Friday, August 31, 2007

The Great Iraq Swindle- How Bush Allowed an Army of For-Profit Contractors to Invade the U.S. Treasury

As any reader of this blog knows, I believe Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone is the best political analyst and writer working today. His importance as a journalist cannot be overstated. His bravery and cunning are at a new high with his investigative piece for the latest issue of Rolling Stone.

Quite simply, he has written a piece that should be read by every American citizen. If you pay taxes. If you vote. If you have ever supported the War in Iraq. If you have ever served in the military or love someone in the military, especially someone serving in Iraq, you must read this article.

If 25% of this article is accurate (and I believe it is much higher), there are people and companies working in Iraq that are treasonous war profiteers, some of whom are ex-military and ex-office holders. We already has these hunches and have seen reports, but this is huge. If Congress had any guts (which it doesn't), it would force high level hearings and investigations of these goings on.

Here is a link to the article.

If you have an incredibly short attention span or need a teaser, here is the link to a 4 minute video by Taibbi giving a synopsis of what has happened.

Be prepared. If you are not a completely partisan political hack, this article will anger you on many levels. If it does not anger you, or you feel it is liberal media bashing, help me to understand your point of view on this.

Thank you to Matt Taibbi for doing the most Christian thing a journalist can do... taking your calling seriously and bringing that which is in the dark into the light of day.

a teaser passage for you.

Operation Iraqi Freedom, it turns out, was never a war against Saddam ­Hussein's Iraq. It was an invasion of the federal budget, and no occupying force in history has ever been this efficient. George W. Bush's war in the Mesopotamian desert was an experiment of sorts, a crude first take at his vision of a fully privatized American government. In Iraq the lines between essential government services and for-profit enterprises have been blurred to the point of absurdity -- to the point where wounded soldiers have to pay retail prices for fresh underwear, where modern-day chattel are imported from the Third World at slave wages to peel the potatoes we once assigned to grunts in KP, where private companies are guaranteed huge profits no matter how badly they f--- things up.

And just maybe, reviewing this appalling history of invoicing orgies and million-dollar boondoggles, it's not so far-fetched to think that this is the way someone up there would like things run all over -- not just in Iraq but in Iowa, too, with the state police working for Corrections Corporation of America, and DHL with the contract to deliver every Christmas card. And why not? What the Bush administration has created in Iraq is a sort of paradise of perverted capitalism, where revenues are forcibly extracted from the customer by the state, and obscene profits are handed out not by the market but by an unaccountable government bureauc­racy. This is the triumphant culmination of two centuries of flawed white-people thinking, a preposterous mix of authoritarian socialism and laissez-faire profit­eering, with all the worst aspects of both ideologies rolled up into one pointless, supremely idiotic military adventure -- American men and women dying by the thousands, so that Karl Marx and Adam Smith can blow each other in a Middle Eastern glory hole.

It was an awful idea, perhaps the worst America has ever tried on foreign soil. But if you were in on it, it was great work while it lasted.

Such excuses speak to a monstrous vacuum of patriotism; it would be hard to imagine contractors being so blithely disinterested in results during World War II, where every wasted dollar might mean another American boy dead from gangrene in the Ardennes. But the rampant waste of money and resources also suggests a widespread contempt for the ostensible "purpose" of our presence in Iraq. Asked to cast a vote for the war effort, contractors responded by swiping everything they could get their hands on -- and the administration's acquiescence in their thievery suggests that it, too, saw making a buck as the true mission of the war. Two witnesses scheduled to testify before Congress against Custer Battles ultimately declined not only because they had received death threats but because they, too, were contractors and feared that they would be shut out of future government deals. To repeat: Witnesses were afraid to testify in an effort to ­recover government funds because they feared reprisal from the government.
For the most part, nobody at home cared, because war on some level is always a waste. But what happened in Iraq went beyond inefficiency, beyond fraud even. This was about the business of government being corrupted by the profit motive to such an extraordinary degree that now we all have to wonder how we will ever be able to depend on the state to do its job in the future. If catastrophic failure is worth billions, where's the incentive to deliver success? There's no profit in patriotism, no cost-plus angle on common decency. Sixty years after America liberated Europe, those are just words, and words don't pay the bills.


Dale said...

as a 13 year media professional and graduate from the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas, I can offer this as my quasi-expert analysis...this article is mostly commentary disguised as reporting

this article angers me on many levels, but the highest is not the 'liberal media bashing' or the fact that I may just be a 'partisan political hack' but that this kind of 'journalism' is now somehow the accepted standard, and that many who read it will accept it as truth and fact, when it is missing the balance and fairness of a well written news story.


Anonymous said...

Rick - I hope you are well. The PCPC Blog is connected to my personal blog. I can try to seperate it and give it a different password ect and send it your way, or I can delete it and PCPC can start over - let me know what you think.

Take care of those great kids for me.

james said...

There is no way this kind of reporting can be the "accepted standard" as Dale mentions. If it were Tabbi would be reporting for CNN, FOX or any of the mainstream networks that currently are "the accepted standard." I don't disagree that this article is a commentary. It is very much like an op-ed piece, though this very common style of journalism doesn't make Tabbi's claims any less true. The most frustrating thing i find with Tabbi's story is that it has been relegated almost exclusively to the pages of a Rolling Stone magazine. And this is because no one in the gutless corporate media has the balls to report on it.

I could be wrong but my guess is that if this whole Iraq thing were performed an managed by the Clinton administration, all of this would be front page news.

Mike Murrow said...

i don't know about "facts" or "bias" or whatever. sure it is commentary. but ALL the "news" we get is biased and is loaded with subtle or not so subtle commentary.

what i do know is that i have a brother in law who was actually in iraq and while he didn't mention this particular pile of shit that our government did he had plenty of other stuff to say about the contractors and none of it was good.

this fucking pisses me off. god damn it! can i say that here? yeah? ok. GOD DAMN IT!

am i surprised? not at all.

fuck dude. what is sad is that there isn't one candidate who has a chance of getting elected to the presidency who has a snow balls chance in hell of doing anything about this kind of bull shit.

and that just pisses me off even more.

we, as a nation, are so totally fucked.

DJ Word said...

sorry for the delay.

Thanks for the perspective, Dale. Much to think about from your side.

I would disagree (you would be disappointed if I agreed)with this being primarily commentary disguised as reporting. I do agree that it is not the type of traditional straight journalism favored by newspapers and MSM media outlets. I think we need all types of reporting though.

However, it is the same type of journalism favored by magazines throughout journalistic history. It does not disguise its opinion (which would be disingenuous considering it is for a liberal mag).

Think of journalists such as Josephus, Swift, Mencken and Sinclair Lewis. Each had a strong opinion and their opinion led to the power of the story (esp. in the case of Socialist Lewis uncovering and sharing his opinion on the horrors of the day). We can not dismiss the story and facts because of the opinion of the storyteller.

the question is simply... "is this true?" and, if it is true, "how bad does it have to be to piss us off?"

Instead of killing the messenger because you do not agree with him; what about his story? Do you dismiss it? If you are a fiscal conservative, it should anger you on many accounts. If you support the troops, it should anger you on many more accounts.

Think about Fox News. This is their type of journalism. It is the way The Nation, National Review, American Spectator and the New Republic do their stories. They are not wholesale dismissed. Heck, it is the way your former employer Focus on the Family couches its stories/ reporting.

Should we dismiss their facts and reporting on the issue of abortion just because it comes from an agenda and has commentary sprinkled in throughout the reporting? No. Their agenda leads them to some truth others are afraid to report on (same with Taibbi).

Should we dismiss the truth about Clinton's affair just because Drudge and others had strong opinions? No.

You said, that you are angered because this is "the accepted standard, and that many who read it will accept it as truth and fact, when it is missing the balance and fairness of a well written news story."

I think you have an expectation of this story that it does not want you to have.

Do we expect the same standard of those with the same agenda as us? Is it fair and balanced only when it comes from a biased source we agree with? Do we ignore the bias when we like it? Do we actually think the source we read and agree with is fair and balanced while the other side is not? It it right to dismiss a story because we disagree with the bias? If so, what do we do with magazine reporting throughout history?

and simply, are you only angered by his opinion and not the government's culpability in such crimes?

Sorry to inundate you with questions (all of them are probably parts of a couple of simpler questions). I am generally confused and not trying to stir the pot.

Dale said...

Warning: right-wing rant, I'm trying to keep this civil and as I'm typing this, imagine I'm speaking very softly and slowly, cause that's the voice I hear in my

while we disagree about whether or not this is or isn't commentary disguised as reporting, the issue of whether or not what he reports is true seems to be the big issue. Here's my thinking...

If your reporting is completely or totally one-sided, I immediately wonder 'what would the other side say about this? Is there a different perspective to shed more light on these 'facts'?'

I'm not really sure what that explanation would be or what additional perspective from the other sides of the issues the author raised would consist of, but the fact is it was missing and I'm confident such explanations do exist and would dull the sharp edge of scandal portrayed in the article.

I am a fiscal conservative (free-market capitalist is more accurate) and it does anger me on some level, but that level is equivalent to the govt. waste in the Katrina relief/clean-up or the billions wasted in the UN or all the money thrown at the drug war or space exploration. There are many, MANY things I think the govt. shouldn't be spending money on, but I only get one vote. To that end, GWB and the GOP have let me down as a voter. The compelling factor for those who are pacifists is that this waste comes in the throes of war. A war that is the first of its kind and a war in which many mistakes have been made. Whether or not progress is being made or not, whether the US is victorious or not doesn't matter to those who will be against war under any circumstance. For that group, this is just another reason not to go to war in the first place...fine. I'm ok with others believing that, but I'm not going to waste my emotional capital on something that I don't consider worthy of my frustration. What would it accomplish? To what end would my anger be fruitful? To quote Solomon "it is all meaningless"

You could say I'm drinking the cool-aid or that I'm ignoring the inherent horrors of war, but the fact is that I'm not glad we're there, I hate war and I wish we'd never made the move into Iraq. But hindsight is always 20/20 and the fact is that we are there, and however we got there and in spite of any mistakes that may be made, I want to win. I want the US to be safer. Articles such as these do nothing but enrage citizens and turn a country inside-out.

The real problem for me is this...I think accountability should exist, that there should be people held accountable for mistakes, and some have (Rumsfeld, etc.) but to 'expose' this type of wrongdoing without providing perspective as to why these things may have been done or why the outcomes are what they are only serve to fan the flame of US opposition for our enemies, puts our soldiers in harms way and weakens our ability to defend ourself.

As for the balance standard, I should have mentioned in my first post that I fully recognize that this type of reporting goes on every day and on all existing media outlets...noone is exempt and bias filters through no matter what...but if we're going to have the Fairness Doctrine in broadcasting, why no equivalent in print media?

Moreover, why can't RS provide a counter to the article? Why not give a page or two to Michelle Malkin or Charles Krauthammer? Yes, conservative mags ignore the lefty writers too, but I wish dual perspective 'dueling' columns happened more often, The Rocky Mountain News does this beautifully.

In any case, I may have offered TMI, but you asked and I couldn't stop typing...going back to my first post, I'm really most angry that this type of reporting is more common than the traditional style...I guess that's what makes me a ***bold***conserve***bold***-vative

Chris Nandor said...

Dale is right (I also have a journalism degree, and have spent years in media), and you are wrong to say it is not mostly commentary, but more to the point: nothing Taibbi says can be trusted because not only does he have a history of getting things wrong, but his goal is not to tell what is happening, but rather to criticize the Bush administration, the war, and whatever.

I never get far enough to bother to try to evaluate what he says, because he already lost me before he started. I don't waste my time with poor "journalists" like him. I have better things to do with my time.

James is wrong that this would be front-page news under Clinton. Clearly, the media is more anti-Bush and anti-war than it was ever anti-Clinton, or pro-war. This is relegated to Rolling Stone most likely because there is more to this story than Taibbi is telling. That's the point. That's why I don't bother with him. He cannot be trusted, and doesn't even bother to try to be trusted.

Yes, the question is "is this true?" But in order to answer that question, we have to ask, "how can we know it is true?" And certainly we can't take Taibbi's word for it. Well, I can't, anyway.

I don't care what Taibbi expects. I care what I expect, and it is a lot more than what he offers. And yes, I do hold the people I agree with to the same standards, which is why I don't watch Fox News.

So, now I go back to watching Jim Lehrer.