Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Your tax dollars at work. AKA The Money Pit.

I saw two articles recently that I thought were compelling.
The first one reports that we’re about to run out of reconstruction money for Iraq.

The $18.6 billion approved by Congress in 2003 will be spent by the end of this year, officials here say. Foreign governments have given only a fraction of the billions they pledged two years ago. With the country still a shambles, U.S. officials are promoting a tough-love vision of reconstruction that puts the burden on the Iraqi people. ''The world is a competitive place,'' Tom Delare, economics counselor at the U.S. Embassy, said this month during a news briefing. ''You have to convince the investor that it is worth his while to put his money in your community.''

Of course! What could be more attractive to a potential investor than persistent car bombings? Kidnappings and murder? An impoverished population? Raging insurgency and certain civil war? I'm ready to close out my IRA and invest. Aren't you?

Embassy and reconstruction officials propose fiscal belt-tightening by the new Iraqi government as the long-term solution to the country's woes, even if that causes short-term suffering for Iraq's people.
''No pain, no gain,'' Andy Wylegala, whose job at the embassy is to help Americans do business in Iraq, said at the same briefing. ''It's very difficult procedure to pass through. But when I look from my side, I see it as a long-term, very favorable development.''

Tough-love. Short term suffering. Favorable development? For whom, exactly? The people who are trying to survive in a shambles that we created?

''If they say they have spent money, where is it?'' asked Salah Qaragholi, 30, a barber in Zafraniya, a poor neighborhood. ''Where are the projects? The electricity is only four hours a day.''
Baghdad's roads are an obstacle course of barriers, potholes and debris. Many government and office buildings are either still gutted or strung with webs of electrical wire connecting to generators that run 12 hours on good days. A brown haze fouls the air and pools of sewage overflow dot the streets.

The other article was in the Wall St. Journal regarding how some billions of Iraq rebuilding funds have vanished - poof-abracadabra-presto-chango - into thin air.

Earlier audits by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction -- a post Congress created in late 2004 -- found that oversight of contractors by the Authority was so lax that widespread abuse was likely. An audit in April 2005, for example, found "significant deficiencies in contract administration," which meant that "there was no assurance that fraud, waste, and abuse did not occur in the management and administration of contracts" the U.S. awarded with Iraqi oil money administered by the United Nations.

Interestingly, as we run out of reconstruction money, there has been no real effort to trace what happened to those billions or make those recipients pay it back…

The inspector general's office said it doesn't plan to ask the Justice Department to file lawsuits or to conduct widespread audits of individual contracts to look for fraud.

Gee, I wonder why? Who might this Special Inspector General be? Well, Bush appointed him – he’s Stuart Bowen, who had been the Authority’s own Inspector General. So Bush doesn’t call in an independent person. He appoints someone who was associated with the group that was part of the problem. Say it with me: You’re doing a heckuva job, there Stuey!

Some in Congress are trying to use the False Claims act that was passed during the Civil war to recover the money.

Under that act, the Justice Department's civil division has the authority to sue contractors that defraud the government, and to seek treble damages. But Justice hasn't initiated any such suits involving Iraq-related work, a spokesman said. The civil division also hasn't joined any suits filed by private-sector whistle-blowers who claim they know of fraud or abuse, although lawyers familiar with such suits estimate that at least two dozen are pending.

And to add insult to injury…

A series of 2004 audits by the Defense Contract Audit Agency, the Pentagon's contract-auditing arm, found expenses of $1.48 billion unsupported by adequate documentation on KBR's two largest contracts, which were valued at a total of $9.5 billion. In a recently disclosed letter, the audit agency said it has passed on findings about Halliburton to the Justice Department, to consider whether a criminal investigation is warranted. But the audit agency's calls to withhold some payments from Halliburton have been resisted by Pentagon units that awarded the contracts. The Army Corps of Engineers disclosed in November 2005 that it was going ahead with a $1.5 billion payment to Halliburton for work on Iraqi oil fields, including $124 million for costs the defense-department auditors had challenged as questionable. It also paid Halliburton nearly $38 million in bonuses allowed under a contract formula for good performance.

So, to sum up the two stories in all of their irony. We go into a country illegally. Bomb the living beejeesus out of it killing tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis and over 2,000 of our soldiers. Create such an unstable environment in that country that professionals and doctors and professors are not safe and they’re falling all over themselves to get the Hell out of there. We run out of reconstruction money (taxpayer dollars, remember), with so little to show for it, telling the Iraqi citizens – you’re on your own now. And we can’t be bothered to find the billions (more tax payer dollars) that went missing or into the pockets of Haliburton cronies.

Before I go take a Valium and have a nice lie down, I'd just like to sum up this administration in a few choice words. Lying. Torturing. Corrupt. Illegal. Incompetent. Propogandistic. Dictatorship. Scum-sucking. Bastards.


Blogger dusty said...

and the newest one...the Army is threatening soldiers being deployed with court martials if they try to bring their own personally procured armor. If that doesnt take the cake..nothing will.

9:07 AM, January 17, 2006  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

Dusty--where did you hear that? I'm not doubting it, but I would like to know where you got this info.


9:44 AM, January 17, 2006  
Blogger boni said...

I heard about that today on Americablog.com. It made me wonder whose special interest was profiteering from the deaths of our soldiers.
It appears that Pinnacle Dragon Skin Body Armor is more effective than what the army is issuing. A lot of soldiers aren't given anything that's why their families are trying to buy Pinnacle.
BP here's where you can read more about it:

If this story is true, and it probably is, then military families across the country should rise up against the Pentagon and this administration and protest this with pitchforks, flaming torches and prosecution...

2:11 PM, January 17, 2006  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

Nice. And defense contractors throw multi-million dollar bat mitzvahs for their daughters.


2:22 PM, January 17, 2006  
Blogger Cranky Yankee said...

You people just don't get it. As long as the Military Industrial complex is profting those billions are rolling into the US GDP. AS long as big oil has access to that Iraqi oil GDP goes up. The economy is strong, at least for the upper 1 percent that sponsors this administration. America is strong, even if it costs the lives of a few in the peasant class. We must continue to fight the terrorists so that America will remian strong. To suggest anything else is irresponsible.

2:46 PM, January 17, 2006  
Blogger boni said...

Arthur Miller wrote a really powerful play in 1947.
It's called ALL MY SONS. They story is about a character Joe Keller. a successful, self-made man who's done a terrible thing. During WWII, rushing to make an order to the Army, he knowingly sells them defective airplane parts which results in the deaths of 21 men. Keller has spent his entire life in pursuit of wealth for the sake of his family.
He even framed his former partner for the crime. When his lie is exposed, his entire life unravels. The moral of the play, is that all the boys he killed, all the boys in the War,
were his sons, too.

All the soldiers killed in Iraq are our sons and daughters.
I can't believe that we are letting the Bush Administration the Pentagon, the Military Industrial Complex and the war profiteers get away with murder.

3:52 PM, January 17, 2006  
Blogger mini-vinnie-me said...

It actually surprises me that re-building money is gonna run out.
I'd have thought GoergieBoy, Dick and the reat would have been pretty keen on getting more funds approved to give to the building companies they own to continue building (re: filling their own pockets)

4:08 AM, January 18, 2006  
Blogger Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

18 billion is peanuts though, it takes 2 trillion to run the US for a year...

5:48 AM, January 18, 2006  
Blogger United We Lay said...

The fact that we're spending any money on Iraq at all pisses me off when our schools are falling apart, our people don't have access to health care, and my sister has to pay a freakin' lawyer to get her social security benefits.

6:25 AM, January 18, 2006  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

Here's a nice article:

A former Sec'y of Commerce and the 2001 Nobel Prize winner for Economics put the REAL cost of the war at somewhere between 1 and 2 TRILLION dollars. As they put it: "enough money to fix Social Security for the next 75 years at least twice over.


6:36 AM, January 18, 2006  
Blogger boni said...

I had heard that figure and it's just astounding.

I agree with you. I'm also pissed off that we dropped so much money down that empty maw with so little to show for it, except wealthy military industrialists who were tied to this administration. We should all be outraged that our tax dollars were used so poorly.

Again, why aren't the Democrats more pissed off about this????

8:11 AM, January 18, 2006  
Blogger dusty said...

The NYTimes and Truthout.org Pirate..would you like the links? I got them on my site post about this. I will repost them here if you like.

9:22 AM, January 18, 2006  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

Hey Dusty, yeah please post those here too, why don't you leave your blogsite name too. Thanks.

8:21 PM, January 18, 2006  
Blogger United We Lay said...

Why do our tax dollars have to pay to "liberate" another people? I could use some liberation. I want to be liberated from studen loan debt. I want to be liberated from the diblitating expense of the American ealth Care system. I want to be liberated from unjust laws that limit my liberty.

7:26 AM, January 22, 2006  

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