A tribute to Condoleeza Rice and George W. Bush who, despite voluminious evidence to the contrary, said, "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon, that they would try to use an airplane as a missile," adding that "even in retrospect" there was "nothing" to suggest that" and "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees," respectively.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Sunday Commentary: Talon News & Custer Battles 

Some times, things just don’t make sense. The explanations emanating from the White House flack-swatter Scott McClellan and former flack-swatter Ari Fleischer, about Jim/Jeff’s access to the White House fall into this category. Naturally, instead of confronting the real issue, they’re trying to frame this as not wanting to enter that slippery slope of determining who is or who isn’t a journalist. The only way for Jim/Jeff’s miraculous amount of access to be reasonably understood, one has to conclude that someone in the White House wanted him there. The imprecise corollary to this conclusion is that when someone is not wanted there, they’re usually not. Or, if access cannot be entirely denied, then access in name only is granted or some form of punishment is doled out. Just ask Helen Thomas

So, when I read about Custer Battles, a company that did not exist till shortly before the invasion of Iraq, but still managed to be awarded critical contracts in Iraq, including security for the Baghdad airport and the distribution of new currency, the parallels to the Talon News immediately came to mind. Here’s a company that did not even exist until a few months before the Iraqi invasion yet they are awarded contracts worth millions of dollars despite no previous experience in the critical areas in which they would be deployed. And just like the now famous “question” to Bush at the press conference, the excessive profiteering brings their shenanigans to light when they were not satisfied with the guaranteed profit built into their contracts.

In the fall of 2002, the two founded Custer Battles as a security firm. Within months, President George W. Bush would order U.S. troops into Iraq. Custer Battles was among the first contractors into Baghdad after the fall of Saddam Hussein and, by the end of June 2003, had managed to win the contract to provide security for Baghdad's airport, a contract Custer told investigators was the first time the company had provided actual security for a site.

It seems also, that the owners of Custer Battles have someone with influence in the White House just like Jeff Gannon must have had and significant GOP party affiliations just like Bobby Eberle of Talon News and GOPUSA.

Custer is a former Army Ranger who had worked for Arlington, Va.-based defense contractor Science Applications International Corp. Battles ran unsuccessfully for Congress as a Republican in Rhode Island in 2002 and, according to the record of Custer's interview with the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, is a former Central Intelligence Agency case officer who was -- according to Custer -- "very active in the Republican Party and speaks to individuals he knows at the White House almost daily."

So here we have two companies with close political ties to the current administration. Both are given favorable treatment in areas which usually require demonstrated experience, and in which, they are both significantly deficient. Both overreach, one in partisan hackery and the other in war profiteering.

For critics of the Bush administration's handling of postwar Iraq, Custer Battles has become something of a symbol of contractor excess during the 14-month period that the Coalition Provisional Authority governed Iraq. The company was able to secure tens of millions of dollars' worth of security and logistical contracts from the CPA -- despite the fact that it didn't even exist until just months before the invasion of Iraq.

So, by what process was Custer Battles awarded the contracts in Iraq. Did they win a bid or was this another no-bid situation like that of Halliburton. Remember, the reasoning behind the no-bid contracts for Halliburton was that they had the required expertise to provide the services needed, even though this proved to be questionable.

When do you call it treason? Companies which seek to increase their profits in the supply of goods and services to the war effort by purposefully overcharging take limited resources away from that war effort. They jeopardize the safety of our troops to fatten their own bottom line. This practice is despicable and those individuals within the corporation responsible for these decisions should be prosecuted for crimes against the people of the United States.



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