Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Send a Surrogate to Prison

R. Jeffrey Smith’s follow-up article in the Washington Post about the Inspector General's Report on the Boeing tanker scandal within the Air Force, brings to mind how often we are satisfied with slivers of justice.


In what the Pentagon hoped was closure, Darlene Druyun went to the slammer on the Air Force side and Michael Sears was the Boeing fall-guy.  But the list of those who ought to be making license-plates somehow excludes members of Congress, a Cabinet Secretary, the presidential Chief of Staff, the then top Air Force acquisition official (Marvin Sambur) and several levels of Boeing executives and Air Force brass. Lots of people off the hook.  Much covering of tracks.


According to the IG, Air Force secretary James Roche and two-star general Paul Essex outright lied to congress about ‘unexpected corrosion’ necessitating immediate replacement of its tanker fleet.  The Defense Science Board has since said that the tankers were usable for another 35 years.  So, essentially $30 billion was being ‘misrepresented,’ if you want a euphemism.  A thirty-thousand-million dollar scam against the American taxpayer and thus far


  • Phil Condit, CEO of Boeing has been allowed to resign, as though that was a punishment equal to a jail term for fraud

  • Sambur and Roche are allowed to resign from the Air Force instead of being indicted for malfeasance in office, lying to the Congress and participating in a  massive fraud.

  • There is not even an inquiry into Don Rumsfeld’s role. Why was he telling Roche ‘not to budge’ on the tanker lease deal?

  • Ditto for Andy Card, Bush’s chief of staff, who met with Boeing heavies and then backed the deal.

The Air Force said “we’ve learned from this experience.” What do they mean by that?  What lessons are there to be had from being found with your hand in a $30 billion cookie-jar?  Watch your e-mails?  Convene important meetings in basement parking-garages?  Try to be more honest?  Honesty is not a lesson, it’s an aspect of character that’s particularly fragile in a command authority like the Pentagon. Covering up dishonesty in the chain-of command chills the atmosphere all the way down to the lowest pay-grade and encourages an us-against-them mentality inconsistent with democratic principals.


The Washington Post’s copy of the Inspector General’s report had 45 sections deleted by the White House counsel’s office and the Pentagon blacked-out a further 64 names, a number of e-mails and the names of members of Congress participating in the scam.  How can that be?


And we, as citizens, will no doubt roll over and accept it.  The surrogates will do their short-time quietly and the business of doing business will go on, equally quietly.  And by the way, this crooked and manipulative and fraudulent Pentagon is the same Pentagon that can’t find the money to deliver armored Humvees to Iraq.


Donald, what's goin' on on your watch?