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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.”

[Corrente covered the Westhusing story here, here, and here.]

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?

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leah's picture
Submitted by leah on

Although, I do think I sniff a screenplay here. No kidding.

I thought this was one of Frank Rich's better efforts, which isn't saying all that much; he actually did some journalism, not actual reporting, mind you, but he does connect some dots to make clearer the reality of what corruption means in a society that likes to think of itself as a democratic republic.

If anyone missed Bill Moyer's journal this Friday, go on the PBS website; it was a long, long interview with Jeremy Scahill, who has literally written the book on Blackwater; you can watch it, or read the transcript; there is new stuff here, so don't assume you already know the story.

Especially interesting was Moyer's question about how Scahill got interested in Blackwater. Turns out that "Fallujah" played an important role here, which is significant because too few Americans are aware of the way what happened in Fallujah, as a result of those four Blackwater contractees meeting those hideous deaths, i.e., the destruction of an Iraqi city as payback for those deaths, continues to resonante as a rallying cry for anti-American sentiment through-out both the Arab and the Muslim world. Scahill has become close to the families of the four men, who are now suing Blackwater.

The segment is here.

Don't stop there, though, in a smaller segment, Moyer's took on the subject of those free trade agreements south of the border Bush is pushing, and how they impact on notions of democracy; don't miss tape of several Bush statements on the desired agreements, each one promising that they will bring democracy to these societies, even though a majority of the citizens are against the agreements, precisely because they give away too much power to local oligarchs, and faraway Global corporations.

"Balance of Trade" is here; be sure to watch the video, don't just settle for the transcript.

There is a connection between the rampant corruption and bribery one experiences all over Central and South America, and governments who do nothing for their own citizens, except hold meaningless elections, which I hope to address in a post early in the week.

hobson's picture
Submitted by hobson on

I saw the Moyer's interview with Scahill and it was shocking. It's a good argument for the draft. We probably could not stay in Iraq at all if it weren't for the number of merc's and outsourced services provided by what amount to yet more private militias in Iraq.

Also, while I am not very pro military, I would rather depend on American soldiers to provide national security than mercenaries. The military has a history and a tradition of loyalty to the United States and honorable conduct, not to stock holders or temporary employers. They are bound by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, to some degree the Geneva Conventions and ultimately under the control of civilian government.

Scahill even told about encountering Blackwater mercs in New Orleans. Apparently they were sent there without any contracts, just to maintain order in some areas. This is Robocop.

I would like to pose the question to the Dem candidates of how they feel about the privatizing of government functions that has taken place not just under Bush but certainly to a higher degree under him than in other administrations.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

So it was only natural that Westhusing acted when he learned of possible corruption by US contractors in Iraq. A few weeks before he died, Westhusing received an anonymous complaint that a private security company he oversaw had cheated the US government and committed human rights violations. Westhusing confronted the contractor and reported the concerns to superiors, who launched an investigation.

In e-mails to his family, Westhusing seemed especially upset by one conclusion he had reached: that traditional military values such as duty, honor, and country had been replaced by profit motives in Iraq, where the United States had come to rely heavily on contractors for jobs once done by the military.

His death stunned those who knew him. Colleagues and commanders wondered whether they had missed signs of depression. Only a day before his death, Westhusing won praise from a senior officer for his progress in training Iraqi police.

His friends and family struggle with the idea that Westhusing could have killed himself. He was a loving father and husband and a devout Catholic. He had less than a month before his return home. It seemed impossible that anything could crush the spirit of a man with such a powerful sense of right and wrong.

On the Internet and in conversations with one another, Westhusing's family and friends have questioned the military investigation.

A note found in his trailer seemed to offer clues. Written in what the Army determined was his handwriting, the colonel appeared to be struggling with a final question. How is honor possible in a war like the one in Iraq?

Colonel Westhusing's bodyguard was allowed leave a week before his death and not replaced, the contractors he accused were the ones who found him and altered the crime scene. A week before, he had told his family, if he made it home, he would tell them of all the corruption and killings..... Even though Petraeus gave him rave reviews that day in his report, directly to him, Ted confronted him, and Fil and then after this meeting there were arguments heard in his trailer before he was found dead an hour later before he was going to a very classified meeting with the contractors and the Army. All this is in the documents from the freedom of information act. He was the most credible person in the army to disclose what was really going on, a professor of ethics and the lead point with the honor board at West Point. You tell me. America should be shamed for their lack of interest in getting to this issue and how/why he was killed ......... greed and preserving the jobs of our leaders......who continue to let this happen.....

Submitted by lambert on

... To who? Mukasey?

I hope with all my heart the criminals running the country are made to pay -- if not with jail time, then at least by forcing them to admit the truth.

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

Submitted by lambert on

That's not an "alternate storyline; it's part of the same story. Thanks for the third dot, Maalox. Quoting the Patriot Ledger:

QUINCY - Ciara Durkin was home on leave last month and expressed a concern to her family in Quincy: If something happens to me in Afghanistan, don’t let it go without an investigation.

Durkin, 30, a specialist with a Massachusetts National Guard finance battalion, was found dead last week near a church at the Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. She had been shot once in the head, the Army says.

Fiona Canavan, Durkin’s older sister, said today that when her sister was home three weeks ago, she told family members that she had come across some things that concerned her and had raised objections to others at the base.

‘‘She was in the finance unit and she said, ‘I discovered some things I don’t like and I made some enemies because of it.’ Then she said, in her light-hearted way, ‘If anything happens to me, you guys make sure it gets investigated,’’’ Canavan said. ‘‘But at the time we thought it was said more as a joke.’’

Funny ha ha.

I wonder how many more examples there are?

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Iraq whistleblower Dr Kelly WAS murdered to silence him, says MP
By FIONA BARTON - More by this author »

Last updated at 00:18am on 20th October 2007

Weapons expert Dr David Kelly was assassinated, an MP claims today.

Campaigning politician Norman Baker believes Dr Kelly, who exposed the Government's "sexed-up" Iraq dossier, was killed to stop him making further revelations about the lies that took Britain to war.

He says the murderers may have been anti-Saddam Iraqis, and suggests the crime was covered up by elements within the British establishment to prevent a diplomatic crisis.