2006/12/10

Walk the Line!


Now that the Democrats have taken back the Congress, there is some light at the end of the tunnel, but never underestimate the power of the Republicans to dynamite said tunnel and bring the darkness back. The Democrats must walk the fine line of investigating the huge amount of corruption and possible treasonous activities, without appearing to be obsessed with it. In two short years the 2008 elections will be here and the Dems have a good chance to strengthen their small majorities and recapture the White House, creating a platform to restore many of the environmental, social, and regulatory items that have been stripped away in the past 10 years.
The investigations are sure to lead to Iraq where one third of rebuilding contracts are under criminal investigation, according to U.S. Special Inspector General Stuart Bowen, who is in charge of auditing Iraq's faltering reconstruction since 2004.
The pipelines that are meant to take the oil north have been blown up, so the only way to export it is by road. "That leaves it vulnerable to smuggling," he said, as truckers sell their cargoes on the black market.
Mr Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (Sigir), cites Iraqi figures showing that the "virtual pandemic" of corruption costs the country $4 billion a year, with a lot of the money going straight to the Iraqi government's enemies. A U.S. government report has concluded that oil smuggling abetted by corrupt Iraqi officials is netting insurgents $100 million a year, making them financially self-sustaining.
Mr Bowen's office has found that the insurgents and militias have also been abetted by US incompetence. A culture of waste, incompetence and fraud may be one legacy the occupiers have passed on to Iraq's new leaders. Mr Bowen's office found that nearly $9 billion in Iraqi oil revenues could not be accounted for. The cash was flown into the country in shrink-wrapped bundles on military transport planes and handed over by the ton to Iraqi ministries by the Coalition Provisional Authority run by Paul Bremer, a veteran diplomat. But it also fuelled a cycle of corruption left over from Saddam Hussein's rule. A potentially far more serious problem has been the way the US government decided to give out reconstruction contracts. It split the economy into sectors and shared them out among nine big US corporations. The no-bid contracts were set up on a cost-plus basis that guaranteed a profit margin calculated as a percentage of costs, creating huge incentives to pad the costs and therefore the profits. In the rush to get work started the contracts were signed early in 2004. In many cases work did not get under way until the year was nearly over with the contractors racking up huge bills on wages, hotel bills and restaurants. Just as the Republican Congress shirked its oversight responsibilities of the White House, Bush’s cronies have been placed in charge of protecting our tax dollars instead of responsible caretakers. Inspector Bowen campaigned for George Bush in Texas and was one of the small army of Republican lawyers called in to Florida in 2000 to oversee the vote recounts on Mr Bush's behalf. When he started the job in March 2004, few expected he would do anything to embarrass the administration However, Mr. Bowen has emerged as the scourge of the big corporations who are among the Republican party's biggest donors. An attempt was made earlier this year to strip his mandate, but the Democrat victory last month seems to have kept him intact, showing the importance of true oversight in our government.
Predictions for 2008 political season here in Dec. 2006. Hillary will beat out fellow Dem candidate retired General Wesley Clark from Arkansas for the Nomination, and then announce him as her running mate, alleviating a lot of concern amongst people that don’t think a woman should be commandeer in-chief. Clark, a former commander of NATO forces in Bosnia, should help down South, and Hillary will go on to take the White House. The Republicans will put up Guiliani, Romney, and others, with John McCain taking the nomination. It will be close, but Hillary will hold her own against the flip-flopping ex-Maverick, who sold out and thoroughly browned his nose up in W’s derriere. 2008 should prove to be an exciting and pivotal year in America’s future. If the Dems don’t step up to the plate and get some hits, the U.S. will rapidly continue its slide into mediocrity and diminished capacity. Good night and good luck.