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on April 16, 2010
Jeffrey St. Clair's, Grand Theft Pentagon, should be required reading for everyone who thinks their tax dollars are being wasted. They are! And the biggest waster of tax dollars is the Pentagon! This is not consistent with most right-wing thinking but the facts are irrefutable. Billions of dollars are squandered or outright stolen on weapons systems that don't work, services that aren't done and projects that have no point. While this book needs better editing (there are several misspellings and grammatical errors), the window it opens into defense contractor fraud and the squandering of the American Treasury is invaluable. Read this book if you care about the future of this country!
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on September 13, 2007
If it bothers you that half of every discretionary tax dollar goes to the military in some form or another (DOE, NSA, off-budget "black programs", etc. etc.) or that we spend more on defense and security than the rest of the world combined, then read this book! It's a phrase that is often overused, but this is definitely "a book every American should read." As a southerner originally from a very hawkish, pro-military state who thought that high military spending was necessary for jobs and community growth as well as security, this made my blood boil. We are essentially accomplishing none of those things--as evidenced by the fact that the world's most expensive military can't defeat small third-world countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan devastated by 20+ years of war and/or sanctions. Ever wonder why? The authors make clear that the level of the combined pentagon/congressional/corporate corruption not only puts the mafia to shame, but is threatening our democracy and our national security in very profound and frightening ways. Read this and prepare to be outraged. Perhaps this will spur action ensuring that enlisted servicemen and women will no longer need welfare to make ends meet while billions are funneled to defense contractors? My only complaint is the horrendous job of proofreading and copy-editing this book received (none?). Otherwise, this deserves to be on the bestseller list.
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on July 8, 2010
This book is primarily of historical interest and consists of articles written by Jeffrey St. Clair between 2001 and 2005. It is an enjoyable read because St. Clair is a very facile writer. Yet it is also a terminally superficial book that provides polemics rather than a reasoned examination of the U.S. Defense Department (DOD) and its acquisition process.
St. Clair makes some quite serious accusations against President George W. Bush and his national security establishment. These are controversial and the jury is still out concerning whether these accusations have merit or not. Certainly his arguments seem persuasive, but this may be because so many senior members of that establishment such as Vice President Cheney and SecDef Donald Rumsfeld are apparently naturally secretive and unpleasant folks. Indeed President Bush himself often appeared to be indifferent or incompetent in dealing with the many challenges that occurred during his eight year administration. History will have to judge all of this.
The main theme of the book is the wholesale looting of the DOD by unscrupulous contactors; well this is a complicated issue. There is ample evidence that the DOD wastes millions if not billions of dollars on ill-conceived, badly managed programs. There is also ample evidence that large and small contractors representing the private sector made substantial amounts of money on even failed programs. The question which St. Clair should have asked, but didn't was why this was so. He seems to believe it was caused by collusion between greedy contractors and stupid or venal generals or high level DOD officials. There is of course some truth in this as there is in that much of the waste is due to corrupt or incompetent members of congress.
Yet the issue is more complicated than this. Not all general officers in the U.S. Military are corrupt, venal or stupid. Most are quite patriotic and more than a few are highly intelligent. The same can be said for contractors who of course are driven by the bottom line, but who are also genuinely interested in providing for the defense of the U.S. and supporting its military. The villains that St. Clair finds throughout both DOD and the defense industries are largely phantoms. Yet the tales of waste and inefficiency are true.
So what is the problem? Some (this reader included) would argue that the problem is with the DOD requirements and procurement systems both of which are badly designed and poorly executed. The senior DOD officials can be faulted for an utter failure in leadership while the U.S. Officer Corps can be faulted for being unable to come to grips with the DOD requirement and procurement cycles. At the same time private contractors should be more proactive in guiding the cycles towards realistic goals in the form of practical weapons platforms and other programs.
This book nibbles at the surface but fails to take a real bite of this issue.
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I come late to this book, published in 2005 and consisting of well-organized Op-Eds published in CounterPunch from 2000-2005. My review is primarily for my own benefit (my notes) and those who follow my reviews of non-fiction at Phi Beta Iota, the Public Intelligence Blog, where you can browse categories in a way that Amazon refuses to implement (e.g. see all my reviews on Corruption or on Pathology of Military Power, or on Government Crime, etcetera).

The lack of footnotes troubles me, not because I doubt the details this extraordinary author brings forward (including many details NOT covered by the 1,600 books I have reviewed, many centered on this very topic), but because I believe the author's body of work would be enhanced if he included footnotes--I would go so far as to respectfully suggest that he write and publish on his personal blog the version with footnotes and links, and then publish the "clean" version at CounterPunch with a link to the notes version.

The best thing I can say about this specific book is that regardless of how many other books you might have read (I list ten suggestions with links at the end of this review), this book has details the other books do not have. It is a must read, and most especially so in the aftermath of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates meeting with Lockheed and other CEO's to assure them that the money will keep on coming--I was utterly stunned when I read that, and realize that for all of his intelligence, Robert Gates has zero interest in actually defending America--he's the Chief Thief. As he attempts to place Jim Clapper in the position as Director of National Intelligence, which oversees $75 billion a year in waste, I can only shake my head--Chief Thief and Mini-Me Thief. It is time the American people, led by Grover Norquist, leader of Americans for Tax Reform, to engaged in a massive tax revolt that redirects all tax revenue to local banks, in escrow for local needs. The Federal Government is OUT OF CONTROL.

As I look over the titles of the 33 Op Ed pieces, I have two thoughts: first, that this really is a spectacular collection of thoughful public interest criticism, very well organized; and second, that this same book could be written about every Cabinet Department, every State Governor, every Mayor across America. We have institutionalized looting in ways that even the most corrupt countries such as Guatemala have not even begun to exploit. The federal government is full of good, well-intentioned people, but it is also managed and manipulated by an elite that considers our tax dollars their privilege to spend, and that has to end.

Especially interesting to me were details on the Bush Family, including worthless relatives that helped companies climb to billions in revenue; details about George Bush Junior that were known before he ran for President but not properly presented to the public; details over the entire book on the treasonous displacement of uniformed personnel by contractors; technical exposes of specific mobility and weapons systems; and the over all DETAILED, balanced presentation of public intelligence in the public interest.

Here are ten other books I recommend to complement this one (if my reviews are buried at Amazon, they are easy to find at Phi Beta Iota, the Public Intelligence Blog, all with links there back to Amazon's page for the book, and to my review at Amazon as well so you can harvest comments if any, and/or vote.
War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America's Most Decorated Soldier
Andrew Jackson Higgins and the Boats That Won World War II
Defense Facts of Life: The Plans/Reality Mismatch
Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War
Wastrels of Defense: How Congress Sabotages U.S. Security
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies
The Dynamics of Military Revolution, 1300-2050
The Shadow Factory: The NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America
Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency

I do not link to my own books, including ON INTELLIGENCE: Spies and Secrecy in an Open World, as they are easy to find and also available free online. The bottom line is that Obama sold out to play Bush in black-face, with zero change in the constant treason that has characterized the Executive and Legislative Branches since at least the 1990's when Newt Gingrich destroyed bi-partisan comity and Bill Clinton inhaled the vapors of Wall Street.

America needs both a tax revolt, and an honest Director of National Intelligence (DNI) able to create a Smart Nation in which we harness our collective intelligence and simultaneously ressurect national education and integrity; national research and integrity; and of course national decision-support (intelligence) and integrity. That alone will bury the current corruption because any DNI smart enough to do that will also be smart enough to tell Congress that intelligence and Whole of Government reform can be job and revenue neutral from state to state and district to district.
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on February 23, 2006
Once upon a time in America, there was a form of newspaper reporting known as muckraking. Some folks preferred to call this form of reporting "investigative reporting." No matter. Whatever it was called, the purpose of the reporting, the reporters, and the papers that ran the articles was to expose corruption, graft and just plain old evil in the echelons of government and big business. Of course, there was also a hope that this exposure would end the reported abuses or, at the least, get rid of the worst abusers and most corrupt men involved. Magazines in the first wave of muckraking included McClure's, Colliers, and Everybody's and some of the better known writers were Upton Sinclair, Lincoln Steffens, and Ida Tarbell.

Over the years this type of reporting has become harder to find. Many of the magazines and journals that used to run the often long articles that investigative reporting requires fell victim to the machinations of monopoly capitalism. Of course, this was fine with the capitalists, who were often the targets of the muckrakers. Other magazines and newspapers became the victim of the news media's shift to broadcast journalism. Except for the occasional series on city crime or local graft, these papers and magazines are mere shadows of their earlier selves.

Fortunately, there is Counterpunch. Like a select few of its counterparts on the right and the left, this paper expands the limits of journalism, running investigative reports, commentary, announcements and cultural criticism both online and in a paper version. Edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, this journal often reminds me of Ramparts in its glory days. Going well beyond other leftish magazines like The Nation, Mother Jones and The Progressive, and maintaining a stubborn independence not found in organizational journals, Counterpunch is a consistent source of reporting that goes to the heart of the matter. "Radical" in its essential definition.

Jeffrey St. Clair's most recent book, Grand Theft Pentagon, is a collection of muckraking exposes of the corruption and greed that help fuel Washington's wars. Many of the pieces in the book originally appeared in Counterpunch, but their presence here in one volume brings together the full force of the theft and corruption we live with. Although the scope of the ruling elites' arrogance is easy enough to see, the scope of the corruption isn't. St. Clair's book changes that. The relentlessness of his reporting details exactly how broad and how deep the graft and outright theft of our national treasury and soul by the rich and powerful truly is. Needless to say, it's a depressing tale.

Whether he's detailing the fraudulent manipulations of federal contracts specified for indigenous peoples by white guys with offices in Virginia or the no-bid contracts of Halliburton and General Dynamics, St. Clair provides the reader with detail after researched detail of the grandest larceny in history. Let me remind you--there's been some tough competition for that title. His profiles of the US's biggest war profiteers are as detailed as his profiles of those men who deal with (and for) them. His most biting and even humorous words are saved for his profiles of the men who currently run this land. I chuckled loudly more than once while reading his chapter on George Bush that he titles "High Plains Grifter." The guy sitting next to me on the bus thought I was reading something intentionally comic, not a book about government corruption and war.

St. Clair's reportage on the apparent refusal of the Bush administration to take Osama bin Laden out of business before September 11, 2001 is a story that should get much greater play than it has. His chapters on the business of war and its accompanying corruption and graft are like bookends to that chapter. After all, if the events of 9/11 had not happened, one wonders if the US would be at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Indeed, one wonders if the Bush administration would even be in power, especially since it is their use of the 9/11 events that helps them maintain their fearful hold on a substantial part of the US electorate. Of course, if Bush weren't in the White House, one wonders how much difference it would make anyhow.

That's the danger of muckraking--it can render the reader hopeless and cynical, especially in today's world of surveillance and all-encompassing barcode-produced data storage. That's where the intention of the original muckrakers is important to recall. Sinclair, Steffens, Tarbell and the rest of those reporters wrote their exposés to anger and inspire their readers into taking action. It wasn't enough to be ticked off that your government was a den of thieves and your leaders were well-connected criminals. You had to take this knowledge and use it to change things. Remember this after you finish Grand Theft Pentagon.
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on April 18, 2009
I always hated pianos and being forced to play the piano.

The piano can be such a disonant unharmonious instrument.

I am NO Piano Man and even less a Grand Piano Pentagon fan.

Grand Theft Pentagon tells of terrible tentacles extending into places where there should be no subversion, no corruption : national defence and national security.

This book offers further proof of Syndicate Control such as

1. War for Profit (Gold via Violence)
2. Alcohol (Drug of Mass Stupefication)
3. Oil Monopoly Invasion (Automotive Addiction)
4. Automotive Industry (Vehicles of Mass Destruction)
5. Union Monopoly Banker Control (Slave Labor)
6. News media (Brainwash Hypnosis)

Each and every one of these is a key facet of organised crime.

When a large portion of all business in middle North America is dependent upon Pentagon War for Profit, coupled with an aggressive greedy foreign policy taking control of the Middle East, there are bad times on the horizon.

This book should be read and posted as a warning sign at the crucial crossroads before Doomsday.
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on March 8, 2007
snappy prose, compelling evidence, one of the great muckrakers.

the people who imply that the book is written by a knee jerk pacifist have not been paying attention. The article on the Warthog, and others demonstrated not only the man's opposition to waste and corruption, but the fact that the man genuinely cares about having a functioning military for DEFENSE purposes.

The points he raise cannot be simply dismissed out of hand, why keep spending so much money on cold war era weapons when our old enemy no longer exists/
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on March 14, 2006
I sent a copy of Grand Theft Pentagon to a Pentagon Contracts Officer I know. He read it and his take was: "Next time, have St. Clair call me. He only scratched the surface. It's far more complicated and more corrupt than even he knows."

And, St. Clair knows plenty. This book is an informative and witty take on the many scams that go along with the constant war munitions industry and the symbiotic relationship between CEOs and the Brass.

One could fund all edcuation in America with just the money spent on some of completely useless systems unearthed here. When one considers the perpetual overcharging and outright graft, Universal Health Care can be added.
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on February 20, 2006
Grand Theft Pentagon takes you behind the curtains of Washington's power plays, exposing all the sweetheart deals and gaudy sleaze that exploit taxpayers and promote warfare. The lead characters in Jeffrey St. Clair's latest exposé, from Duke Cunningham to GW Bush, come to life in rich and bitter detail -- revealing not only their banality, but also their quest for global dominance.

The turn style nature of DC politics fattens the bank accounts of many. Indeed, there are reasons why we are in a state of perpetual war -- for those who profit most are in positions of power.

This should be required reading for anyone who is concerned with the state of this planet and the wars that are driving its demise. Grand Theft Pentagon spares nobody who is culpable.
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on January 24, 2006
St.Clair is a muckracker par excellence. Muckracking tends to date quickly; old scandals are no longer scandalous. What makes St.Clair's work so compelling, and so likely to endure, is his focus on people, the villains and the very few heroes of the piece.

St.Clair does not caricature; he feels his subjects like a novelist. George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld come alive in all their creepiness, but when the curtain falls it is Bunnatine Greenhouse, the unsung Halliburton whistleblower, who gets center stage. St.Clair brings ample research and devastating argument to his attack on indecent powerbrokers. In the end, though, it is his humanity that illuminates the tale.
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