In the spring of 2007 a tiny military contractor with a slender track record went shopping for a precious Beltway commodity.
The company, Defense
Solutions, sought the services of a retired general with national
stature, someone who could open doors at the highest levels of
government and help it win a huge prize: the right to supply Iraq with
thousands of armored vehicles.
Access like this does not come
cheap, but it was an opportunity potentially worth billions in sales,
and Defense Solutions soon found its man. The company signed Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army general and military analyst for NBC News, to a consulting contract starting June 15, 2007.
Four days later the general swung into action. He sent a personal note and 15-page briefing packet to David H. Petraeus,
the commanding general in Iraq, strongly recommending Defense Solutions
and its offer to supply Iraq with 5,000 armored vehicles from Eastern
Europe. “No other proposal is quicker, less costly, or more certain to
succeed,” he said.
Thus, within days of hiring General
McCaffrey, the Defense Solutions sales pitch was in the hands of the
American commander with the greatest influence over Iraq’s expanding
“That’s what I pay him for,” Timothy D. Ringgold, chief executive of Defense Solutions, said in an interview.
McCaffrey did not mention his new contract with Defense Solutions in
his letter to General Petraeus. Nor did he disclose it when he went on
CNBC that same week and praised the commander Defense Solutions was now
counting on for help — “He’s got the heart of a lion” — or when he told
Congress the next month that it should immediately supply Iraq with
large numbers of armored vehicles and other equipment.
made similar arguments before he was hired by Defense Solutions, but
this time he went further. In his testimony to Congress, General
McCaffrey criticized a Pentagon plan to supply Iraq with several
hundred armored vehicles made in the United States by a competitor of
Defense Solutions. He called the plan “not in the right ballpark” and
urged Congress to instead equip Iraq with 5,000 armored vehicles.
got Iraqi army battalions driving around in Toyota trucks,” he said,
echoing an argument made to General Petraeus in the Defense Solutions
Through seven years of war an exclusive club
has quietly flourished at the intersection of network news and wartime
commerce. Its members, mostly retired generals, have had a foot in both
camps as influential network military analysts and defense industry
rainmakers. It is a deeply opaque world, a place of privileged access
to senior government officials, where war commentary can fit hand in
glove with undisclosed commercial interests and network executives are
sometimes oblivious to possible conflicts of interest.
Few illustrate the submerged complexities of this world better than Barry McCaffrey.
General McCaffrey, 66, has long been a force in Washington’s power
elite. A consummate networker, he cultivated politicians and
journalists of all stripes as drug czar in the Clinton cabinet, and his
ties run deep to a new generation of generals, some of whom he taught
at West Point or commanded in the Persian Gulf war, when he rose to fame leading the “left hook” assault on Iraqi forces.
But it was 9/11 that thrust General McCaffrey to the forefront of the
national security debate. In the years since he has made nearly 1,000
appearances on NBC
and its cable sisters, delivering crisp sound bites in a blunt,
hyperbolic style. He commands up to $25,000 for speeches, his
commentary regularly turns up in The Wall Street Journal, and he has
been quoted or cited in thousands of news articles, including dozens in
The New York Times.
His influence is such that President Bush
and Congressional leaders from both parties have invited him for war
consultations. His access is such that, despite a contentious
relationship with former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the Pentagon has arranged numerous trips to Iraq, Afghanistan and other hotspots solely for his benefit.
At the same time, General McCaffrey has immersed himself in businesses that have grown with the fight against terrorism.
The consulting company he started after leaving the government in 2001,
BR McCaffrey Associates, promises to “build linkages” between
government officials and contractors like Defense Solutions for up to
$10,000 a month. He has also earned at least $500,000 from his work for
Veritas Capital, a private equity firm in New York that has grown into
a defense industry powerhouse by buying contractors whose profits
soared from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition, he is the
chairman of HNTB Federal Services, an engineering and construction
management company that often competes for national security contracts.
retired officers hold a perch in the world of military contracting, but
General McCaffrey is among a select few who also command platforms in
the news media and as government advisers on military matters. These
overlapping roles offer them an array of opportunities to advance
policy goals as well as business objectives. But with their business
ties left undisclosed, it can be difficult for policy makers and the
public to fully understand their interests.
On NBC and in other
public forums, General McCaffrey has consistently advocated wartime
policies and spending priorities that are in line with his corporate
interests. But those interests are not described to NBC’s viewers. He
is held out as a dispassionate expert, not someone who helps companies
win contracts related to the wars he discusses on television.
president of NBC News, Steve Capus, said in an interview that General
McCaffrey was a man of honor and achievement who would never let
business obligations color his analysis for NBC. He described General
McCaffrey as an “independent voice” who had courageously challenged Mr.
Rumsfeld, adding, “There’s no open microphone that begins with the
Pentagon and ends with him going out over our airwaves.”
McCaffrey is not required to abide by NBC’s formal conflict-of-interest
rules, Mr. Capus said, because he is a consultant, not a news employee.
Nor is he required to disclose his business interests periodically. But
Mr. Capus said that the network had conversations with its military
analysts about the need to avoid even the appearance of a conflict, and
that General McCaffrey had been “incredibly forthcoming” about his ties
to military contractors.
General McCaffrey declined to be interviewed but released a brief statement.
public media commentary on the war labeled me as an early and serious
critic of Rumsfeld’s arrogance and mismanagement of operations in Iraq
and Afghanistan,” the statement said. “The New York Times noted my
strong on-air criticism as an NBC commentator. My op-ed objections to
the execution of the war were published in The Wall Street Journal, The
Washington Post, The L.A. Times, USA Today and other media. Hardly the
stuff of someone shilling a war for the administration — or privately
pushing his business interests with the Pentagon. Thirty-seven years of
public service. Four combat tours. Wounded three times. The country
knows me as a nonpartisan and objective national security expert with
In earlier e-mail messages, General McCaffrey
played down his involvement in lobbying for contracts, suggesting he
mainly gave companies “strategic counsel.” His business
responsibilities, he wrote, simply do not conflict with his duty to
provide objective analysis on NBC. “Never has been a problem,” he
General McCaffrey did in fact emerge as a tough
critic of Mr. Rumsfeld, describing him as reckless and incompetent. His
central criticism — that Mr. Rumsfeld fought the Iraq war “on the
cheap” — reflected his long-stated views on waging war. But it also
dovetailed with his business interests. And his clashes with Mr.
Rumsfeld were but one facet of a more complex and symbiotic
relationship with the Bush administration and the military’s uniformed
leaders, records and interviews show.
With a few exceptions
General McCaffrey has consistently supported Mr. Bush’s major national
security policies, especially the war in Iraq. He advocated invasion,
urged building up the military to sustain the occupation and warned
that premature withdrawal would invite catastrophe.
article earlier this year, The New York Times identified General
McCaffrey as one of some 75 military analysts who were the focus of a
Pentagon public relations campaign that is now being examined by the
Pentagon’s inspector general, the Government Accountability Office and the Federal Communications Commission.
The campaign, begun in 2002 but suspended after the article’s
publication, sought to transform the analysts into “surrogates” and
“message force multipliers” for the Bush administration, records show.
The analysts, many with military industry ties, were wooed in private
briefings, showered with talking points and escorted on tours of Iraq
and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
The Pentagon inspector general is
investigating whether special access gave any of these analysts an
improper edge in the competition for contracts.
McCaffrey offers a case study of the benefits that can flow from
favored access: an inside track to sensitive information about strategy
and tactics; insight into the priorities of ground commanders; a
private channel to officials who oversaw war spending, as the Defense
Solutions example shows. In that case the company has yet to win the
contract it hired General McCaffrey to champion.
though, his example reveals the myriad and often undisclosed
connections between the business of war and the business of covering it.
A Move to Television
General McCaffrey made his debut as a military analyst in the weeks
after 9/11. NBC anchors typically introduced him by describing his
medals or his exploits in the gulf war. Or they noted he was a West
Point professor, or the youngest four-star general in the history of
They did not mention his work for military contractors, including a lucrative new role with Veritas Capital.
Veritas was a relatively small player in 2001, looking to grow through
acquisitions and Pentagon contracts. Competing for contracts is a
complex and subtle sport, governed by highly bureaucratic bidding rules
and the old-fashioned arts of access and influence.
Veritas would compete on both fronts.
Just days before the terrorist attacks — on Sept. 6, 2001 — Veritas had
announced the formation of an “advisory council” of well-connected
retired generals and admirals, including General McCaffrey. “They can
really pick up the phone and call someone,” Robert B. McKeon, the
president of Veritas, would later tell The Times.
also part of what drew NBC to General McCaffrey. Mr. Capus said General
McCaffrey “opens doors with generals and others who we would not
otherwise be able to talk to.”
Veritas gave its advisers board
seats on its military companies, along with profit sharing and equity
stakes that were all the more attractive because Veritas intended to
turn quick profits through initial public offerings. On Sept. 6, this
might have been considered a gamble. Revenue growth — a key to
successful I.P.O.’s — required sustained increases in military
spending. But after Sept. 11, the only question was just how big those
increases would be.
From his first months on the air, General
McCaffrey called for huge, sustained increases in military spending for
a global campaign against terrorism. He also advocated spending for
high-tech weapons, including some like precision-guided munitions and unmanned aerial vehicles
that were important to the Veritas portfolio. He called the C-17 cargo
plane — also a source of Veritas contracts — a “national treasure.”
In a statement, Veritas said it had gained no “discernible benefit”
from General McCaffrey’s television appearances and called his TV work
“completely independent” from his role with Veritas.
corporate filings, Veritas military companies told investors they were
well positioned to benefit from a widening global struggle against
terrorism. The approaching conflict with Iraq, though, would create new
areas of tension between General McCaffrey’s fiduciary obligations to
Veritas and his duties to NBC.
General McCaffrey harbored
significant doubts about the invasion plan. An informal participant in
the war planning, he was troubled by Mr. Rumsfeld’s resistance to an
invasion force of several hundred thousand, he acknowledged months and
years later in interviews. Mr. Rumsfeld’s team, he said, was bent on
making an “ideological” point that wars could be fought “on the cheap.”
There were not enough tanks, artillery or troops, he would say, and the
result was a “grossly anemic” force that unnecessarily put troops at
That is not what General McCaffrey said when asked on NBC
outlets to assess the risks of war. As planning for a possible invasion
received intense news coverage in 2002, he repeatedly assured viewers
that the war would be brief, the occupation lengthy but benign.
“These people are going to come apart in 21 days or less,” he told Brian Williams on MSNBC.
the fall of 2002 General McCaffrey joined the Committee for the
Liberation of Iraq, a group formed with White House encouragement to
fan support for regime change. He also participated in private Pentagon
briefings in which network military analysts were armed with talking
points that made the case for war, records show.
In early 2003
Forrest Sawyer asked General McCaffrey on CNBC what could go wrong
after an invasion. Anticipating this very question, the Pentagon had
invited General McCaffrey and other analysts to a special briefing.
Years later General McCaffrey would say he knew that the post-invasion
planning was a disaster. “They were warned very categorically and
directly by many of us prior to that war,” he said.
chance by Mr. Sawyer to raise an alarm, the general reiterated Pentagon
talking points about the “astonishing amount” of postwar planning.
And when Tom Brokaw
asked him, days before the invasion, “What are your concerns if we were
to go to war by the end of this week?” he replied, “Well, I don’t think
I have any real serious ones.”
Only when the invasion met
unexpected resistance did General McCaffrey give a glimpse of his
misgivings. “We’ve placed ourselves in a risky proposition, 400 miles
into Iraq with no flank or rear area security,” he told Katie Couric on “Today.”
Mr. Rumsfeld struck back. He abruptly cut off General McCaffrey’s
access to the Pentagon’s special briefings and conference calls.
General McCaffrey was stunned. “I’ve never heard his voice like that,”
recalled one close associate who asked not to be identified. He added,
“They showed him what life was like on the outside.”
Weiner, a longtime publicist for General McCaffrey, said the general
came to see that if he continued his criticism, he risked being shut
out not only by Mr. Rumsfeld but also by his network of friends and
contacts among the uniformed leadership.
“There is a time when
you have to punt,” said Mr. Weiner, emphasizing that he spoke as
General McCaffrey’s friend, not as his spokesman.
Within days General McCaffrey began to backpedal, professing his “great respect” for Mr. Rumsfeld to Tim Russert. “Is this man O.K.?” the Fox News anchor Brit Hume asked, taking note of the about-face.
months to come, as an insurgency took root, General McCaffrey defended
the Bush administration. “I am 100 percent behind what the
administration, what the president of the United States, is doing in
Iraq,” he told Mr. Williams that June.
A Corporate Troubleshooter
Mr. Rumsfeld’s swift reaction underscored the administration’s
appreciation of General McCaffrey’s influence. His comments were
catalogued and circulated at the White House and Pentagon.
Other network analysts were monitored, too, but not the way General
McCaffrey was. He was different. He was one of the few retired
four-star generals on television, and his well-known friendships with
men like General Petraeus and Gen. John P. Abizaid gave him added currency.
As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan dragged on, General McCaffrey
increasingly gave public expression to the private frustrations of
generals pressing their civilian bosses for more troops, weapons and
reconstruction money. The Army, he repeatedly warned, could break under
These were politically charged topics, and so the
administration worked to influence his commentary, using carrots and
sticks alike. In 2005, for example, Mr. Rumsfeld took umbrage at
remarks General McCaffrey made to The Washington Times about the impact
of unchecked poppy production in Afghanistan. Mr. Rumsfeld wrote to
Gen. Peter Pace, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
demanding to know where General McCaffrey “got his information,”
records show. No less than an assistant secretary of defense was
dispatched to speak with General McCaffrey, who said he had been
In a letter to The Times, General McCaffrey’s lawyer,
Thomas A. Clare, said the general’s recurring criticisms had cost him
“business opportunities with defense contractors.” NBC executives said
they, too, fielded high-level complaints, and General McCaffrey was not
invited back to the Pentagon’s analyst briefings.
On the other
hand, when Pentagon officials noticed that General McCaffrey was
scheduled to appear on programs like “Meet the Press,” they asked
generals close to him to suggest themes, records show. The Pentagon
also began paying for General McCaffrey to travel to Iraq and
Afghanistan. Other military analysts were invited on trips, but only in
groups. General McCaffrey went by himself under the sponsorship of
Central Command’s generals.
The stated purpose was for General
McCaffrey to provide an outside assessment in his role as a part-time
professor at West Point. But his trips were also an important public
relations tool, meticulously planned to arm him with anecdotes of
progress. Records show that Central Command’s generals expected him to
“publicly support their efforts” upon his return home and solicited his
advice on how to “reverse the perception” in Washington of a lost war.
After each trip General McCaffrey embarked on a news media campaign,
writing opinion articles, granting interviews, publishing “after
action” reports on his firm’s Web site. Each time he extolled Central
Command’s generals and called for a renewed national commitment of
money and support.
At the same time, General McCaffrey used his
access to further business interests, as he did during the summer of
2005, when Americans were turning against the Iraq war in droves.
Veritas had been on a shopping spree, buying military contractors
deeply enmeshed in the war. Its biggest acquisition was of DynCorp
International, best known for training foreign security forces for the
United States government. By 2005 operations in Iraq and Afghanistan
accounted for 37 percent of DynCorp’s revenues.
public support, though, posed a threat to Veritas’s prize acquisition.
The changing political climate and unrelenting violence, DynCorp warned
investors, could force a withdrawal from Iraq.
What is more,
some of DynCorp’s Iraq contracts were in trouble, plagued by cost
overruns, inept work by subcontractors and ineffective training
programs. So when DynCorp executives learned that General McCaffrey was
planning to travel to Iraq that June, they asked him to sound out
American commanders and reassure them of DynCorp’s determination to
make things right.
“It is useful both ways,” Gregory Lagana, a
DynCorp spokesman, said in an interview. “If there were problems, and
there were, then we could get an independent judgment and fix them.”
Mr. Lagana said General McCaffrey had been a troubleshooter for DynCorp
on other trips. “He’ll say: ‘I’m going over. Is there anyone you want
me to see?’ ” Mr. Lagana said. “And then he’d go in and say, ‘I’m on
the board. What can you tell me?’ ”
The Pentagon had its own
agenda. For eight days, General McCaffrey was given red-carpet
treatment. Iraqi commandos even staged a live-fire demonstration for
him. But General McCaffrey also was given access to officials whose
decisions were important to his business interests, including DynCorp,
which was planning an I.P.O. He met with General Petraeus, who was then
in charge of training Iraqi security forces and responsible for
supervising DynCorp’s 500 police trainers. He also met with officials
responsible for billions of dollars’ worth of contracts in Iraq.
General McCaffrey would not discuss these sessions, and General
Petraeus said in an e-mail message to The Times that he had no reason
to discuss DynCorp with General McCaffrey because he would have gone
directly to DynCorp’s executives in Iraq.
Back home, General
McCaffrey undertook a one-man news media blitz in which he contradicted
the dire assessments of many journalists in Iraq. He bore witness to
progress on all fronts, but most of all he vouched for Iraq’s security
forces. A year earlier, before joining DynCorp’s board, he had
described these forces as “badly equipped, badly trained, politically
unreliable.” Just months before, Gary E. Luck, a retired four-star Army
general sent to assess progress in Iraq, had reported to Mr. Bush that
security training was going poorly. Yet General McCaffrey now
emphasized his “surprising” conclusion that the training was succeeding.
After Mr. Bush gave a speech praising Iraq’s new security forces, Brian
Williams asked General McCaffrey for an independent assessment. “The
Iraqi security forces are real,” General McCaffrey replied, without
noting the concerns about DynCorp.
His financial stake in the
policy debates over Iraq was not mentioned. He did not disclose that he
owned special stock that allowed him to share in DynCorp’s profits, up
87 percent that year largely because of the Iraq war.
“I took as objective a look at it as I could,” he told David Gregory, the NBC correspondent.
A Contract in Iraq
In his written statements to The Times, General McCaffrey said his role
with Veritas was “governance, not marketing,” and Veritas insisted that
he never “solicited new or existing government contracts.”
General McCaffrey did, however, play an indirect role in helping
Veritas win one of its largest contracts, to supply more than 8,000
translators to the war in Iraq. The contract had been held by L-3
Communications, but when General McCaffrey got wind that the Army was
considering seeking new bidders, he called his friend James A. Marks, a
major general in the Army who was approaching retirement and was versed
in the uses of translators, having served as intelligence chief for
land forces during the Iraq invasion.
As General Marks recalls it, General McCaffrey asked him to lead an effort to win the contract for Veritas.
General Marks, who became a CNN military analyst after his retirement
in 2004, would be named president of a new DynCorp subsidiary, Global
Linguist Solutions, created in July 2006 to bid for the translation
contract. In August 2006 Veritas designated General McCaffrey as
chairman of Global Linguist. According to a 2007 corporate filing,
General McCaffrey was promised $10,000 a month plus expenses once
Global Linguist secured the contract. He would also be eligible to
share in profits, which could potentially be significant: the contract
was worth $4.6 billion over five years, but only if the United States
did not pull out of Iraq first.
In the fall of 2006, that was
hardly a sure thing. With casualties rising, the nation’s discontent
had been laid bare by the November elections. Then, in December, the
Iraq Study Group recommended withdrawing all combat brigades by early
That month, in a flurry of appearances for NBC, General
McCaffrey repeatedly ridiculed this recommendation, warning that it
would turn Iraq into “Pol Pot’s Cambodia.”
The United States, he said, should keep at least 100,000 troops in Iraq
for many years. He disputed depictions of an isolated and deluded White
House. After meeting with the president and vice president on Dec. 11
in the Oval Office, he went on television and described them as “very
General McCaffrey was hardly alone in criticizing
the Iraq Study Group, and in his e-mail messages to The Times he said
his objections reflected his judgment that it was folly to leave
American trainers behind with no combat force protection. But in none
of those appearances did NBC disclose General McCaffrey’s ties to
NBC executives asserted that the general’s
relationships with military contractors are indirectly disclosed
through NBC’s Web site, where General McCaffrey’s biography now
features a link to his consulting firm’s Web site. That site, they
said, lists General McCaffrey’s clients.
While the general’s Web
site lists his board memberships, it does not name his clients, nor
does it mention Veritas Capital, by one measure the second-largest
military contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan, after KBR. In any event,
Mr. Capus, the NBC News president, said he was unaware of General
McCaffrey’s connection to the translation contract. Mr. Capus declined
to comment on whether this information should have been disclosed.
CNN officials said they, too, were unaware of General Marks’s role in
the contract. When they learned of it in 2007, they said, they were so
concerned about what they considered an obvious conflict of interest
that they severed ties with him. (General Marks, who also spoke out
against the withdrawal plan on CNN, said business considerations did
not influence his comments.)
On Dec. 18, 2006, the Pentagon
stunned Wall Street by awarding the translation contract to Global
Linguist. DynCorp’s stock jumped 15 percent.
Hiring a General
touring Iraq in March 2007 and meeting with American officials
responsible for equipping Iraq’s military, General McCaffrey published
a trip report recommending that the United States equip Iraq with 5,000
This kind of access had strong appeal to Mr.
Ringgold, Defense Solutions’ chief, who had a plan to rebuild Iraq’s
decimated fleets of armored vehicles by culling “leftovers” from depots
across Eastern Europe. “I was looking for an advocate,” Mr. Ringgold
General McCaffrey soon arrived for an audition at the
Defense Solutions headquarters outside Philadelphia. “Frankly,” Mr.
Ringgold recalled, “I had to get over the sticker shock of what he was
going to cost me.”
General McCaffrey liked his basic concept but
told him to think bigger, Mr. Ringgold said. Instead of minimally
refurbished equipment, he urged Mr. Ringgold to sell “Americanized”
armored vehicles upgraded with thermal sights and other expensive
extras. And why not also team up with DynCorp and others to supply the
maintenance, logistics and training to keep them running?
suggestions vastly increased the proposal’s scale and price tag, but
the general seemed to have a read on the complex interplay between the
Iraqi government and the American military leadership, Mr. Ringgold
recalled. For a retainer and an undisclosed equity stake, General
McCaffrey signed on weeks later, then promptly wrote to General
His letter, drafted with help from Defense Solutions,
explained that in the three months since his trip to Iraq, he had found
just one feasible way to equip Iraq with enough armored vehicles to
permit a “phased redeployment” of American combat forces — the proposal
by Defense Solutions. He urged General Petraeus to act quickly but did
not disclose that he had just been hired by Defense Solutions.
In his e-mail message to The Times, General Petraeus said he received
“innumerable” letters from “would be” contractors. In this case, he
wrote, he simply sent General McCaffrey’s material “without any
endorsement” to James M. Dubik, the general then responsible for
training Iraq’s security forces.
General Dubik, now retired,
said in an interview that he, too, received a letter and information
packet, and as a result briefed Iraq’s defense minister. “Quite
frankly,” he said, “I thought it was a good idea.”
Dubik emphasized that although he used Defense Solutions briefing
materials, he first “sanitized” them of any mention of the company. He
said he presented the idea as his own, intending to ask Defense
Solutions to bid if the Iraqis liked the concept. But the defense
minister reacted coolly, he said, arguing that Iraq deserved advanced
General McCaffrey also sent letters to
top lawmakers and approached contacts inside the Defense Department
bureaucracy that oversees foreign military sales. His influence was
immediately apparent. For example, General McCaffrey reached out to
Maj. Gen. Timothy F. Ghormley, chief of staff at Central Command, who
promptly invited Mr. Ringgold to a meeting in Tampa, Fla. Mr. Ringgold
recalled General Ghormley’s first words: “Why aren’t we doing this
Nevertheless, by late 2007, Defense Solutions still
had no deal. General McCaffrey, Mr. Ringgold recalled, said the company
needed to get to Baghdad and meet directly with Iraqi leaders and
On Oct. 26, 2007, General McCaffrey wrote
an e-mail message to General Petraeus proposing to return to Iraq. He
said his “principal interest would be to document progress in standing
up Iraqi security forces,” and he proposed traveling soon, before the
presidential primaries, so he could “speak objectively — before
politics goes to roar level.”
In early December General McCaffrey arrived in Baghdad, where he met with Generals Petraeus and Dubik, among others.
General Petraeus said he did not recall them discussing Defense
Solutions. General Dubik recalled giving General McCaffrey a detailed
briefing on the effort to equip Iraq’s army, including the plans for
armored vehicles. He said it was a measure of General McCaffrey’s
integrity that he did not raise Defense Solutions. “He’s not going to
cross the line,” General Dubik said.
Mr. Ringgold said General
McCaffrey “made it perfectly clear” that he would not discuss their
proposal with the two generals and even sent instructions that he was
not to be contacted in Iraq “to avoid even the perception of conflict
But Defense Solutions used information General
McCaffrey gleaned from his meetings to refine its proposal. Mr.
Ringgold followed General McCaffrey to Baghdad in February 2008 and
then made plans to return in the spring to meet with Generals Dubik and
Petraeus. “General McCaffrey insisted that I see you,” Mr. Ringgold
wrote to General Petraeus in a March 20 e-mail message.
Petraeus forwarded Mr. Ringgold’s message to General Dubik, who warned
Mr. Ringgold that while he was happy to meet, Iraq’s defense minister
was still hesitant. “They’ve gone back and forth on the refurbished
stuff,” General Dubik wrote.
Defense Solutions turned to the
White House. On May 9, Mr. Ringgold and Tom C. Korologos, a Republican
lobbyist, met with a military aide to Vice President Dick Cheney and two National Security Council officials.
The next day, in an e-mail memorandum to his staff, Mr. Ringgold
discussed other ways to press Iraqi and American officials, including
generating news media coverage to suggest that Iraq’s “failure to ready
its Army” was prolonging the occupation. General McCaffrey had been
making a similar argument for months on NBC and elsewhere. “The end of
the game is that the Iraqis got to maintain internal order,” he told
Ann Curry, the NBC journalist.
Mr. Ringgold said he had never
asked the general to take positions supporting Defense Solutions in his
news media appearances. On the other hand, he added, “I hope he was
thinking of us.”
Mr. Weiner, the general’s longtime publicist,
said General McCaffrey worked with clients “to get your mission
achieved in the media.” General McCaffrey, he said, often speaks out
with the twin goals of shaping policy and generating favorable coverage
for clients with worthy products or ideas.
“His motive is pure,” Mr. Weiner said. “It is national interest.”
Despite Defense Solutions’ efforts, Iraq recently placed orders for
billions of dollars’ worth of American-made armored vehicles. But the
company is not giving up, and it continues to rely on the advice of
General McCaffrey, who returned to Iraq on Oct. 31 for another visit
sponsored by the Pentagon.
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