In my book, I examine a new industry that has exploded in size to support the Iraq war. This new industry is not like the old familiar Military Industrial Complex, especially since they don't usually manufacture anything; they supply service - armed security or logistics. I dubbed this new and burgeoning industry the War Service Industry. In contrast, they have a trade organization with the strange and Orwellian name--the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA).
IPOA is planning to have their annual summit next week in Washington DC. I had a chance recently to sit down and talk to the president and founder of IPOA, Doug Brooks. Mr. Brooks is an affable guy who occasionally comments on my blog posts here. He is genuinely enthusiastic about the war service industry (he calls it the Peace and Stability Industry). Until the Iraq war, this industry and his members of IPOA worked on various conflicts around the world, often in cooperation with UN missions. Since the huge amount of money that has been shoved into the Iraq war, the mission is new and very different. There has been an emergence of large players, such as Blackwater and DynCorp, into this area and they joined IPOA.
Mr. Brooks and I had a lively conversation when we met, especially when he said, as he has in his comments to my blog, that in this war "the use of contractors has ensured that Iraq is the best supported, best supplied military operation in history" When I would challenge him on that statement based on the research for my book and the plethora of government reports showing that is not so, he replies, "I note that no one, in books or the media, has come up with an example that disproves the statement. The media focuses on problems and looks for the 'big lie', but the enormous success of the privately supported logistics and supply mission is the 'big truth' that gets ignored because it ain't a 'spicy' story."
OK, so all of these stories in the media of lack of supplies for the troops and all the stories in my book about troops outside the large bases living in abysmal conditions and all the government reports about the failures of the contractors are all wrong. My meeting with him got surreal when he told me that the troops were getting fat because they were so well fed...I tried to tell him that may be true at the big bases but not out where the contractors refuse to go. He just kept giving me a sunny smile.
There was one area that we agreed on. He said that the contractors needed good oversight and transparency and that IPOA had a code of conduct that each member company had to sign. He made it a point for me to know that KBR was not a member, probably because it was becoming more and more clear in the news and government reports that KBR has had questionable practices and costs. He also mentioned that IPOA was working on how to put contractors under US legal statutes. I mentioned that Blackwater was one of his members and he said that they were working with him on the laws. (This was just before the big Blackwater Nisoor Square shooting scandal hit.) Ironically, the main legal advisor for Blackwater is Joseph Schmitz, the former DOD Inspector General who left under a black cloud because of allegations that he limited IG investigations of Paul Wolfowitz and others.
But I have to give Mr. Brooks credit. After the Blackwater scandal hit and there were allegations of wrongdoing by Blackwater, IPOA's executive committee "authorized the Standards Committee to initiate an independent review process of Blackwater USA to ascertain whether Blackwater USA's processes and procedures were fully sufficient to ensure compliance with the IPOA Code of Conduct...." Blackwater quit the IPOA two days later.
Mr. Brooks can't be happy that he woke up yesterday to find out that the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIRIG) has issued a report on DynCorp's contract to train the Iraqi police.
According to the Associated Press:
[SIGIR IG]Bowen had been trying to review a February 2004 contract to DynCorp awarded by the State Department's Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). The company was to provide housing, food, security, facilities, training support, law enforcement staff with various specialties as well as weapons and armor for personnel assigned to the program.
"I guess it's a familiar theme," Bowen said Monday, in that problems have previously been documented with both DynCorp and the agency overseeing the contract.
Although training has been conducted and equipment provided under the contract, the bureau is in the process of trying to organize and validate invoices and does not believe its records accurately show the reasons for most payments that were made, the report said.
"As a result, INL does not know specifically what it received for most of the $1.2 billion in expenditures under its DynCorp contract for the Iraqi Police Training Program," Bowen said in a new 18-page report.
It sounds like Mr. Brooks might have to ask for another Executive Committee review, especially since the IPOA code of conduct says, in part:
"Signatories understand the unique nature of the conflict/post-conflict environment in which many of their operations take place, and they fully recognize the importance of clear and operative lines of accountability to ensuring effective peace operations and to the long-term viability of the industry."
As this war service industry or, if you prefer, peace and stability industry gets more and more scrutiny, Mr. Brooks may lose some more members if he really does enforce the code of conduct. Dyncorp is a "gold sponsor" of his annual summit. Blackwater paid a membership price of $15,000 to join IPOA. IPOA is offering a training seminar in December to learn how to comply with the IPOA code of conduct. They better move quickly or their membership might dwindle as investigators finally begin to peel back the layers of this new war service industry. I wish him luck.