Thursday, July 19, 2007

Just... follow the money

Sen. Jim Webb has been much in the news lately. His well-articulated opposition to the war in Iraq has kept him in the spotlight. His amendment which sought to protect America’s military personnel on active duty put him on front pages last week. Yet, as righteous as that less-than-successful move was, this week Webb is onto a strategy that has the potential to expose monster-sized malfeasance and perhaps even put an end to pouring billions into whatever the hell you want to call what’s going on in Iraq.

Writing for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Peter Hardin has the story:

“Freshmen Democratic senators led by Jim Webb of Virginia asked Congress yesterday to set up an independent commission to investigate U.S. wartime contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Virginia's Webb and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., introduced the bill out of concern, they said, over the government’s increasing reliance on civilian contractors to perform wartime functions, and to assess waste and mismanagement...”

Click here to read the rest of it.

Pursuing this strategy could unravel conspiracies and reveal what has been close to the heart of some of the darkest reasons for the both the invasion and occupation of Iraq. While there is nothing new about war-profiteering, I suspect what has gone on to do with the Bush’s administration’s War on Terror has been beyond the pale.

Maybe Webb is among those who suspect the same could be true.

Of course, just as it has with other probes, the Bush administration may try to stiff-arm an investigation of how private contractors were chosen, what their duties have been and how they have been monitored. But I doubt it will work so well in this situation. Investigating possible improprieties of this sort -- to do with how public funds have been spent and possible corruption on a large scale -- is one of the main duties of any Congress, in any year, and it always has been.

Claiming “executive privilege” in this sort of investigation will blow back in President George Bush’s face. If the White House tries to stop people from testifying on this matter it will surely throw plenty of new fuel on the impeachment fires that have begun to burn inside the beltway.

How many thousands of people are running around in Iraq, doing who knows what with our tax dollars? How many mercenaries are in Iraq, and to whom do they answer? These questions cry out for answers. Opponents of the war in the Senate should put their shoulders to this new effort to shine the light of day on the doings in the dark of private contractors.

The Democrats should forget about stunts and striking poses for effect. Instead, they should follow some good advice from the 1970s; it was the memorable catchphrase from “All the President’s Men” (1976). The character Deep Throat (played by Hal Holbrook) told investigative reporter Bob Woodward (played by Robert Redford), “Just... follow the money.”
Art by F.T. Rea

2 comments:

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Terry, we already know that a majority of these contract were no-bid contracts and that they are doing things that historically have been military tasks.

There used to be a standard that contractors were not to be used for "inherently governmental" functions but only for commercial tasks.

The definition of "inherently governmental" has shrunk to the point that it is almost meaningless in this administration.

And it's creating a problem. There are conractors handling military security, military policing functions, including interogation of prisoners of war, and a bunch of others jobs. And they are not accountable to anybody.

When they cross the line in to what could be war crimes, they are not subject to the military code.

And there is no control over the mounting costs of these contracts either. There is no competitive process for choosing contracts. The awards for them are going to cronies of the administration. And nobody dares to oversee them properly.

The American people have lost the accountability and control that they deserve in a democracy.

F.T. Rea said...

AIAW,

The things you mentioned have been worrying me since I first started hearing/reading about them. How much of all that has been illegal, I don’t know, but I want to find out. What we don’t know is what hasn’t been revealed.

Now I want a thorough investigation of the policy of depending so heavily on contractors, and the execution of that policy.

What laws have been broken to award contracts so lucrative they boggle the mind? What crimes in Iraq have been committed by contractors and then swept under the rug?