"We didn't want to say anything before the election when there was still a chance that McCain might win, or before the inauguration when there was still a chance a 'national emergency' might prevent the inauguration of this new president," said Griffin Thorpe, spokesman for the Defense & Rebuilding Industries lobby, "but now we simply cannot hide the sense of betrayal we felt and continue to feel."
Thorpe said his various member corporations appreciated the no-bid contracts, lack of oversight, and various cost-inflation tricks allowed in "cost-plus" contracts like setting trucks on fire that got flat tires so they could call the whole truck a loss. But he says the money they got actually required some token amount of work unlike the Wall Street bailout.
"Arms manufacturers may overcharge for their products, but they do work hard to make depleted uranium shells that melt tank armor like butter, white phosphorus shells that burn people from the inside out and outside in at the same time, and cluster bombs that keep on working for years after they are dropped, as kids mistake unexploded submunitions for toys," said Thorpe.
One rebuilding contractor sent Thorpe a tearful letter saying that if he knew Washington was going to give Wall Street money for absolutely nothing, he would have done an even shoddier job of building a hospital in Iraq, so he could have kept more of the money for himself. His letter said, "Sure, the floor of our operating room was cracked so ants could get in, and when the toilets flushed, sewage rained down on the maternity ward, but we could have made so much more money if we just put in a dirt floor and no plumbing at all."
Thorpe arranged for me to meet some of his clients at L'Auberge Provencale outside of Washington.
A burly mercenary contractor CEO's eyes welled up with tears as he stared at his sauteed escargot. "Bush & Cheney made me rich, but it cost me something. Sometimes the mothers of one of our dead mercs will show up at our office or some damn reporter will catch me at the mall and ask why my guys throw grenades in every daycare center they see. You can't imagine the torment I feel until one of my guys cuts their brake lines or smothers them with their own pillow in their sleep. It puts me and my company at a legal risk that we never have to face overseas."
The mercenary executive said he is having his men trade in their body armor and AK-47s for Armani suits and briefcases, and converting his company to a hedge fund.
"I didn't get this rich to put up with actually working when I don't have to," he said.
Most upset was an unexpected guest: an oil company executive. He said Cheney made his industry go through elaborate secret meetings to plan the invasion of Iraq and install a puppet government that would in turn give American companies most of the tens of trillions of dollars in profits from pumping their oil. "All that work has pretty much fallen apart and we're not going to end up with a much better deal than we would have with Saddam. Sure WE didn't pay for the war, but we had to wait and wait for the Iraqis to pass the oil law that would show us the money, and now they probably never will. "
Even without the deals on their terms, oil companies are still reaping the greatest profits of any corporations in history, but the executive was despondent nonetheless.
"To think of all those years looking for oil in the burning sand, bribing dictators, snuffing democratically elected leaders, dealing with the goddamn environmentalists, and telling the Congress which tax breaks and subsidies to give us," he said. "We could have made more if we just opened an investment bank on Wall Street, fucked up everything we touched, then asked Washington for a handout."