BRANDOLAND: Talking to God...For You!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Unleash Chang!

Happy Wednesday.

The big story:

Gov. Bush & his mystical buddy

Oh no.
After more than an hour of solemn ceremony naming Rep. Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, as the 2007-08 House speaker, Gov. Jeb Bush stepped to the podium in the House chamber last week and told a short story about "unleashing Chang," his "mystical warrior" friend.

Here are Bush's words, spoken before hundreds of lawmakers and politicians:

"Chang is a mystical warrior. Chang is somebody who believes in conservative principles, believes in ENTREPRENEURIAL CAPITALISM, believes in moral values that underpin a free society.
"Who dares disturb Chang?!"

"It's Jeb, Chang. Need a few tips on entrepreneurial capitalism."

"ABC! A-Always, B-be, C-closing!"
"I rely on Chang with great regularity in my public life. He has been by my side and sometimes I let him down. But Chang, this mystical warrior, has never let me down."
"Interest. Are you interested? I know you are, because it's fuck or walk!"
Bush then unsheathed a GOLDEN SWORD and gave it to Rubio as a gift.

"I'm going to bestow to you the sword of a great CONSERVATIVE WARRIOR," he said, as the crowd roared.

The crowd, however, could be excused for not understanding Bush's enigmatic foray into the realm of Eastern mysticism.

We're here to help.

In a 1989 Washington Post article on the politics of tennis, former President George Bush was quoted as threatening to "UNLEASH CHANG" as a means of intimidating other players.
"40-love, sir."

"Serve the damn ball. Gonna unleash Chang on ya."

"What?"
The saying was apparently quite popular with Gov. Bush's father, and referred to a legendary warrior named Chang who was called upon to settle political disputes in Chinese dynasties of yore.
Wonder if Jeb's son tried to "bust out" Chang on Officer Phil Asabedo the other night?

"Let's see some I.D., son."

"Fug you, Serpico. 'M 'onna unleash Chang on ooo!"

Yep.

Waitaminute.

It's not Rove, people. It's Chang. "Our Kid" has been unleashing Chang on us for the past four years.

"Decision! Have you made your decision for Christ?!"

Enough.

"Coffee is for closers!"

Moving on...

For the past few days, I've been dealin' with the following:

What has happened to Iraq's missing $1bn?

Again:
ONE BILLION DOLLARS has been plundered from IRAQ'S DEFENCE MINISTRY in one of the largest thefts in history, The Independent can reveal, leaving the country's army to fight a savage insurgency with museum-piece weapons.

The money, intended to train and equip an Iraqi army capable of bringing security to a country shattered by the US-led invasion and prolonged rebellion, was instead siphoned abroad IN CASH and has disappeared.

"It is possibly one of the largest thefts in history," Ali Allawi, Iraq's Finance Minister, told The Independent. "Huge amounts of money have disappeared. In return we got nothing but scraps of metal."

*

The Iraqi Board of Supreme Audit says in a report to the Iraqi government that US-appointed Iraqi officials in the defence ministry allegedly presided over these dubious transactions.

Senior Iraqi officials now say they cannot understand how, if this is so, the disappearance of almost all the military procurement budget could have passed unnoticed by the US military in Baghdad and CIVILIAN ADVISERS working in the defence ministry.
Those "civilian advisers?" The old CPA.

Another piece of the puzzle -- originally posted on this blog -- last January:

"Audit: $9 BILLION Unaccounted for in Iraq"
WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. occupation authority in Iraq (the CPA) was unable to keep track of nearly $9 billion it transferred to government ministries, which lacked financial controls, security, communications and adequate staff, an inspector general has found.

*

The inspector general said the (CPA) disbursed $8.8 billion to Iraqi MINISTRIES "without assurance the moneys were properly accounted for."

U.S. OFFICIALS, the report said, "did not establish or implement sufficient managerial, financial and contractural controls." There was no way to verify that the money was used for its intended purposes of financing humanitarian needs, economic reconstruction, repair of facilities, disarmament and civil administration.
And now:

Ex-Iraqi DEFENCE MINISTER wanted over $1bn fraud

The plot thickens:
Iraqi authorities are preparing an arrest warrant for the country's former DEFENCE MINISTER in connection with a massive fraud case involving the "disappearance" of more than $1bn from ministry coffers.

Judge Raid al-Radhi, who is head of Iraq's commission on public integrity, said yesterday that he had given Iraq's central criminal court a dossier of evidence against Hazim Shaalan, who was minister of defence UNDER the former government of AYED ALLAWI.

"What Shaalan and his ministry were responsible for is possibly the largest robbery in the world. Our estimates begin at $1.3bn [£720m] and go up to $2.3bn," Judge Radhi, who is Iraq's senior anti-corruption official, told Reuters.

The "robbery" is believed to include the signing of multimillion-dollar deals with companies to supply equipment that was sometimes inappropriate for the new army or was years out of date. It is also alleged that the ministry paid huge premiums for some military hardware.

*

Mr Shaalan, who is understood to be living in JORDAN, has denied complicity in the scandal, saying that his actions as defence minister were ultimately the responsibility of the US AUTHORITIES in Iraq.
Okay.

All of this "missing cash" brings me back to a story I "blogged" about (ugh, what a horrible word) back on March 16th.

A tale that has always stayed with me.

It's the story of Dale Stoffel, an American "DEFENSE CONTRACTOR" who was gunned down in Baghdad AFTER he complained to US and Iraqi officials about the 27 MILLION BUCKS the Iraqis owed him for "services rendered."

The headline from the Los Angeles Times:

Army Ignored Broker on Arms Deal - U.S. general supervised an Iraq contract that a slain American said was tangled in kickbacks.

Keep going.
The U.S. contractor working on (a defense project) repeatedly warned the task force headed by Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus that a Lebanese middleman involved in the deal might be routing kickbacks to Iraqi Defense Ministry officials.

But senior U.S. military officials did not act on the contractor's pleas for tighter financial controls, according to documents and interviews.

"If we proceed down the road we are currently on, there will be serious legal issues that will land us all in jail," the contractor, Dale Stoffel, wrote in a Nov. 30 e-mail to a senior assistant to Petraeus.

Eight days later, STOFFEL WAS SHOT DEAD in an ambush near Baghdad. The killing is being investigated by the FBI, according to people who have been interviewed by the bureau.
Again, Stoffel was hired by the interim Iraqi government and the Iraqi DEFENSE MINISTRY to "to refurbish Iraq's tanks and personnel carriers and buy new equipment from Eastern European sources." Dude eventually billed the Iraqi to the tune 27 mil. The Iraqis then told Stoffel that the money would come to him via a LEBANESE BUSINESSMAN, now identified as Raymond Zayna by the LA Times.

But...
The money was never delivered to Stoffel, who in October began complaining to U.S. officials in Washington and Baghdad. He wrote letters, previously disclosed by The Times, to Sen. Rick SANTORUM (R-Pa.) and a senior Pentagon official spelling out his suspicions about Zayna.

Stoffel also e-mailed U.S. Army Col. David Styles, Petraeus' assistant on the project. He asked Styles to have Petraeus intervene to stop millions of dollars being funneled without oversight through Zayna.

"There is no oversight of the money and if/when something goes wrong, regardless of how clean our hands are, HEADS WILL ROLL and it will be the heads of those that are reachable, and the people who are suppose to know better (US citizens, military, etc.)," Stoffel wrote in the November e-mail to Styles.
Then...things got really weird.
By late November, Stoffel had returned to the United States to seek help in getting his payment. He asked Pentagon officials and Santorum's office to pressure the Iraqis to release the $24.7 million to him.

Stoffel suggested that an international accounting firm be brought in to supervise the contract's financial transactions and clear up questions about the missing money.

He warned of consequences if the money was not recovered.

"NEWS of it will be on the front page under the photos of President BUSH, [Defense Secretary Donald H.] RUMSFELD, ME" and Petraeus' task force, Stoffel wrote to another military officer in early December. "Jobs will be lost and congressional hearings will be held."
Man.

Do you understand why I keep --

CUTTING TO:

The EXT. of a FIVE STAR HOTEL - JORDAN - NIGHT?

"An IRAQI MINISTER, a mysterious LEBANESE DUDE and an AMERICAN BUSINESSMAN are smoking cigars on the deck of this hotel's "Presidential Suite." A number of HIGH END CALL GIRLS are lounging around the hotel's massive, tropical-themed pool.

The Iraqi Minister leans over the balcony and points toward a tall, naked blonde...swimming in the pool."

Entiendes?
U.S. military officials informed Zayna about the allegations of corruption, according to several people familiar with the matter. British Brig. Gen. David Clements summoned the parties to a Dec. 5 meeting in Iraq. Afterward, Clements ordered Zayna to release the money to Stoffel, sources said.

As of Dec. 8, Stoffel still had not received the money.

That day, after he left the Taji military base outside Baghdad, his SUV was rammed by another vehicle. Stoffel and a business associate, Joseph Wemple, were cut down in a hail of bullets.

Another occupant of the vehicle apparently escaped unharmed, leading to suspicions among the victims' friends that he may have been involved in the attack.
Ya think?
About a week later, a previously unknown insurgent group, Brigades of the Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility.
Umm...

WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON OVER THERE?!

HUH?!

AM I CRAZY FOR THINKING THAT WE'RE LIVING IN A BAD B-MOVIE?!!

HUH?!

Please read the full LA Times story re: Dale Stoffel. You can draw your own conclusions.

*

More later...

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