Sunday, December 05, 2004


Originally uploaded by Wazdat!.
I don't know what to make of him.

"Some view him as an underdog who beat the odds, as others say his rise was political and cite ex-aides' scandal" says a headline from Newsday. He is most definitely a puzzle. You have a Bernard Kerik for every faction. You either love him, or hate him. You either love him as the jingoistic hero of 9/11 that was "right in the thick of things" according to the New York Post, or you are suspicious of him as Newsday's Ellis Henican is.

The story, if you listen to the right can be fairly maudlin. "Mr. Kerik, 49, grew up without knowing his mother, a tough youth in Paterson, N.J., where he usually cut classes from Eastside High School. He learned years later that his mother was a convicted prostitute, possibly killed by a pimp." says the Washington Times. He dropped out of highschool, but got his equivalency degree before joining the Army. He was shipped off to South Korea where was an MP. There, he met a Korean girl, had an affair from which a child resulted. He left the military to do private security work in Saudi Arabia protecting VIPs from terrorists. Most say that he was a bodyguard for the royal family.

"After a stint supervising a jail in New Jersey," the Times goes on, "he became a New York police officer, starting out walking a beat in Times Square when it was still largely the domain of seedy characters and street hustlers. He was promoted to detective and worked undercover arresting drug dealers. He grew a long ponytail to look the part."

The New York Post fairly beatifies him. "Kerik's bona fides as a cop — and his personal bravery — are beyond question. A former undercover narcotics detective, he received the NYPD's coveted Medal of Valor after a 1991 drug bust in Washington Heights."

People sing praises of Kerik as a director of the New York City Department of Corrections. They say that he decreased inmate violence by 93 percent. The TimesOnline crows about the fact that Kerik's wife is Syrian, a fact that is supposed to appeal to
Arab Americans.

A tae kwan do black belt, Kerik showed what a tough guy he was by defending Bush's record at the RNC convention. He is also praised for attending the funerals of the police officers who died on 9/11.

So, say the loyal Bushies he was picked to train the Iraqi Police. And now Bush wants him to replace Tom Ridge as Homeland Security chief.

Well, there is the other way of looking at this man:

"He's a personal and professional time bomb the Bushies will learn to regret.' says Ellis Henican of Newsday. He goes on: "That's certainly the message that smart law-enforcement professionals in New York were exchanging yesterday, as they shook their heads in disbelief at Kerik's latest career goal.

"He couldn't run the Rikers commissary without getting greedy and making a mess, in a jam," one correction veteran said. "Now he's gonna be in charge of the Department of Homeland Security? Let's just hope the terrorists don't decide to come back."

This former subordinate was referring to just one of many petty scandals that have hung over Kerik's career. When he ran Correction, nearly $1 million of tobacco-company rebates were diverted into an obscure foundation Kerik was president of. This was for cigarettes bought with taxpayer money and then sold at inflated prices to jail inmates. But this rebate money - would kickbacks be a better word? - got spent entirely outside the normal rules for public funds.

No one was criminally charged. But a whole rash of IRS rules were seemingly violated. One board member quit in protest when the foundation treasurer refused to provide him with financial reports. And no one has ever explained where all the money went.

It was a typical Kerik deal. He behaved from start to finish like normal rules didn't apply to him."

As for his work in Iraq, some say that it leaves a lot to be desired. The weekness of the Iraqi police is said by many to be one the most significant problems the the military has, and I may conjecture, could be a significant obstacle to free elections in Iraq. He is accused of placing emphasis on quantity of troops trained rather than quality. According to The Guardian Weekly:

"The obsession with figures disguised a poorly thought-out retraining programme and significant shortfalls in the most basic equipment, including radios, guns, flak jackets and cars. Fewer than half the police had been retrained. Most worryingly, at least a third were deemed so incompetent or reliable that this summer US commanders decided they should simply be sacked and handed a pay-off worth a total of $60m. Recruitment has begun again, much more slowly and this time with longer retraining programmes."

The results of the so-called "training" is that at the beginning of the Fallujah uprising, when the police were supposed to spearhead the counterinsurgency attack, many either ran away, or joined up with the insurgents. In any case, they proved to be ineffective, and the army had to once again take the lead. They have so far proved incapable of defending themselves against suicide attacks, and police stations in Mosul have been overrun by insurgents. Three fourths of the 4000 strong force deserted or joined the insurgents, and the police chief was arrested on suspicion of helping the rebels. Kerick was supposed to have remained in Iraq 6 months, but he left in 4. The the implication of many is that he left a mess. Again to quote the Guardian Weekly: "After the fighting subsided, the US commander in Mosul admitted he was now facing a colossal job repairing the damage with elections less than two months away. "We have the daunting task of rebuilding a legitimate and loyal police force in the city, and that's going to take a long time - and we don't have a long time," said Brigadier General Carter Ham."

But flaws in Kerik's character could be detected earlier before Iraq. He was accused of flaunting his celebrity only a month after 9/11, writing and publishing his life story "The Lost Son", and of playing fast and loose with his position as Police Commissioner. Kerik was accused of using police photographs of the wreckage of the WTC site for his book, and wound mup paying $2,500 on a Conflict of Interest Board finding that he used 3 NYC cops to go to Ohio to investigate details of his mother's background for his book, and that wasn't the only time his attempt to use his popularity for profit clashed with his job. According to Newsday:

"Kerik found himself in the middle of another controversy in early 2002, when his publisher, Judith Regan, lost her cell phone in a Fox television studio. Suspecting theft, Regan contacted the NYPD.

Police officials dispatched a homicide lieutenant and squad, who went on to visit the homes of several Fox employees, said attorney Robert Simels, who represented several of the workers. Calling it an "outrageous abuse of power," Simels filed a complaint with the city conflicts board, but it is unclear whether the board came to a decision. A board official declined to say."

So what is he? The great paragon of virtue and strength that the President has chosen to protect our way of life, and ensure our security? Or is he the sloppy and corrupt weak hook on the gate that could simply be lifted up by the thief to swing the gate wide open - and let bin-Laden in?

Some view him as an underdog who beat the odds, as others say his rise was political and cite ex-aides' scandal

Kerik's life not all an open book

Bernard Kerik: Controversial figure, complex legacy

Give Kerik a chance to secure the nation

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