater mercenaries.
Col. Ted Westhusing, an Army scholar of military ethics who was an innocent witness to corruption, not a participant, when he died at age 44 of a gunshot wound to the head while working for Gen. David Petraeus training Iraqi security forces in Baghdad in 2005. He was at the time the highest-ranking officer to die in Iraq.
Colonel Westhusing’s death was ruled a suicide, though some believe he was murdered by contractors fearing a whistle-blower, according to T. Christian Miller, the Los Angeles Times reporter who documents the case in his book “Blood Money.” Either way, the angry four-page letter the officer left behind for General Petraeus and his other commander, Gen. Joseph Fil, is as much an epitaph for America’s engagement in Iraq as a suicide note.
“I cannot support a msn that leads to corruption, human rights abuse and liars,” Colonel Westhusing wrote, abbreviating the word mission. “I am sullied.”
Rich might have mentioned the interesting fact that a mercenary discovered Westhusing's body, and tampered with the evidence. (From the Corrente archives, the LA Times link having moved.) And oddly, or not, mercenary corruption is the link that connects the latest "suicide." Rich again:
Charles D. Riechers’s suicide [sic?] occurred just two weeks after his appearance in a front-page exposé in The Washington Post. The Post reported that the Air Force had asked a defense contractor, Commonwealth Research Institute, to give him a job with no known duties while he waited for official clearance for his new Pentagon assignment. Mr. Riechers, a decorated Air Force officer earlier in his career, told The Post: “I really didn’t do anything for C.R.I. I got a paycheck from them.” The question, of course, was whether the contractor might expect favors in return once he arrived at the Pentagon last January.
Hmmm... I wonder who dropped a dime, and why?
As it happens, he was only about three degrees of separation from Blackwater. His Pentagon job, managing a $30 billion Air Force procurement budget, had been previously held by an officer named Darleen Druyun, who in 2004 was sentenced to nine months in prison for securing jobs for herself, her daughter and her son-in-law at Boeing while favoring the company with billions of dollars of contracts. Ms. Druyun’s Pentagon post remained vacant until Mr. Riechers was appointed. He was brought in to clean up the corruption.
Yet the full story of the corruption during Ms. Druyun’s tenure is even now still unknown. The Bush-appointed Pentagon inspector general delivered a report to Congress full of holes in 2005. Specifically, black holes: dozens of the report’s passages were redacted, as were the names of many White House officials in the report’s e-mail evidence on the Boeing machinations.
The inspector general who vouched for their ignorance, Joseph Schmitz, was already heading for the exit when he delivered his redacted report. His new job would be as the chief operating officer of the Prince Group, Blackwater’s parent company.
Looks like a pay-off, to me.
Surely, it would be irresponsible not to speculate. Riechers’s no-show job with C.R.I. is no reason to commit suicide; that sort of thing is absolutely routine in Washington. At the most, the very most, it's reason to "spend more time with the family." Heck, Ted Cunningham fed grapes to a hooker in a hot tub, and he's still walking around; and Diaper Davey Vitter (R-Canal Street Brothel) is still in the Senate.
The narrative I'd construct is this: Reicher was honest according to his lights, discovered something culpable in the "redacted" portions of the reports, something so gnarly that even a hardened old Beltway hand like him couldn't let it slide--and he talked to a trusted friend about his moral dilemma. The trusted friend then betrayed Reicher to... Oh, let's call them Company B, and Company B planted the story in Pravda on the Potomac, waited for a decent interval, and then arranged for Reicher's "suicide."
If this were an Agatha Christie novel, I'd look for motive (billions), means (Erik Price has an exhibit of guns used to assassinate Presidents in his corporate headquarters), and opportunity (to be determined). And I'd point the finger straight at Blackwater.
After all, Blackwater didn't stop at murder in Iraq to "protect" their "principals." What would stop them from doing the same thing here? What's,. say, $50,000 (and a life or two) when billions are at stake?