They have convicted Saddam Hussein one week before the election – color me surprised. Historians may argue for the next one hundred years about the possibility that the verdict date was manipulated by the Iraqi government as a favor to the Americans. It may help motivate the Republican base to get out and vote but most Americans who constitute the swing vote are not fooled. No weapons of mass destruction, no stability in Iraq and by almost anyone's standard – a full civil war.
It has cost tens of millions of dollars to try Saddam. The trial has been costly and the evidence gathering by United States forensic teams has also cost tens of millions of dollars, not to mention the specially constructed court house by U.S. contractors. In fact, the United States has spent more money for the conviction of Saddam Hussein than it has in rebuilding Iraqi schools. Americans are not fools and I am banking on the fact that their votes Tuesday will show the Bush administration that their talk is just that, talk. Americans want action and they want the Republican leadership to listen to the voice of the American people.
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The Republican leadership has decided to put any controversy and misdeeds under cover – at least until after the election. No Iraq Survey Group report (the Baker-Hamilton Commission) and no hearings on the waste and fraud that has been uncovered. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) has been tireless in uncovering abuses by American companies. He points out that there have been no hearings on the legacy of the Coalition Provisional Authority, no hearings on abuses of Halliburton's contract to support the troops and no hearings on the no-bid contract to rebuild Iraq's oil infrastructure.
Dorgan has held his own hearings without the benefit of subpoena power. What he has uncovered is nothing short of amazing, and all of this without the real investigative powers of Congress. Here are a few gems from his hearings:
Halliburton employees dumped 50,000 pounds of nails in the desert because they ordered the wrong size at taxpayer expense. Another company, Custer Battles stole forklifts from Iraq's national airline, repainted them and then leased the forklifts back to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). U.S. contractor Parsons billed taxpayers over $200 million for 142 health clinics, yet completed less than 20. The Iraqi officials called the other clinics ''imaginary.'' Assuming an average American pays around $5,000 per year in income taxes to the federal government, then 40,000 Americans worked an entire year to help Iraqi's get medical help and they didn't even get the help promised. I can't help but wonder how many of those Americans don't have their own access to health care.
Food and water for our troops has at times been another disaster courtesy of Halliburton and Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) or as I like to call them Kellogg, Brown and Loot. According to testimony from Dorgan's committee, troops were given water to brush their teeth and bathe in water that tested positive for e. coli and other bacteria. Dr. Jeffery Griffiths, from Tufts University Medical School said that the troops would have been better off being provided with water straight from the Euphrates River. The list seems endless but it includes removing bullets from food in trucks that had come under attack and then serving the food to soldiers and Marines. The Bush administration would say to the troops, let them eat lead.
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These reports are not just some unhappy former employees, the Defense Contract Management Agency confirmed that Halliburton failed to follow proper water handling procedures. Halliburton even admitted they did not have enough safeguards to ensure water quality. The bullet story was confirmed by a former KBR manager and there is a long list of whistle-blowers who have come forward based on their concern about the troops and the waste of American taxpayers' dollars.
Conservative-leaning reporter (and my cousin) Richard Miller was in Iraq in March, and reported that he considered this a ''contractor's war.'' In previous wars, most of this was handled by the military, but now for reasons ranging from ''cost reduction'' to reducing the need for troops, much of the provisioning of the troops is done by contractors, or as they are called in Washington ''beltway bandits.''
The Republican leadership in Congress and the administration have fought hearings on this malfeasance tooth and nail. There can be legitimate debate about the Iraq war and our reasons for staying there or leaving. But to not investigate the waste and fraud is to simply sweep reality under the rug and to abandon constitutional responsibility for oversight.
From millions spent on the Saddam trial to get a verdict which happened to be handed down the Sunday before the election, to 50,000 nails being thrown in the desert sand, it is time to give the Democrats another chance at power. The Republicans have failed to nail it for the American people. Instead they have lined their own pockets and those of their friends. The American Conservative Magazine has an editorial ''GOP Must Go.'' I couldn't have said it better.