I suppose it’s old news at this point that the Bush administration lied us into the Iraq war, and that the cost of this mess will be fully realized by the next generation when Bush leaves office with the biggest budget deficit in U.S. history.
And, while Democrats have been complaining for years about the GOP-led Congress abandoning its oversight of the executive branch’s wrongdoing, a vote that took place in the Senate last week shows how the Republican desire to ignore fraud and abuse extends right into killing legislation that would help stop defense contractors from ripping off the American people.
In an effort to stop companies like Halliburton and its subsidiaries from cheating our troops and stealing from Americans, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., introduced S.AMDT.4230 and attached it to the Defense Authorization bill currently being debated in the Senate. The bill was intended to improve contracting “by eliminating fraud and abuse and improving competition in contracting and procurement.”
“I think when you are at war, when a massive quantity of money is being pushed out the door, that we ought to decide to get tough on those who would be engaged in war profiteering,” said Dorgan in fighting for his amendment last week. “I dare say that never in the history of this country has so much money been wasted so quickly. And, yes, there is fraud involved, there is abuse involved, and it is the case that there is a dramatic amount of taxpayers’ money that is now being wasted.”
Dorgan’s bill — cosponsored by 17 Democrats and called the Honest Leadership and Accountability in Contracting Act of 2006 — was tabled by a roll call vote of 55-43, effectively rejecting the amendment. Every single Senate Republican voted against the measure to make the contracting process honest and impose penalties on those who break the law.
And just what were the stern rules that the GOP didn’t think their buddies at Halliburton should have to live with? The text of the legislation spelled out that Bush and Cheney’s defense-contractor buddies would be in trouble if they did any of the following:
“Executes or attempts to execute a scheme or artifice to defraud the United States or the entity having jurisdiction over the area in which such activities occur.”
“Falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact.”
“Makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or representations, or makes or uses any materially false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry.”
“Materially overvalues any good or service with the specific intent to excessively profit from the war or military action.”
The measure called for those found guilty of violating the law to be imprisoned for up to 20 years and be subject to a fine of up to $1,000,000 — a drop in the bucket for these guys — or a percentage of their ill-gotten gains.
And Senate Republicans still saw fit to reject penalizing companies engaging in overt war profiteering and fraud despite Dorgan’s spending a considerable amount of time on the Senate floor trotting out example after example of the hideous abuse that has been occurring in Iraq.
“What we have discovered is pretty unbelievable,” said Dorgan last week. “We have direct testimony from physicians, Army doctors and others about providing nonpotable water for shaving, brushing teeth, that is in worse condition as water than the raw water coming out of the Euphrates River.
“Let me describe some of the firsthand eyewitness issues in Iraq,” Dorgan continued. “Brand new $85,000 trucks that were left on the side of the road because of a flat tire and then subsequently burned. Twenty-five tons, 50,000 pounds, of nails ordered by Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR), the wrong size, that are laying in the sands of Iraq. Forty-two thousand meals a day charged to the taxpayers by Halliburton and only 14,000 are actually served.”
After telling the amazing tale of the KBR Halliburton subsidiary ordering hand towels for soldiers embroidered with the “KBR” logo, to allow them to double the price of the towels, Dorgan told one Halliburton whistleblower’s story of his company serving food date-stamped “expired” to American troops rather than throwing it away.
“[Halliburton was] serving food at a cafeteria in Iraq for the soldiers, and a man named Roy who was the supervisor in the food service kitchen said that the food was date-stamped ‘expired,”’ said Dorgan. “In other words, it had a date stamp, which meant the food wasn’t good anymore, and he was told by superiors that it doesn’t matter. Feed it to the troops. It doesn’t matter that they had an expired date stamped — feed it to the troops.”
But apparently the support-the-troops types on the Republican side of the aisle only support them until their major contributors are caught feeding them possibly tainted food before they go into battle — at that point, I guess the love is gone.
The best the Republicans could offer in response to Dorgan was a lame statement by Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, who said that his committee is on the case, and that “the organization is now in place to try to monitor the situations the senator has enumerated.”
There was no mention from Warner of where the hell his committee — and the GOP — have been for the last four years with all of this going on.
I’ll leave you with one other Dorgan horror story in which he describes a massive amount of money paid to four contractors to install air-conditioning in a Baghdad building.
“The contract goes to a subcontractor, which goes to another subcontractor, and a fourth-level subcontractor,” said Dorgan “And the payment for air-conditioning turns out to be payments to four contractors, the fourth of which puts a fan in a room. Yes, the American taxpayer paid for an air-conditioner and, after the money goes through four hands, there is a fan put in a room in Iraq.”
I guess that’s fiscal conservatism Republicans can truly embrace.
Bob Geiger, AlterNet