For a mere $20 you can meet one of America's leading war profiteers next week right here in Charlotte. Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey will be the John Locke Foundation's special guest on Dec. 7. He'll talk on "The Global War Against Terrorism." It should be good. It's a subject Woolsey knows well, seeing how he's made a good living by profiting from it in the past few years.
As was meticulously reported by Walter Roche and Ken Silverstein in the Los Angeles Times, Woolsey was a leading prewar cheerleader for invading Iraq. He was a member of the Defense Policy Board, an important group of advisers to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and was "a founding member of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, an organization set up in 2002 at the request of the White House to help build public backing for war in Iraq." Not long after Sept. 11, Woolsey wrote in the Wall Street Journal that a foreign state had aided Al Qaeda in preparing the strikes and that Iraq was the leading suspect. In October 2001, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz sent Woolsey to London to hunt for evidence linking Hussein to the attacks. Later, Woolsey was a chief proponent of the theory that the Fall 2001 anthrax letter attacks were the work of the Iraqi dictator.
OK, a guy has the right to be wrong. But should it be OK for the same guy to turn around and cash in on anti-terrorism efforts after having hyped the dangers of terrorism?
Woolsey is a director of the private equity firm Paladin Capital, which was set up three months after the terrorist attacks in New York. This is a group that calls the events and repercussions of Sept. 11 a business opportunity that "offer[s] substantial promise for homeland security investment."
When the war began, Woolsey was a VP at Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH) a "global strategy and technology consulting firm." In his role with BAH, less than two months after the war began, he spoke at a conference titled "Companies on the Ground: The Challenge for Business in Rebuilding Iraq," for which 80 corporate executives paid $1,100 to attend. He spoke about the myriad business opportunities in Iraq and about President Bush's determination to steer reconstruction contracts to US companies.
Woolsey has said he sees no conflict between promoting the war and subsequently profiting by advising companies on business in Iraq. I'm sure he doesn't. Just as Dick Cheney sees no conflict between leading the Iraqi charge and raking in millions, once he leaves the White House, from his Halliburton deferred compensation and stock option benefits. Just as Woolsey's fellow Defense Policy Board Member Richard Perle thought it was peachy to make a killing selling "homeland security products" -- until he was forced to resign his board chairmanship due to conflicts of interest. These guys think the world is their oyster -- or at least their business opportunity. Seems like those famous conservative moral values -- remember how Bush & Co. were going to bring ethics and honor back to Washington? -- fly out the window at the first sign of a dollar bill.
It's fitting that Woolsey is being welcomed to town by the John Locke Foundation (JLF). They have some ethical problems of their own they won't admit to. The Raleigh-based think tank promotes a very conservative, pro-growth, anti-regulatory, anti-environmentalism agenda and has become increasingly prominent in statewide political debate.
One of the things the JLF rails against is the preposterous notion that the earth's climate is changing due to global warming, expressed in its public policy statement titled "Global Warming Policy: NC Should Do Nothing."
One problem. The JLF is partly financed by organizations with fossil fuel ties -- you know, companies that would be among the first hit by any effective government efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In May, investigative journalist Sue Sturgis, writing in Durham's The Independent, (www.indyweek.com/durham/2005-05-11/cover.html) recounted how JLF President John Hood told her his group did not receive money from utilities or other fossil fuel-related companies in recent years. Sturgis dug deeper and found that, contrary to Hood's claims, the JLF had raked in more than $80,000 in the past three years from such groups. These include groups affiliated with ExxonMobil; the Center for Energy and Economic Development which is, according to its Web site, "dedicated to protecting the viability of coal-based electricity"; and a fund owned by the owners of Koch Industries, the largest privately held US oil conglomerate. If that wasn't enough, JLF board member Art Pope is also on the board of an ExxonMobil-related company that contributed to the Raleigh think tank.
Hood doesn't think taking fossil fuel industry money should raise concerns about his group's independence or credibility. Just as Woolsey, Cheney and Perle see no conflict in their war profiteering. As we wrote a few weeks ago in "Conservatives' Problems," the gap between the right's pretensions of moral superiority and reality keeps getting wider and wider.