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'Saddam – my part in his downfall' – by Microsoft military guru

And he did 'Electronic Pearl Harbor' before that, too...

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Microsoft is clearly applying strong money and key personnel to the task of making money out of the rebuilding of Iraq, according to a report in The Nation by Naomi Klein. Klein is usually described as the author of No Logo, but is it not wonderfully appropriate, under the circumstances, that her latest book is called Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate?

Klein attended the Rebuilding Iraq 2 conference in December, where she ran into some interesting characters: "I begin to notice that many of the delegates at ReBuilding Iraq 2 are sporting a similar look: Army-issue brush cuts paired with dark business suits. The guru of this gang is retired Maj. Gen. Robert Dees, freshly hired out of the military to head Microsoft's 'defense strategies' division. Dees tells the crowd that rebuilding Iraq has special meaning for him because, well, he was one of the people who broke it. 'My heart and soul is in this because I was one of the primary planners of the invasion,' he says with pride."

Microsoft has been busily hiring former US government and military operatives for a few years now, but it's clearly struck oil (oops...) here. Not only do we have a Major General, but we have a guru, already, one who was intimately involved in planning the invasion immediately prior to taking up his appointment with Microsoft.

But actually, we're not entirely sure about that, whatever Bob says. He retired from the army on January 1 2003, which certainly could have left scope for involvement in advance planning, but according to his Microsoft CV his most recent assignments were as Commander, Second Infantry Division, US Forces Korea, and as Deputy Commanding General, V (US/GE) Corps in Europe. And January was his "official" retirement date - he actually moved to Washington, out of the command loop if into the federal one, in September 2002. So how early was it you were planning the invasion, Bob?

But this bit's interesting. "While serving as Acting J7," we are told, "Bob served as the Exercise Director for Eligible Receiver, our nation’s first comprehensive cyberwar exercise." Eligible Receiver was one of the components of the "electronic Pearl Harbor" paranoia that was fostered by former US cybersecurity Czar Richard Clarke. Eligible Receiver, according to Clarke, was a secret exercise where a small number of hackers were hired to attack Pentagon systems, and "By the end of the week, a small group of unclassified hackers had control of numerous significant computer systems owned by the Department of Defense throughout the world. Control."

A fairly systematic debunking of Eligible Receiver can be found here, but it's nice to see Microsoft and Dees reckon it's a scalp worth putting on his CV.

But we digress. Back at Rebuilding Iraq 2, Klein tells us: "At the Microsoft-sponsored cocktail reception in the Galaxy Ballroom that evening, Robert Dees urges us 'to network on behalf of the people of Iraq.'" According to the conference agenda, Microsoft is a Platinum Sponsor, whereas HP is a mere "supporter." Klein reports that Microsoft is helping develop e-government in Iraq, "which Dees admits is a little ahead of the curve, since there is no g-government in Iraq--not to mention functioning phones lines."

Other Microsoft execs present included Microsoft Iraq's country director Haythum Auda, and EMEA chief technology officer Jonathan Murray. Murray "is responsible for Microsoft’s Technology Policy initiatives and engagements with Government and Academic leaders across the region," and before this "founded and managed Microsoft’s Global Accounts Organization which is responsible for managing the relationship with the company’s fifty largest global customers." IDG suspects that Murray is at the forefront of Microsoft's battle against open source in Europe, while Microsoft tells us of a couple of oil industry related posts prior to joining Microsoft. The boy done good, we reckon, for a 1984 graduate of Kingston Poly.

Dees, Murray and Auda seem unlikely to have to do much open source battling in this rev of the Iraq reconstruction. As Klein's piece notes, risk insurance is a key issue for companies bidding for business in Iraq, but is currently impossible to get in the commercial market. The US however has set up OPIC (Overseas Private Investment Corporation), a US government agency set up to provide loans and insurance to US companies (only) investing overseas, and with the brief to "support US foreign policy." So, asks Klein, if the people of Iraq eventually overturn all the contracts, who meets the payments (which could run into tens of billions) that OPIC then has to make? "The US Treasury stands behind us," says OPIC. Which ultimately means the US taxpayer provides a risk-free safety net for the Halliburtons, and now the Microsofts, of this world. ®

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