Sunday, November 30, 2008

Obama's first problem is US war crimes

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November 30, 2008

Obama's first problem is US war crimes

The president-elect has to take a stand on Bush’s dark legacy

A small and largely unnoticed spat among the transition planners for the president-elect, Barack Obama, broke out last week. It was the first genuinely passionate debate among the Obamaites and it centres on a terribly difficult and terribly important decision that will be among the first that Obama has to make.

How does he deal with the legacy of criminal actions of his predecessor’s administration when it comes to detention, interrogation, abuse and torture of terror suspects? That has long hovered in the back of the minds of those of us who supported Obama, in large part because he alone had the moral authority to draw a line underneath the criminality of the George Bush-Dick Cheney years and restore credibility and hon-our to America’s antiterror policies.

And so when it emerged Obama was planning to appoint one John Brennan as CIA director, alarm bells went off. Brennan had been close to George Tenet at the time Tenet devised what he called “enhanced interrogation techniques”.

Brennan, a CIA company man who had left the agency for private employment, had made statements in the past couple of years suggesting some sympathy for the Bush-Cheney policy. “When it comes to individuals who are determined to destroy our nation, though, we have to make sure that we take every possible measure,” he said elliptically. Including torture?

When pressed, he kept emphasising the need for a “debate” without tipping his own hand about what he personally believed. Take this Brennan statement looking forward to a change in administration from Bush: “I’m hoping there will be a number of professionals coming in who have an understanding of the evolution of the capabilities in the community over the past six years, because there is a method to how things have changed and adapted.”

This plea for understanding for the Bush-Cheney era did not go down well with the Obamasphere – the network of bloggers who helped build momentum for Obama’s victory. The influential blogger Glenn Greenwald exploded in anger; the centrist Democratic blogger Scott Horton urged Brennan to clarify, and then urged Obama to reject him.

On my own blog The Daily Dish, I wrote that if Brennan were picked, Obama supporters “will, in fact, have to go to war with Obama before he even takes office. And if Obama doubts our seriousness, I have three words for him. Yes we can”.

Brennan, facing more protests, withdrew his name from consideration last week. In the first skirmish over the issue in the Obama era, the antitorture forces won.

But the question remains: what is to be done? It is not Obama’s style to launch into a prosecutorial investigation of intelligence officials or to open new partisan wounds by subjecting Bush, Cheney, Tenet, Donald Rumsfeld and others to war crime charges. He is intent on unifying the country, not further dividing it. He needs the professionals running the antiterror effort and, after eight years of Bush-Cheney, it is hard to find people not tainted by torture.

There is also the possibility that Bush himself might make a preemptive strike and, upon his departure from Washington, issue a blanket pardon for all his aides and underlings who aided and abetted war crimes in the past seven years. Leaving those pardons in place while prosecuting low-level officials or CIA agents would be deeply unfair.

That was the rationale behind the 2006 Military Commissions Act, which gave retroactive immunity for war crimes to civilians in the administration, but not to the military grunts who enforced the policy, and which carved out a continuing exception for torture to CIA agents.

So perhaps the sanest way forward is a truth commission, modelled on those in Chile and South Africa that maintained governmental continuity for a while but set up a process that allowed for a maximal gathering of the relevant facts and names. The president could appoint a powerful and respected prosecutor to begin the process. The commission would focus not just on the military and CIA but also on the Bush justice department and Office of Legal Counsel, and the abuse of the law and its interpretation that gave Bush and Cheney transparently phoney legal cover for war crimes.

At the end of the second world war, US officials prosecuted Nazi lawyers and civilians who tortured no one themselves but came up with legal flimflam to turn war crimes into legal policy. Why not apply the same logic to Bush’s legal architects – the men who declared the president was bound by no law and no treaty in subjecting prisoners to torture up to the very edge of death?

The commission would need strong subpoena powers and the full backing of the president. Only once the commission has reported, the decision on whether to prosecute or not could be made, with much wider public awareness, and much deeper examination of the facts and documents now hidden. There is much, after all, we still do not know – and that information may make the war crimes seem less or more defensible.

There are some limits on transparency, of course, because of the sensitive intelligence matters that are involved. But when war crimes are at issue, it is more important for a democracy to seek transparency from its highest officials than to engage in anything but the most pressing concealment of the most vital secrets. In international law, there are no pardons for war crimes. And if America is going to regain moral authority in the world, it has to demonstrate it lives by the same standards it expects from everyone else.

Bush has even signalled that he will pardon no one because he does not believe they have committed any crimes. But the transparent way in which laughably sourced legal “cover” was provided by Bush’s own legal counsel proves the Bush administration knew full well it was breaking the law, and was willing to force the justice department to put its imprimatur on such illegality.

And the evidence we now have, undisputed evidence, proves already that war crimes were indeed committed – by the president and vice-president on down. I mean: why else Guantanamo Bay and secret black sites if the president believed he was obeying domestic American law?

There is, in the end, a simple and sobering truth: these people have to be brought to justice if the rule of law is to survive in America. In his constitutional soul, Obama knows this. He also knows, however, the political exigencies of taking over a national security apparatus where continuity and lawful vigilance against terrorism remain vital.

How he bridges the demands of the law with the pressures of politics will tell us much about him. And because every act performed by the CIA will soon become his responsibility as much as President Bush’s, he has no time to dither.

The constitutional crisis is in some ways deeper than the financial one. We will find out soon enough if this really is change we can believe in rather than merely hope for.

Copyright 2008 Times Newspapers Ltd.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


Ecuador Declares Foreign Debt Illegitimate and Illegal

As Crisis Mounts, Ecuador Declares Foreign Debt Illegitimate and Illegal


By Daniel Denvir, AlterNet

Posted on November 26, 2008,


Amidst the spreading global financial crisis, a special

debt audit commission released a report charging that

much of Ecuador's foreign debt was illegitimate or

illegal. The commission recommended that Ecuador

default on $3.9 billion in foreign commercial debts--

Global Bonds 2012, 2015 and 2030--the result of debts

restructured in 2000 after the country's 1999 default.


Although Ecuador currently has the capacity to pay,

dropping oil prices and squeezed credit markets are

putting President Rafael Correa's plans to boost

spending on education and health care in jeopardy.

Correa has pledged to prioritize the "social debt" over

debt to foreign creditors.


The commission accused Salomon Smith Barney, now part

of Citigroup Inc., of handling the 2000 restructuring

without Ecuador's authorization, leading to the

application of 10 and 12 percent interest rates. The

commission evaluated all commercial, multilateral,

government-to-government and domestic debt from 1976-2006.


Commercial debt, or debt to private banks, made up 44%

of Ecuador's interest payments in 2007, considerably

more than the 27% paid to multilateral institutions

such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF). But the

report also lambasted multilateral debt, saying that

many IMF and World Bank loans were used to advance the

interests of transnational corporations. Ecuador's

military dictatorship (1974-1979) was the first

government to lead the country into indebtedness.


The commission found that usurious interest rates were

applied for many bonds and that past Ecuadorian

governments illegally took other loans on. Debt

restructurings consistently forced Ecuador to take on

more foreign debt to pay outstanding debt, and often at

much higher interest rates. The commission also charged

that the U.S. Federal Reserve's late 1970's interest

rate hikes constituted a "unilateral" increase in

global rates, compounding Ecuador's indebtedness.


If President Rafael Correa follows the commission's

recommendations--which is far from a certainty--Ecuador

could default on some portion of its foreign debt,

becoming the first Latin American country to do so

since Argentina in 2001.


But despite all the hints at a default, it seems likely

that Ecuador will use the commission's report as

leverage for restructuring the country's debt.

Commission president Ricardo Patiño indicated as much

to Bloomberg News, but said that Ecuador would not

settle for a 60% reduction, a number that had earlier been mentioned.


Ecuador announced that it would delay paying $30.6

million in interest on the Global Bonus 2012, taking

advantage of a month-long grace period. The

announcement sent the global financial universe into a

panic, with Standard and Poor's cutting Ecuador's risk rating to CCC-.


Social movements have long alleged that corrupt former

governments illegally negotiated loans for their own

personal financial gain.


Significantly, the commission singled out foreign debt

for being "illegitimate" rather than simply illegal.

Social movements have long declared most foreign debt

to be illegitimate, but Ecuador's use of legitimacy as

a legal argument for defaulting would set a major

precedent; indeed, the mere formation of a debt

auditing commission does so. Osvaldo Leon, of the Latin

American Information Agency (ALAI), says that it

remains to be seen if other countries in Latin America

will follow suit.


Ecuador's findings could set an important precedent for

the poorest of indebted countries, whose debt burden

has long been criticized as inhumane.


Pablo Davalos, an economist and fierce social movement

critic of Correa, has said that the report will in the

end only amount to political posturing. Correa has

criticized the foreign debt since his brief 2005 stint

as Finance Minister--but has faithfully made each and

every payment since his 2006 election. Correa has also

made peace with oil and mining companies after

acrimonious, high profile negotiations. In response,

social movements have accused Correa of being overly

friendly to business. The foreign press, and the

business press in particular, regularly exaggerates

Correa's radicalism.


It is also important to emphasize that Argentina's 2001

default did not hamper the country's economic

recovery--in fact, it gave it a strong boost.


Former Constituent Assembly President Alberto Acosta

echoed Correa, saying that the proposal could provide

the legal basis for the prosecution of Ecuadorian

officials involved in the negotiation of illegal or

illegitimate debt. He also said that it was perfectly

reasonable to take a debt's legitimacy into account.

"The United States itself has embraced the concept of

illegitimate debt in encouraging countries to forgive

the debt accrued in Iraq under Saddam Hussein." In

fact, the U.S. originated the concept of foreign debt

after the Spanish-American war. The U.S. refused to pay

Cuba's outstanding debt to Spain, arguing that it was

created by agents of Spain in Spain's self-interest, a

matter in which Cubans had no say.




One Man's Military-Industrial-Media Complex

There are 51 days until Jan. 20, 2009.


One Man's Military-Industrial-Media Complex

Saturday 29 November 2008


by: David Barstow, The New York Times


    In the spring of 2007 a tiny military contractor with a slender track record went shopping for a precious Beltway commodity.


    The company, Defense Solutions, sought the services of a retired general with national stature, someone who could open doors at the highest levels of government and help it win a huge prize: the right to supply Iraq with thousands of armored vehicles.


    Access like this does not come cheap, but it was an opportunity potentially worth billions in sales, and Defense Solutions soon found its man. The company signed Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army general and military analyst for NBC News, to a consulting contract starting June 15, 2007.


    Four days later the general swung into action. He sent a personal note and 15-page briefing packet to David H. Petraeus, the commanding general in Iraq, strongly recommending Defense Solutions and its offer to supply Iraq with 5,000 armored vehicles from Eastern Europe. "No other proposal is quicker, less costly, or more certain to succeed," he said.


    Thus, within days of hiring General McCaffrey, the Defense Solutions sales pitch was in the hands of the American commander with the greatest influence over Iraq's expanding military.


    "That's what I pay him for," Timothy D. Ringgold, chief executive of Defense Solutions, said in an interview.


    General McCaffrey did not mention his new contract with Defense Solutions in his letter to General Petraeus. Nor did he disclose it when he went on CNBC that same week and praised the commander Defense Solutions was now counting on for help - "He's got the heart of a lion" - or when he told Congress the next month that it should immediately supply Iraq with large numbers of armored vehicles and other equipment.


    He had made similar arguments before he was hired by Defense Solutions, but this time he went further. In his testimony to Congress, General McCaffrey criticized a Pentagon plan to supply Iraq with several hundred armored vehicles made in the United States by a competitor of Defense Solutions. He called the plan "not in the right ballpark" and urged Congress to instead equip Iraq with 5,000 armored vehicles.


    "We've got Iraqi army battalions driving around in Toyota trucks," he said, echoing an argument made to General Petraeus in the Defense Solutions briefing packet.


    Through seven years of war an exclusive club has quietly flourished at the intersection of network news and wartime commerce. Its members, mostly retired generals, have had a foot in both camps as influential network military analysts and defense industry rainmakers. It is a deeply opaque world, a place of privileged access to senior government officials, where war commentary can fit hand in glove with undisclosed commercial interests and network executives are sometimes oblivious to possible conflicts of interest.


    Few illustrate the submerged complexities of this world better than Barry McCaffrey.


    General McCaffrey, 66, has long been a force in Washington's power elite. A consummate networker, he cultivated politicians and journalists of all stripes as drug czar in the Clinton cabinet, and his ties run deep to a new generation of generals, some of whom he taught at West Point or commanded in the Persian Gulf war, when he rose to fame leading the "left hook" assault on Iraqi forces.


    But it was 9/11 that thrust General McCaffrey to the forefront of the national security debate. In the years since he has made nearly 1,000 appearances on NBC and its cable sisters, delivering crisp sound bites in a blunt, hyperbolic style. He commands up to $25,000 for speeches, his commentary regularly turns up in The Wall Street Journal, and he has been quoted or cited in thousands of news articles, including dozens in The New York Times.


    His influence is such that President Bush and Congressional leaders from both parties have invited him for war consultations. His access is such that, despite a contentious relationship with former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the Pentagon has arranged numerous trips to Iraq, Afghanistan and other hotspots solely for his benefit.


    At the same time, General McCaffrey has immersed himself in businesses that have grown with the fight against terrorism.


    The consulting company he started after leaving the government in 2001, BR McCaffrey Associates, promises to "build linkages" between government officials and contractors like Defense Solutions for up to $10,000 a month. He has also earned at least $500,000 from his work for Veritas Capital, a private equity firm in New York that has grown into a defense industry powerhouse by buying contractors whose profits soared from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition, he is the chairman of HNTB Federal Services, an engineering and construction management company that often competes for national security contracts.


    Many retired officers hold a perch in the world of military contracting, but General McCaffrey is among a select few who also command platforms in the news media and as government advisers on military matters. These overlapping roles offer them an array of opportunities to advance policy goals as well as business objectives. But with their business ties left undisclosed, it can be difficult for policy makers and the public to fully understand their interests.


    On NBC and in other public forums, General McCaffrey has consistently advocated wartime policies and spending priorities that are in line with his corporate interests. But those interests are not described to NBC's viewers. He is held out as a dispassionate expert, not someone who helps companies win contracts related to the wars he discusses on television.


    The president of NBC News, Steve Capus, said in an interview that General McCaffrey was a man of honor and achievement who would never let business obligations color his analysis for NBC. He described General McCaffrey as an "independent voice" who had courageously challenged Mr. Rumsfeld, adding, "There's no open microphone that begins with the Pentagon and ends with him going out over our airwaves."


    General McCaffrey is not required to abide by NBC's formal conflict-of-interest rules, Mr. Capus said, because he is a consultant, not a news employee. Nor is he required to disclose his business interests periodically. But Mr. Capus said that the network had conversations with its military analysts about the need to avoid even the appearance of a conflict, and that General McCaffrey had been "incredibly forthcoming" about his ties to military contractors.


    General McCaffrey declined to be interviewed but released a brief statement.


    "My public media commentary on the war labeled me as an early and serious critic of Rumsfeld's arrogance and mismanagement of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan," the statement said. "The New York Times noted my strong on-air criticism as an NBC commentator. My op-ed objections to the execution of the war were published in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The L.A. Times, USA Today and other media. Hardly the stuff of someone shilling a war for the administration - or privately pushing his business interests with the Pentagon. Thirty-seven years of public service. Four combat tours. Wounded three times. The country knows me as a nonpartisan and objective national security expert with solid integrity."


    In earlier e-mail messages, General McCaffrey played down his involvement in lobbying for contracts, suggesting he mainly gave companies "strategic counsel." His business responsibilities, he wrote, simply do not conflict with his duty to provide objective analysis on NBC. "Never has been a problem," he wrote. "Period."


    General McCaffrey did in fact emerge as a tough critic of Mr. Rumsfeld, describing him as reckless and incompetent. His central criticism - that Mr. Rumsfeld fought the Iraq war "on the cheap" - reflected his long-stated views on waging war. But it also dovetailed with his business interests. And his clashes with Mr. Rumsfeld were but one facet of a more complex and symbiotic relationship with the Bush administration and the military's uniformed leaders, records and interviews show.


    With a few exceptions General McCaffrey has consistently supported Mr. Bush's major national security policies, especially the war in Iraq. He advocated invasion, urged building up the military to sustain the occupation and warned that premature withdrawal would invite catastrophe.


    In an article earlier this year, The New York Times identified General McCaffrey as one of some 75 military analysts who were the focus of a Pentagon public relations campaign that is now being examined by the Pentagon's inspector general, the Government Accountability Office and the Federal Communications Commission. The campaign, begun in 2002 but suspended after the article's publication, sought to transform the analysts into "surrogates" and "message force multipliers" for the Bush administration, records show. The analysts, many with military industry ties, were wooed in private briefings, showered with talking points and escorted on tours of Iraq and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.


    The Pentagon inspector general is investigating whether special access gave any of these analysts an improper edge in the competition for contracts.


    General McCaffrey offers a case study of the benefits that can flow from favored access: an inside track to sensitive information about strategy and tactics; insight into the priorities of ground commanders; a private channel to officials who oversaw war spending, as the Defense Solutions example shows. In that case the company has yet to win the contract it hired General McCaffrey to champion.


    More broadly, though, his example reveals the myriad and often undisclosed connections between the business of war and the business of covering it.


    A Move to Television


    General McCaffrey made his debut as a military analyst in the weeks after 9/11. NBC anchors typically introduced him by describing his medals or his exploits in the gulf war. Or they noted he was a West Point professor, or the youngest four-star general in the history of the Army.


    They did not mention his work for military contractors, including a lucrative new role with Veritas Capital.


    Veritas was a relatively small player in 2001, looking to grow through acquisitions and Pentagon contracts. Competing for contracts is a complex and subtle sport, governed by highly bureaucratic bidding rules and the old-fashioned arts of access and influence.


    Veritas would compete on both fronts.


    Just days before the terrorist attacks - on Sept. 6, 2001 - Veritas had announced the formation of an "advisory council" of well-connected retired generals and admirals, including General McCaffrey. "They can really pick up the phone and call someone," Robert B. McKeon, the president of Veritas, would later tell The Times.


    Access was also part of what drew NBC to General McCaffrey. Mr. Capus said General McCaffrey "opens doors with generals and others who we would not otherwise be able to talk to."


    Veritas gave its advisers board seats on its military companies, along with profit sharing and equity stakes that were all the more attractive because Veritas intended to turn quick profits through initial public offerings. On Sept. 6, this might have been considered a gamble. Revenue growth - a key to successful I.P.O.'s - required sustained increases in military spending. But after Sept. 11, the only question was just how big those increases would be.


    From his first months on the air, General McCaffrey called for huge, sustained increases in military spending for a global campaign against terrorism. He also advocated spending for high-tech weapons, including some like precision-guided munitions and unmanned aerial vehicles that were important to the Veritas portfolio. He called the C-17 cargo plane - also a source of Veritas contracts - a "national treasure."


    In a statement, Veritas said it had gained no "discernible benefit" from General McCaffrey's television appearances and called his TV work "completely independent" from his role with Veritas.


    In their corporate filings, Veritas military companies told investors they were well positioned to benefit from a widening global struggle against terrorism. The approaching conflict with Iraq, though, would create new areas of tension between General McCaffrey's fiduciary obligations to Veritas and his duties to NBC.


    General McCaffrey harbored significant doubts about the invasion plan. An informal participant in the war planning, he was troubled by Mr. Rumsfeld's resistance to an invasion force of several hundred thousand, he acknowledged months and years later in interviews. Mr. Rumsfeld's team, he said, was bent on making an "ideological" point that wars could be fought "on the cheap." There were not enough tanks, artillery or troops, he would say, and the result was a "grossly anemic" force that unnecessarily put troops at risk.


    That is not what General McCaffrey said when asked on NBC outlets to assess the risks of war. As planning for a possible invasion received intense news coverage in 2002, he repeatedly assured viewers that the war would be brief, the occupation lengthy but benign.


    "These people are going to come apart in 21 days or less," he told Brian Williams on MSNBC.


    In the fall of 2002 General McCaffrey joined the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a group formed with White House encouragement to fan support for regime change. He also participated in private Pentagon briefings in which network military analysts were armed with talking points that made the case for war, records show.


    In early 2003 Forrest Sawyer asked General McCaffrey on CNBC what could go wrong after an invasion. Anticipating this very question, the Pentagon had invited General McCaffrey and other analysts to a special briefing. Years later General McCaffrey would say he knew that the post-invasion planning was a disaster. "They were warned very categorically and directly by many of us prior to that war," he said.


    Given a chance by Mr. Sawyer to raise an alarm, the general reiterated Pentagon talking points about the "astonishing amount" of postwar planning.


    And when Tom Brokaw asked him, days before the invasion, "What are your concerns if we were to go to war by the end of this week?" he replied, "Well, I don't think I have any real serious ones."


    Only when the invasion met unexpected resistance did General McCaffrey give a glimpse of his misgivings. "We've placed ourselves in a risky proposition, 400 miles into Iraq with no flank or rear area security," he told Katie Couric on "Today."


    Mr. Rumsfeld struck back. He abruptly cut off General McCaffrey's access to the Pentagon's special briefings and conference calls.


    General McCaffrey was stunned. "I've never heard his voice like that," recalled one close associate who asked not to be identified. He added, "They showed him what life was like on the outside."


    Robert Weiner, a longtime publicist for General McCaffrey, said the general came to see that if he continued his criticism, he risked being shut out not only by Mr. Rumsfeld but also by his network of friends and contacts among the uniformed leadership.


    "There is a time when you have to punt," said Mr. Weiner, emphasizing that he spoke as General McCaffrey's friend, not as his spokesman.


    Within days General McCaffrey began to backpedal, professing his "great respect" for Mr. Rumsfeld to Tim Russert. "Is this man O.K.?" the Fox News anchor Brit Hume asked, taking note of the about-face.


    For months to come, as an insurgency took root, General McCaffrey defended the Bush administration. "I am 100 percent behind what the administration, what the president of the United States, is doing in Iraq," he told Mr. Williams that June.


    A Corporate Troubleshooter


    Mr. Rumsfeld's swift reaction underscored the administration's appreciation of General McCaffrey's influence. His comments were catalogued and circulated at the White House and Pentagon.


    Other network analysts were monitored, too, but not the way General McCaffrey was. He was different. He was one of the few retired four-star generals on television, and his well-known friendships with men like General Petraeus and Gen. John P. Abizaid gave him added currency.


    As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan dragged on, General McCaffrey increasingly gave public expression to the private frustrations of generals pressing their civilian bosses for more troops, weapons and reconstruction money. The Army, he repeatedly warned, could break under the strain.


    These were politically charged topics, and so the administration worked to influence his commentary, using carrots and sticks alike. In 2005, for example, Mr. Rumsfeld took umbrage at remarks General McCaffrey made to The Washington Times about the impact of unchecked poppy production in Afghanistan. Mr. Rumsfeld wrote to Gen. Peter Pace, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, demanding to know where General McCaffrey "got his information," records show. No less than an assistant secretary of defense was dispatched to speak with General McCaffrey, who said he had been misquoted.


    In a letter to The Times, General McCaffrey's lawyer, Thomas A. Clare, said the general's recurring criticisms had cost him "business opportunities with defense contractors." NBC executives said they, too, fielded high-level complaints, and General McCaffrey was not invited back to the Pentagon's analyst briefings.


    On the other hand, when Pentagon officials noticed that General McCaffrey was scheduled to appear on programs like "Meet the Press," they asked generals close to him to suggest themes, records show. The Pentagon also began paying for General McCaffrey to travel to Iraq and Afghanistan. Other military analysts were invited on trips, but only in groups. General McCaffrey went by himself under the sponsorship of Central Command's generals.


    The stated purpose was for General McCaffrey to provide an outside assessment in his role as a part-time professor at West Point. But his trips were also an important public relations tool, meticulously planned to arm him with anecdotes of progress. Records show that Central Command's generals expected him to "publicly support their efforts" upon his return home and solicited his advice on how to "reverse the perception" in Washington of a lost war.


    After each trip General McCaffrey embarked on a news media campaign, writing opinion articles, granting interviews, publishing "after action" reports on his firm's Web site. Each time he extolled Central Command's generals and called for a renewed national commitment of money and support.


    At the same time, General McCaffrey used his access to further business interests, as he did during the summer of 2005, when Americans were turning against the Iraq war in droves.


    Veritas had been on a shopping spree, buying military contractors deeply enmeshed in the war. Its biggest acquisition was of DynCorp International, best known for training foreign security forces for the United States government. By 2005 operations in Iraq and Afghanistan accounted for 37 percent of DynCorp's revenues.


    The crumbling public support, though, posed a threat to Veritas's prize acquisition. The changing political climate and unrelenting violence, DynCorp warned investors, could force a withdrawal from Iraq.


    What is more, some of DynCorp's Iraq contracts were in trouble, plagued by cost overruns, inept work by subcontractors and ineffective training programs. So when DynCorp executives learned that General McCaffrey was planning to travel to Iraq that June, they asked him to sound out American commanders and reassure them of DynCorp's determination to make things right.


    "It is useful both ways," Gregory Lagana, a DynCorp spokesman, said in an interview. "If there were problems, and there were, then we could get an independent judgment and fix them."


    Mr. Lagana said General McCaffrey had been a troubleshooter for DynCorp on other trips. "He'll say: 'I'm going over. Is there anyone you want me to see?' " Mr. Lagana said. "And then he'd go in and say, 'I'm on the board. What can you tell me?' "


    The Pentagon had its own agenda. For eight days, General McCaffrey was given red-carpet treatment. Iraqi commandos even staged a live-fire demonstration for him. But General McCaffrey also was given access to officials whose decisions were important to his business interests, including DynCorp, which was planning an I.P.O. He met with General Petraeus, who was then in charge of training Iraqi security forces and responsible for supervising DynCorp's 500 police trainers. He also met with officials responsible for billions of dollars' worth of contracts in Iraq.


    General McCaffrey would not discuss these sessions, and General Petraeus said in an e-mail message to The Times that he had no reason to discuss DynCorp with General McCaffrey because he would have gone directly to DynCorp's executives in Iraq.


    Back home, General McCaffrey undertook a one-man news media blitz in which he contradicted the dire assessments of many journalists in Iraq. He bore witness to progress on all fronts, but most of all he vouched for Iraq's security forces. A year earlier, before joining DynCorp's board, he had described these forces as "badly equipped, badly trained, politically unreliable." Just months before, Gary E. Luck, a retired four-star Army general sent to assess progress in Iraq, had reported to Mr. Bush that security training was going poorly. Yet General McCaffrey now emphasized his "surprising" conclusion that the training was succeeding.


    After Mr. Bush gave a speech praising Iraq's new security forces, Brian Williams asked General McCaffrey for an independent assessment. "The Iraqi security forces are real," General McCaffrey replied, without noting the concerns about DynCorp.


    His financial stake in the policy debates over Iraq was not mentioned. He did not disclose that he owned special stock that allowed him to share in DynCorp's profits, up 87 percent that year largely because of the Iraq war.


    "I took as objective a look at it as I could," he told David Gregory, the NBC correspondent.


    A Contract in Iraq


    In his written statements to The Times, General McCaffrey said his role with Veritas was "governance, not marketing," and Veritas insisted that he never "solicited new or existing government contracts."


    General McCaffrey did, however, play an indirect role in helping Veritas win one of its largest contracts, to supply more than 8,000 translators to the war in Iraq. The contract had been held by L-3 Communications, but when General McCaffrey got wind that the Army was considering seeking new bidders, he called his friend James A. Marks, a major general in the Army who was approaching retirement and was versed in the uses of translators, having served as intelligence chief for land forces during the Iraq invasion.


    As General Marks recalls it, General McCaffrey asked him to lead an effort to win the contract for Veritas.


    General Marks, who became a CNN military analyst after his retirement in 2004, would be named president of a new DynCorp subsidiary, Global Linguist Solutions, created in July 2006 to bid for the translation contract. In August 2006 Veritas designated General McCaffrey as chairman of Global Linguist. According to a 2007 corporate filing, General McCaffrey was promised $10,000 a month plus expenses once Global Linguist secured the contract. He would also be eligible to share in profits, which could potentially be significant: the contract was worth $4.6 billion over five years, but only if the United States did not pull out of Iraq first.


    In the fall of 2006, that was hardly a sure thing. With casualties rising, the nation's discontent had been laid bare by the November elections. Then, in December, the Iraq Study Group recommended withdrawing all combat brigades by early 2008.


    That month, in a flurry of appearances for NBC, General McCaffrey repeatedly ridiculed this recommendation, warning that it would turn Iraq into "Pol Pot's Cambodia."


    The United States, he said, should keep at least 100,000 troops in Iraq for many years. He disputed depictions of an isolated and deluded White House. After meeting with the president and vice president on Dec. 11 in the Oval Office, he went on television and described them as "very sober-minded."


    General McCaffrey was hardly alone in criticizing the Iraq Study Group, and in his e-mail messages to The Times he said his objections reflected his judgment that it was folly to leave American trainers behind with no combat force protection. But in none of those appearances did NBC disclose General McCaffrey's ties to Global Linguist.


    NBC executives asserted that the general's relationships with military contractors are indirectly disclosed through NBC's Web site, where General McCaffrey's biography now features a link to his consulting firm's Web site. That site, they said, lists General McCaffrey's clients.


    While the general's Web site lists his board memberships, it does not name his clients, nor does it mention Veritas Capital, by one measure the second-largest military contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan, after KBR. In any event, Mr. Capus, the NBC News president, said he was unaware of General McCaffrey's connection to the translation contract. Mr. Capus declined to comment on whether this information should have been disclosed.


    CNN officials said they, too, were unaware of General Marks's role in the contract. When they learned of it in 2007, they said, they were so concerned about what they considered an obvious conflict of interest that they severed ties with him. (General Marks, who also spoke out against the withdrawal plan on CNN, said business considerations did not influence his comments.)


    On Dec. 18, 2006, the Pentagon stunned Wall Street by awarding the translation contract to Global Linguist. DynCorp's stock jumped 15 percent.


    Hiring a General


    After touring Iraq in March 2007 and meeting with American officials responsible for equipping Iraq's military, General McCaffrey published a trip report recommending that the United States equip Iraq with 5,000 armored vehicles.


    This kind of access had strong appeal to Mr. Ringgold, Defense Solutions' chief, who had a plan to rebuild Iraq's decimated fleets of armored vehicles by culling "leftovers" from depots across Eastern Europe. "I was looking for an advocate," Mr. Ringgold recalled.


    General McCaffrey soon arrived for an audition at the Defense Solutions headquarters outside Philadelphia. "Frankly," Mr. Ringgold recalled, "I had to get over the sticker shock of what he was going to cost me."


    General McCaffrey liked his basic concept but told him to think bigger, Mr. Ringgold said. Instead of minimally refurbished equipment, he urged Mr. Ringgold to sell "Americanized" armored vehicles upgraded with thermal sights and other expensive extras. And why not also team up with DynCorp and others to supply the maintenance, logistics and training to keep them running?


    The suggestions vastly increased the proposal's scale and price tag, but the general seemed to have a read on the complex interplay between the Iraqi government and the American military leadership, Mr. Ringgold recalled. For a retainer and an undisclosed equity stake, General McCaffrey signed on weeks later, then promptly wrote to General Petraeus.


    His letter, drafted with help from Defense Solutions, explained that in the three months since his trip to Iraq, he had found just one feasible way to equip Iraq with enough armored vehicles to permit a "phased redeployment" of American combat forces - the proposal by Defense Solutions. He urged General Petraeus to act quickly but did not disclose that he had just been hired by Defense Solutions.


    In his e-mail message to The Times, General Petraeus said he received "innumerable" letters from "would be" contractors. In this case, he wrote, he simply sent General McCaffrey's material "without any endorsement" to James M. Dubik, the general then responsible for training Iraq's security forces.


    General Dubik, now retired, said in an interview that he, too, received a letter and information packet, and as a result briefed Iraq's defense minister. "Quite frankly," he said, "I thought it was a good idea."


    General Dubik emphasized that although he used Defense Solutions briefing materials, he first "sanitized" them of any mention of the company. He said he presented the idea as his own, intending to ask Defense Solutions to bid if the Iraqis liked the concept. But the defense minister reacted coolly, he said, arguing that Iraq deserved advanced American-made vehicles.


    General McCaffrey also sent letters to top lawmakers and approached contacts inside the Defense Department bureaucracy that oversees foreign military sales. His influence was immediately apparent. For example, General McCaffrey reached out to Maj. Gen. Timothy F. Ghormley, chief of staff at Central Command, who promptly invited Mr. Ringgold to a meeting in Tampa, Fla. Mr. Ringgold recalled General Ghormley's first words: "Why aren't we doing this already?"


    Nevertheless, by late 2007, Defense Solutions still had no deal. General McCaffrey, Mr. Ringgold recalled, said the company needed to get to Baghdad and meet directly with Iraqi leaders and important Americans.


    On Oct. 26, 2007, General McCaffrey wrote an e-mail message to General Petraeus proposing to return to Iraq. He said his "principal interest would be to document progress in standing up Iraqi security forces," and he proposed traveling soon, before the presidential primaries, so he could "speak objectively - before politics goes to roar level."


    In early December General McCaffrey arrived in Baghdad, where he met with Generals Petraeus and Dubik, among others.


    General Petraeus said he did not recall them discussing Defense Solutions. General Dubik recalled giving General McCaffrey a detailed briefing on the effort to equip Iraq's army, including the plans for armored vehicles. He said it was a measure of General McCaffrey's integrity that he did not raise Defense Solutions. "He's not going to cross the line," General Dubik said.


    Mr. Ringgold said General McCaffrey "made it perfectly clear" that he would not discuss their proposal with the two generals and even sent instructions that he was not to be contacted in Iraq "to avoid even the perception of conflict of interest."


    But Defense Solutions used information General McCaffrey gleaned from his meetings to refine its proposal. Mr. Ringgold followed General McCaffrey to Baghdad in February 2008 and then made plans to return in the spring to meet with Generals Dubik and Petraeus. "General McCaffrey insisted that I see you," Mr. Ringgold wrote to General Petraeus in a March 20 e-mail message.


    General Petraeus forwarded Mr. Ringgold's message to General Dubik, who warned Mr. Ringgold that while he was happy to meet, Iraq's defense minister was still hesitant. "They've gone back and forth on the refurbished stuff," General Dubik wrote.


    Defense Solutions turned to the White House. On May 9, Mr. Ringgold and Tom C. Korologos, a Republican lobbyist, met with a military aide to Vice President Dick Cheney and two National Security Council officials.


    The next day, in an e-mail memorandum to his staff, Mr. Ringgold discussed other ways to press Iraqi and American officials, including generating news media coverage to suggest that Iraq's "failure to ready its Army" was prolonging the occupation. General McCaffrey had been making a similar argument for months on NBC and elsewhere. "The end of the game is that the Iraqis got to maintain internal order," he told Ann Curry, the NBC journalist.


    Mr. Ringgold said he had never asked the general to take positions supporting Defense Solutions in his news media appearances. On the other hand, he added, "I hope he was thinking of us."


    Mr. Weiner, the general's longtime publicist, said General McCaffrey worked with clients "to get your mission achieved in the media." General McCaffrey, he said, often speaks out with the twin goals of shaping policy and generating favorable coverage for clients with worthy products or ideas.


    "His motive is pure," Mr. Weiner said. "It is national interest."


    Despite Defense Solutions' efforts, Iraq recently placed orders for billions of dollars' worth of American-made armored vehicles. But the company is not giving up, and it continues to rely on the advice of General McCaffrey, who returned to Iraq on Oct. 31 for another visit sponsored by the Pentagon.


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