Profit of Doom


Hackneyed headline fits: Ex-Iraq czar Bremer peddles armor technology to military while armor contracts go unfilled.

This morning’s New York Times story on the widening weapons scandal in Iraq is shocking — the biggest shock is that the Pentagon’s special investigator has been saying this for a long time and we’re just now sending teams of investigators from numerous agencies to check it out.

Still awaiting investigation is war profiteering related to weapons and armor. One of the people planning to profit from the continuing Iraq war is ex-czar and Medal of Freedom winner Jerry Bremer, and not just from his book tours.

Meanwhile, we never have found out what happened to the $9 billion in Iraqi oil revenue that Bremer’s regime oversaw but which can’t be exactly accounted for. Just one of many oil-for-slush scandals in Iraq, that story was broken by the British NGO Christian Aid in June 2004

Back to the present: The latest quarterly report by Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, revealed that numerous contracts for weapons and armor have gone unfulfilled.

An audit last October by Bowen’s office revealed that we weren’t even keeping track of — or prepared to maintain — the thousands of weapons we were handing out to Iraqi and U.S. soldiers.

Just about the same time, Bremer, the Bush regime’s former head man in Iraq when the country started descending into civil war, joined the board of directors of BlastGard, which sells a reinforced wrap to protect Humvees from mines and homemade bombs. He’s also a lobbyist for BlastGard. An enthusiastic article by Philip Siekman in April’s Fortune Small Business accented Bremer’s value to the company in one paragraph:

In November, BlastGard announced that it had signed a $186,000 deal to provide its products to the U.S. Marine Corps for use in Iraq and Afghanistan. The company also named L. Paul Bremer, former administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, to its board.

The article explains just what the company does and how its prospects are truly “explosive”:

Military forces around the world are a major target of opportunity for BlastGard. A pad of BlastWrap on the bottom of a Humvee, for example, would complement the vehicle’s armor plate. Conventional armor is pretty good at blocking the shock wave and shrapnel from a mine or from the homemade explosives that litter roads in Iraq. But armor plate also compounds the jolt that tosses the vehicle, often causing serious injury to its occupants. BlastWrap would reduce that bone-breaking whump. …

Amid the good news lurks the risk that this small company could choke on the sheer variety of its opportunity. BlastGard’s SEC filings and marketing materials catalog a multitude of possible Blast-Wrap applications, few of which have yet attracted customers. For the first nine months of 2006, BlastGard posted an operating loss of $1.2 million on just $197,000 in sales.

Numerous competitors are developing alternative blast mitigators, including metal alloy mesh and foamed metals. And the company’s easily fabricated material is certain to attract knockoff artists. [BlastGard execs James Gordon and John Waddell] have filed a patent application to protect their multimillion-dollar investment in BlastWrap. But if the duo can overcome the near-term challenges, their company’s potential, in this era of terrorism and war, would be explosive.

Meanwhile, inspector Bowen’s report last October showed that of a $531,000 contract for reinforced armor for the Iraqi Army, $424,800 hadn’t even been spent. The Pentagon has, however, completed a $76,955.50 contract to put decals on the Iraqi Army’s Hummers.

Back when he took over in Iraq in the spring of 2003, Bremer obviously never foresaw that he would be joining a company like BlastGard that has such exciting and explosive prospects. As Deputy SecDef Paul Wolfowitz told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on May 22, 2003:

We are making progress. In my most recent conversation with Presidential Envoy Bremer, he reports that, while the security situation is serious — and still imposes severe restrictions on our ability to move freely — Baghdad is not a “city in anarchy,” shops are open, and the city is bustling with traffic.

Now Bremer is working to make a profit off the chaos of Baghdad. BlastGard itself proudly points to a November 15, 2006, Wall Street Journal article saying that Bremer will be a “director and lobbyist with an eye on opportunities within the government and Defense Department.”

You can’t say exactly the same thing about Bremer’s predecessor in Iraq, Lieutenant General Jay Garner.

Garner has also joined BlastGard, but only as a “military advisor,” not a director.