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Leadership, Accountability, & Embroidered Towels

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Leadership, Accountability, and Embroidered Towels

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

- Dwight D. Eisenhower
The Honest Leadership and Accountability in Contracting Act of 2006 was recently tabled by a roll call vote of 55-43, effectively rejecting the amendment. The bill's language spelled out penalties for any action that "Materially overvalues any good or service with the specific intent to excessively profit from the war or military action." Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), introduced S.AMDT.4230 and attempted to attach it to the Defense Authorization bill currently being debated in the Senate. The bill was intended to improve contracting "by eliminating fraud and abuse and improving competition in contracting and procurement."

The bill also makes "any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or representations, or makes or uses any materially false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry" a crime. There is more seemingly redundant language; it appears that someone took the time to think of all possible loopholes. This was deemed necessary by Senator Dorgan due to a series of reported abuses which he took the time to detail on the Senate floor.
One of the "legal" ways that defense contractors upped their profits in a war that has cost at least 40,000 lives is the ordering of hand towels for soldiers embroidered with "KBR," the logo of the subsidiary KBR Halliburton. Apparently this need for embroidered towels was not put out to bid, because Halliburton charged exactly twice what they would for unembroidered towels.

Another method of fleecing us by defense contractors that Dorgan detailed on the Senate floor was done by the way four contractors installed one air conditioning system in a Baghdad building:

ï ï ï ï "The contract goes to a subcontractor, which goes to another subcontractor, and a fourth-level subcontractor," said Dorgan "And the payment for air conditioning turns out to be payments to four contractors, the fourth of which puts a fan in a room. Yes, the American taxpayer paid for an air-conditioner and, after the money goes through four hands, there is a fan put in a room in Iraq."

The bill, which may or may not have outlawed such tom foolery, was effectively rejected by the lock step voting of every single Republican in the Senate. The best the Republicans could offer in response to Dorgan's numerous examples of such shenanigans was a statement by Senator John Warner (R VA), Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, who said that his committee is on the case and that "the organization is now in place to try to monitor the situations the Senator has enumerated." Apparently the Senator's committee is going to start providing oversight now that we are 4 years into the war, but without such regulations as the Accountability act in place and being enforced, it is doubtful that Senator Warner's oversight committee has any recourse to actually do anything about such documented abuses as serving the soldier's expired food, or failing to provide adequate body and vehicle protection. Given that the Vice President's last position was CEO of the very company that is getting away with operating procedures that focus on profit-taking instead of supporting the troops in the field, it defies explanation as to why there is such minimal political fall out for Senators who do not support a reform of this process.

The consequences of not providing oversight to the procurement process have been many. For one thing, it provides extra funds that Halliburton can now put back into re-electing their supporting Senators, a very worthwhile investment. But the real consequence of this inaction by the Senate is the implicit codification of profiteering. The inability to put any limits on overcharging amounts to a tacit approval of practices that are blatantly corrupt and abusive of the American taxpayer. It effectively institutionalizes corruption.

General Eisenhower must be spinning in his grave. The party of fiscal conservancy is insisting on hand embroidered towels while the men go without body armor. It's almost as if this war is being run for the benefit of these defense contractors. It's what we decided to do instead of hunt for the terrorists we are told to be afraid of so that we can justify billions of dollars being diverted to the chosen members of the very Military-Industrial Complex that Eisenhower warned us about.
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Joseph Shermis has published The Steelhead Special, a Working Class Cultural & Literary Review, since 1991. He lives on the northcoast of California with good people and pleasant animals, and usually has at least three part time jobs and two (more...)
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Leadership, Accountability, & Embroidered Towels

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