(cont’d from previous post)
Which brings us to Custer Battles.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, a Republican and Reagan appointee with a history we’ll get to a bit later, dismissed outright the case against Scott Custer and Mike Battles. In order to understand what level of judicial abortion this is, you first have to know a little about the case. Sydney Blumenthal explains.
Providing private military forces, or mercenaries, became a booming business overnight. One 33-year-old named Michael Battles, a one-time minor CIA employee and failed Republican candidate for Congress but with political connections to the White House, partnered with a former army ranger named Scott Custer to form a new security firm called Custer Battles. They had no experience in the field at all. “For us the fear and disorder offered real promise”, Battles explained. Their contacts won them a lucrative contract to guard the Baghdad airport.
Custer Battles became a front for an Enron-like scheme involving shell companies in the Cayman Islands and elsewhere that issued false invoices and engaged in other frauds. By the time the Pentagon eventually barred the company from further work for “seriously improper conduct”, it had raked in $100 million in federal contracts.
Scott Custer and Mike Battles walked into Iraq’s Green Zone to find themselves in the middle of what Blumenthal calls “neocon paradise”:
Hiring for the CPA staff was handled by the White House liaison at the Pentagon, James O’Beirne, who is also the husband of rightwing pundit Kate O’Beirne. He requested résumés from Republican congressional offices, activist groups and think-tanks. “They had to have the right political credentials”, said Frederick Smith, the CPA’s deputy director in Washington.
Senior civil servants were systematically denied positions. Applicants were questioned on their ideological loyalty and positions on issues like abortion. A youthful contingent, whose résumés had been stored in the Heritage Foundation’s computer file, was promptly hired and ran rampant in the green zone as the “brat pack”.
Bremer declared a flat tax, a constant Republican dream that could never be passed at home by Congress. He promulgated wholesale privatisation of state-owned industries, which created instant mass unemployment, without acknowledging any consequences. Peter McPherson, a former Reagan administration official close to Dick Cheney, was flown in to run the Iraqi economy. He stated his belief that looting was accelerating the process of privatisation – “privatisation that occurs sort of naturally.”
In this free-for-all atmosphere, there wasn’t much coming from the PTB at the CPA to discourage the boys from helping themselves. After all, everyone else was. Continue reading