Thursday, February 08, 2007

Dying for Dollars

To those of you without cable television and are either unable to view C-SPAN (not quite sure why the one form of media where you can actually watch our government at work isn't free) or just happen to choose not to, I must tell you that there have been some incredible goings-on in Congress this week. For instance, L. Paul Bremer, the person who was in charge of the restoration and humanitarian efforts in Iraq and on whose watch billions of dollars disappeared, was actually questioned about his involvement in regards to the missing lucre. Indicted so far are three former Army officers and two civilians for their roles in diverting $3.6 million in Iraq reconstruction money to a contractor in exchange for cash, luxury cars and jewelry.

Last year, I sat in disgust and amazement as I listened to several witnesses tell their stories to a panel that included Henry Waxman (D-CA), Brian Dorgan (D-ND) and John Warner (R-VA) of the things they had seen while in Iraq. A television station that was designated to be the voice of the Iraqi people but became a media outlet for Bremer, plastic sandwich bags containing bricks of $10,000 bundles of cash that were flown in and and handed out indiscriminately, and tales of private contractors murdering innocent civilians. There was even mention of a former FBI agent who had been stripped of his gun, identification, and clothing and was dropped out in the middle of nowhere in Iraq because he threatened to report what he had witnessed.

With the change of Congress this year, Waxman now chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He has taken on these issues and while we will never see the return of the missing funds to the taxpayers, we may actually start seeing some accountability for a change.

Then again yesterday, I found Henry hard at work. This time, he was looking back into the brave faces of four women, reminiscent of the 9/11 widows that Ann Coulter so callously maligned. They consisted of a daughter, a wife, and two mothers of the four private contractors who were slain, mutilated and hung from a bridge in Falluja in March 2004. The men worked for a company by the name of Blackwater who hire people from various countries to essentially become mercenaries. While I find this practice to be offensive on many levels, I felt the anguish of these women at not only the loss of their loved ones, but also how this company has lied to the families and threatened them with multi-million dollar counter suits for daring to sue them for information. These and other private contractors act under no jurisdiction of any law, be it civilian or military, while they operate in Iraq and are free to behave in any manner they please. All the while making millions of taxpayers dollars. I must also note that of these particular men who were working for Blackwater, only one had been there long enough to even receive a paycheck. The others had only been there a few days and had been sent to the most dangerous part of Iraq with no protection.

For more on this, please see:

Robert Greenwald touches well on this subject with his film, "Iraq for Sale - The War Profiteers"