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If Waxman Were to Act

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Congressman Henry Waxman, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, together with his staff, produces incredibly valuable research and analysis, with infinite patience and futility.

"Dear Secretary, As requested eight times previous...."

One doesn't know whether to laugh or cry. Congressman Waxman has destroyed a small forest writing letters to the Bush Administration, asking for documents that are never produced, subpoenaing witnesses who never appear, inquiring for further documentation of crimes that have long since been recognized by 85 percent of the public.

But what would happen if Waxman were to view his work not as part of a two year long election campaign at taxpayer expense, but rather as part of a two year period of governing our nation? In that case, Waxman would almost certainly immediately pull out one or more of his analyses of President Bush's or Vice President Cheney's abuses of power, tweak it a little, and introduce it as an article of impeachment.

Fortunately, he doesn't have to. Congressman Dennis Kucinich did just that last Monday evening in the sixteenth of thirty-five articles of impeachment he introduced against George W. Bush.

Of course, the same thing can be said of Congressman John Conyers; and some of the research that his staff pulled together in 2005 for his book on Bush and Cheney's impeachable offenses is also finally put to proper use in the same article below.

Article XVI
RECKLESS MISSPENDING AND WASTE OF US TAX DOLLARS IN CONNECTION WITH IRAQ CONTRACTORS

In his conduct while President of the United States, George W. Bush, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty under Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution "to take care that the laws be faithfully executed", has both personally and acting through his agents and subordinates, together with the Vice President, recklessly wasted public funds on contracts awarded to close associates, including companies guilty of defrauding the government in the past, contracts awarded without competitive bidding, "cost-plus" contracts designed to encourage cost overruns, and contracts not requiring satisfactory completion of the work. These failures have been the rule, not the exception, in the awarding of contracts for work in the United States and abroad over the past seven years. Repeated exposure of fraud and waste has not been met by the president with correction of systemic problems, but rather with retribution against whistleblowers.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform reported on Iraq reconstruction contracting:

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"From the beginning, the Administration adopted a flawed contracting approach in Iraq. Instead of maximizing competition, the Administration opted to award no-bid, cost-plus contracts to politically connected contractors. Halliburton's secret $7 billion contract to restore Iraq's oil infrastructure is the prime example. Under this no-bid, cost-plus contract, Halliburton was reimbursed for its costs and then received an additional fee, which was a percentage of its costs. This created an incentive for Halliburton to run up its costs in order to increase its potential profit.

"Even after the Administration claimed it was awarding Iraq contracts competitively in early 2004, real price competition was missing. Iraq was divided geographically and by economic sector into a handful of fiefdoms. Individual contractors were then awarded monopoly contracts for all of the work within given fiefdoms. Because these monopoly contracts were awarded before specific projects were identified, there was no actual price competition for more than 2,000 projects.

"In the absence of price competition, rigorous government oversight becomes essential for accountability. Yet the Administration turned much of the contract oversight work over to private companies with blatant conflicts of interest. Oversight contractors oversaw their business partners and, in some cases, were placed in a position to assist their own construction work under separate monopoly construction contracts....

"Under Halliburton's two largest Iraq contracts, Pentagon auditors found $1 billion in 'questioned' costs and over $400 million in 'unsupported' costs. Former Halliburton employees testified that the company charged $45 for cases of soda, billed $100 to clean 15- pound bags of laundry, and insisted on housing its staff as the five-star Kempinski hotel in Kuwait. Halliburton truck drivers testified that the company 'torched' brand new $85,000 trucks rather than perform relatively minor repairs and regular maintenance. Halliburton procurement officials described the company's informal motto in Iraq as 'Don't worry about price. It's cost-plus.' A Halliburton manager was indicted for 'major fraud against the United States' for allegedly billing more than $5.5 billion for work that should have cost only $685,000 in exchange for a $1 million kickback from a Kuwaiti subcontractor....

"The Air Force found that another U.S. government contractor, Custer Battles, set up shell subcontractors to inflate prices. Those overcharges were passed along to the U.S government under the company's cost-plus contract to provide security for Baghdad International Airport. In one case, the company allegedly took Iraqi-owned forklifts, re-painted them, and leased them to the U.S. government.

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"Despite the spending of billions of taxpayer dollars, U.S. reconstruction efforts in keys sectors of the Iraqi economy are failing. Over two years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, oil and electricity production has fallen below pre-war levels. The Administration has failed to even measure how many Iraqis lack access to drinkable water."

"Constitution in Crisis," a book by Congressman John Conyers, details the Bush Administration's response when contract abuse is made public:

"Bunnatine Greenhouse was the chief contracting officer at the Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that has managed much of the reconstruction work in Iraq. In October 2004, Ms. Greenhouse came forward and revealed that top Pentagon officials showed improper favoritism to Halliburton when awarding military contracts to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR). Greenhouse stated that when the Pentagon awarded Halliburton a five-year $7 billion contract, it pressured her to withdraw her objections, actions which she claimed were unprecedented in her experience.

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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for the online (more...)
 

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