Saturday, January 1


The title of the report is Top Ten War Profiteers of 2004. But there's much, much more, and none of it is pretty. We're caught in a hopeless cycle of waste -- wasted lives, wasted money -- and there seems to be no end to it as we "stay the course" and continue making the same mistakes that got us into this mess in the first place. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING, you 51% of Americans who voted to keep this bozo and his idiot sycophants in office?????

In the beginning of the Iraq war, Andrew Natsios, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID), proclaimed that the reconstruction of Iraq would look like a modern-day Marshall Plan. But a year and a half later, a combination of bureaucratic ineptitude, corporate corruption and the growing Iraqi resistance threaten to undermine the Bush administration’s grand designs.

In mid-July, U.S. officials admitted that fewer than 140 of the 2,300 reconstruction projects funded by the U.S. were underway. Although AID says “dirt has been turned” on 1,167 projects including schools and hospitals, with at least 70 new ones staring each week, it’s unlikely that the big picture has changed much. The kidnapping and execution of contract personnel and the ongoing sabotage of key projects—power plants, electricity lines and oil pipelines—has slowed work in many areas of the country to a crawl, jacking up the cost of security, insurance and other ancillary expenditures, which in most cases amount to half of the contractors’ budgets.

By August, Ambassador John Negroponte had to announce that more than $3 billion of $18 billion in U.S. aid earmarked by Congress for engineering and reconstruction work would be used for security and counterinsurgency operations.
The announcement was tacit recognition that a kind of vicious cycle is at work. The aggravation caused by the lack of electricity and other basic services is certain to be blamed on the CPA and the contractors, which could result in further support for the resistance. Exactly how much the resistance has gained from the festering resentments caused by the stalled reconstruction process is difficult to say. But an increase in attacks on construction sites – more than one a day according to the Army – indicates that they are a clear target of the resistance.

In late December, Contrack International, the lead partner on a $320 million transportation systems contract, announced that it was withdrawing from Iraq because of “prohibitive” security costs.

By the fall, news that just 7 percent of the $18 billion originally allocated for reconstruction set off fireworks in Congress. Senator Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, blasted the Bush administration as “incompetent” for failing to devote adequate on-the-ground personnel to contract administration, management, and oversight.

“It’s beyond pitiful, it’s beyond embarrassing, it’s now in the zone of dangerous,” added Chuck Hagel, R-Nebraska.

Searching for Root Causes

The Professional Services Council, a trade association representing some of the Iraq contractors, says much of the blame can be placed upon “a growing politicization of government procurement,” as well as the distance between the procurement planners sitting in Washington and contractors in the field.

The problems plaguing the Iraq contracts extend far beyond questions of legality, blind ideology, heartless favoritism and mindless sloppiness. Recent revelations suggest that the Pentagon’s handoff to Halliburton may have also allowed individual employees to demand kickbacks from potential subcontractors. Congressman Waxman’s office dropped a new “H-bomb” in November, when it announced that it had received 400 pages of internal State Department documents which suggest that Halliburton officials were “on the take” and “solicit[ing] bribes openly” from potential subcontractors.
Some members of Congress believe the corruption has become enough of a problem that it is time to establish a special oversight committee. A bipartisan coalition of Senators led by Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and Larry Craig, R-Idaho, introduced a resolution in September to re-establish Harry Truman’s famous WWII committee on war profiteering.

The litmus test of the proposal will likely come in early 2005, shortly after Iraq’s scheduled elections (if and when they occur), when the Bush administration is expected to push for another appropriation.


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