In late August 2005, after twenty years of service in the field of military procurement, Bunnatine (“Bunny”) Greenhouse, the top official at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in charge of awarding government contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq, was demoted. For years, Greenhouse received stellar evaluations from superiors — until she raised objections about secret, no-bid contracts awarded to Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) — a subsidiary of Halliburton, the mega-corporation Vice President Dick Cheney once presided over. After telling congress that one Halliburton deal “was the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional career,” she was reassigned from “the elite Senior Executive Service… to a lesser job in the civil works division of the corps.”
When Greenhouse was busted down, she became just another of the casualties of the Bush administration — not the countless (or rather uncounted) Iraqis, or the ever-growing list of American troops, killed, maimed, or mutilated in the administration’s war of convenience– but the seemingly endless and ever-growing list of beleaguered administrators, managers, and career civil servants who quit their posts in protest or were defamed, threatened, fired, forced out, demoted, or driven to retire by Bush administration strong-arming. Often, this has been due to revulsion at the President’s policies — from the invasion of Iraq and negotiations with North Korea to the flattening of FEMA and the slashing of environmental standards — which these women and men found to be beyond the pale.
Since almost the day he assumed power, George W. Bush has left a trail of broken careers in his wake. Below is a listing of but a handful of the most familiar names on the rolls of the fallen:
Richard Clarke: Perhaps the most well-known of the Bush administration’s casualties, Clarke spent thirty years in the government, serving under every president from Ronald Reagan on. He was the second-ranking intelligence officer in the State Department under Reagan and then served in the administration of George H.W. Bush. Under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, he held the position of the president’s chief adviser on terrorism on the National Security Council — a Cabinet-level post. Clarke became disillusioned with the “terrible job” of fighting terrorism exhibited by the second president Bush — namely, ignoring evidence of an impending al-Qaeda attack and putting the pressure on to produce a non-existent link between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. (His memo explaining that there was no connection, said Clarke, “got bounced and sent back saying, ‘Wrong answer. Do it again.'”) After 9/11, Clarke asked for a transfer from his job to a National Security Council office concerned with cyber-terrorism. (The administration later claimed it was a demotion). Quit, January 2003.
Paul O’Neill: A top official at the Office of Management and Budget under Presidents Nixon and Ford (and later chairman of aluminum-giant Alcoa), O’Neill served nearly two years in George W. Bush’s cabinet as Secretary of the Treasury before being asked to resign after opposing the president’s tax cuts. He, like Clarke, recalled Bush’s Iraq fixation. “From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,” said O’Neill, a permanent member of the National Security Council. “It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The president saying ‘Go find me a way to do this.'” Fired, December 6, 2002.
Flynt Leverett, Ben Miller and Hillary Mann: A Senior Director for Middle East Affairs on President Bush’s National Security Council (NSC), a CIA staffer and Iraq expert with the NSC, and a foreign service officer on detail to the NSC as the Director for Iran and Persian Gulf Affairs, respectively, they were all reportedly forced out by Elliott Abrams, Bush’s NSC Advisor on Middle East Affairs, when they disagreed with policy toward Israel. Said Leverett, “There was a decision made… basically to renege on the commitments we had made to various European and Arab partners of the United States. I personally disagreed with that decision.” He also noted, “[Richard] Clarke’s critique of administration decision-making and how it did not balance the imperative of finishing the job against al Qaeda versus what they wanted to do in Iraq is absolutely on the money… We took the people out [of Afghanistan in 2002 to begin preparing for the war in Iraq] who could have caught” al Qaeda leaders like Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri. According to Josef Bodansky, the director of the Congressional Task Force on Terror and Unconventional Warfare, Abrams “led Miller to an open window and told him to jump.” He also stated that Mann and Leverett had been told to leave. Resigned/Fired, 2003.
Larry Lindsey: A “top economic adviser” to Bush who was ousted when he revealed to a newspaper that a war with Iraq could cost $200 billion. Fired, December 2002.
Ann Wright: A career diplomat in the Foreign Service and a colonel in the Army Reserves resigned on the day the U.S. launched the Iraq War. In her letter of resignation, Wright told then-Secretary of State Colin Powell: “I believe the Administration’s policies are making the world a more dangerous, not a safer, place. I feel obligated morally and professionally to set out my very deep and firm concerns on these policies and to resign from government service as I cannot defend or implement them.” Resigned, March 19, 2003.
John Brady Kiesling: A career diplomat who served four presidents over a twenty year span, he tendered his letter of resignation from his post as Political Counselor in the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece on the eve of the invasion of Iraq. He wrote:
“…until this Administration it had been possible to believe that by upholding the policies of my president I was also upholding the interests of the American people and the world. I believe it no longer. The policies we are now asked to advance are incompatible not only with American values but also with American interests. Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America’s most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson. We have begun to dismantle the largest and most effective web of international relationships the world has ever known. Our current course will bring instability and danger, not security.”
Resigned, February 27, 2003.
John Brown: After nearly 25-years, this veteran of the Foreign Service, who served in London, Prague, Krakow, Kiev and Belgrade, resigned from his post. In his letter of resignation, he wrote: “I cannot in good conscience support President Bush’s war plans against Iraq. The president has failed to: explain clearly why our brave men and women in uniform should be ready to sacrifice their lives in a war on Iraq at this time; to lay out the full ramifications of this war, including the extent of innocent civilian casualties; to specify the economic costs of the war for the ordinary Americans; to clarify how the war would help rid the world of terror; [and] to take international public opinion against the war into serious consideration.” Resigned, March 10, 2003.
Rand Beers: When Beers, the National Security Council’s senior director for combating terrorism, resigned he declined to comment, but one former intelligence official noted, “Hardly a surprise. We have sacrificed a war on terror for a war with Iraq. I don’t blame Randy at all. This just reflects the widespread thought that the war on terror is being set aside for the war with Iraq at the expense of our military and intel[ligence] resources and the relationships with our allies.” Beers later admitted, “The administration wasn’t matching its deeds to its words in the war on terrorism. They’re making us less secure, not more secure… As an insider, I saw the things that weren’t being done. And the longer I sat and watched, the more concerned I became, until I got up and walked out.” Resigned, March 2003.
Anthony Zinni: A soldier and diplomat for 40 years, Zinni served from 1997 to 2000 as commander-in-chief of the United States Central Command in the Middle East. The retired Marine Corps general was then called back to service by the Bush administration to assume one of the highest diplomatic posts, special envoy to the Middle East (from November 2002 to March 2003), but his disagreement with Bush’s plans to go to war and public comments that foretold of a prolonged and problematical aftermath to such a war led to his ouster. “In the lead up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw at a minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility, at worse, lying, incompetence and corruption,” said Zinni. Failed to be reappointed, March 2003.
Eric Shinseki: After General Shinseki, the Army’s chief of staff, told Congress that the occupation of Iraq could require “several hundred thousand troops,” he was derided by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Then, wrote the Houston Chronicle, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld “took the unusual step of announcing that Gen. Eric Shinseki would be leaving when his term as Army chief of staff end[ed].” Retired, June 2003.
Karen Kwiatkowski: A Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force who served in the Department of Defense’s Near East and South Asia (NESA) Bureau in the year before the invasion of Iraq, she wrote in her letter of resignation:
“…[W]hile working from May 2002 through February 2003 in the office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Near East South Asia and Special Plans (USDP/NESA and SP) in the Pentagon, I observed the environment in which decisions about post-war Iraq were made… What I saw was aberrant, pervasive and contrary to good order and discipline. If one is seeking the answers to why peculiar bits of ‘intelligence’ found sanctity in a presidential speech, or why the post-Hussein occupation has been distinguished by confusion and false steps, one need look no further than the process inside the Office of the Secretary of Defense.”
Retired, July 2003.
Charles “Jack” Pritchard: A retired U.S. Army colonel and a 28-year veteran of the military, the State Department, and the National Security Council, who served as the State Department’s senior expert on North Korea and as the special envoy for negotiations with that country, resigned (according to the Los Angeles Times) because the “administration’s refusal to engage directly with the country made it almost impossible to stop Pyongyang from going ahead with its plans to build, test and deploy nuclear weapons.” Resigned, August 2003.
Major (then Captain) John Carr and Major Robert Preston: Air Force prosecutors, they quit their posts in 2004 rather than take part in trials under the military commission system President Bush created in 2001 which they considered “rigged against alleged terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.” Requested and granted reassignment, 2004.
Captain Carrie Wolf: A U.S. Air Force officer, she also asked to leave the Office of Military Commissions due to concerns that the Bush-created commissions for trying prisoners at Guantanamo Bay were unjust. Requested and granted reassignment, 2004.
Colonel Douglas Macgregor: He retired from the U.S. Army and stated: “I love the army and I was sorry to leave it. But I saw no possibility of fundamentally positive reform and reorgani[z]ation of the force for the current strategic environment or the future… It’s a very sycophantic culture. The biggest problem we have inside the… Department of Defense at the senior level, but also within the officer corps — is that there are no arguments. Arguments are [seen as] a sign of dissent. Dissent equates to disloyalty.” Retired, June 2004.
Paul Redmond: After a long career at the CIA, Redmond became the Assistant Secretary for Information Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security. When, according to Notra Trulock of Accuracy in Media, he reported, at a congressional hearing in June 2003, “that he didn’t have enough analysts to do the job… [and] his office still lacked the secure communications capability to receive classified reports from the intelligence community… [t]hat kind of candor was not appreciated by his bosses and, consequently, he had to go.” Resigned, June 2003.
John W. Carlin: According to the Washington Post, Carlin, the “Archivist of the United States was pushed by the White House… to submit his resignation without being given any reason, Senate Democrats disclosed… at a hearing to consider President Bush’s nomination of his successor.” “I asked why, and there was no reason given,” said Carlin, but the Post reported that some had “suggested Bush may have wanted a new archivist to help keep his or his father’s sensitive presidential records under wraps.” Although he had stated his wish to serve until the end of his 10-year term, and 65th birthday in 2005, Carlin surrendered to Bush administration pressure. Resigned, December 19, 2003.
Susan Wood and Frank Davidoff: Wood was the Food and Drug Administration’s Assistant Commissioner for Women’s Health and Director of the Office of Women’s Health; Davidoff was the editor emeritus of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine and an internal medicine specialist on the FDA’s Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee. Wood resigned in protest over the FDA’s decision to delay yet again, due to pressure from the Bush administration, a final ruling on whether the “morning-after pill” should be made more easily accessible — despite a 23-4 vote, back in December 2003, by a panel of experts to recommend non-prescription sale of the contraceptive, called Plan B. In an email to colleagues, Wood, the top FDA official in charge of women’s health issues, wrote, “I can no longer serve as staff when scientific and clinical evidence, fully evaluated and recommended for approval by the professional staff here, has been overruled.” Days later, Davidoff quit over the same issue and wrote in his resignation letter, “I can no longer associate myself with an organization that is capable of making such an important decision so flagrantly on the basis of political influence, rather than the scientific and clinical evidence.” Wood: Resigned, August 31, 2005. Davidoff: Resigned, September, 2005.
Thomas E. Novotny: A deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services and the chief official working on an international treaty to reduce cigarette smoking around the world, Novotny “stepped down,” claimed Bush administration officials, “for personal reasons unrelated to the negotiations”; but the Washington Post reported that “three people who ha[d] spoken with Novotny… said he had privately expressed frustration over the administration’s decision to soften the U.S. positions on key issues, including restrictions on secondhand smoke and the advertising and marketing of cigarettes.” Resigned, August 1, 2001.
Joanne Wilson: The commissioner of the Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), she quit, according to the Washington Post, “in protest of what she said were the administration’s largely unnoticed efforts to gut the office’s funding and staffing” and attempts to dismantle programs “critical to helping the blind, deaf and otherwise disabled find jobs.” On February 7, 2005 the Bush administration announced that it would close all RSA regional offices and cut personnel in half. Quit, February 8, 2005.
James Zahn: According to an article by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. in the Nation magazine, Zahn, a “nationally respected microbiologist with the Agriculture Department’s research service,” stated that “his supervisor at the USDA, under pressure from the hog industry, had ordered him not to publish his study,” which “identified bacteria that can make people sick — and that are resistant to antibiotics — in the air surrounding industrial-style hog farms”; and that “he had been forced to cancel more than a dozen public appearances at local planning boards and county health commissions seeking information about health impacts of industry mega-farms.” As a result, “Zahn resigned from the government in disgust.” Resigned, May 2002.
Tony Oppegard and Jack Spadaro: Oppegard and Spadaro were members of a “team of federal geodesic engineers selected to investigate the collapse of barriers that held back a coal slurry pond in Kentucky containing toxic wastes from mountaintop strip-mining.” According to the Environmental Protection Agency, this had been “the greatest environmental catastrophe in the history of the Eastern United States.” Oppegard, who headed the team, “was fired on the day Bush was inaugurated… All eight members of the team except Spadaro signed off on a whitewashed investigation report. Spadaro, like the others, was harassed but flat-out refused to sign. In April of 2001 Spadaro resigned from the team and filed a complaint with the Inspector General of the Labor Department… he was placed on administrative leave — a prelude to getting fired.” Two months before his 28th anniversary as a federal employee, and after years of harassment due to his stance, Spadaro resigned. “I’m just very tired of fighting,” he said. “I’ve been fighting this administration since early 2001. I want a little peace for a while.” Oppegrad: Fired, January 20, 2001. Spaddaro: Resigned, October 1, 2003.
Teresa Chambers: After speaking with reporters and congressional staffers about budget problems in her organization, the U.S. Park Police Chief was placed on administrative leave. Then, according to CNN, just “two and half hours after her attorneys filed a demand for immediate reinstatement through the Merit Systems Protection Board, an independent agency that ensures federal employees are protected from management abuses,” Chambers was fired. “The American people should be afraid of this kind of silencing of professionals in any field,” said Chambers. “We should be very concerned as American citizens that people who are experts in their field either can’t speak up, or, as we’re seeing now in the parks service, won’t speak up.” Fired, July 2004.
Martha Hahn: The state director for the Bureau of Land Management, “responsible for 12 million acres in Idaho, almost one-quarter of the state” for seven years, Hahn found her authority drastically curtailed after the Bush administration took office. She watched as the administration blocked public comment on mining initiatives and opened up previously protected areas to environmental degradation. After she locked horns with cattle interests over grazing rights, she received a letter stating she was being transferred from her beloved Rocky Mountain West to “a previously nonexistent job in New York City.” “It’s been a shock,” she said. “I’m going through mental anguish right now. I felt like I was at the prime of my career.” Hahn was told to accept the involuntary reassignment or resign. Resigned, March 6, 2002.
Andrew Eller: Eller “spent many of his 17 years with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protecting the [Florida] panther. But when his research didn’t jibe with a huge airport project slated for the cat’s habitat — and Eller refused to play along — he was given the boot,” wrote the Tucson Weekly. “I was fired three days after President Bush was re-elected,” said Eller. “It was obviously reprisal for holding different views than [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] management on whether or not the panther was in jeopardy, and pointing out that they were using flawed science to support their view.” Fired, November 2004.
Mike Dombeck: The chief of the Forest Service resigned after a 23-year government career. In his resignation letter, the pro-conservation Dombeck stated, “It was made clear in no uncertain terms that the [Bush] administration wants to take the Forest Service in another direction….” Resigned, March 27, 2001.
James Furnish: A political conservative, evangelical Christian, and Republican who voted for George W. Bush in 2000 as well as the former Deputy Chief of the U.S. Forest Service (who spent 30 years, across 8 presidential administrations working for that agency), Furnish resigned in 2002 due to policy differences with the Bush administration. “I just viewed [the administration’s] actions as being regressive,” said Furnish. In acting according to his conscience, instead of waiting a year longer to maximize retirement benefits, Furnish lost out on about $10,000 a year for the rest of his life. Resigned, 2002.
Mike Parker: In early 2002, Parker, the director of the Army Corps of Engineers testified before Congress that Bush-mandated budget cuts would have a “negative impact” on the Corps. He also admitted to holding no “warm and fuzzy” feelings toward the Bush administration. “Soon after,” reported the Christian Science Monitor, “he was given 30 minutes to resign or be fired.” In the wake of the devastation caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Parker’s clashes with Mitch Daniels, former director of the Office of Management and Budget, can be seen as prophetic. Parker remembered one such incident in which he brought Daniels, the Bush administration’s budget guru, a piece of steel from a Mississippi canal lock that “was completely corroded and falling apart because of a lack of funding,” and said, “Mitch, it doesn’t matter if a terrorist blows the lock up or if it falls down because it disintegrates — either way it’s the same effect, and if we let it fall down, we have only ourselves to blame.” He recalled of the incident, “It made no impact on him whatsoever.” Resigned, March 6, 2002.
Sylvia K. Lowrance: A top Environmental Protection Agency official who served the agency for over 20 years, including as Assistant Administrator of its Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance for the first 18 months of the Bush administration, Lowrance retired, stating, “We will see more resignations in the future as the administration fails to enforce environmental laws.” she said, “This Administration has pulled cases and put investigations on ice. They sent every signal they can to staff to back off.” Retired, August 2002.
Bruce Boler: An EPA scientist who resigned from his post because, he said, “Wetlands are often referred to as nature’s kidneys. Most self-respecting scientists will tell you that, and yet [private] developers and officials [at the Army Corps of Engineers] wanted me to support their position that wetlands are, literally, a pollution source.” Resigned, October 23, 2003.
Eric Schaeffer: After twelve years of service, including the last five as Director of the Office of Regulatory Enforcement, at the Environmental Protection Agency, Schaeffer submitted a letter of resignation over the Bush administration’s non-enforcement of the Clean Air Act. He later explained:
“In a matter of weeks, the Bush administration was able to undo the environmental progress we had worked years to secure. Millions of tons of unnecessary pollution continue to pour from these power plants each year as a result. Adding insult to injury, the White House sought to slash the EPA’s enforcement budget, making it harder for us to pursue cases we’d already launched against other polluters that had run afoul of the law, from auto manufacturers to refineries, large industrial hog feedlots, and paper companies. It became clear that Bush had little regard for the environment–and even less for enforcing the laws that protect it. So last spring, after 12 years at the agency, I resigned, stating my reasons in a very public letter to Administrator [Christine Todd] Whitman.”
Resigned, February 27, 2002.
Bruce Buckheit: A 30-year veteran of government service, Buckheit retired in frustration over Bush administration efforts to weaken environmental regulations. When asked by NBC reporter Stone Phillips, “What’s the biggest enforcement challenge right now when it comes to air pollution?,” the former Senior Counsel with the Environmental Enforcement Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, and then Director of EPA’s Air Enforcement Division, was unequivocal: “The Bush Administration.” He went on to note that “this administration has decided to put the economic interests of the coal fired power plants ahead of the public interests in reducing air pollution.” Resigned, November 2003.
Rich Biondi: A 32-year EPA employee, Biondi retired from his post as Associate Director of the Air Enforcement Division of the Environmental Protection Agency. He stated, “We weren’t given the latitude we had been, and the Bush administration was interfering more and more with the ability to get the job done. There were indications things were going to be reviewed a lot more carefully, and we needed a lot more justification to bring lawsuits.” Retired, December 2004.
Martin E. Sullivan, Richard S. Lanier and Gary Vikan: Three members of the White House Cultural Property Advisory Committee, they all resigned from their posts to protest the looting of Baghdad’s National Museum of Antiquities. In his letter of resignation, Sullivan, the Committee’s chairman, wrote, “The tragedy was not prevented, due to our nation’s inaction,” while Lanier castigated “the administration’s total lack of sensitivity and forethought regarding the Iraq invasion and the loss of cultural treasures.” Resigned, April 14, 2003.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, eyes began to focus on the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the political appointees running it. What had happened to the professionals who once staffed FEMA? In 2004, Pleasant Mann, a 17-year FEMA veteran who heads the agency’s government employee union told Indyweek:
“Since last year, so many people have left who had developed most of our basic programs. A lot of the institutional knowledge is gone. Everyone who was able to retire has left, and then a lot of people have moved to other agencies.”
Disillusionment with the current state of affairs at FEMA was cited as the major cause for the mass defections. In fact, a February 2004 survey by the American Federation of Government Employees found that 80% of a sample of remaining employees said FEMA had become “a poorer agency” since being shifted into the Bush-created Department of Homeland Security. What happened to FEMA has happened, in ways large and small, to many other federal agencies. In an article by Amanda Griscom in Grist magazine, Jeff Ruch, the executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, made reference to the “unusually high” rate of replacement of scientists in government agencies during the Bush administration. “If the scientist gives the inconvenient answer they commit career suicide,” he said.
However defined, the casualties of the Bush administration are legion. The numbers of government careers wrecked, disrupted, adversely affected, or tossed into turmoil as a result of this administration’s wars, budgets, policies, and programs is impossible to determine. Although every administration leaves bodies strewn in its wake, none in recent memory has come close to the Bush administration in producing so many public statements of resignation, dissatisfaction, or anger over treatment or policies. The aforementioned list of casualties includes among the best known of those who have resigned or left the administration under pressure (although not necessarily those who have suffered most from their acts). Perhaps no one knows exactly how many government workers, at all levels, have fallen in the face of the Bush administration. Those mentioned above are just a few of the highest profile members of this as yet uncounted legion, just a few of the names we know.
[NOTE: If you know of others, or are one of the “fallen legion” yourself, please send the information (and whatever supporting material you would care to supply) to [email protected] with the subject heading: “fallen legion” to add another name to the “wall.” This is a subject TomDispatch would like to return to in the future.]
[Special thanks to Rebecca Solnit for providing the idea for this piece, and so “commissioning” it.]
Copyright 2005 Nick Turse
Nick Turse works in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University and as the Associate Editor and Research Director at TomDispatch.com. He writes for the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Village Voice, and regularly for Tomdispatch on the military-corporate complex, the homeland security state, and various other topics.
[This article first appeared on Tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news, and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The End of Victory Culture.]