The Bikecast Episode #45: Iraq For Sale and Creepy War Profiteer, Michael Chertoff

Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers covers the art form of syphoning tremendous wealth from the body politic into the hands of state corporations under the guise of “defense.” In recent years, this racket has become even more sophisticated as the military moves from purchasing materiel from “private” sources to hiring out for services previously provided internally.

In the days of Smedley Butler, war meant ridiculous profits around the provision of goods: leather, nickel, sugar, meat, cotton, steel, coal, garments, etc. Today, similar artificial profits are realized by corporations serving meals, washing laundry, building infrastructure, and providing internal security for the military.

This serves a number of purposes: it allows for misrepresentation of the size of the military presence overseas and it allows avoidance of auditing and oversight (what little there is to begin with). Most importantly, however, it allows for unimaginable amounts of wealth to be appropriated by the corporate-political ruling class with a minimum amount of political effort.


Download this episode of the bikecast

As usual, when I listen back to my (very brief) review of someone else’s work, I sound far more critical towards it than I feel. This podcast is no different–I end up picking nits rather than doing a traditional review. But hey, I’m a nit-picker. It’s what I do.

Iraq for Sale covers alot of interesting material and is well made. The unspoken position that I believe underlies the documentary is that “re-nationalizing” the peripheral services that have been outsourced to “private” corporations would lead to a more efficient, less corrupt, “better” military. I’m skeptical of this position and believe that it surrenders a crucial point. The fraud, waste and abuse around lives and wealth in Iraq is a function of the warfare state. That the people involved are nominally “military” or “civilian” is irrelevant.

At the end of the bikecast, I touch on another war profiteer who is making his money from the domestic police state. Michael Chertoff’s security consulting group has a client, Rapiscan Systems, which is one of two manufacturers of the backscatter x-ray machines currently in the news[1]. While the big news is the constitutionality of being imaged without clothes, the real story[2] is how a creepy, incompetent [3] evil fuck like Michael Chertoff can, apparently, bring about the irradiation and intrusive imaging of every airline passenger in the united states in order to pocket a few million dollars in the process.

For more on the Chertoff story:
Mother Jones (from before the current porn/cancer/grope fiasco): The Airport Scanner Scam
Glen Greenwald (apparently no relation to Iraq for Sale director/producer Robert Greenwald): The Obama administration’s war on privacy
The Hill: GOP lawmaker: Full-body scanners violate Fourth Amendment (yeah, cause they give a shit).
Alternet: Details of the increased lobbying by Rapiscan

  1. [1] I claim, mistakenly, in the bikecast that M.C. is an executive for Rapiscan–my bad, Mike.
  2. [2] at least for this episode of the bikecast
  3. [3] Thanks to the commenter for setting me straight
  1. Chertoff’s not incompetent at seizing opportunities for profiteering by the revolving door.

    Chertoff was a very competent US Attorney in New Jersey, prosecuting the enemies of his backers, and setting the stage for certain businesses to dominate under his watch.

    I think a better descriptor for Mikey “Skeletor” Chertoff is that he’s a thuggish goon variant of The Poindexter — he’s personally harmless, he couldn’t punch his way out of a wet paper bag, hand-to-hand. But with the power of the State behind him, he’s a genuine thug who doesn’t mind the abuses worked on the citizenry as long as he profits mightily.

    That’s high competence, but admittedly it’s competence at something many assume is not Chertoff’s aim or agenda as a public office holder.

    • Thanks for the correction–duly noted in the text. I tend to assume incompetence over malfeasance too frequently. Especially at this level, anyone incompetent at thuggish goonery has long ago been weeded out.

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