BRANDOLAND: Talking to God...For You!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

It's Getting Weirder and Weirder

Okay...

A month ago, I wrote a quick bit about Dale Stoffel, an American defense contractor who was gunned down in the streets of Baghdad SHORTLY AFTER accusing Iraqi Defense Ministry officials of corruption.

The Iraqis owed Stoffel some major cash for "defense work," the Iraqis welched on the payments, dude complained to American officials, dude was gunned down by "insurgents."

Well, here's another one. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

"Suspicion surrounds missing Bay Area man - His fellow military contract worker pointed to kickback schemes -- and then was killed"

"Cliff Notes" version: American defense contractors drum up some biz with the Iraqis, American defense contractors might have been privy to some shady deals, American defense contractors end up missing and dead.
Tikrit, Iraq -- In the midafternoon of Oct. 9, 2003, Kirk von Ackermann, an American contract worker from the Bay Area, used a satellite phone to call a colleague from a lonely desert road between Tikrit and Kirkuk in northern Iraq. He told his colleague he had a flat tire and needed a jack.

About 45 minutes later, the colleague found von Ackermann's car, abandoned. There was no sign of von Ackermann, who had been alone when he called. No hint of struggle, not even a footprint. All that remained was his satellite phone, his laptop computer, and, on the car's backseat a briefcase holding $40,000 in $100 bills.

"It was as if he had been abducted by aliens," Ryan Manelick told The Chronicle shortly after von Ackermann disappeared. Manelick was one of von Ackermann's colleagues at Ultra Services, a civilian contracting company they both worked for in Iraq, supplying U.S. military bases with tents, mobile homes, toilets, computers and Internet access.

Just over two months later, on the morning of Dec. 14, Manelick was shot dead near Camp Anaconda, a U.S. military base about 50 miles north of Baghdad, and about 50 miles south of where von Ackermann had disappeared.
Again, von Ackermann missing, Manelick dead.
U.S. military officials looking into both cases will not comment on the progress, if any, of their investigations.

For the families of the two men, there is grief, frustration and anger. And there is also suspicion and paranoia -- and the belief that perhaps both men were eliminated because they knew too much.
Here's where it gets really weird.
On the same day Saddam Hussein was hauled out of his spider hole, Ryan Manelick was driving a 4x4 just south of Tikrit, near the Iraqi town of Balad, 10 miles from Camp Anaconda. A car pulled up alongside and someone inside opened fire with a machine gun. Manelick died instantly, a bullet through his brain. It was two days before his 31st birthday.

Later that week he was to fly home to Pennsylvania for a Christmas break with his family.

Manelick may have been a random victim of a vengeful Hussein supporter. Balad, a fiercely pro-Hussein town in the Sunni triangle, was the source of constant rocket and mortar attacks on Camp Anaconda.

But Manelick had said something startling THE NIGHT BEFORE HE WAS KILLED.

"I'm in fear of my life, you know," he said to a gathering at a Baghdad restaurant, at which a Chronicle reporter was present.

"It's not Iraqis I'm worried about, either," added Manelick. "IT'S PEOPLE FROM MY OWN COUNTRY."

His father, Greg Manelick, and a team of up to 20 investigators from the Army's Criminal Investigation Command have been trying to figure out ever since what Manelick meant.
What the hell is going on over there?!
According to Greg Manelick and other former associates, Ryan Manelick had earlier told Army investigators looking into von Ackermann's disappearance that large sums of money were being paid in KICKBACKS to a U.S. Army officer in Iraq in return for doling out lucrative contracts to another a business associate at Ultra Services.

Von Ackermann, who as a contract manager for Ultra Services spent a lot of time at various U.S. military bases in Iraq, knew all about it, did not approve and was about to blow the whistle to U.S. Army authorities, Ryan Manelick reportedly had maintained.

Manelick made that assertion to investigators, according to his father and former associates, shortly before his fateful last supper in Baghdad.
Wow.

CUT TO:

INT. IMPERIAL PALACE, CPA OFFICE - DAY

An AMERICAN OFFICIAL sits at the giant mahagony desk in the CPA's main office. The room used to be Saddam Hussein's favorite library, but is now decorated with American flags and pictures of George Bush.

The phone rings. The American official picks up.

AMERICAN OFFCIAL - Hello?

INTERCUT WITH:

EXT. BALAD - SAME

TAL and MANSOOR, former members of Saddam Hussein's elite Imperial Guards, are driving their beat-up LeCar through the dusty streets of this small Iraqi town, located ten miles from the city of Tikrit. Both men are armed to the fucking teeth. Metallica's "Sad But True" is blasting from the car's speakers.

Tal speaks into his cell phone headset.

TAL - "Operation Iraqi Defense Contractor" checking in, yo.

AMERICAN OFFICIAL - I have caller ID.

TAL - Good for you. (then) We have the target in sight, dog.

AMERICAN OFFICIAL - We clear on this one?

TAL - Is the Pope about to die?

Tal and Mansoor hi-five.

AMERICAN OFFICIAL - (agitated) Look, you clowns botched the last job. Too messy. People have been asking questions about the American defense -

TAL - Hey, hey, come on, man. Yesterday's news.

AMERICAN OFFICIAL - I'm serious -

TAL - So are we, motherfucker. You want to take out this new guy, you fucking do it yourself.

AMERICAN OFFICIAL - Easy, easy, we're on the same page.

TAL - No we're not. We're not on the same page.

MANSOOR - Tell him it's going to cost him more money to get on the same page.

TAL - You hear that?

AMERICAN OFFICIAL - Fine, fine. Just get the job done.

TAL - Don't you fucking worry. Seacrest out.

Tal clicks his cell phone shut as Mansoor makes a sharp turn down a busy street.

TAL - (indicating) Over there. The dude in the Jeep.

Mansoor hits the gas and screeches toward a Jeep 4x4...stopped at a crowded intersection. Tal pulls out his AK-47 and we...

CUT TO:

More later.

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