How the Iraq War Financed a Beltway Real Estate Boom

Back in the DC real estate doldrums of the mid-1990s, before he helped pave the way for war in Iraq, Stephen Rademaker owned a modest condo in Arlington, Va.

Then, a few years later, as a House staffer on the International Relations Committee, Rademaker wrote the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which called for regime change, a phrase that altered the course of history. Bill Clinton signed the Act, which became the basis for the congressional authorization for the use of force against Saddam Hussein four years later; by then Rademaker was working at the State Department.

Things soon took a turn for the better, at least for Rademaker; he left government and went to work as a lobbyist, eventually joining countless numbers of retired government officials who cleaned up, directly or indirectly, by leading the country into war.

I wrote the other day about two of these former senior government officials, who have made a killing in the post-9/11 era: former CIA director George Tenet and former FBI director Louis Freeh. But when it comes to those who profited directly from the last thirteen years of war, Exhibit A perhaps is Rademaker, a man for whom the Iraq war became a giant piggybank.

Rademaker, who was a strong backer of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and has generally never met a war he didn’t want, from Syria to Libya, is now a principal at the Podesta Group–the lobbying and and public affairs firm founded by Tony and John Podesta, two of the worst people in Washington. At the Podesta group, Rademaker has advised the firm’s international clients, including the Iraqi government.

That contract was originally signed in 2013 and was worth close to $1 million; it was renewed last year and paid the Podesta Group about another $1 million. I’m told by a well-informed source that Podesta Group lobbyists get a 20 percent cut of business they bring in, so if Rademaker helped land that deal he could have earned an impressive bonus. (I emailed Rademaker yesterday evening to ask for comment. So far he hasn’t replied; if he does I’ll update this story.)

Rademaker doesn’t take credit for his role in drafting the Iraq Liberation Act, at least not in his bio on the company’s website, but he does cite his “lead responsibility, as a House staffer, for drafting the legislation that created the US Department of Homeland Security,” now widely regarded as the most dysfunctional part of the federal government.

Also worth mentioning is that Rademaker is married to neocon Danielle Pletka, another former Hill staffer who is now senior vice president at the American Enterprise Institute, and who clings by her nails to the cliff’s edge of sanity. She and her think tank were major proponents of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and last August, Pletka co-authored a Wall Street Journal op-ed that called President Obama’s response to ISIS “inadequate.” She demanded that Obama arm the Syrian opposition, send military advisers and trainers to Iraq “by the thousands, not hundreds,” and stop “blocking the delivery of much-needed weapons” to Iraq.

Resuming those shipments—which had been delayed by annoying human rights concerns, like widespread “politically motivated sectarian and ethnic killings” in the words of a U.S. government report—is one of the things that Pletka’s husband gets paid to lobby for, my source said, so it’s nice she can use the Journal’s op-ed pages to help him out.

In the meantime, Rademaker has taken a nice step up from the Arlington, Virginia condo that he sold in 1995 for $148,000. Now he and Pletka live in a 6,138-square-foot 6-bedroom home in McLean, Va.—big enough to fit a few of the over one million Iraqis who have been displaced or fled their country since the 2003 invasion. Rademaker and Pletka bought the house, currently assessed at $1.8 million, a year after the war began.

Photo: AP

– Researcher Sheelagh McNeill contributed to this report.

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