AMERICAN CONTRACTORS IN IRAQ and Afghanistan
January 23, 2007
John, Don't Surrender
John made it no secret to his friends and acquaintances that things were getting tough for him. The Iraq contractor had been nursing
a bad back injury from an accident in Kuwait for several years as he fought a losing battle for insurance coverage and disability.
Apparently, the last Iraq contractor who hired him failed to carry the required insurance coverage.
The company basically just blew the 51-year-old man off. And so did the rest of the country. (Insurance is becoming a big problem for
many of the civilians that worked in Iraq.)
A native New Yorker with a charming gift for gab, John Mancini turned to everyone for help. He reached out to the government, to
Congress, the news media and the Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. He quietly had helped them all with fraud
investigations, congressional hearings and news tips but his pleas fell on deaf ears.
Last fall, John was becoming more despondent and alone. He wanted to work, but his injuries were a huge obstacle. From his home
outside Phoenix in Surprise, Arizona, he talked about how he felt abandoned after trying to do the best he could for the soldier and the
mission in Iraq.
But doing the right thing for 16 months in a theater of war wasn't paying off for John. He was royally screwed. No one would lift a finger
to help. He began wondering if he had been a sucker and a stooge for standing up to fraud and not taking advantage of opportunities
to be a crook in Iraq.
There wasn't much I could do either, but I had been trying to get in touch with John for a month or more, to say hello, check up on him
and find out what he was thinking these days. Then yesterday Jana Crowder sent this October 11 news story from The Arizona
Republic across the transom:
A usually quiet neighborhood in Surprise took on the appearance of a war zone last week. Police SWAT teams and vehicles
descended on the area after a man fired on police.
John had barricaded himself inside his house for a 10-hour standoff with police. He was accused of firing a gun at them.
The siege ended peacefully about 10:45 a.m. Friday after negotiators persuaded John E. Mancini, 51, to surrender.
John Mancini, the stand-up guy always ready to fight the good fight, had surrendered.
The Arizona Republic made no connection to the war in Iraq. Perhaps, the judge will.
According to The Arizona Republic, police arrested Mancini the day before for misuse of the 911 emergency phone number. I guess
John was still pursuing his options for help -- and exercising a bit of humor. Even after he was arrested and released, he began
dialing the number again. The police returned to his home.
As officers arrived, shots were fired and police backed off. They established a perimeter and called in SWAT teams to stand by until
the gunman surrendered.
I would be floored if John fired his gun for anything other than shock value and a cry for help and I am sure he fired it away from every
living creature on earth. Still, it's very fortunate no one was hurt -- although it's obvious John apparently was hurting very deeply.
John went to Iraq for the money. That certainly was part of it, but he didn't leave his moral center at home the way so many
corporations have done while gorging at the trough of profligate US spending in the war-torn country.
This man prides himself on getting a job done well, improving efficiency with innovative thinking and looking out for the soldier in
harm's way. One would think he's just the kind of person that Halliburton would want on its side to help manage its multi-billion
logistics contract. But Mancini quickly butted heads with his managers on the ground in Kuwait and Iraq.
"There was so much money, nobody cared," he told me last spring.
Very few cared, that is, about doing a good job.
Managers in Iraq weren't interested in competition, he discovered. They were interested in money. Iraq, from John's perspective, was
awash with kickbacks and people who had lost their sense of decency. Once the invasion of Iraq was a done deal, the floodgates of
American dollars began pouring in. Far too many looked at the war as the new gold rush and took every dollar they could find. John
Mancini had his chance too, but instead he became a friend and a trusted source to many reporters and congressional investigators.
John is a guy who cared.
Then he went to CACI and worked as a contract manager for a little more than $100,000 a year cleaning up the shoddy mess left by
the Coalition Provisional Authority. The CPA lost track of at least $7 billion in Iraqi assets and squandered billions more. John helped
recover what he could. Meanwhile, he said, CACI was charging the government $350,000 for his services.
"The situation was fucked when I got there," he recalled. "Everything was so poorly organized. You didn't know what people were
buying and what price they were paying for it. "
Under his watch, Mancini said he handled $1.5 billion in arms contracts, $50 million in buses and $72 million in trucks and vehicles.
He was also involved in purchasing uniforms and armor for Iraqi police.
"I found that the CPA was buying 40,000 to 50,000 computers for the police academies at full value. I argued for academic licenses
from Dell, Compaq and Microsoft and saved $500 a computer," he told me last spring. "I probably saved $2 million."
That single savings, John said proudly, easily paid for the dozen or so CACI contract employees cleaning up the CPA contracts. He
added incredulously: "One CPA guy buying computers was having CPUs (central processing units) delivered by plane and the
monitors were being delivered by boat, which took 60 days to deliver. There were all these things just sitting around."
He then went to work for another Iraq contractor, Procurement Services Associates of Pleasanton, California. The company sent him
back to Kuwait. Within a month he hurt his back very badly in a car accident. PSA began quibbling over insurance coverage. The
quibble erupted into a war. Mancini says the company never had the required insurance as all contractors in Iraq are required to have.
John got fucked -- royally. He was in pain every day for the past few years sitting at his computer and chatting away on Yahoo -- with
people like me and others interested in his experiences.
All he wanted was a helping hand. Nothing, not even dialing 911 has worked.
More on John Mancini
I knew he was in troubled waters, but I had no idea how troubled....
FROM THE EAST BAY EXPRESS:
Not long ago, this paper published a profile of John Mancini, a civilian defense worker stationed in Iraq and Kuwait who was one of
the first two congressional whistleblowers to expose Halliburton's alleged practice of overbilling the government, to the tune of as
much as $1.4 billion ("Soldiers of Misfortune," feature, 10/4). A few days after the issue came out, Mancini apparently flipped out and
barricaded himself in his house, the Arizona Republic reported, and he threatened to shoot any cops who came in the front door. He
was eventually apprehended, and although his phone is no longer working, his friend Barbara Friedkin says Mancini told her his
prescription cocktail of morphine and antidepressants was recently altered. According to Bonnie Mancini, the mother of Mancini's
second child, the police found 18,000 rounds of ammunition in the house, in addition to his dog, which had been shot and injured.
Read on below the fold.....
Continued from East Bay Express:
In the news biz, this is one of those episodes that tends to, shall we say, reduce a source's credibility, although much of Mancini's
story was confirmed by his fellow whistleblower Henry Bunting, ex-wife Susan Mancini, and a source at Congressman Henry
Waxman's office. In addition, Halliburton representatives did not return calls seeking comment for the story, and officials with his last
employer, Pleasanton's Procurement Services Associates, refused to discuss the matter. PSA's lawyer faxed over a copy of a brief
prepared during the course of mediating a financial dispute with Mancini; the brief did not dispute the essential elements of Mancini's
story, but merely took issue with whether the company was liable for any further medical expenses. Nonetheless, Mancini's crisis
may explain an e-mail he apparently sent to PSA officials, a copy of which was faxed to us too late for publication in the original story.
Sensitive readers had best stop here, because this e-mail ain't pretty.
In a message titled "Pay me you Motherfucker," Mancini allegedly wrote, "If you think shock and awe was something in Iraq you
haven't experienced a heavily medicated, morbidly obese, old New York Italian, with attitude, who knows where you live. You will go
down and i will ripe [sic] your head off and piss into your bleeding, gasping, lifeless body then shit in your mouth and you will sell your
wife and children into white slavery to make certain I collect my money. ... I will make you regret your faggot father ejaculated into the
slut of a woman known as your mother. ... If I get mad, or even mildly upset you will be selling your smooth white ass to niggers with
AIDS just to pay me because NOT paying me is NOT an option." Nice, huh-- Chris Thompson
The full text of the e-mail is reproduced below.
In a message titled, "Pay me you Motherfucker," Mancini allegedly wrote, "I will be filing liens on all your assets, personal liability
fuckhead, I will seize all your equipment if you think shock and awe was something in Iraq you havenâ€™t experienced a heavily
medicated, morbidly obese, old New York Italian, with attitude, who knows where you live. You will go down and i will ripe [sic] your
head off and piss into your bleeding, gasping, lifeless body then shit in your mouth and you will sell your wife and children into white
slavery to make certain I collect my money.
"NON PAYMENT is not an option you want to pursue. You would rather be Saddam's double with my friends at CACI they know how to
soften a prisoner, but I am a quick learner.
"They buy human organs, for cash You DON'T want me after you I will make you regret your faggot father ejaculated into the slut of a
woman known as your mother.
"You are Very lucky I am just agitated, If I get mad, or even mildly upset you will be selling your smooth white ass to niggers with AIDS
just to pay me because NOT paying me is NOT an option. I am undergoing massive pain therapy, with prescribed medication sell
your soul to the devil cause if it don't work, God can't protect you I will be after you and all your fucking officers of the corporation. I will
place your organs on Ebay, and if the debt still has a balance you will be ground up for dog food."