Sunday, November 11, 2007

The US Army. Keeping the opposition in business

I wonder if anyone is guessing where the results of this gigantic screw-up ended up:
As the insurgency in Iraq escalated in the spring of 2004, American officials entrusted an Iraqi businessman with issuing weapons to Iraqi police cadets training to help quell the violence.

By all accounts, the businessman, Kassim al-Saffar, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, did well at distributing the Pentagon-supplied weapons from the Baghdad Police Academy armory he managed for a military contractor. But, co-workers say, he also turned the armory into his own private arms bazaar with the seeming approval of some American officials and executives, selling AK-47 assault rifles, Glock pistols and heavy machine guns to anyone with cash in hand — Iraqi militias, South African security guards and even American contractors.

Watch it. Spin alert!

These discoveries prompted criminal inquiries by the Pentagon and the Justice Department, and stoked fears that the arms could fall into enemy hands and be used against American troops. So far, no missing weapons have been linked to any American deaths, but investigators say that in a country awash with weapons, it may be impossible to trace where some ended up.
There it is! The problem is, they have no idea how many are missing. They have no real idea what types and calibers of weapons are missing.

In the armory that Mr. Saffar presided over, for example, his dealings were murky. Mr. Tisdale, who recalled seeing a briefcase stuffed with stacks of $20 bills under Mr. Saffar’s desk, said he thought Mr. Saffar enriched himself selling American stocks along with guns he acquired from the streets. Stacks of $20 bills under the desk is sign things aren't quite right. But then, he's in an armory. Who's going to rob him? Maybe it was just a safer place than the bank.

Surely somebody's head is going to roll over this.

Many of those weapons were issued when Gen. David H. Petraeus, now the top American commander in Iraq, was responsible for training and equipping Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005. General Petraeus has said that he opted to arm the Iraqi forces as quickly as possible, before tracking systems were fully in place. The Pentagon says it has since tightened its record keeping for the weapons, but government auditors said in interviews that they were not yet convinced that an effective system was in place.
OK. Maybe not. But there is about to be a familiar tone to this one.

As the American military hurried to train and equip Iraqi security forces in the spring of 2004, the Pentagon turned to contractors to operate warehouses to store equipment and weapons.
Ah yes, the old privatization of the war.

In July, the company, American Logistics Services, which later became Lee Dynamics International, was suspended by the Army from doing future business with the government amid accusations that the company paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to military contracting officers. The company had won $11 million in contracts to manage five warehouses with arms and other equipment in Iraq.
Ah yes, that would be this Lee Dynamics International.

In 2004, the company was awarded $11.7 million in contracts to build, operate and maintain several warehouses in Iraq. The court papers contend that as a result of bribes, the company illegally received advance information about the contracts.

In May 2005, the document said, Mr. Lee and his son, Justin W. Lee, shifted assets and contracts to Lee Dynamics, and its contract to maintain the warehouses was renewed in July 2005 even though its performance had been abysmal, said two American officials who were in the country at the time.

I suppose if the Bush administration is going to "outsource" the war they should make sure both sides are well supplied.

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