Friday, June 20, 2008

Bush League

Two articles in the New York Times this week continue the process of revealing the corruption and ignorance that have guided the Bush administration's disastrous policy in Iraq. First, testimony from the former Pentagon official who oversaw the government's contract with KBR (Kellogg, Brown, and Root), suggests he was removed from his post because he acted as a whistleblower by questioning $1 billion in charges. It should be noted that Houston-based KBR, which provides food and housing to U.S. military personnel in Iraq, was a subsidiary of Halliburton, for which Dick Cheney had once served as CEO. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, notes that this situation “is startling, and it confirms the committee’s worst fears. KBR has repeatedly gouged the taxpayer, and the Bush administration has looked the other way every time.” It also provides ammunition for critics who have charged that KBR has benefited significantly (upwards of $20 billion thus far) from its close relationship with Bush. The article ( "Army Overseer Tells of Ouster Over KBR Stir") provides startling details on how KBR executives had easy access to key Defense Department and White House figures to effectively circumvent the oversight process. Corruption between contractors and the government during wartime is hardly a new problem. However, this administration has made cronyism a spectator sport when it comes to handing out lucrative government contracts.

Even more troubling is news of a security agreement that the White House is pressuring Iraq to sign by July 31st. According to an op-ed piece in the Times, "the 'strategic alliance' that President Bush is proposing eerily resembles, in spirit and in letter, a failed 1930 treaty between Britain and Iraq that prompted a nationalist eruption in Baghdad, a pro-Nazi military coup and a pogrom that foreshadowed the elimination of Baghdad’s ancient Jewish community." Is this administration so ignorant of history or so unrealistically idealistic that it thinks this "alliance" will produce positive results in a situation already disastrous? The White House obviously doesn't want Congress to debate - or vote - on the agreement's merits because they've crafted it in such a way to avoid the usual channels of Senate treaty ratification. Technically, it isn't a treaty. The Times concludes that "rarely has the proverb about repeating history been more vividly signaled." If the Iraqis approve this alliance, the U.S. should be prepared to deal with the potentially horrific results in the coming years. While the British found that they could not control the situation during the 1930s, Iraq is certainly a more volatile environment now than it was then. Sure, we may not witness a pro-Nazi military coup or anti-Jewish pogrom similar to the 1930s. Nevertheless, we can be certain that no good will come of it, nor will the Iraqi people accept treatment as a quasi-colonial state.

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