Sunday, August 26, 2007

Your Tax Dollars at Work in Iraq

This article in Rolling Stone is astounding. It tells how contractors are wasting taxpayer money, providing crappy services, and putting troops in harms way all to make a profit on the war.

Operation Iraqi Freedom, it turns out, was never a war against Saddam ­Hussein's Iraq. It was an invasion of the federal budget, and no occupying force in history has ever been this efficient. George W. Bush's war in the Mesopotamian desert was an experiment of sorts, a crude first take at his vision of a fully privatized American government. In Iraq the lines between essential government services and for-profit enterprises have been blurred to the point of absurdity -- to the point where wounded soldiers have to pay retail prices for fresh underwear, where modern-day chattel are imported from the Third World at slave wages to peel the potatoes we once assigned to grunts in KP, where private companies are guaranteed huge profits no matter how badly they fuck things up.
It seems to get in on this payday, all you had to do was be a loyal Republican with the right connections...
To travel to Iraq, would-be contractors needed permission from the Bush administration, which was far from blind in its appraisal of applicants. In a much-ballyhooed example of favoritism, the White House originally installed a clown named Jim O'Beirne at the relevant evaluation desk in the Department of Defense. O'Beirne proved to be a classic Bush villain, a moron's moron who judged applicants not on their Arabic skills or their relevant expertise but on their Republican bona fides; he sent a twenty-four-year-old who had never worked in finance to manage the reopening of the Iraqi stock exchange, and appointed a recent graduate of an evangelical university for home-schooled kids who had no accounting experience to manage Iraq's $13 billion budget. James K. Haveman, who had served as Michigan's community-health director under a GOP governor, was put in charge of rehabilitating Iraq's health-care system and decided that what this war-ravaged, malnourished, sanitation-deficient country most urgently needed was . . . an anti-smoking campaign.
Everyone, Democrats and Republicans, should outraged about the stories in this articles. Just as you think it can't get any worse, there is another story that leaves you even more flabbergasted.
In perhaps the ultimate example of military capitalism, KBR reportedly ran convoys of empty trucks back and forth across the insurgent-laden desert, pointlessly risking the lives of soldiers and drivers so the company could charge the taxpayer for its phantom deliveries. Truckers for KBR, knowing full well that the trips were bullshit, derisively referred to their cargo as "sailboat fuel."
And that was a rare occasion when the contractors were actually doing something...
One of the most dependable methods for burning taxpayer funds was simply to do nothing. After securing a contract in Iraq, companies would mobilize their teams, rush them into the war zone and then wait, citing the security situation or delayed paperwork -- all the while charging the government for housing, meals and other expenses. Last year, a government audit of twelve major contracts awarded to KBR, Parsons and other companies found that idle time often accounted for more than half of a contract's total costs. In one deal awarded to KBR, the company's "indirect" administrative costs were $52.7 million, and its direct costs -- the costs associated with the ­actual job -- were only $13.4 million.
I have heard bits and pieces about government waste and poor services provided by contractors in Iraq, but they were reported as isolated instances. This article links these instances together and shows they are by no means isolated.

Ripping off taxpayer's money and raiding the treasury has become the overriding culture that has invaded the Pentagon, been encouraged by the White House, and ignored by the media. It is a perfect example of why there used to be laws preventing war profiteering. Now we just need Congress to investigate these contracts, enforce the laws, and actually take action to get our money back and hold the people accountable that let this happen.

Republicans are quick to scream that Democrats want to cut and run when they discuss not voting for funding. However, if this is how our money is being spent in Iraq, the people that voted to fund the war should be kicked out of office.

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