December 7, 2009, - 10:55 am
More than two years ago, I wrote about then-Army Major John Cockerham and allegations he accepted bribes from a Muslim Michigan immigrant, Megde “Mike” Ismail, who was representing Middle Eastern contractors and sought war-related contracts with the U.S. Army.
John Cockerham & Gloria Davis:
US Army Gave Them Everything, They Threw It Away
At the time I wrote about it, I was unaware of Maj. Cockerham’s race, nor would I think it was important or at all relevant, had I known. But Wall Street Journal reporter Joel Millman points out that ex-Maj. Cockerham is Black and is part of a large ring of Black current and former military men and women who solicited and took kickbacks and bribes and/or who received coveted U.S. military contracts because of this network.
This isn’t about Blacks in the military, who have served throughout America’s history with great honor, courage, and heroism. This is about affirmative action and minority contracting set-asides. Whenever you promote people or award contracts based on race, minority status, ethnicity, gender, or anything else that isn’t merit, you promote a sense of entitlement, and inevitably, corruption. I believe the same thing–the same corruption–would occur if people were awarded these military promotions and contracts based on their being Jewish, or Irish, or Italian, or German in heritage.
But those groups don’t get those privileges. They have to earn their way in the U.S. military and elsewhere, and must compete against minorities who get these privileges based on race.
A former Army major was sentenced to a 17½-year prison term on corruption charges in Wednesday in San Antonio, signaling the beginning of the end of a far-reaching Iraq War corruption probe.
As part of the probe, a growing cadre of career soldiers has confessed to siphoning millions of dollars from defense contracts in Iraq and Kuwait. The investigation into their spree already has led to the indictments of five U.S. military officers, with another dozen expected to follow.
U.S. District Judge W. Royal Furgeson’s order that former Maj. John Cockerham pay $9.6 million in restitution — money federal investigators say he collected from steering contracts to favored suppliers — speaks to the breadth of the conspiracy, which allegedly lasted for years as officers rotated in and out of the war zone. Mr. Cockerham, the ringleader, and his co-conspirators allegedly installed replacement officers to work as bag men in their absence. They expected the bag men to collect as much as $5.4 million in kickbacks from contracts worth over $110 million, according to court documents.
So far, three former Army majors and one lieutenant colonel have pleaded guilty to money-laundering, bribery and other charges. Another major is awaiting trial, while sentencing of former Maj. Christopher Murray is slated to occur in Georgia in two weeks.
Two others have entered not-guilty pleas. A Justice Department spokeswoman says former Sgt. Terry Hall and Maj. Eddie Pressley are due to go on trial in April. . . .
Unlike the allegations of violence that dogged security contractor Blackwater USA, the case of the Cockerham crew spools out more like Sidney Lumet’s films about corruption in big-city police departments. Bribes and kickbacks allegedly involved relatively routine contracts to provide drinking water, laundry and latrine services to military bases, awarded by a small group of officers who seemed to be barely supervised by senior officers.
Almost every suspect comes from the same background: African-Americans who rose from childhood poverty to successful military careers.
In 2005, the Army’s Criminal Investigations Division heard about improper ties between Gloria Davis, a 45-year-old major, and Kuwait-based Lee Dynamics International, a contractor run by a retired African-American soldier named George Lee. LDI allegedly provided gifts to Maj. Davis, and put her son on its payroll. LDI also sent regular cash payments to bank accounts opened for Maj. Davis in Asia.
Maj. Davis had come a long way from Portageville, Mo., where she bore a daughter at age 16. A single mother, she thrived during an 18-year military career, completing a master’s degree and serving on bases world-wide.
On December 11, 2006, CID agents met Maj. Davis at Camp Victory in Baghdad’s Green Zone to ask about $225,000 found in her offshore accounts. Sometime after midnight, the CID investigators escorted Maj. Davis to her quarters, agreeing to resume debriefing next morning. Before dawn, she used her own sidearm to commit suicide.
Within days, CID agents were searching the quarters of her colleague, Maj. Cockerham. Eventually, they seized enough evidence to start building a case against officers at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait.
Since then, reams of court documents from overlapping cases reveal a pattern of corruption. Army contracting officers, almost all of them African Americans, reached out to African-American businessmen, seeking bribes in exchange for contracting deals.
By the time investigators were closing in, the Cockerham scheme allegedly had spread to new players, minority contractors launched by retired African-American soldiers who already had been vetted by the Pentagon. Maj. Cockerham allegedly hoped to harvest future bribes from them.
I’m surprised that Joel Millman and his Wall Street Journal editors had the guts to report on the racial element here. But I’m glad they did. Kudos to them for defying the political correctness that usually dictates editing that part out of mainstream media reports. Again, it’s not about race per se. It’s about the privileges awarded to a certain race solely based on race and nothing else. And it’s time to end it, in order to end the corruption.
There’s an old saying that to whom much is given, much is expected. But I see it the other way around. Those to whom much is given, expect much more. When members of a a group are given entitlements, they feel they are entitled.
It’s that simple.
(Please, no racist comments. This isn’t about race. It’s about race-based and ethnic-based preferences, which can corrupt anyone.)
Tags: affirmative action, Black, Blacks, contracts, corruption, George Lee, Gloria Davis, Joel Millman, John Cockerham, Judge W. Royal Furgeson, Lee Dynamics International, Maj. Christopher Murray, Maj. Eddie Pressley, Maj. John Cockerham, Megde (Mike) Ismail, Megde Ismail, Mike Ismail, minorities, minority contracts, minority set-asides, Sgt. Terry Hall, U.S. Army, U.S. military, Wall Street Journal