Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Selling out the soldiers

"Support our troops" ribbons and signs are everywhere as you ride around our little town, or across the south, or across the nation I'd imagine. But the reality is, we're not supporting our troops. They don't have what the need to do the job, they don't have protection and supplies that could perhaps help them out in these horrible circumstances, they're not paid what you'd expect for putting your life on the line everyday, when they get home the medical treatment is marginal, treatment for PTSS is weak, they bill you for your food if you're in the veterans hospital, and veterans benefits are constantly being cut. All this because they don't have the money.

Yet, the private contractors in Iraq are getting rich. Not just because they're granted no-bid, cost plus contracts. That's not enough for them. The latest report from the Pentagon puts the amount of questioned and unsupported charges - i.e. fraud - by Halliburton at $1.4 billion.

Yep, let me make that clear: ONE POINT FOUR BILLION AMERICAN DOLLARS. That's the part of it that they think was not legit. How much Kevlar and HV armoring would $1.4 billion buy? How much equipment to help soldiers? Instead, it's in the pockets of Vice President Cheney's friends, the owners, managers, stockholders, etc. of Halliburton. Who never even went to Iraq. Any questions?

Here are a few links:

Best source is Waxman's Government Reform site: http://www.democrats.reform.house.gov/story.asp?ID=880

Links to media reports: CNN Money -

Common Dreams report from Agence France -
http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0628-03.htm

Another good article at French site: http://bellaciao.org/en/

CSpan has a video of the testimony given at a hearing back in February - wonder why we never heard anything about this one? - that has details that are so telling and so infuriating one's grip on reality begins to slip when hearing it. How can human beings be this corrupt? this greedy? this insensitive to the lives of their fellow humans?

Looking at all this gives us insight into the mindset, the lack of humanity, and the cynicism at the heart of this whole empire-building project. This kind of thing is the real motivation behind it. Not freedom, not democracy, not even strategic military objectives. As the Congress people holding the forums, Dorgan, Durbin, Waxman, Lautenberg and Boxer, make clear, this is plain and simple war-profiteering. It's what three generations of the Bush family have been best at and how they've made their millions - read Kevin Phillips "American Dynasty" - so why should we be surprised that it's happening now? I suppose it's just the scale of it that shocks.

This is the lever we need to throw all our weight against to move public opinion against this war. These sleazeballs are profiting not just at the expense of the taxpayer but at the lives of the troops in Iraq. How much Kevlar and armor plate could we have bought for $1.4 billion? Letters to editors asking for info on these "hearings" and calling for real hearings is a good place to start.

Spread the word, spread the outrage. Bring the troops home now. Let Halliburton eat cake.


(Thanks to Bunkie at VAIW - Veterans Against the Iraq War, for stirring me up!
Following is the summary of the 2-hour Feb. hearing as posted in the VAIW forum, which originally came from the "Never Give Up" thread on the CafeUtne forum:)

<"Tuesday 15th February 2005 (00h24) :
Whistleblowers Detail Corruption and Fraud at Halliburton during
Senate Hearing
40 comment(s).
Senator Byron Dorgan convened a hearing to shed light on the recent
revelations of contractor corruption in Iraq. Democratic Senators
were fired up about the blatant fraud and theft from the American
taxpayers. And since Bush*s new budget cuts education again, it is
truly a theft from our children. No Republicans attended the hearing.
Senator Dorgan: "To see this kind of waste and this kind of corporate
culture say, *What the hell, it*s just the American taxpayer- stick
it to *em...* Shame on them, shame on them. And shame on those who
refuse to investigate... if we*re paying $2.60 today for gasoline [in
Iraq], it ought to stop this afternoon."

Details of the corruption:

Halliburton has reportedly overcharged us $100 million dollars for
fuel. They charged the US taxpayers $2.64 per gallon to import
gasoline from Kuwait to Iraq, $1 more than the going rate. (Note-
before the war, Iraqis bought gas for about a nickel per gallon.)
Halliburton charged for 42,000 meals per day when it only delivered
14,000 per day. "That*s not a snafu, that*s cheating," said Dorgan.
Buyers were instructed to purchase from *preferred suppliers* using
purchase orders less than $2,500. (because these were not audited)
Instructed not to use spreadsheets to avoid generating any kind of
electronic trail.
KBR managers frequently used phrases like, "don*t worry about the
price, it*s cost plus"
Cost Plus contracts gave no motivation to keep costs down since the
higher the price, the more $$ they made.
Halliburton has *earned* $9 billion in Iraq thus far.

Senator Dorgan was clearly furious at this information, "We want the
truth and we want it now. We are determined to shut down this waste
and abuse."


One example of waste was a contract for embroidered towels. The
original batch of plain towels was returned for the higher priced
towels embroidered with KBR*s logo- higher price translated to more
profit for KBR. If this practice was used for all purchasing in Iraq,
Halliburton may be forced to repay billions of dollars.

Senator Lautenberg, "When you have a business that says- the more
money you spend, the more you make- there is something unholy about
that."

Senator Durbin hit the nail on the head: "Why are we here on Capitol
hill, if it*s not to serve as an oversight of these activities.
Historically Congress has done that." During WWII a Democratic
President and a Democratic Congress launched the Truman Committee and
uncovered the truth. "And yet we find with a Republican President and
a Republican Congress, no Republican is willing to step forward and
ask the hard questions. Why? How can we explain this? I don*t think
there is an explanation."

Sen. Boxer sent a letter to Rumsfeld asking him to begin disbarrment
proceedings, "Halliburton should be banned immediately from bidding
on any federal contract for a number of years."

Representing Rep. Waxman, William Hartung said that this corruption
is also harming our troops. They don*t have the supplies they need
while money is being wasted through this corruption. Hartung said, "I
have never seen this level of corruption and cronyism."

Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense called for a War
Profiteering Committee to be formed. During World War II the Truman
Committee was launched with $15,000, it uncovered the same system of
cost-plus contracts and saved $15 billion. Sen. Lautenberg has tried
to get hearings on this for 9 months (he wrote three letters), but
the Republicans won*t even respond to his request. Note to Sen.
Lautenberg- perhaps it*s time to move beyond letter writing.

Senator Dorgan, "Clearly we*re being cheated, clearly we*re being
ripped off- Why doesn*t the DoD say, *End of this game, we*re not
going to put up with this.* "

Senator Durbin*s final thoughts, "If the American people follow this
hearing and what we have said, they are going to respond with an
outrage. Their money is being wasted and our soldiers are being
endangered because of this situation.... Where is the
accountability? ... This hearing is the beginning..."
Link

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