Meet Bruce Jackson, the man who helped sell the Iraq War, got rich in the process and moved to Bordeaux.
Last September, a man named Bruce Jackson hosted a party for his vineyard’s 2014 wines at his 18th-century Chateau Les Conseillans, which sits in the rolling hills of Bordeaux. The afternoon before the party, he took some guests, among them a documentary filmmaker and former colleague of mine, for a tour of the estate ground, wearing a bland blue suit that matched his mild, drab persona. With his short, carefully combed gray hair, he resembles the conservative columnist George Will, or any number of the people floating around Washington DC’s interlocking social circles of foreign policy think-tankers, defense contractors, and lobbyists, which are in fact the exact circles he moves seamlessly in.
There was a smell in the air of grass, lilacs, and grapes from Jackson’s vineyard, which includes a Merlot plot dating back to 1953. Much of the chateau itself was erected in the 1700s, but it now boasts haute bourgeois furnishings with a 2,000-square-foot kitchen (with brand new steel sinks and Swedish faucets). The property includes a pine forest and an impeccable pool whose water appears a dark, warm blue.
For the guests that evening, there would be duck confit, crawfish canapés, and a three-piece jazz band.
“I like the quiet of the Bordeaux and the pace of the wine growing,” Jackson said when asked about his new hobby while strolling through the $4 million estate, which is surrounded by springs and woods that are on France’s list of ecologically protected sites (he purchased the land in 2011). “It’s a slower-paced environment, and you get actually more thinking done.”
My former colleague, hoping to prod Mr. Jackson on foreign policy, turned the conversation to Iraq, where that very day 17 people had been killed in bombings and shootings and a mass grave containing the bodies of 15 truck drivers had been discovered. That sort of bad day has been horrifically common since US troops deposed Saddam Hussein in 2003, with the Islamic State beheading journalists, conducting mass executions of Iraqi soldiers, and attracting recruits from across the West with horrific propaganda videos.
Jackson has more history with Iraq than your average rich-guy dilettante grape grower. The year before the US invasion, Jackson—then a Lockheed Martin executive— founded, with encouragement from White House officials, a group called the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which helped advocate for the war. He agreed to serve as the chairman of the Board of the Committee even though he later acknowledged, in a 2007 Playboy interview, that at the time he “knew nothing about Iraq.”
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