11.04.2006

Observation Post 110406

If it's broke, bury it. NYT reports closure of Iraq auditor's office [tip of the hat to The Agonist]:
Congress Tells Auditor in Iraq to Close Office by JAMES GLANZ
Investigations led by a Republican lawyer named Stuart W. Bowen Jr. in Iraq have sent American occupation officials to jail on bribery and conspiracy charges, exposed disastrously poor construction work by well-connected companies like Halliburton and Parsons, and discovered that the military did not properly track hundreds of thousands of weapons it shipped to Iraqi security forces.

Mr. Bowen’s office has inspected and audited taxpayer-financed projects like this prison in Nasiriya, Iraq.

And tucked away in a huge military authorization bill that President Bush signed two weeks ago is what some of Mr. Bowen’s supporters believe is his reward for repeatedly embarrassing the administration: a pink slip.

The order comes in the form of an obscure provision that terminates his federal oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, on Oct. 1, 2007. The clause was inserted by the Republican side of the House Armed Services Committee over the objections of Democratic counterparts during a closed-door conference, and it has generated surprise and some outrage among lawmakers who say they had no idea it was in the final legislation . . . Plus Ça Change, Plus C'est La Même Chose. While Nancy Pelosi thinks impeaching Bush is a bad idea (doesn't want to set a precedent, obviously, nor to endanger the continuation of the war), Howard Dean assures us we'll "stay the course". Joshua Frank:
DNC Deja Vu: 2004 All Over Again

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has promised there will not be a change of course in Iraq if the Democrats take back Congress. Potential House leader Nancy Pelosi has assured voters that impeachment is not in the cards for Bush, either. Yet the liberal establishment is beaconing antiwar voters to clamor for the Democratic Party next Tuesday. It seems like 2004 all over again.

I recently disparaged the positions of progressive media critic Jeff Cohen and The Nation magazine for not supporting independent antiwar candidates, and instead calling for more of the same: i.e. voting for the Democrats even though we disagree with them on the war and a host of other issues. If we want to take on Bush, they argue, the Democrats have to take back Congress, and only then can we start to build a genuine progressive movement.

In the meantime, however, the war will rage on and Bush will remain at the helm of Empire with Congress's blessing. As the Washington Post reported on August 27, of the 46 candidates in tight House races this year, 29 oppose a timetable for troop withdraw. That's a whopping 63% of Democrats in hotly contested races who have exactly the same position on the war as our liar-in-chief, George W. Bush . . .Billmon gives fair warning.
I should be jumping for joy over these predictions, if only because I hate the bloody Republicans and the bloody conservatives so bloody much. But instead I'm filled with foreboding. If the Dems are going to win this year it's better, I suppose, that they win big -- big enough to discourage the reptiles from playing any post-election games, big enough to be billed as a mandate for change, big enough to wipe the smirk of Karl Rove's face forever. But it should be understood that even a crushing loss next week will only wound the GOP machine, not kill it, and a wounded, cornered animal can be very dangerous. Which is why I wasn't very happy to read this communique from William Lind:

The third and final act in the national tragedy that is the Bush administration may soon play itself out. The Okhrana [a czarist spy agency, one of Lind's little jokes] reports increasing indications of “something big” happening between the election and Christmas. That could be the long-planned attack on Iran.

You should take that, like you should take everything else you read on the Internets, with a grain of salt. But the logic of an attack is hard to ignore. War with Iran would not only be the quickest, most effective way to throw the Dems back on the defensive, it would also completely preempt, and bury, any post-election pressures to set a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. (As Lind notes in his dispatch, it could also make it impossible to withdraw without losing an Army, but that's another story.)

But even if a November or December surprise isn't on the drawing boards, the historical pattern suggests a period of danger may lie ahead. The last two lame duck years of any president's second term are traditionally devoted to foreign policy, as the White House's domestic clout fades and the political focus shifts to the succession question. For most presidents, this usually means launching or intensifying ambitious diplomatic or peacemaking efforts, such as Clinton's bid to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in one swift go at Camp David.

But Bush (or Cheney, take your pick) isn't like "most presidents." His diplomatic efforts, with few exceptions, have all reached what appear to be dead ends -- with the Israelis and the Palestinians, with the Iranians and probably with the North Koreans, although with Kim Jong-il who the hell knows? . . .Paul Krugman reports on newest "mission accomplished" at NYT [through truthout]:
Bechtel, the giant engineering company, is leaving Iraq. Its mission - to rebuild power, water and sewage plants - wasn't accomplished: Baghdad received less than six hours a day of electricity last month, and much of Iraq's population lives with untreated sewage and without clean water. But Bechtel, having received $2.3 billion of taxpayers' money and having lost the lives of 52 employees, has come to the end of its last government contract.

As Bechtel goes, so goes the whole reconstruction effort. Whatever our leaders may say about their determination to stay the course complete the mission, when it comes to rebuilding Iraq they've already cut and run. The $21 billion allocated for reconstruction over the last three years has been spent, much of it on security rather than its intended purpose, and there's no more money in the pipeline.

The failure of reconstruction in Iraq raises three questions. First, how much did that failure contribute to the overall failure of the war? Second, how was it that America, the great can-do nation, in this case couldn't and didn't? Finally, if we've given up on rebuilding Iraq, what are our troops dying for?

There's no definitive way to answer the first question. You can make a good case that the invasion of Iraq was doomed no matter what, because we never had enough military manpower to provide security. But the lack of electricity and clean water did a lot to dissipate any initial good will the Iraqis may have felt toward the occupation. And Iraqis are well aware that the billions squandered by American contractors included a lot of Iraqi oil revenue as well as U.S. taxpayers' dollars.

Consider the symbolism of Iraq's new police academy, which Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, has called "the most essential civil security project in the country." It was built at a cost of $75 million by Parsons Corporation, which received a total of about $1 billion for Iraq reconstruction projects. But the academy was so badly built that feces and urine leak from the ceilings in the student barracks.

Think about it. We want the Iraqis to stand up so we can stand down. But if they do stand up, we'll dump excrement on their heads.

As for how this could have happened, that's easy: major contractors believed, correctly, that their political connections insulated them from accountability. Halliburton and other companies with huge Iraq contracts were basically in the same position as Donald Rumsfeld: they were so closely identified with President Bush and, especially, Vice President Cheney that firing or even disciplining them would have been seen as an admission of personal failure on the part of top elected officials.

As a result, the administration and its allies in Congress fought accountability all the way. Administration officials have made repeated backdoor efforts to close the office of Mr. Bowen, whose job is to oversee the use of reconstruction money. Just this past May, with the failed reconstruction already winding down, the White House arranged for the last $1.5 billion of reconstruction money to be placed outside Mr. Bowen's jurisdiction. And now, finally, Congress has passed a bill whose provisions include the complete elimination of his agency next October.

The bottom line is that those charged with rebuilding Iraq had no incentive to do the job right, so they didn't . . . The original mission was not "to drain the swamp", but to create one, then fill it with alligators, and charge us billions in doing so. No problem. Good job.

Beware! A wikipedia scare!
A post and discussion, "Wikipedia hijacked by malware" at digg.

Supporting our troops revisited. From ICH, "There has never been an American army as violent and murderous as the one in Iraq" by Martin Lukacs. Clips:
“The bad news,” investigative reporter Seymour Hersh told a Montreal audience last Wednesday, “is that there are 816 days left in the reign of King George II of America.”

The good news? “When we wake up tomorrow morning, there will be one less day.”

Hersh, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine, has been a thorn in the side of the U.S. government for nearly 40 years. Since his 1969 exposé of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, which is widely believed to have helped turn American public opinion against the Vietnam War, he has broken news about the secret U.S. bombing of Cambodia, covert C.I.A. attempts to overthrow Chilean president Salvador Allende, and, more recently, the first details about American soldiers abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

During his hour-and-a-half lecture – part of the launch of an interdisciplinary media and communications studies program called Media@McGill – Hersh described video footage depicting U.S. atrocities in Iraq, which he had viewed, but not yet published a story about.

He described one video in which American soldiers massacre a group of people playing soccer . . .

If Americans knew the full extent of U.S. criminal conduct, they would receive returning Iraqi veterans as they did Vietnam veterans, Hersh said.

“In Vietnam, our soldiers came back and they were reviled as baby killers, in shame and humiliation,” he said. “It isn’t happening now, but I will tell you – there has never been an [American] army as violent and murderous as our army has been in Iraq.” . . .More outing? Finally, RINF has published what it claims is the full membership list of the secret Yale club, Skull & Bones. The problem is that they don't say where/how they got it nor do they provide corroborating proof. Remains to be seen where this goes; whether anyone will pick it up and/or back it up.

Categories: war, elections, Iraq+reconstruction, war+profiteering, troops

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