Thursday, November 16, 2006

John Kline: Patriot or War Profiteer?

Thousands of Americans soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice for a war that was sold to the American public by misleading assertions about an imminent threat, weapons of mass destruction, and ties to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda. Rep. John Kline (MN R) has both asserted and supported these claims since the war.

As American taxpayers we were asked to foot the bill for billions toward the ongoing occupation and reconstruction of Iraq. Yet where has the money gone?

Under the previous Republican House and with the knowledge of the Armed Services Committee that John Kline sits on, the vast majority of money for the Iraq war and reconstruction has mostly gone to companies with long-standing connections to the Bu$h administration, including Halliburton, Bechtel, and Black Water.

Early on, the administration even issued a memo which stated that "[i]t is necessary for the protection of the essential security interests of the United States to limit competition for the prime contracts of these procurements to companies from the United States, Iraq, Coalition Parties and force contributing nations."

It's still unclear how U.S. interests (particularly the interests of U.S. taxpayers) or the interests of the Iraqi people have been served by a 'no bid' contract process.

The bid 'process' is already dominated by this administration's corporate cronies, riddled with conflicts of interest, and designed in a manner that effectively undermines competition, transparency and accountability.

There are also shoddy fulfillment of work orders, huge gas surcharges and gouging and inflation of services and prices. Worse yet, the 'process' has hampered Iraqis' ability to get their own economy running. Congress own investigators reported numerous instances where Iraqi businesses have been able to complete certain work for a fraction of the cost estimated by U.S. contractors yet still were not awarded bids.

Although we hear repeated claims that the reconstruction and occupation are being managed in the interest of the Iraqi people, the ability of the Iraqi people to make key decisions about the structure of their own economy has been blocked. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) has invoked a law established during the regime of Saddam Hussein to keep unions illegal so that they can't come together as a force opposed to the privatization of state-owned industries, and CPA Directive 39 has opened up Iraq to foreign investors, allowing them to buy formerly state-owned companies and expatriate the profits.

Meanwhile, the reluctance of commercial insurers to back contractors seeking to do business in Iraq may result in further costs to U.S. taxpayers through the use of a little-know development agency (the Overseas Private Insurance Corporation, OPIC), which critics suggest is a massive corporate welfare scam designed to benefit U.S. multinational corporations abroad.

The Center for Corporate Policy has made recommendations on how to at least keep the war on the level (listed below). But I question why an independent agency has to make the recommendation. Isn't oversight, judgement and leadership one of the reasons we elected Congressman Kline? Shouldn't he be looking out for our interest over war profiteers? And why isn't he?

All the recommendations below should have come from his office but didn't. Shouldn't we (American taxpayers) open an investigation in abuses, misuse of funds and positions in regards to awarding pf Iraq bids? Kline says he's fiscally responsible yet how is that possible given the expeditures of the Iraq War and the burden of it's cost to taxpayers? Just recently the Armed Services committee that John Kline sits added a line to legislation that killed federal oversight in Iraq.

Make no mistake, Bu$h & Co. are not patriots. They are cold blooded profiteers. And Kline has stood beside and supported the profiteering since it's inception.

Recommended changes:
  • Improved oversight and open bidding.

  • Eliminate conflicts of interest and ban corporate crooks from contracts. On the same day in May that the Pentagon awarded WorldCom/MCI a contract to provide wireless service in Baghdad, the SEC announced the penalties for what was the largest accounting fraud in history. Law-breaking companies should not be awarded taxpayer-funded contracts.
  • Ban corporate tax dodgers from any contracts. The IRS estimates that offshore tax scams cost the Treasury $70 billion per year. In 2002, the President said, "we ought to look at people who are trying to avoid U.S. taxes as a problem. I think American companies ought to pay taxes here and be good citizens." Companies that move their headquarters to offshore tax havens and otherwise use offshore subsidiaries to avoid paying their fair share of taxes should be ineligible for taxpayer-funded contracts.
  • Curb war profiteering and excessive executive pay. Defenders of sky-high CEO pay often argue that corporate leaders bear tremendous responsibilities and must oversee complicated business activities. But many of the companies that have received Iraq reconstruction contracts award their top executives pay packages that are 30 to 175 times as much as a U.S. army general with 20 years experience, and nearly 2,000 times the pay of entry-level soldiers. Congress should keep in mind the words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who, in the aftermath of WWII said, "I don't want to see a single war millionaire created in the United States as a result of this world disaster." For more information about curbing CEO pay for war contractors click here. Also see the "War Profiteering Prevention Act" (H.R. 3673) introduced by Rep. Emanuel (D-IL).
  • Cancel all contracts that work against Iraqi self-determination. The direction of Iraq's economy should be left for the Iraqi people to decide. Contracts such as the Bearing Point contract, which gives the company the right to "privatize state-owned enterprises" should be cancelled or amended. Under the principle of self-determination, such decisions are best left to a sovereign government once it is established.
  • Re-established federal watchdog oversight to the reconstruction and war efforts!

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