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I Owe Lou Dobbs An Apology…


I missed this somehow in my search for coverage on the war profiteering hearings.  Lou Dobbs did a segment on his CNN show last night about the billions of unaccounted for taxpayer dollars — and deserves kudos for it.   

DOBBS:…Troubling new evidence tonight about massive waste and corruption by American contractors in Iraq. Nearly $10 billion of U.S. government money in Iraq is unaccounted for, $10 billion. And perhaps even more disturbing, taxpayer dollars enabled many of those contractors in Iraq to have better living conditions than our own troops. Lisa Sylvester reports from Washington….

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT, LOU DOBBS TONIGHT (voice over): Iraq is a cash cow for government contractors who collect $10 of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars, and often don’t deliver the goods.

The U.S. government contracted to have a prison built for 4,400 prisoners, the cost, $45 million. The taxpayers ended up paying $48 million for a prison a third of the size. In a separate case, the U.S. government paid the contractor Parsons $200 million to complete 142 health clinics, six were completed.

SEN. BYRON DORGAN, (D) NORTH DAKOTA: I think it’s almost unbelievable that the oversight and the accountability is not there, no one seems to give a damn.

SYLVESTER: The Democratic Policy Committee held a hearing accusing the Republican-controlled Congress of not investigating rampant waste and abuse. Julie McBride, a former Halliburton worker testified that that perks meant for the troops were going to Halliburton big wigs….

SYLVESTER: Half of the $18 billion in Iraq reconstruction funds are unaccounted for. The special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction has opened up 40 new investigations of alleged fraud and corruption. The money wasted on government contracts comes directly out of the pockets of U.S. taxpayers. But it also costs troop morale.

PATRICK CAMPBELL, IRAQ-AFGHANISTAN VETERAN: Soldiers don’t have a whole lot when they’re sitting in 20-man tent, and when they see KBR employees driving around in their personal vehicles, and eating better food than them, it just totally drives you down.

SYLVESTER: So, far the Justice Department has not brought any civil or criminal cases to recover for contracting fraud in Iraq.

DOBBS: And what about the issue of those contractors receiving better treatment, food, housing, living conditions than our troops in Iraq? Any investigation under way there?

SYLVESTER: This is a huge problem. It’s one that many soldiers, and that our troops will come back, and we often hear these stories, anecdotally. As far as what Halliburton says, is it says that it is allowed to provide for the morale of its employees, but there clearly is a discrepancy in the way Halliburton has been treating its employees versus how and some of the services that the troops have been receiving, Lou.

DOBBS: That’s a combat theater and I think the generals would have some explaining to do on that issue as well. As well as the issue, in this administration, in terms of the pay of private security forces and their living conditions as compared to American troops are doing the tough, tough job of trying to stabilize Iraq.

Supporting the troops doesn’t just mean agreeing with George Bush whenever he speaks. Far from it. If every person driving around with one of those yellow ribbon magnets on their car really cared about the troops wholeheartedly, they’d be asking themselves why Halliburton and other companies with no-bid cost-plus contracts in Iraq get to rip off taxpayers with little to no oversight — and take stuff like Super Bowl party televisions and snacks that were meant for our men and women in uniform who risk their lives day in and day out…but instead went to management of KBR and Halliburton who hang out in a bunker in the Green Zone.

Disgusting. Pathetic. And no scheduled oversight where responsible parties are asked questions about this under oath.  As Sen. Dorgan said yesterday, it’s almost as though these companies have friends in high places.  Your Republican-controlled White House, Pentagon and Congress…hardly working.

Time for some accountability.  Had enough?

(H/T to angie for the CNN transcript link.  Peterr also found a NYTimes article re-cap of yesterday’s hearing that has gone up on the website.  I’ve also done a bit more digging and found a short page A6 article in the WaPo that I missed the first time around in my search.  Reader alittlemusicalityplease also reminds me of the Bunnatine Greenhouse demotion due to her telling the truth about Halliburton contract problems — I truly think she is such a  hero, and deserves a whole lot more kudos and exposure.  Please familiarize yourself with her story if you don’t already know it.)

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com