Sunday, March 30, 2008

BUSH REGIME CORRUPTION IN AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ HAS SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES FOR THE MILITARY AND FOR AMERICAN TAXPAYERS

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Carol Shea-Porter & Sheila Jackson Lee in Kuwait last week

You may have seen a crawl go by under one of the CNN exposes of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright last week, concerning some crooked contractors selling defective ammo to the U.S.-led military and police forces in Afghanistan. Or maybe you blinked and missed it. The NY Times also reported on it (here and here).
With the award last January of a federal contract worth as much as nearly $300 million, the company, AEY Inc., which operates out of an unmarked office in Miami Beach, became the main supplier of munitions to Afghanistan’s army and police forces.


The company is was run by a 22 year old hustler whose vice president was a licensed masseur. Our tax dollars have gone to purchasing "unreliable and obsolete" ammo that is over 4 decades old from them.
AEY is one of many previously unknown defense companies to have thrived since 2003, when the Pentagon began dispensing billions of dollars to train and equip indigenous forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. Its rise from obscurity once seemed to make it a successful example of the Bush administration’s promotion of private contractors as integral elements of war-fighting strategy.

But an examination of AEY’s background, through interviews in several countries, reviews of confidential government documents and the examination of some of the ammunition, suggests that Army contracting officials, under pressure to arm Afghan troops, allowed an immature company to enter the murky world of international arms dealing on the Pentagon’s behalf-- and did so with minimal vetting and through a vaguely written contract with few restrictions.

In addition to this week’s suspension, AEY is under investigation by the Department of Defense’s inspector general and by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, prompted by complaints about the quality and origins of ammunition it provided, and allegations of corruption.

...Public records show that AEY’s contracts since 2004 have potentially been worth more than a third of a billion dollars. Mr. Diveroli set the value higher: he claimed to do $200 million in business each year.

Henry Waxman's Oversight Committee is investigating and will hold hearing starting April 17. AEY has been charged with fraud and is barred from selling to the government but there is a great deal more that needs to be known about how this kind of a shady, fly by night company came to wind up with contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. As we've been seeing, when Republicans aren't stealing from us and from each other, they're just incompetent and letting others do the stealing. Ideologically they abhor regulations and think business should just be left to do what it does-- the magic of the free market. In many of these cases the magic is a disappearing act-- of taxpayer money.

Yesterday's Washington Post reports on what could potentially be a far more serious case, a corrupted auditor in Iraq. Did I saw a corrupted auditor? Stuart W. Bowen Jr. is the top auditor for the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR). The FBI is investigating and SIGIR employees "questioned before the grand jury have complained of mismanagement and abuse of authority, including retaliatory firing of staff members." Unlike Diveroli and the masseur, Bowen is a high level Bush Regime crony. He worked as a White House associate counsel, one of the most corrupt and criminal divisions of the Bush Regime and "on the basis of the grand jury questioning and testimony, several witnesses said they believe that the government has strong evidence against Bowen... who heads the lead U.S. agency in charge of tracking fraud, waste and abuse of more than $21 billion in funds for Iraq reconstruction. 'Based on what I saw, they should have a good case,' said one key witness who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing."

I have a feeling this will be one of the clearest cases of Bush having placed a fox to watch over the chicken house we are likely to see. One person who will surely be watching very closely is Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH). She just returned from a fact-finding mission to Iraq-- a real one, not a campaign junket like McCain did a couple weeks ago-- and we spoke this afternoon. I was eager to try to understand how the Congress is trying to hold the Bush Regime accountable for its behavior. A member of the House Armed Services Committee, she told me about a recent hearing on waste, fraud and corruption. "I asked witnesses," she told me, "who said they did not have enough accountants to provide oversight why they didn't simply contract it out like the Bush Administration did with everything else. Every dollar that was stolen from our people means a dollar less for health care in America, a dollar less for veterans, a dollar less for education, a dollar less for infrastructure. As we hold oversight hearings, Americans are becoming more outraged, and rightfully so."

One of the worst of the rubber stamps who mindlessly followed Bush and Cheney as they mired us in this situation is Republican Jeb Bradley, the ex-congressman Carol defeated in 2006. He's trying to run against her again this year-- although many Republicans in the district see him as a loser and would rather nominate someone else, an even worse and more clueless right wing kook named John Stephen. When asked what he thinks should be done about Iraq, Bradley is still as clueless as he ever was. He says we should just do whatever the generals say. Policy in a democracy is set by the people through their elected representatives. And, as Carol pointed out, how do you even know what generals to listen to since every time one expresses a view at variance to the Regime line, Bush fires him.

I hope you've looked at the videos of these two clowns (at the links above) and that you'd rather see less waste in government and less incompetence and lack of accountability. If so, please consider making a contribution to Carol's campaign at the Blue America ActBlue page. Since being elected, she's been a model representative and a tireless fighter for workers and consumers against the special interests. She gets the big picture and its going to take legislators like Carol to start the process of cleaning up the mess Bush and the Republicans are leaving us.

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