A brief email exchange.
Subject: U.S. Senate Request
Date: Fri, 15 Feb 2008 13:00:50 -0500
From: Holly@Holly’s Senate email address.gov
To: Alamanach@Alamanach’s email address.com
Frank C— passed along your contact information. I work for the U.S. Senate Democratic Policy Committee under the leadership of Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senator Byron Dorgan. The DPC has hosted several hearings exposing waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq. I am gathering background research on this topic and am interested in speaking with you about your experiences in Iraq as a contractor. If you have stories to share regarding waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq please contact me at 202— or email me at holly—@dpc.senate.gov. I look forward to hearing from you and learning about your experience in Iraq.
U.S. Senate Democratic Policy Committee
419 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Subject: Re: U.S. Senate Request
Date:Sun, 17 Feb 2008 22:56:50 -0500
From: Alamanach@Alamanach’s email address.com
To: Holly@Holly’s Senate email address.gov
Yes, I know Frank. We went through processing together in Houston, and later we worked together for a few months in Fallujah. He’s a good friend. I worked in Fallujah from July 2004 to July 2005. When Frank told me there was a senator concerned about crooked contractors in Iraq, I told him I probably couldn’t be of much help. If I had known that this involved Senators Reid and Dorgan, I would have explained that to him a little more clearly.
There is a profound irony in what you are asking from me. It is going to take me a little while to draw that irony out, but it hinges on the truth that when a man sees evil and does nothing, he becomes a part of it. The sort of waste, fraud and abuse you are describing is a crime, and I would have been legally obligated to report it at the time.
The sort of waste and abuse that there is in Iraq, the sort of stories I would be able to tell you, are all coming from the other side. It’s not the kind of thing I think you are interested in hearing about, but you should be. And if you are not interested, then I am concerned for you, personally, Holly.
I was there the day Iraq held its first elections. The United States held a presidential election just a few months previously, and both countries saw similar levels of voter turnout. In Iraq, this was profound, because the insurgents had stated explicitly that they would kill anyone who tried to vote. I happen to have a photo of one of the posters the insurgents put up to scare people off. The photo and the poster’s translation are attached. An excerpt from the poster makes its message abundantly clear:
To anyone who desires to stand in the lines of death to participate in the elections; he must bear the consequences of his actions, and they will be heavy; he cannot imagine what will happen to him and his family because he participated in this Crusade of conspiracy which aims to occupy the land of Islam… we have prepared for every polling center a car bomb… Those who vote think they will escape from our hands, we will follow them as their shadow till we cut their head and the heads of their children. EXCUSED IS HE WHO WARNED…
Back home, the Democratic Party has a history of standing up for disenfranchised voters, and this is a laudable thing. But voters in the U.S. do not have to brave the threat of mass extermination. When Iraq was faced with the bluntest form of voter disenfranchisement we could imagine, where was Harry Reid? Where was Byron Dorgan? Military troops and civilian contractors from around the world stood by the Iraqi people and protected their right to vote. But I’m not aware that your bosses did anything.
The poster mentioned beheadings, and beheadings have been a very common abuse. I know of a Turkish contractor who ventured out to try and procure some laundry soap on the local market. (Think about that sentence for a moment, because its implications are profound. I have seen Senator Dorgan, on the floor of the Senate, rail against waste by telling anecdotes of contractors who wantonly abandon new vehicles rather than fix them, or requisition overpriced hand towels just for the reckless thrill of spending money. His anecdotes do not describe the Iraq that I knew. In the Iraq that I knew, there were days we had trouble coming up with basics like laundry soap. It’s not like we could hop down to the store for supplies. Everything came in by truck convoy, and insurgents make careers of stopping truck convoys. So we weren’t extravagant with what we had; we couldn’t afford to be. Ask Frank whether he had the tools and equipment he was supposed to have, and he will corroborate this.) This Turkish contractor should not have needed to leave the base, but the words “should” and “war” are rarely compatible. So he went out for laundry soap. Though just a common laborer, the insurgents captured him, and beheaded him. Is that an abuse, Holly? Will you be having hearings for him?
This Turkish contractor had a boss, and that boss happened to be a friend of mine. He had to call the man’s family and give them the bad news. I am told that he spoke with the man’s five-year-old son. When told that Dad was dead, and not coming home, the boy said, “Sir you have to change that—I need my dad here.” I have a five-year-old myself, Holly. I don’t know whether you have any children, but when you’re a parent, stories like this one hurt when you hear them first hand. And in the face of that kind of pain, what is a contractor to do? I wanted to get my hands on the monsters that had done this, I wanted to take out my pain on the people who had orphaned that poor little boy. But there was nothing I could do; I was a civilian, not a soldier. I wasn’t armed with a gun, at my most lethal I was armed with a clipboard. The only thing I could do, the only thing any of us could do, was to keep plugging away at our jobs, and hope that we weren’t next.
One day, some people from my own company were next. An insurgent infiltrated the Army base at Mosul, made his way inside the mess tent during the midday meal, and blew himself up. Four of our guys, along with others, were killed. This left Mosul without—among other things—a quality inspector. That was the job I was doing in Fallujah, and I volunteered to take that man’s place.
I want you to think about that, too, because I was volunteering to fill the shoes of a dead man. Would you have the backbone for something like that, Holly? Would you have the nerve to step into the spot that just got another man killed? I hardly know a thing about you, but I don’t think you do. I don’t think you do because these stories I’m telling can’t be anything new for you—you research this stuff for a living, for crying out loud. You know as well as I do who the bad guys are here; they are the insurgents who want to turn Iraq into a tyrannical theocracy. They are evil men. You know it, I know it, even Senators Dorgan and Reid know it.
Why, then, do you carry water for men who insist on standing on the wrong side of history? If the Senators’ intent was simply to improve oversight on contractors, I would be all for it; genuine waste, fraud and abuse are a drag on our war effort, and aid our enemies. But that is not their intent. (They might try to claim it is, but that is imagination-land, and I’m not in any mood to play along.) Their intent is to hamper this war any way that they can, apparently to improve their own political capital somehow. To that end they have you going after contractors, because contractors are vital to our military’s functioning. Coming back to that irony I mentioned at the top, they see evil being done, and they are a part of it.
And you’ve become a part of it too, Holly. As I say, I hardly know anything about you, and I doubt you’re a sinister person (most people aren’t). But in your drive for a prestigious career, you have wound up working on the side of evil. (That is what causes me to doubt that you’d be willing step into a dead man’s shoes. I hope I’m wrong, but what I know of you makes you look like the sort who’d rather stay in Washington and let me and Frank take the risks; you’re not a principled, take-it-to-the-wall sort.) And I’m concerned for you Holly, because 1) what will it profit you to conquer the world if you have to let evil lay waste to that same world in the process? and 2) what good is a career if it costs you your character? Don’t compromise your principles, Holly, not for Harry Reid and Byron Dorgan.
If the Senate has specific questions on particular thing I may have seen or know, I am at your service. But if people just want me to dish dirt as part of a cynical hatchet job, you know where I stand. I hope you will choose to stand with me.