Over its storied history, the Washington Post has come to make a name for itself breaking earth-shattering news, like Watergate, and turning over stones to bear witness on the filth that crawls forth.
At it again, the Post and writer Jeff Stein recently published a piece in which a former United States Navy employee alleges government machinations and attempts to stir up heavy conflict with Iran. Gwenyth Todd, censured for her attempts to reveal the transgressions she witnessed, claims she acted to prevent an unnecessary war with Iran, instead ending up in a fight with her own government and in exile from her own country.
Simply put, Todd claims she was unfairly discharged from duty for blowing the whistle on a bloodthirsty superior intent on war and equally intent on keeping the State Department in the dark. But, as must be expected of a tale involving players high up in our country’s military, the web of intrigue cannot be put so simply.
From a family with a distinct and long line of public service, including her father the career diplomatic and her grandfather the assistant secretary of state in the Kennedy Administration, Gwenyth was probably destined for the path she took. First graduating Phi Beta Kappa in Near and Middle Eastern studies from the University of California at Berkeley, she went on to receive the Pentagon’s Civilian Service Award and eventually climbed her way up to working as a political adviser under contract to the United States Navy’s 5th Fleet.
Also serving our country in the Navy at the time was Vice Adm. Kevin J. Cosgriff, a man of an even more impressive resume boasting three stars and the command of a cruiser and warship group. Whereas his predecessors had actively campaigned to avoid a stance that might induce war or the like – even instructing Todd to leak a story to Time in order to have a controversial and ostensibly war-seeking plan wiped – Cosgriff had no such scruples, according to Todd and a handful of Navy sources the Post couldn’t name.
In a series of staff meetings Cosgriff expressed his intention of sending two aircraft carriers, an amphibious helicopter assault carrier and five supporting warships through the Strait of Hormuz with no advance warning to Iran or even to U.S.’s allies in the region.
Retired Adm. David C. Nichols, deputy commander of U.S. Central Command at the time in discussion, noted in an interview last year that Costgriff’s superior, U.S. Central Command chief Adm. William J. Fallon, “wanted to do a freedom-of-navigation exercise in what Iran calls its territorial waters that we hadn’t done in a long time.”
Costgriff, though his plan eerily resembled the notorious Tonkin Gulf incident that precipitated bombing of Northern Vietnam and went on to leave 58,000 Americans dead, was not alone in his thinking. Even stronger evidence of the patently strong accord between Fallon and Costgriff was the general consensus that Post sources have espoused that Cosgriff would not have pursued such bold plans without his superior’s consent.
So when Cosgriff instructed Todd and her associates to withhold knowledge of the plan from the State Department, Cosgriff knew something was dreadfully amiss. She called a friend in the State Department. The resulting series of events concluded with a slap on Cosgriff’s wrist and his armada passing through the Strait peacefully after Cosgriff was forced to forewarn the U.S.’s allies in the region and after a critical conference with Iran had ended.
If you believe Todd and other Post sources, that was when her life began to resemble the plot of a Bourne movie.
First, Todd says the FBI showed up at her door to investigate her culpability in the crimes of the man who had fathered her child, Robert Cabelly. Todd says that when she began seeing Cabelly she was under the assumption that he had separated from his wife, a notion debunked around the same time she found out she was pregnant.
This child, their mutual interest, was likely the reason Cabelly later helped Todd land a job after she left her post at the White House, and also why he offered to give her $30,000 to cover the up-front cash guarantee Bahrain hospitals required of foreigners before emergency operations (her post was in Bahrain). For her past connection to Cabelly, Todd had her computers confiscated.
Next, Cosgriff sent Todd out on a dubious mission, one that was atypical for her position as well as based in contradictory evidence. She suspected the evidence the mission was predicated upon had been fabricated, but went along anyway.
Upon her return, Todd found herself locked out of the Navy facility, her swipe card malfunctioning. She talked her way past the guard and submitted a report on her mission. The next day, her access card still didn’t work, and an associate told her that “the front office” was very upset.
When she tried to call Cosgriff, an assistant told her that she needed to come in to explain herself. She was understandably terrified — she had merely performed a mission and submitted a report on it. Next, her computer access was discontinued, and her access cards were ordered to be returned. The clincher: she learned that her access cards had been shut down before she had embarked on the mission.
It might seem fairly easy to brush off Todd’s story as a conspiracy theory and not as the set-up job she would have you believe. That is, until she tells the part of the story where an FBI agent hunts her down in Australia, years after the fact, and attempts to deceive her of his identity in order to lure her into custody.
And, as the cherry on top, the part where the Navy justifies the severing of her contract based on “unreported foreign contacts” (she had none), “financial irresponsibility” (profligacy had never been an issue), and “the disclosure of classified information to unauthorized person” (she had detailed extensively to her superiors exactly what she knew of Cabelly’s illegal activities as well as everything she had let Cabelly in on).
A swirling head is the natural result of such an account. But the complexity of Todd’s story pales in comparison to the spider’s web of interests in the gulf as a whole. With Iran storming ahead with its nuclear program and Israel chomping at the bit to put a bomb-sized dent in Iran’s nuclear agenda, Obama must tread carefully.
Yet when the tempers of nuclear nations get hot and threaten to explode uncontrolled, it seems not altogether unreasonable to consider the same sort of plotting and deception occurring even under the watchful eye of a Nobel Peace Prize winner. It seems decidedly reasonable that U.S. forces would want to start an increasingly inevitable war on their own terms, and not at the whim of a cornered ally or an instable and unaccountable power.
With the election fast approaching and Romney breathing down Obama’s neck, the president might consider an attack on Iran beneficial not only to the national safety of both Israel and the U.S. but also as a boost to his chances of reelection. Cynical, yes, but this is politics, after all. If he were a half-decent politician, he’d be crossing his fingers that another Cosgriff is out there goading Iran into doing something stupid that could potentially justify an Israeli or American raid.