One Big Reason General Odom will be Missed
By Nick Mottern, Director, ConsumersforPeace.org
When I wrote the article below in early 2007 examining business connections of generals who were testifying before Congress about the “surge” I did not imagine that a year and a half later I would be reading of the death of one of those generals, retired Army Lt. General William E. Odom. He died on May 30th at his summer home in Vermont, apparently of a heart attack.
I think I was shocked at his death because General Odom seemed to be physically and intellectually tireless as he presented forceful, knowledgeable, clear testimony to Congress arguing that the only path for the United States in Iraq was to end the occupation. It was hard for me to take it in that he would not live to see that happen.
I don’t know whether General Odom was such a strong advocate against the occupation because he was relatively disengaged from the war industry or whether he made a conscious decision to be so disengaged. But it appears that he was free of war business ties, for whatever reason, and he certainly had the courage to speak the truth as he saw it.
Sadly, though it should be no surprise, General Odom’s passing as received relatively little press attention, and there has been little public thanks. So, thank you William Odom.
FORMER-GENERALS WHO WANT THE U.S. TO STAY IN IRAQ
ARE DEEPLY INVOLVED IN THE WAR INDUSTRY
- Keane devises and pushes Bush’s “surge”.
- McCaffrey wants more arms and money for Iraqis.
- Hoar and Odom, little connected to military business,
call for withdrawal.
- The importance of “contractors” in sustaining the war; “doing the patriotic bit.”
By Nick Mottern, Director, ConsumersforPeace.Org
As Congress weighs action on the escalation of the Iraq War, it may want to consider the business connections of retired generals who have been making recommendations, particularly those of retired four-star Army general John M. “Jack” Keane, who is one of the authors of President Bush’s “surge” policy.
Reviewing the testimony of Mr. Keane and three other former generals on January 18 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, there is a distinct pattern. Those most involved in the military industry, Mr. Keane and former four-star army general Barry McCaffrey, endorsed, respectively, escalation and continued investment in the Iraq War. Those with the least involvement in the military industry, former Marine General John P. Hoar and former army Lt. Gen. William Odom were for withdrawal.
JACK KEANE, who rose to the level of acting Chief of Staff and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army before retiring in December 2003, told the committee that President Bush’s “surge” plan, which calls for sending 21,500 more troops to Iraq, “is remarkably similar” to the plan he devised last fall with Fredrick Kagan, a staffer of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a Washington think tank that has provided analysis and justification for the Iraq War from its beginning. He told the committee that he presented the plan directly to President Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney.
Keane, who is a commentator for ABC News, is a member of the board of directors of General Dynamics, among the top 10 largest military contractors, with reported revenues in 2005 of $21 billion. The company’s 2005 annual report, appearing on its website, notes:
“The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan fueled continued strong demand for several of our largest programs, including the Stryker wheeled infantry vehicle, the M1 Abrams tank and the Marine Corps’ Light Armored Vehicle (LAV). The high operational tempo of the U.S. military also generated increased requirements for the company’s ammunition and high-performance armaments.”
Mr. Keane is also adviser to the chairman and chief executive officer of URS Corp., whose military contracts are a significant portion of its $4 billion in sales in 2005. URS provides engineering and equipment repair services in Iraq. A contract for “military construction, infrastructure rehabilitation and reconstruction projects in Iraq,” says the URS website, will bring in $1.2 billion over a five-year period. Mr. Keane is also on the board of AlliedBarton Security, which provides security guards and other services for government and industry and is a significant employer of ex-military people.
Mr. Keane is also a senior advisor to Kholberg, Kravis, Roberts & Co. (KKR), a multi-billion dollar investment and management company with a portfolio of companies involved in semiconductors, communications software, waste disposal, advertising and various media; Sealy mattresses, ToysRUs and AC Nielsen are among its holdings.
Mr. Keane’s work for KKR and URS ties him into the board of trustees of the AEI, which includes Marc S. Lipschulz, a KKR partner, and URS boss Martin Koffel who, according to Alternet, received $14.4 million in compensation in 2005.
Mr. Keane is senior managing director of Keane Advisors LLC, which appears to be a fledging private investment firm with real estate interests. His association with AEI may help with this business, as the AEI board contains at least 10 members who head major real estate and investment companies. For example, AEI trustee Harlan Crow, a major supporter of the Swift Boat campaign against 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry, operates the Texas real estate investment business Crow Holdings. Lee Raymond, former chairman and ceo of ExxonMobil is vice chair of AEI’s board of trustees.
Mr. Keane gave the Foreign Relations Committee a rambling description of the Bush plan that would see U.S. forces attempting to pacify portions of Baghdad in the interest of giving the Iraqi government a measure of political power and at the same time trying to suppress the resistance forces in Al Anbar Province. Mr. Keane did not mention numbers of additional U.S. troops or casualties, saying only that steps had to be taken to compensate for the weakness of Iraqi forces.
“The problem is,” he said, “we can’t solve the Iraqi security force problem in time, dealing with this crisis that’s in front of us. The (Iraqi) government will fracture before we get the Iraqi security forces to a high enough capacity level to cope with the problem.”
Mr. Keane concluded his testimony to the committee saying that “this new team (of military and diplomatic officials) that’s going in there is as important as the strategy is itself, and I truly believe they’re going to make a difference, and I know you’re going to enjoy working with them.”
I called Mr. Keane for comment on conflict of interest and received no response.
BARRY R. McCAFFREY, who is a commentator for NBC News, was Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Southern Command when he retired in 1996. He was also Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control in the Clinton Administration.
Mr. McCaffrey is on the board of Dyncorp International, which supplies security personnel and police trainers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dyncorp had revenue of nearly $2 billion in 2006, according Answers.com. Mr. McCaffrey is also on the board of McNeil Technologies which, in a joint deal with Dyncorp, was recently awarded a $4.6 billion dollar Army contract for translation and and interpretation services in Iraq. He is also board chair of HNTB Federal Services, which also works for the military. And he is on the board of The Wornick Company which provides meals-ready-to-eat (MREs) to the military.
In his testimony to the Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. McCaffrey said: “I personally think the surge of five U.S. Army brigades and two Marine battalions, dribbled out over five months, where potentially they might start drawing down in November, and where their mission, allegedly, would be to get down to detailed granuality, to fight a counter-insurgency battle in a city of six million Arabs…is a fool’s errand.”
“However,” he said, “I don’t think it’s the most significant part of going forward, which I would argue is equipping Iraqi forces and economic reconstruction and political dialogue.” He advocated providing the Iraqi army with 5,000 light armored vehicles, “a couple of hundred U.S. helicopters, 24 C-130s (cargo planes often fitted out with high-caliber machine guns), all U.S. small arms, at least a battery of artillery per Iraqi division.” He also advocated spending $10 billion in reconstruction.
And Mr. McCaffrey gave a plug for contractors such as those working for Dyncorp in Iraq, saying much of reconstrution in Iraq “was implemented by 85,000 contractors. Maybe that’s the right number. Maybe 600 were killed, maybe 4,000 were wounded. Without that contractor effort, this war would have ground to a halt two years ago.”
(The degree to which the U.S. prosecution of the Iraq War has depended on the more than 100,000 armed and unarmed “contractors” deserves greater analysis. See more of Mr. McCaffrey’s comments on this at the end of the article. Cong. John Murtha D-PA, chairing the Subcommittee on Defense of the House Appropriations Committee, intends to hold hearings in the first half of February on the use of contractors in Iraq.)
Mr. McCaffrey did not respond to a request for comment on conflict of interest.
JOHN P. HOAR a Marine Corps general, retired in 1994, with his last post as Commander in Chief of the U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, South Asia and the Horn of Africa. He was one of 29 military and/or diplomatic personnel signing a 2005 letter endorsing legislation that would prohibit the United States from using torture.
After retiring, Mr. Hoar formed J.P. Hoar & Associates Inc. which is said in various biographies to be involved in business development in the Middle East and Africa. He is a member of the board of trustees of CNA Corporation, which does analysis for the Navy and Marines, and which had $72 million in military contracts in 2003, according to The Center for Public Integrity. He is also on the board of Hawaiian Airlines and Quantum Group, a manufacturer of carbon monoxide detectors.
In his testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Hoar said the “addition of 21,000 troops is too little too late.” And he said that if the Iraqi government can disarm militias, “purge the police and move rapidly on a host of other pressing issues…then the issues of more troops would merit some consideration.”
“Insurgencies are resolved by attacking root causes,” he continued. ”Today, among the root causes is the presence of American forces.”
At this point in his testimony, he did not call for withdrawal of U.S. forces, but in a question and answer session he said, “the only option left open to us, if we’re going to get back and try to achieve regional stability, is to get out. And it may cost us a lot. It may not cost us as much, but we can’t turn our strategy around unless we do.”
“That’s the precondition…
“It’s the thing (withdrawal) that has everybody stopped in this debate.
“If they once realized that you don’t have a choice to stay in there and get what was originally defined as victory – victory would be a liberal, democratic, pro-American Iraq – if you realize that’s a mirage, then maybe you’ll wise up and realize that you’ve got to adjust to those realities.
“So it seems to me, that is the crux of the issue we’re facing. The issue is just: At what point do you say, ‘That’s a mirage and we’re not going to pay any more in pursuit of it?”
Mr. Hoar also advised diplomatic talks with Iran and Syria and said the committee should “insist that an alternative plan be developed.”
(It is worth noting that Mr. Hoar’s endorsement of withdrawal from Iraq appears to differ from conclusions of a CNA report issued in December, 2006, that recommends “a gradual reduction of U.S. forces over the next two years to a sustainable posture that can achieve U.S. goals.” The report’s suggested option “will require some U.S. presence for at least five years” involving trainers for the Iraqi army and attacks on “high-value targets”.)
I called Mr. Hoar to ask his opinion of conflict of interest but did not receive a response.
WILLIAM E. ODOM retired an Army Lt. General in 1988 after serving for three years in the Reagan Administration as director of the National Security Agency, responsible for intelligence and communication security. He came to the job after being Army Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, the Army’s senior intelligence officer. From 1977 to 1981, he was military assistant to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs, Zbigniew Brzezinski. He is now a senior fellow at The Hudson Institute, a Washington think tank, and adjunct professor at Yale University.
Mr. Odom is also the chairman of the board of American Science and Engineering, Inc., a manufacturer of x-ray and other security detection equipment, with revenue of $88.3 million in 2005. It’s customers include the Department of Homeland Security and the military. He is also on the board of V-One Corporation, a internet security firm, which has been in bankruptcy proceedings for the last two years. The Hudson Institute’s board is comprised of a officials in a wide variety of large investment, real estate and other businesses, but Mr. Odom does not appear to have business connections to any.
Mr. Odom was quite direct in telling the Foreign Relations Committee that the United States should immediately start removing troops from Iraq. Withdrawal, he said:
“is not the road to defeat, it’s the precondition for reframing your strategy for interests that you are in –for a campaign that is in your interests. I want to say that you overcome the political, strategic and military and diplomatic paralysis by beginning to get out. As long as we’re in, we’re frozen.”
He said that withdrawal would be a precondition to getting nations around Iraq to come to cooperation around the Iraq crisis:
“Why should Iran cooperate with us while we’re suffering so? Why should some of these other people cooperate with us while we’re suffering so?...But when we start pulling out, their view of the world experiences a polar shift. Iran doesn’t want a highly unstable Iraq, nor do most other countries in the area want an unstable Iraq.”
The new strategy, he said, needs “to have as its aim not winning in Iraq, per se, but re-achieving regional stability.”
“You have to come back, bite the bullet, and understand that withdrawal from Iraq now, on some responsible phased schedule, but a serious and irreversible schedule, is the only thing that will change the polarity of the situation, to give this President an opportunity to design a strategy that has some prospect of victory.”
Mr. Odom said in response to my call about conflict of interest, through an assistant at the Hudson Institute, that he does not consider himself to be involved in any conflict of interest in his testimony before Congress in that he is calling for withdrawal.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
There appear to be no laws or regulations preventing former military personnel from testifying on issues of war and peace before Congress. But, there is a question about whether their testimony should be accepted at face value when they are employed by firms benefiting from war.
Department of Defense regulations address such conflicts for military personnel on active duty, barring all DoD personnel from being “an officer, member of the Board of Directors, or in any other similar position in any non-Federal entity offered because of their DoD assignment or position.”
The only mention of corporate employment by the former generals appearing before the Foreign Relations Committee came from Sen. James Webb, D-VA in questioning Mr. McCaffery. He did not raise the issue of conflict of interest, but Mr. McCaffery seemed to be indirectly addressing the issue and glossing it over with allusions to patriotism. Mr. McCaffery’s response to Senator Webb also gives some insight into the casual handling of spending for Iraq, which has benefited contractors immensely.
“I have two questions. The first is, General McCaffrey, on your proposal, or your suggestion that $10 billion a year be put into development programs. I know that you have a good bit of experience in this and you’re on the boards, according to your bio, of companies that are more than likely doing business in Iraq.
“I’m concerned about accountability on the funds that have been spent. I’m also concerned about where this money would come from. Are you suggesting a reprogramming, or an addition to the budget?”
“By the way, I am on the board of directors of one company, DynCorp, that is very heavily involved in providing 3,000 or 4,000 people in Iraq and several hundred, I believe, in Afghanistan.
“And I frequently make a point to underscore, because there’s a debate inside the profession, on how come contractors are on the battlefield, providing almost all our long-haul communications, or logistics for God’s sake. It’s incredible.
“I would prefer to have an active military force that does most of these functions, but the facts of the matter are they’re not there, and without these contractor operations we would grind to a halt immediately.
“So I’m inclined to say let’s treat them with respect because they’re getting killed and wounded in huge numbers.
“And they actually, when you talk to these kids, or older single women, they see themselves doing a patriotic bit, KBR (Kellog, Brown and Root), Halliburton, et cetera. But that’s an aside.
“I think back to your central question, the notion of development programs, I’m not sure you can spend $10 billion a year succesfully in Iraq. The Congress provided $18.6 billion. It’s all gone, essentially. The President just said he wants $1 billion more…
“I don’t know what, given the lack of security, given the nature of the Maliki (Iraqi) government, that would work. I am confident that if our only trick in this game is let’s put five more brigades in downtown Baghdad and fight neighborhood to neighborhood, this is a loser.
“So I told the President two years ago, when the development money runs out, and when Congress won’t provide more, that’s the day you lost the war.
“So, I would have great oversight of $10 billion a year, or $1 billion a year. Is it going to be spent effectively? You clearly have to look at waste, fraud and abuse on U.S. or other contractors, but I think it’s a vital aspect of moving forward.”