Comments from the land of the golden parachutes

I feel like we’ve been graced with a minor celebrity, maybe. Somebody claiming to be “David Soroko” commented on this piece about the “non-profit” charity IRD and all the great work it did to enrich its owners while also (allegedly) funding the Iraqi insurgency with USAID money. Mr. Soroko, you may remember, was the USAID official who was supposed to be overseeing one of IRD’s contracts, the one where they were allegedly paying for no-show jobs for the insurgents, and then just coincidentally parachuted out of Baghdad as the program was being investigated, landing in a wonderful new gig with a 20% raise at, and the coincidences really start piling up here, IRD. Here’s Mr. Soroko’s comment in full:

David Soroko says:

Then again people who actually served in Iraq, and worked to suppress insurgency and violence, and yes risked their lives, might ask why others without similar experience, believe all that they read in a newspaper article whose author paraphrases, uses innuendo and stretches the truth to pad his own nest and that of his owners.

I was happy to reply:

DWD says:

Wow, David, is this really you? I’m honored that you stopped by this infinitesimally small corner of the internet to defend your good name. First of all, let me say that I was very happy to read that you took the high paying job with the charity you were supposed to be overseeing rather than, you know, starving to death.

Now, when you mention “people who actually served in Iraq, and worked to suppress insurgency and violence, and yes risked their lives,” are you talking about folks like Louis Fazekas?

Army Col. Louis Fazekas, who supervised a combat team in Baghdad, said in a recent interview that he and other U.S. officials confronted David Soroko, a USAID official supervising the program in Baghdad.

“We said our money was going into the hands of the people who were killing our soldiers,” Fazekas recalled. “He flat out denied it and said, ‘We’re not going to change anything.’”

Or did the Washington Post reporters make him up? Or, wait, I know, he never said that stuff, or went to see you about anything, right? They’re just making it up, I bet, to pad nests with all the money that they undoubtedly made by writing an article about a charity that none of their readers had ever heard of before.

What about John E. Bennett? Seems like he was there.

“IRD is a nonprofit in name only,” said John E. Bennett, a former career State Department official and ambassador who led a reconstruction team in Baghdad that worked alongside IRD. “They built an organization designed to get USAID money.”

“It was a complete farce,” said Bennett, the former ambassador who ran one of the reconstruction teams in Baghdad for the Bush administration. “They were pouring money, literally pouring money into the program, and it was spilling all over the place. The money was going to the militias. The money was getting swept into their pockets, and it was going to buy weapons and ammunition to use against us.”

Did the Post invent him, too? Gosh, they’re just inventing phantom interviewees left and right! No, wait, he never said any of that either, right?

Can you prove that those guys are lying, David? Or that the Post writers made up those quotes? Because, and I don’t mean to denigrate my own blog, but you probably want to take that kind of information to the Washington Post, not to me. They’ve got a way bigger microphone. Hopefully in your next go round you’ll defend yourself a little better than you did on your first attempt:

In a recent interview, Soroko disputed the reports of fraud and money going to the insurgency.

“There was no real evidence of money going to the insurgents. The military told me that,” Soroko said. “Is it possible there were ghost employees? Yeah. How accurate were the numbers in Iraq? I have no idea. Did what we were doing actually suppress violence? I think so.”

Yeesh. “I don’t know if the numbers were accurate, but I think it was good. It’s possible it wasn’t. I mean, the military said it wasn’t so good, but what do they know?” Not the most polished effort, I have to say.

I actually left out Jay R. Rollins, somebody else who, unless the Post made him up as well, was also risking his life serving in Iraq at the time:

Jay R. Rollins, USAID’s inspector general in Baghdad, came across the same allegations and said he suspected that people were being paid for work they never did.

“We saw a lot of anomalies, discrepancies and evidence that USAID funds were actually going to the insurgents,” Rollins said. “We recommended that they shut down the entire operation.”

But I’m sure there’s a good explanation for his comments as well. I honestly don’t know why “David,” assuming it actually is him, would come here, to a place that’s lucky to get 50 pairs of eyes on it in a day, to complain about a days old piece, rather than to the Post, which reported the story and has a slightly higher readership, but I’m glad he stopped by.


10 thoughts on “Comments from the land of the golden parachutes

  1. I think that “David Soroko” is a genius making a fabulously delicate point about the reliability, or lack thereof, inherent in on-line opinionating. Have we done ourselves a horrible disservice by eliminating the New York Times and her sister publications as the gatekeepers of public discourse? Is an “expert” with a “blog” who calls himself “DWD” any more “reliable” than some random “guy” calling himself “David Soroko” or, for that matter, a cranky old “commentater” using the obvious pseudonym “Robert L Bell” for domestic “consumption?”

    The head, she swirls with implications.

  2. Yes, I mean, I’m all for being skeptical about reporting, but that was a pretty well-sourced piece. Something more than “I was there, man, and newspapers SUCK” is needed if you’re going to convince anybody that the story was made up.

  3. Appropriate skepticism is a necessary tool for navigating the flood of information snippets that inundate our daily lives. Perhaps you have read “Stand on Zanzibar” from way back in 1968, which opens with a brilliant illustration of important facts being masked by the buzz of trivialities – but we only understand which is which in hindsight. In fact my internet hobby is needling the gullible who accept as fact items of dubious provenance simply because they flatter a set of preconceived beliefs. But with respect to Mr Sorokos I have an easier time believing that he is just one more in a long line of crooks than that the Post is caught up in an international conspiracy aimed precisely at discrediting him and ruining his reputation as an honest man.

    He at least has the consolation of the money, which is more than a great many of us get.

    1. What money are you talking about? As stated I received a 20% increase over my USAID salary. If you don’t know what that salary was then you are calling me a wealthy crook based on what…your preconceived notions? And the authenticity of the Post reporting….from Fazekas to Bennett to the IG…the reporting is taken out of context and more than seven years old. In fact I was collaborating with the US army brigades trying to determine if CSP money was going to insurgents months before any of those individuals arrived in Baghdad. The fact was that we could not find enough evidence, or any, for the Army to take action. That is referred to in the Post article but you chose to ignore that “reporting”. I was honest enough to spend an hour talking to Higham…and he was dishonest enough to paraphrase what I said to him to buttress his very shoddy reporting. I never said anything about collecting unemployment, for example, as I retired from USAID. You DWD are as dishonest in purporting, given your lack of experience, and sophomoric attitude, to understand any of this in your misplaced hope that this blog will help you find a job.

      1. David, did I call you “wealthy” anywhere? I said you got a 20% raise to go work for the people whose contract you were supposed to be overseeing. Is there anything inaccurate in that sentence?

        You can keep repeating “out of context” and “dishonest reporting” and attacking me all you want, though at this point you’ll have to find some other place to do it, but you’ll have to forgive me if I remain unpersuaded. Or not, it makes no difference to me. If the tepid conclusion of the military investigation, that “the level of proof is not such that action can be taken,” is really the best you have to fall back on, then I can see why you can’t offer anything more substantive in your own defense, and why you’ve bizarrely chosen to spend your time coming after me rather than the Post.

        By the by, if Higham and colleagues just fabricated this story based on old, out of context information, did Luke Mogelson do the same thing in The Nation four years ago?

  4. Here is my response to the Mogelson article. The Nation refuses to carry it. I tried to post it twice in the Post comments section to no avail. Read it and weep.

    This letter is in response to Luke Mogelson’s May 12, 2010 article “Aiding the Insurgency” published on http://www.
    My name is David Soroko. I am writing to clarify allegations made by Mr. Mogelson about my involvement with the Community Stabilization Program. (CSP).

    I worked in Baghdad from September 23, 2006 to September 23, 2007 heading USAID’s office responsible for CSP. During that time I never met Mr. Mogelson in Baghdad or Iraq. I spoke with Mr. Mogelson by phone in November, 2009. At that time he asked me for an interview. I declined. He did not tell me that he was writing an article about Kadhimiya or say that he would mention my name in his article. For him to say, almost 6 months after our November 2009 telephone conversation, that I “…declined to comment” is inaccurate.

    The article is full of errors. Understandably Mr. Mogelson is struggling as he writes about things that happened more than two years ago. Nonetheless, I will limit my comments to his article’s references to me.

    Mr. Mogelsohn writes that “On September 1, 2007, the commander of the Dagger Brigade encouraged John Crihfield to send me a letter describing fraud in Kadhimiya, “….adding this dark assessment: “The dire consequence is that American soldiers are killed attempting to secure areas being destabilized in part by misdirected American dollars.”

    Here is another section extracted from that same Crihfield letter summarizing what the Kadhimiya ePRT and Brigade Combat team wanted as next steps:

    “To summarize, the ePRT/Brigade is asking USAID for the following:
    1. Provide specific information to the Brigade for grants and projects issued through IRD in the Brigade’s area of operation – in particular, who is being funded and how much.
    2. To communicate to IRD that its activities in the Brigade’s area of operation must now be synchronized with the ePRT and JPMO, and with the new Public Works Sub-Stations as they are established in order that we can insure coordination with the beladiyah as well as the JSSs. This includes issues related to scopes of work and quality control oversight by the beladiyah of IRD contracts.”

    Note that Crihfield’s ePRT/Brigade letter does not call for the immediate suspension of IRD’ CSP activities that he refers to as causing American soldiers to be “…..killed attempting to secure areas being destabilized in part by misdirected American dollars.”

    Why didn’t the ePRT, the Brigade, Crihfield, etc. call for a halt of CSP activities in September, 2007 if they knew that those CSP activities were contributing to the death of American soldiers? Perhaps because they weren’t certain. I had been meeting with Task Force 9th Engineers, Dagger Brigade Combat Team, every week beginning in November, 2006. On at least three occasions CSP, under my direction, provided contractor lists to Task Force 9th Engineers, per their request, to determine if CSP was working with contractors that the Dagger Brigade Combat Team feared were linked with militias. In each case the comparison of contractor lists was inconclusive. In other words, the contractors that CSP was working with did not show up on the Dagger Brigade Combat Team’s suspected militia contractors list. In fact, when I discussed John Crihfield’s concerns with the Task Force 9th Engineers they explained that Mr. Crihfield’s allegations could not be proven with a level of evidence that warranted action by the Dagger Brigade Combat Team.

    On September 6, 2007, as I was preparing to depart Baghdad, and six days after Crihfield’s September 1, 2007 letter that Mr. Mogelsohn says I ignored, the Dagger Brigade Combat Team presented me with a Certificate of Appreciation that read: “For your hard work and selfless service to the citizens of Baghdad, the Government of Iraq, Coalition Forces, and to the Soldiers of Task Force 9th Engineers and the Dagger Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. You have our sincere gratitude for you invaluable dedication to advancing joint reconstruction efforts in Iraq through your efforts as USAID’s Focused Stabilization Program Director.”

    This Certificate of Appreciation statement contrasts with what Mr. Mogelsohn writes was said by Col. Louis Fazekas. In fact, during the referred to September 10 meeting I told Col. Fazekas and John Crihfield that USAID/CSP had provided contractor lists to the Dagger Brigade Combat Team several times with inconclusive results. I also advised them that if Fazekas and Crihfield had evidence of fraud that it was their right, and duty, to report it to USAID’s Inspector General. Any US citizen, or US government employee, including Crihfield, Fazekas, and Bennett, have a duty to report waste, fraud and abuse to USAID’s Inspector General.

    It is unclear why Mogelsohn’s article creates an impression that I was the only person with the authority to notify the IG about potential CSP fraud. In addition, as the Dagger Brigade Combat Team, CSP and I had checked out similar allegations prior to Crihfield and Bennett’s arrival in Kadhamiya, with inconclusive results, and given that Fazekas, Crihfield and Bennett were “on the ground” and much closer to concerned actors, and with access to classified documents that I have never seen, it made more sense for them to alert the IG if they felt there was fraud. This was particularly clear to me as I would be leaving Baghdad in less than three weeks. I never told Fazekas to “Talk to our lawyers. We’re not going to do anything about it.”

    Finally, Mogelsohn writes: “It was less than two weeks after Soroko chose to ignore the alarming letter from Kadhimiya that Crocker appeared before the House and Senate and stated that “…that CSP funds provided tens of thousands of jobs.” He then refers to “…forged signatures had become real signatures, the phantom workers had become flesh and blood workers…”

    Here, it seems that Mogelsohn is confused and unfortunately misleads the reader. The letter that I allegedly ignored said nothing about “phantom workers”. In addition, one USAID officer, no matter how high placed, could not ignore an issue raised by a Brigade Combat Team and another USAID officer….not to mention a former Ambassador, Bennett, heading the Kadhimiya PRT. Crihfield’s letter was widely shared within the USAID mission, other USG agencies in Bagdhad, with several levels of Coalition Forces. This was standard operating procedures to ensure civilian-military agency coordination. In addition, I discussed Crihfield’s and Fazekas’s claims with the Task Force 9th Engineers in charge of USG reconstruction in Kadhimiya.

    Given the above, the fact that Mr. Mogelsohn never asked for a fact checking interview with me, and the damage that Mr. Mogelsohn’s allegations may have done to my reputation, I request that the Nation retract the article with apology.”

    1. When you say you’ve tried to leave a comment on the Post article “to no avail,” are you saying they’re deleting it? Did The Nation ever explain why they won’t run it?

      I’ll leave it here in the interest of airing your side of the story.

  5. Well, if the Nation refuses to print his explanation then obviously he must be innocent. I knew all along that Sorokos was some kind of supergenius.

    1. I sent a copy of my response to the Nation bs to Hickham before his article was published. The Nation editor, after three e-mails from me, said he was just back from vacation and would look into it. Nothing ever came from either of those attempts at enlightening very inaccurate reporting because…..they’re journalists reporting on an unpopular war that in general their readers want to see trashed…and because USAID is an easy target.

      1. You are absolutely correct that an obvious ideological conflict of interest is grounds for heightened scrutiny of reporting by the Nation magazine on the subject.

        By the very same token, the fact that you accepted a job at a substantial increase in salary from the organization that it had been your duty to oversee – in the face of plausible allegations of impropriety – leads the skeptical reader to the suspicion that your bloviating about the Nation and your unsuccessful attempts to contact the editor might not be sincere efforts aimed at bringing forth the truth.

        So now I am caught on the horns of a dilemma: I can trust neither the one nor the other. The logically correct course is to withhold judgement even still further until yet more information comes to light for evaluation.

        Personally I still think you are a genius of marvelous subtlety, but for obvious reasons I can not take that position in public so I have withheld my letter to the editor of the Nation from publication pending further review.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.