Wednesday, August 01, 2007
How Rumsfeld paved the way for Blackwater
Guardian August 1, 2007
The world was a very different place on September 10 2001, when Donald Rumsfeld stepped on to the podium at the Pentagon to deliver one of his first major addresses as defense secretary under President George W Bush. For most Americans, there was no such thing as al-Qaida, and Saddam Hussein was still the president of Iraq. Rumsfeld had served in the post once before - under President Gerald Ford, from 1975 to 1977 - and he returned to the job in 2001 with ambitious visions. That September day, in the first year of the Bush administration, Rumsfeld addressed the Pentagon officials in charge of overseeing the high-stakes business of defence contracting - managing the Halliburtons, DynCorps and Bechtels. The secretary stood before a gaggle of former corporate executives from Enron, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics and Aerospace Corporation whom he had tapped as his top deputies at the department of defense, and he issued a declaration of war.
"The topic today is an adversary that poses a threat, a serious threat, to the security of the United States of America," Rumsfeld thundered. "This adversary is one of the world's last bastions of central planning. It governs by dictating five-year plans. From a single capital, it attempts to impose its demands across time zones, continents, oceans and beyond. With brutal consistency, it stifles free thought and crushes new ideas. It disrupts the defence of the United States and places the lives of men and women in uniform at risk."
Pausing briefly for dramatic effect, Rumsfeld - himself a veteran cold warrior - told his new staff, "Perhaps this adversary sounds like the former Soviet Union, but that enemy is gone: our foes are more subtle and implacable today. You may think I'm describing one of the last decrepit dictators of the world. But their day, too, is almost past, and they cannot match the strength and size of this adversary. The adversary's much closer to home. It's the Pentagon bureaucracy."
Rumsfeld called for a wholesale shift in the running of the Pentagon, supplanting the old department of defense bureaucracy with a new model, one based on the private sector. The problem, Rumsfeld said, was that unlike businesses, "governments can't die, so we need to find other incentives for bureaucracy to adapt and improve." The stakes, he declared, were dire - "a matter of life and death, ultimately, every American's."
That day, Rumsfeld announced a major initiative to streamline the use of the private sector in the waging of America's wars and predicted his initiative would meet fierce resistance. "Some might ask, 'How in the world could the secretary of defense attack the Pentagon in front of its people?'" Rumsfeld told his audience. "To them I reply, I have no desire to attack the Pentagon; I want to liberate it. We need to save it from itself."
The next morning, the Pentagon would literally be attacked as American Airlines Flight 77 - a Boeing 757 - smashed into its western wall. Rumsfeld would famously assist rescue workers in pulling bodies from the rubble. But it didn't take long for him to seize the almost unthinkable opportunity presented by 9/11 to put his personal war on the fast track.
· An extract from Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army (published by Serpent's Tail, price £12.99). © 2007 Jeremy Scahill. To order a copy for £11.99 with free UK p&p go to guardian.co.uk/bookshop or call 0870 836 0875.
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