Saturday, 27. June 2009
Shielding our Multi-Daddy Statesmen & Generals
Some of you may be familiar with my past interviews, comments, or writings on the issue of ‘revolving doors.’ I started this blog by emphasizing the importance of separating ‘main causes’ from the multiple ‘symptoms’ we’ve been suffering from. Well, I consider the chronic revolving doors phenomena as one of those main causes leading to many of the ailments we suffer from today.
In November 2006 I wrote a two part series on this issue: ‘The Highjacking of a Nation. ‘In Part Two, ‘The Auctioning of Former Statesman & Dime a Dozen Generals’, I provided a few examples of how certain former statesmen and generals cash in on their connections and peddle their influence to the highest bidders turned clients. One of these cases involved General Joseph Ralston. He is the Vice Chairman of The Cohen Group. He serves on the board of Lockheed Martin, which paid the Cohen Group $550,000 in 2005, according to a Lockheed filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mr. Ralston is also a member of the 2006 Advisory Board of the American Turkish Council (ATC), and one of Turkey’s top advocates and lobbyists.
In late summer of 2006, while serving as the Vice Chairman for the Cohen Group, while serving on Lockheed Martin’s Board, while sitting on the Advisory Board of the Turkish Lobby Group, ATC and lobbying for Turkey, this ‘Dime a Dozen’ General, was appointed to be US Special Envoy for Countering the Kurdistan Workers Party conflict with Turkey. Here is an excerpt from my piece:
- “Our government sent this man, Ralston, as a special envoy to help resolve the highly critical Northern Iraq situation with possible dire consequences in the near future. Considering Ralston’s livelihood and his loyalties, as a member of the board of the directors of Lockheed Martin, as the vice chairman of a lobbying firm with foreign interests, as an advisor and board member for the most powerful Turkish Lobby group, ATC, who did this man represent while in Turkey as the special envoy? What interests did he really represent; Iraq’s situation, Lockheed’s livelihood, which depends on further conflicts and bloodshed; the corrupt and criminal government of Turkey and its representation via ATC; or, the furthering of the Cohen Group’s future pimping opportunities?”
Why am I revisiting Ralston and this major case of conflict of interest now? It is because I intend to re-illustrate it within the framework and as an example in the discussion we’ve been having on ‘Dissecting the MSM.’
While the implications of Ralston’s appointment caused a major stir within the Kurdish community and organizations, pointing to Ralston’s position with the Turkish lobby in the US, and within Turkey’s own communities and pointing to Ralston’s position with Lockheed Martin, our own media and watchdog organizations let this gargantuan conflict of interest pass under the radar.
Also from ‘Hijacking of a Nation: Part Two’
- “Why in the world did no one within the U.S. mainstream media give even the slightest coverage of this conflict of interest? Why haven’t we heard anyone asking Ralston the most important question, in dire need of an answer: ‘Who’s your daddy Ralston; boy?’ Ralston’s position is no different than what is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as: “A person conceived and born out of wedlock.” With the possibility of any one of four daddies, and without the benefit of a DNA test, how do we go about determining Ralston’s real daddy?”
Ken Silverstein of Harper Magazine wrote a piece on this in November of 2006, titled ‘Lost in the Valley of the Wolves’. He touched the most important aspects of this case:
- “…But it appears that Ralston is representing the interests of the shareholders of Lockheed Martin rather than the interests of the American people.”
“Then came the mid-September announcement (just weeks after Ralston’s appointment) that Turkeywould be purchasing thirty new F-16′s from Lockheed Martin. Weeks later, the Turkish government ruled out purchasing any Eurofighter Typhoon warplanes. This leaves only one option—Lockheed Martin’s new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. A deal between Lockheed and Turkey would be worth as much as $10 billion.”
… and he asked the ‘real question’ any MSM reporter with even a half of a brain should have asked:
- “Did Special Envoy Ralston lobby on behalf of Lockheed Martin during his encounters with Turkish officials? It seems likely. Ralston sits on the Board of Directorsof Lockheed Martin and serves as vice chairman of The Cohen Group, a lobbying firm that has represented Lockheed since 2004. On August 11 of this year, seventeen days before he was named Special Envoy, Ralston was appointed to The Cohen Group team that lobbies for Lockheed.”
…and he emphasized the unmentionable as far as the US MSM is concerned, the Turkish Lobby:
- “As Kurdish activist and blogger Mizgin Yilmaz has explained in detail , Ralston has close ties to Turkey through his military service and through his seat on the advisory board of the American Turkish Council. Lockheed Martin is a leading member and financial sponsor of this council, which “is dedicated to effectively strengthening U.S.-Turkish relations through the promotion of commercial, defense, technology and cultural relations.””
…and he concluded it with a punch absent in the work (stenography) of all other MSM players:
- “It’s hard to understand how the Bush Administration could appoint a special envoy with so many conflicts of interest, but Lockheed’s corporate slogan says it all: “We never forget who we’re working for.” Neither, it seems, does General Ralston.”
Aside from Harper’s Silverstein, one other publication, the Boston Globe, did an excellent hard-hitting report on this. Kevin McKiernan begins the piece with a great punch line:
- “MOST PEOPLE would agree that it’s bad ethics for government officials to invest in companies that they regulate. But what about a US special envoy to a Middle East trouble spot who happens to be a director of an arms company selling weapons to one of the parties in the conflict?”
Here is more from McKiernan’s report:
- “The problem is that General Ralston is on the board of Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest arms maker, which just last month finalized a $2.9 billion sale for advanced F-16 fighters that may well be used in the Kurdish region (the State Department acknowledges that F-16 s were involved in human rights abuses in Turkey in the 1990s). This gives the ex-general the appearance of holding a financial interest in his shuttle diplomacy.”
“General Ralston is on the board of the American Turkish Council, the powerful Capitol Hill lobby, and he is vice chairman of the Cohen Group, a corporation founded by former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, with close ties to the Turkish military. Unfortunately, Ralston carries too much baggage to be special envoy, and he should step down before he alienates the Kurds of Iraq, the best — and perhaps only — friend the US government has in the country.”
And even a punchier finale:
- “Our new man in Ankara will be seen as an arms merchant in diplomat’s clothing. He should be replaced.”
Now, here is a list of links to some of the major news coverage involving Ralston’s bastardization of military honor:
New York Times
I can go on and list more, but I’m sure you get the picture. They all went with the transcript faxed to them by the State Department like good little stenographers! Didn’t they have access to Ralston’s background, which is listed even in Wikipedia and his employer’s, Cohen Group, website? Surely they did! Weren’t they given reports and tips by those who’ve been acting as watchdogs on this case? Surely they were!
Here is a statement from ‘Mizgin’ who not only followed the case from the beginning as it was unfolding, but took it upon herself to contact these MSM reporters, supplying them with all the background on Four-Daddy General Ralston, and underlining all the issues of ‘conflicts of interests’:
- At the end of September 2006, a friend in the UK who writes the Hevallo blog had sent me a link to an article in the Dallas-Fort Worth Star Telegram on the sale of F-16s to Turkey. At the same time, Turkey was considering a purchase of the new Lockheed Martin F-35 but was not scheduled to make a decision on this purchase until the end of 2006. This news came almost one month after former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe Joseph Ralston was named by the State Department as the “special envoy” to “coordinate” the PKK for Turkey.
Since the PKK was preparing to declare a 1 October 2006 unilateral ceasefire, and since I was working on an English translation of Ocalan’s statement regarding the ceasefire, I didn’t have time to immediately investigate the F-16 story and the connection to Ralston. However, by 1 October, I had completed some initial investigation and noted theconflict of interest that Ralston’s appointment created.
In researching Ralston’s background, I found that he was working for The Cohen Group, a lobbying firm founded by former Defense Secretary William Cohen, and that Ralston was one of two vice-chairmen for The Cohen Group. The other was Marc Grossman. I had come across aWashington Post article from May 2006 on Cohen and his firm which was written by David Hilzenrath. The article described the revolving-door syndrome between government and private business. In writing the article, I thought Hilzenrath would have the background to see that there was an obvious conflict of interest with Ralston’s appointment and his connection to a private company that was listed with the US Senate, in accordance with the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, as a lobbyist hired to sell Lockheed Martin tactical fighter aircraft. In fact, Ralston was listed as a lobbyist with the Senate for this very purpose at least as late as 31 July 2006.
I contacted Hilzenrath with the information I had managed to search out within a couple of days and suggested that he write something about the appointment since he had written about the people involved with The Cohen Group. He was interested initially and asked for a phone number where he could contact me. I gave him a “throw-away” number where he could reach me, but never heard from him again.
In the meantime and out of frustration with trying to get the mainstream media interested in an appointment that was obviously very wrong, I wrote an article myself with was first published on KurdishInfo and then onKurdishMedia. Hevallo managed to get the article published in the UK’s Socialist Worker. A friend from Diyarbakir translated the article into Turkish and I sent it to Ozgur Gundem, where it was published. I also posted the Turkish version on Istanbul Indymedia. Another friend persuaded the Kurdish National Congress of North America to call for Ralston’s resignation as “special envoy.”
Before the end of October 2006, Ralston had secured Turkey’spurchase of F-35 aircraft for $10 billion and the official announcement of the purchase came in December 2006. This meant that within a matter of a few weeks, Ralston had squeezed some $13 billion out of the Turkish Defense Ministry.
From the UK, Hevallo had contacted a reporter for the LA Times, Kim Murphy, after she wrotea piece on Ralston and the Kurdish situation while she had been in Iraq. This also looked promising as Murphy appeared interested initially. Hevallo sent her the information that we had collected on Ralston and the Lockheed deals with Turkey and she was going to present the information to her editor in Washington DC. From that point on the information was buried and we heard nothing else from Murphy or the LA Times.
Did the reporters themselves make the decision to sit on the information about this conflict of interest or did they, honestly, pass it to their editors, who made the final decisions? I don’t know. I guess it really doesn’t matter because our experience proves that somewhere along the line, someone in the mainstream media is going to sit on this kind of information to keep it from the public.
Considering that most of Turkey’s purchases of military hardware during the Clinton administration were subsidized byup to 80% by the US taxpayer, Americans themselves should have an interest in what happens when retired generals-turned lobbyists are appointed to handle situations that deal in matters of life and death.
There were those whom we contacted who did take up the pen to write about the Ralston problem and I am grateful to them for their help. Among those were Ken Silverstein atHarper’s; Kevin McKiernan, a longtime advocate for the Kurdish people, writing in the Boston Globe; Chris Deliso, who included information about Lockheed Martin’s public relations firm, Public Strategies, Inc., who took a great interest in the things I was writing about Ralston and Lockheed–hence the need for “throw-away” phone numbers when you have to deal with these bloodsuckers; and Luke Ryland, who managed to link the Ralston conflict of interest with the Sibel Edmonds case. For all of these, I have nothing but praise and the greatest thanks
So what did they do instead? They all went by the transcript faxed and or e-mailed to them by the State Department like good little stenographers! That’s exactly what they did, and that’s exactly what they’ve been doing when it comes to shielding our multi-daddy Statesmen & Generals.
Is Ralston an isolated case? Of course not! There is an extensive list of these multi-daddy ex government officials who double or maybe even triple dip. Here, check out a few of these dime-a-dozen public servants turned foreign lobbyists: