Being Tough on Terrorism
A small private intelligence company that monitors Islamic terrorist groups obtained a new Osama bin Laden video ahead of its official release last month, and around 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, it notified the Bush administration of its secret acquisition. It gave two senior officials access on the condition that the officials not reveal they had it until the al-Qaeda release.
Within 20 minutes, a range of intelligence agencies had begun downloading it from the company's Web site. By midafternoon that day, the video and a transcript of its audio track had been leaked from within the Bush administration to cable television news and broadcast worldwide.
The founder of the company, the SITE Intelligence Group, says this premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings of suicide bombings from the terrorist group's communications network.
Will heads roll over this one? They haven't in the past. As far as we can tell from the available information (which Bushco actively works to minimize), Bush has done absolutely nothing about the mind-blowing waste being perpetrated in Iraq -- in the name of fighting terrorism, but somehow getting lost along the way:
- "cost-plus" contracts where companies make money for spending money, whether or not anything gets done, and whether or not the work done is almost literally a piece of crap?
- Contracting company Parsons was paid $72 million (with US taxpayer money) by the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq to design and build the Baghdad Police College, a facility that's supposed to house and train at least 4,000 police recruits. They deliver "a practically useless pile of rubble so badly constructed that its walls and ceilings are literally caked in shit and piss, a result of subpar plumbing in the upper floors."
- Parsons was also given nearly $1 million to build a fire station in Ainkawa, a small Christian community in one of the safest parts of Iraq. Parsons contracted out the work through multiple layers of companies; a year and a half later, government auditors visited the site and found that the fire station was less than half finished. What little had been built was marred by serious design and materials flaws. The multiple layers of subcontractors made it almost impossible to resolve the issue -- and every delay meant more money for the companies involved, due to the cost-plus arrangements.
- Contracting company KBR ran convoys of empty trucks back and forth across the insurgent-laden desert, pointlessly risking the lives of soldiers and drivers so the company could charge the taxpayer for its phantom deliveries. 
- Bechtel was given $50 million to build the Basra Children's Hospital, a project championed by Laura Bush and Condi Rice. A year later, with the price tag soaring to $169 million, the company was pulled off the project without a single bed being ready for use. The work was done under a "term contract", however, which meant that the money was paid whether or not the work was done; the Bush administration was apparently content with this state of affairs, as no known action has been taken either against Bechtel or towards preventing any more "term contracts" from being awarded.
- "no-bid" contracts awarded on an "emergency" basis -- for a term of five years? 
- a stack of one billion dollars cash left by the side of the road in Iraq and never found (is this a metaphor for the $8.8 billion mentioned below, or a separate incident?)
- handed $2 million cash and a $15 million contract to Custer Battles, a newly-formed company whose founders (Scott Custer and Mike Battles) had no prior experience in security and had to borrow cab fare to get from Jordan to Iraq, to provide security for Baghdad International Airport, on the strength of a sloppily-written and incomplete proposal. 
- The contract gave Custer Battles responsibility for airport security for civilian flights – of which there never were any during the life of their contract.
- Custer Battles found a bunch of abandoned Iraqi Airways forklifts on airport property, repainted them to disguise the company markings, and billed them to U.S. taxpayers as new equipment.
- Custer Battles officials played office football with $100,000 wads of $100 bills in plastic wrap.
- The Bush administration refused to prosecute Custer Battles, and stymied efforts of others to do so.
- In 2006, the Army Corps of Engineers obligated $362 million "Dummy Vendor", via 96 different contracts.
- Much has simply gone missing; nobody knows who has it, but some of it has certainly ended up in the hands of the "very bad people" we are supposedly fighting against:
- In July, a federal audit found that 190,000 weapons are missing in Iraq -- nearly one out of every three arms supplied by the United States. 
- When L. Paul Bremer was installed as head of the CPA, he had $12 billion in cash flown into Baghdad on huge wooden pallets and stored in palaces and government buildings, under minimal guard in some cases.
- A pile of $200 million in one of Saddam's former palaces was watched by a single soldier, who left the key to the vault in a backpack on his desk when he went out to lunch. Unsurprisingly, the recordkeeping for how this money was spent was less than meticulous. "one agent could account for only $6,306,836 of some $23 million he'd withdrawn. Bremer's office "acknowledged not having any supporting documentation" for $25 million given to a different agent. A ministry that claimed to have paid 8,206 guards was able to document payouts to only 602."
- Ultimately, some $8.8 billion of the $12 billion proved impossible to find.   If terrorists have gotten hold of even a small percentage of that money, think how this may be helping their cause.
- "Witnesses were afraid to testify in an effort to recover government funds because they feared reprisal from the government." Other government-employed whistleblowers have been demoted or fired. 
- The Filibuster Flip-Flop: multiple quotes from Republican members of the 109th US Congress stating their opposition to filibustering – a procedure whose value their remaining members in the 110th US Congress seem to have abruptly discovered and are now using with far more zeal than the Democrats ever did.
|1999-04-09, Houston Chronicle1:|
Victory means exit strategy, and it’s important for the president to explain to us what the exit strategy is.
|1999-06-05, Scripps Howard/Seattle Post-Intelligencer1:|
I think it’s also important for the president to lay out a timetable as to how long they will be involved and when they will be withdrawn.
|2000-10-03, debating Al Gore on the question "How would you go about, as president, deciding when it was in the national interest to use U.S. force? Generally.":|
Well, if it's in our vital national interests. And that means whether or not our territory -- our territory is threatened, our people could be harmed, whether or not our alliances -- our defense alliances are threatened, whether or not our friends in the Middle East are threatened. That would be a time to seriously consider the use of force.
Secondly, whether or not the mission was clear, whether or not it was a clear understanding as to what the mission would be.
Thirdly, whether or not we were prepared and trained to win, whether or not our forces were of high morale and high standing and well-equipped.
And finally, whether or not there was an exit strategy.
I would take the use of force very seriously. I would be guarded in my approach. I don't think we can be all things to all people in the world. I think we've got to be very careful when we commit our troops.
The vice president and I have a disagreement about the use of troops. He believes in nation-building. I would be very careful about using our troops as nation builders.
|Text not relevant to the immediate point has been greyed-out but left in place to clarify the context. It should be noted that Bush's later actions also contradict his statements about using force only if "our territory is threatened", "our alliances are threatened", "the mission was clear", "our forces were of high morale and high standing", and of being very guarded in his approach and not indulging in "nation-building".|
Bush's position in 2007, when he was defending his own lack of exit plan for Iraq:
|George W. Bush, 2007-04-23, Statement by the President on the War in Iraq:|
I believe artificial timetables of withdrawal would be a mistake. ... I will strongly reject an artificial timetable withdrawal and/or Washington politicians trying to tell those who wear the uniform how to do their job.
|Dick Cheney, 2007-04-13, Vice President's Remarks to the Heritage Foundation:|
The ... attempt to micromanage our commanders is an unwise and perilous endeavor. It is impossible to argue that an unconditional timetable for retreat could serve the security interests of the United States or our friends in the region.
|White House press secretary Dana Perino, 2007-04-23, Press Briefing by Dana Perino, giving the official position in response to Senator Harry Reid's position on withdrawal:|
He’s also in denial that a surrender date he thinks is a good idea. It is not a good idea. It is defeat. It is a death sentence for the millions of Iraqis who voted for a constitution, who voted for a government, who voted for a free and democratic society.
The hypocrisy of changing his position to suit his needs, without apology or explanation, is compounded by the following facts:
- His extreme condemnations of those who use those same arguments (the 1999 criticisms of Clinton) to criticize his actions regarding Iraq.
- Bush has repeatedly overridden the advice of his top generals and forced the resignation of those who disagreed with him[?].
- The Balkan Intervention was a tremendous success, while the US invasion of Iraq has been an even more tremendous failure: Balkans vs. Iraq
Regarding the infamous "Mission Accomplished" banner:
|Russ Daggatt said:|
As you may recall, when the "Mission Accomplished" banner later proved to be an embarrassment, Bush tried to blame it on the ship's crew, claiming that the White House had nothing to do with it.
At a news conference on October 28, 2003, Bush said that the sign, "of course, was put up by the members of the USS Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished. I know it was attributed some how to some ingenious advance man from my staff – they weren't that ingenious, by the way."
Later, the White House admitted that, in fact, they had the banner made up for the occasion. Typical of Bush to lie, evade responsibility and use those serving in the military as mere props to serve his own political agenda.]
|in Contrary Brin (quoted in main article), 2007-05-08|
Supporting the Troops
|debating Al Gore on the question "How would you go about, as president, deciding when it was in the national interest to use U.S. force? Generally.":|
Morale in today's military is too low. We're having trouble meeting recruiting goals. We met the goals this year, but in the previous years, we have not met recruiting goals. Some of our troops are not well-equipped. I believe we're overextended in too many places.
And, therefore, I want to rebuild the military power. It starts with a billion dollar pay raise for the men and women who wear the uniform, a billion dollars more than the president recently signed into law, to make sure our troops are well-housed and well-equipped; bonus plans to keep some of our high-skilled folks in the services; and a commander in chief who clearly sets the mission, and the mission is to fight and win war, and, therefore, prevent war from happening in the first place.
There is a problem, and it's going to require a new commander in chief to rebuild the military power.
They said we could, even though we're the strongest military, that if we don't do something quickly, we don't have a clearer vision of the military, if we don't stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we're going to have a serious problem coming down the road. And I'm going to prevent that. I'm going to rebuild our military power. It's one of the major priorities of my administration.
The US military is now far, far more overextended and short-changed than it was during the peak of deployment under Clinton, and yet Bush makes no apology for his earlier statements nor for going against this implied promise to the troops (that he would make sure they were always well cared-for).
|David Brin said, on 2007-10-08:|
September 26, 2007, the GAO released a report revealing that the DOD and the VA are taking no better care of the wounded troops now than they were when the Washington Post broke the story about Walter Reed hospital, two years ago. MRAP armored (mine resistant) replacements for the humvee are tragically late, in the latest case of undersupplying the troops. And Iraqi civilians fume because delivery of basic services -- such as electricity and clean water and trash pickup, aren’t any better, after mountains of cash poured into infrastructure projects that get nothing done, making many yearn for well-ordered times before 2003.