Wednesday, September 19, 2007

LOYALTY TEST. The folks at Family Security Matters sure like to think outside the box. Last month they posted (then withdrew) an article suggesting Bush declare himself President for Life. Now, with Iraq inflamed because Blackwater privateers mowed down some of its citizens in Najaf, FSM's Nick Guariglia suggests that firms like Blackwater are "amongst the most efficient humanitarian organizations in business."

Guariglia's method is a marvel and we'll get to it shortly. For now, the money quote:
But are these chastised “war profiteers” any more or less amoral than, say, a cardiologist who addresses, and thus profits from, the treatment of heart disease? Or a clean-up conglomerate which rebuilds towns devastated by natural disaster? Is not the continuity of disease, plight, and disaster in the financial interest of these parties? Why would a war theater be an exception to the rule, the one realm in which this code of conduct does not apply?
Unfortunately Guariglia's correlatives to the cardiologist and the conglomerate are mainly "cleaning up" in the larcenous meaning of the term, as can be seen in Matt Taibbi's "The Great Iraq Swindle." Sample outrage:
The system not only had the advantage of eliminating red tape in a war zone, it also encouraged the "entrepreneurship" of patriots like Custer and Battles, who went from bumming cab fare to doing $100 million in government contracts practically overnight. And what business they did! The bid that Custer claimed to have spent "three sleepless nights" putting together was later described by Col. Richard Ballard, then the inspector general of the Army, as looking "like something that you and I would write over a bottle of vodka, complete with all the spelling and syntax errors and annexes to be filled in later." The two simply "presented it the next day and then got awarded about a $15 million contract."

The deal charged Custer Battles with the responsibility to perform airport security for civilian flights. But there were never any civilian flights into Baghdad's airport during the life of their contract, so the CPA gave them a job managing an airport checkpoint, which they failed miserably. They were also given scads of money to buy expensive X-ray equipment and set up an advanced canine bomb-sniffing system, but they never bought the equipment. As for the dog, Ballard reported, "I eventually saw one dog. The dog did not appear to be a certified, trained dog." When the dog was brought to the checkpoint, he added, it would lie down and "refuse to sniff the vehicles" -- as outstanding a metaphor for U.S. contractor performance in Iraq as has yet been produced.
It gets worse: when, over the objections of the Bush Administration, the Custer Battles security firm was brought to trial and found guilty by a jury of this outrageous fraud, the judge set the verdict aside, agreeing with the Administration that "Custer Battles could not be found guilty of defrauding the U.S. government because the CPA (the now-defunct Coalition Provisional Authority) was not part of the U.S. government."

For good reason, very few people outside their immediate families have a high opinion of these firms -- you can read more contractor horror stories at American Conservative magazine, among other places. Aware that he's got nothin', Guariglia falls back to debaters' tricks:
To weave in and out of applying intentionalist ethics – questioning the motives of employed defense workers –– and consequentialist standards -– questioning their performance -– is inconsistent. (As if one would be inclined to favor something they adamantly oppose in principle if only it were conducted more competently.)

I think it is safe to say most of us are above this mode of argument. It wouldn’t impress even a novice ethicist.
This is why people hate intellectuals: millions are egregiously stolen, and Guariglia grades a strawman's college paper. When this approach fails and deadline beckons, there's always gibberish:
When do-gooders speak surprisingly that corporations, providing a needed service through the selling of that service, actually collect revenue – oh no! – thereby continuing to provide that service, it is an odd criticism of something that best be left not criticized. It recalls the old Marxist fib that suggests history is only the tale of calculated material pursuit, not the narrative of human emotion, pride, fear, and irrationalism.
In his defense I would suggest that Guariglia cannot possibly believe this nonsense. He is making the best -- his best, anyway -- of a bad job. As the works of the Bush Administration plainly collapse into chaos, better-credentialed conservatives get a pass to work the "mistakes were made" hustle. But the noobs and small fry still have to make their bones: none of them will move up in the organization as a small-circulation David Brooks. So they take a contrarian angle, defending even the most egregious failures with rhetoric honed in impromptu debates with hippies on the quad. It doesn't have to convince anyone: the hopeless effort itself shows loyalty sufficient to keep the soldier on the payroll. When things blow over, maybe he can get a job blogging for the Atlantic.

No comments:

Post a Comment