Four-star General Ray Odierno retired from his position as U.S. Army chief of staff on Friday. Now, less than a week after mustering out, he’s cashing in. The former general has taken a job as a senior adviser to the investment firm JPMorgan Chase.
In a press release posted on JPMorgan’s website on Thursday, the firm announced that Odierno is joining the company in “a senior advisory capacity,” providing “strategic advice and global insights” to CEO Jamie Dimon as well as the company’s board of directors. The announcement also said Odierno “will represent JPMorgan Chase through engagement with clients, government officials and policy makers in the U.S. and internationally.”
Odierno, who led the U.S. 4th infantry division during the initial stages of the occupation of Iraq, has been criticized for the allegedly heavy-handed and brutal behavior he permitted as a commander. While troops under his command were credited with the capture of Saddam Hussein, they were also criticized for their extremely harsh tactics in dealing with the local population. In Thomas Ricks’ 2006 book Fiasco, Odierno was characterized as helping enable indiscriminate mass detentions, prisoner abuse, and extrajudicial killings of Iraqi civilians in the area under his control.
In one particularly brutal 2003 incident documented in the book, Odierno overruled a recommendation that a soldier under his command be court-martialed for the killing of a Iraqi detainee who had turned himself in to U.S. forces, saying that the soldier accused of the murder was “a cook, he didn’t get proper training,” and that the detainee was “very aggressive, a bad guy.” The detainee, an Iraqi man named Obeed Radad, had turned himself in to U.S. forces after learning that they had been looking for him. He was shot and killed while being held in an isolation cell at a U.S. detention center in Tikrit, after allegedly trying to escape through a barbed wire fence.
The kind of behavior exhibited by Odierno’s forces would be said to have fostered the insurgency against U.S. troops in the country.
Odierno later returned to Iraq and became one of the major architects of the U.S. military’s “surge” strategy. Despite the surge’s failure to achieve its goal — which was to achieve political reconciliation that would result in long-term stability — it has taken on a mythological significance to those who prefer to blame President Obama for the chaos in the region, rather than President George W. Bush.
Odierno rose to become U.S. Army chief of staff in 2011, and in that role was a consistent public critic of plans by the Obama administration to draw down troop levels from their post-9/11 peaks. He has also been a steadfast defender of the original decision to invade Iraq, stating earlier this year that Saddam “was moving toward terrorism and I believe if he continued to have problems, we don’t know what he might have done in terms of being part of the problem with terrorism.”
Odierno is far from being the only top military official to retire and take on a high-level position with a private sector firm. In 2013, shortly after retiring as the head of U.S. Central Command, former Marine Corps General James Mattis took a position on the board of directors of military defense contractor General Dynamics. A 2010 Boston Globe report documented that 80 percent of retired 3- and 4-star generals who retired between 2004 and 2008 went on to take positions as consultants or executives in the private sector shortly after retirement, primarily in the defense industry.
In the press release announcing his new role with JPMorgan Chase, Odierno stated, “I’m excited to work with Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon [and] to have the opportunity to contribute to JPMorgan Chase — a globally recognized industry leader.”
Caption: Ray Odierno, then the No. 2 U.S. military official in Iraq, briefs reporters in Baghdad on Feb. 27, 2007