Feb 21 2007--Venice,FL
by Daniel Hopsicker
They’re calling it “Hookergate.”
But what's lost in that gleeful name is that the massive corruption exposed by last week’s indictment of former CIA apparatchik “Dusty Foggo” and defense-contractor-cum-bagman Brent Wilkes is the biggest national scandal, in terms of dollars, in American history.
It's light years more serious than just another Washington sex scandal.
According to the company’s own website, Randy Cunningham steered $500 million in defense contracts in less than a decade to Brent Wilkes’ start-up San Diego software firm.
A secret cabal of former Iran Contra “players”—Wilkes and Foggo both spent their salad days practicing in Honduras during the Contra war—have engineered the theft of hundreds of millions of dollars.
America's national security has been seriously compromised. The U.S. Defense budget had enough money to photocopy old maps of Panama, and pay for Randy the Duke-ster's "incidentals" like yachts on the Potomac and hookers in Hawaii, but could not find the money to pay for effective body armor for American troops.
Some lethal-ass 'Monkey Business'
This is no comic burlesque. This is a scandal that’s cost hundreds of American lives.
When the limousine of the powerful Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee was pulled over beside the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. by U.S. Park Police late one night in 1974, and stripper Fannie the "Argentine Firecracker" Foxe used the opportunity to jump out and dive into the water, it was bad news for Wilbur Mills...
But nobody died.
When photos taken on a luxury yacht in Miami called the “Monkey Business” turned up in the National Inquirer showing party girl and future anti-porn advocate Donna Rice perched on leading Presidential candidate Gary Hart’s bony knees, it ended Hart's 1988 presidential campaign.
But nobody died.
Life During Wartime
When Congressman Wayne Hayes gave a raise to a staffer on the House Administration Committee named Elizabeth Ray who also just happened to be his long-time mistress, he suffered acutely when she famously admitted: “I can't type. I can't file. I can't even answer the phone.”
But nobody died.
Monica Lewinsky lost her favorite blue dress. Gennifer Flowers scored a book deal...
But nobody died.
The true cost of Randy “Duke” Cunningham’s Watergate “Poke-her” parties and Hawaiian Islands blowjobs, however, will ultimately not be reckoned by the several hundred million dollars he squandered of what should have been money used to strengthen America’s national defense...
The misappropriation of millions from the defense budget of the United States of America didn’t occur in an historical vacuum.
It occurred in the middle of a war.
Fiddling in Hawaii while Americans died
The incident most often cited in news accounts about the indictment against Cunningham’s alleged partner-in-crime, Brent Wilkes involves a vacation stay in a $6,600-per-night suite at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel in Hawaii, during which Wilkes felt the need to engage the services of two prostitutes on successive nights for his client Cunningham and himself.
“On or about August 16, 2003, at approximately 11 pm, defendant Wilkes arranged to have Prostitute ‘A’ and Prostitute ‘C’ available for himself and coconspirator Cunningham. Pursuant to Cunningham’s request, Wilkes arranged for the Congressman to get a different prostitute for the second evening.”
The press had a field day. Questions were even raised about the gender of the prostitutes...
But the mirth leaves a bitter aftertaste when you consider what else was going on in the world at the same time as Wilkes and the Duke-ster were romping with prosties in Hawaii on U.S. Defense Department cash.
In plain terms, because of the crimes of Cunningham, Wilkes, Foggo, and numerous un-indicted co-conspirators... American soldiers died.
"Non-priority" items were "not a priority."
Just one month after the Duke-ster was getting his rocks off in Hawaii, a story in the Los Angeles Times contained this headline: “Why must Americans in Iraq face death because of outmoded body armor?”
Reported Jonathon Turley:
“SUZANNE Werfelman is a mother and a teacher who has been shopping for individual body armor. This is not in response to threats from her elementary-class students in Sciota, Pa.; it's a desperate attempt to protect her son in Iraq.
“Like many other U.S. service members in Iraq, her son was given a Vietnam-era flak jacket that cannot stop the type of weapons used today. It appears that parents across the country are now purchasers of body armor because of the failure of the military to supply soldiers with modern vests.
“For many GIs, Iraq appears to be a strictly BYOB war -- Bring Your Own Bulletproofs.”
“Most U.S. troops were supplied with Vietnam-era flak jackets, designed to protect the wearer from shrapnel but not modern-day ammunition. The new vests, called Interceptors, are made of Kevlar; they're a third lighter than the old ones, and have pockets for ceramic plates to protect vital organs.
“Seven months after the end of the war, there were still approximately 40,000 soldiers-nearly one-third of the troops in Iraq-without fully functioning Kevlar vests designed to stop a round from an AK-47, the most common automatic rifle in the world.”
When Turley called the Pentagon to talk about the vests, a procurement officer told him new vests were a "non-priority" item," like tents.
Military brass "spending in other areas."
“It is unclear how we got into this predicament, but it is worthy of a congressional investigation -- particularly when it comes to the failure to equip all military units with the modern vests before the Iraq war. After all, the military brass appears to be spending in other areas."
With hindsight this seems to be particularly prescient... Did Turley know about the hookers?
The answer to what this all means in terms of now-dead American soldiers can be found in a story in the January 7, 2006 New York Times with the headline: “Pentagon Study Links Fatalities To Body Armor.”
“A secret Pentagon study has found that as many as 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to the upper body could have survived if they had had extra body armor.
“The ceramic plates in vests now worn by the majority of troops in Iraq cover only some of the chest and back. In at least 74 of the 93 fatal wounds that were analyzed in the Pentagon study of marines from March 2003 through June 2005, bullets and shrapnel struck the marines' shoulders, sides or areas of the torso where the plates do not reach.
“The shortages come down to money and priorities. In 1998, Interceptors (state of the art vests) were available and issued to armies around the world."
“Almost from the beginning, some soldiers asked for additional protection to stop bullets from slicing through their sides. In the fall of 2003, when troops began hanging their crotch protectors under their arms, the Army's Rapid Equipping Force shipped several hundred plates to protect their sides and shoulders. Individual soldiers and units continued to buy their own sets."
Screaming louder than Cunningham's hookers
“The Pentagon has been collecting the data on wounds since the beginning of the war in March 2003 in part to determine the effectiveness of body armor.
"The military's medical examiner, Dr. Craig T. Mallak, told a military panel in 2003 that the information 'screams to be published.'"
“The findings and other research by military pathologists suggests that an analysis of all combat deaths in Iraq, including those of Army troops, would show that 300 or more lives might have been saved with improved body armor.”
The information may have been screaming, but apparently couldn’t be heard over the moans of “Duke! Duke!” coming from Cunningham’s hookers.
At the time the analysis was done, 1,706 American troops had died in combat. Do the math: today twice as many have died.
So 600 American soldiers might still be alive, had they had state of the art body armor.
Cunningham's hookers: Late model, or older?
The Wilkes indictment doesn't specify whether the prostitutes Cunningham was poking in Hawaii were brand new shiny models or ones whose treads had already begun showing some wear. But the answer seems pretty obvious.
What makes all this tragic almost beyond words is this statement from the story in the N.Y. Times: Even at retail prices, it would have cost less than $97 million to outfit each of the 150,000 soldiers in Iraq with state-of-the-art vest plates.
Hell, the Defense Department's 'black budget' spent more money than that with Wilkes’ company just to Xerox old maps.
But "600 American soldiers" is just a number, an abstraction.
We need to bring the story down to the human level, to the death of one American soldier.
Meet Mark Evnin.
"Left lower abdomen! I can't feel my toes!"
A powerful story in the April 20, 2003 New York Times Sunday magazine by Times editor by Peter Maass contained a vivid description of the death of one American soldier:
“The attack began at dawn with an artillery barrage that had excited marines next to my vehicle. They yelled "Bam! Bam!" as each shell was fired into the air.
Tanks led the way into town, and as I stayed a kilometer behind at a medic station, the sounds of battle commenced, mortars and machine-gun fire that were accompanied, as ever, by the visuals of war -- smoke plumes that were an arsonist's dream.
“A half-hour into the battle, a Humvee raced out of the city and stopped at the medic station. A marine, whose body was rag-doll floppy, was pulled out and put on a stretcher. A marine doctor and medics surrounded him. His clothes were stripped off and needles and monitors placed on and into his body, and the dialogue of battlefield medicine began among the team, all of whom had slung their M-16's over their backs as they tried to save their comrade's life.
"Left lower abdomen."
"He's in urgent surgical."
"Wriggle your toes for me."
"He needs medevac, now."
"My arms are numb."
"Keep talking, Evnin."
"Chaplain, I'm not going to die."
"His name was Mark Evnin. He was a corporal, a sniper who was in one of the lead vehicles going into Al Kut. Iraqi fighters were waiting in ambush and had fired the first shots; one of them got him.
"Keep talking to us. Where are you from?"
"Remon," he mumbled.
"Where? Where are you from?"
Evnin was not doing well. The battalion chaplain, Bob Grove, leaned over him, and because the chaplain knew Evnin was Jewish, he pulled out of his pocket a sheet with instructions for "emergency Jewish ministration."
Grove read the Sh'ma, which begins, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God." Then he began reading the 23rd Psalm, at which point Evnin said, "Chaplain, I'm not going to die."
A Chinook landed 50 yards away. Evnin's stretcher was lifted from the asphalt and rushed to the chopper. Shortly after he was airborne, he went into shock and died.”
"Can we please come inside ma'am?"
Several months later the New York Times did a story on June 1, 2003 about the growing number of deaths in Iraq focusing on what it was like when their loved ones got the news.
Talk about pathos. They interviewed Mark Evnin’s mom:
“Mindy Evnin had changed into robe and slippers, preparing for bed, when she heard the knock on the front door. For a second, a thought flashed through her mind. Could this be "the knock?" Had something happened to her son Mark, a Marine corporal serving in Iraq?
“Of course not, she thought. But there, on her porch in Burlington, Vt., stood three men in uniform.
"Just tell me if he's been wounded, dead or missing," she asked immediately.
"Could we please come inside, ma'am?" asked one of them, a Marine major.”
Where's there's life, there's hope.
Responding to the charges against him in a statement late last week, Brent Wilkes stated:
“Nothing in life prepares you for the helpless feeling of trying to comfort a child who cries in anger or fear resulting from a false 'news' story or a cruel comment from a classmate.
"The overwhelming nature of the attack robs you of the ability to do that which a father and husband put first, to care for and comfort his family."
“Leaks of false information had destroyed his reputation, family and business,” said Wilkes, and made his life “a living hell.”
Not yet, Mr. Wilkes. But there's reason for hope.
NEXT: DUNCAN HUNTER, Presidential Candidate & Un-indicted Co-conspirator