Saturday :: Oct 4, 2003

Bush Graft and Corruption Now Extends to Iraq

by Steve

You know things are bad when the Iraqis have to lecture you on graft and corruption. Members of the Iraqi governing council are alleging that Paul Bremer is handing out inflated and extravagant contracts to nonIraqi vendors for services and goods that can be purchased in Iraq for far less or provided by other countries for free. The Iraqis believe that Bremer is wasting billions of dollars on favored contractors, all of course chargeable to the US taxpayer. Worse yet, the only Iraqis seeing any of this money are those previously tied to Saddam Hussein.

Last month the Iraqi Governing Council questioned why the American occupation authority had issued a $20 million contract to buy new revolvers and Kalashnikov rifles for the Iraqi police when the United States military was confiscating tens of thousands of weapons every month from Saddam Hussein's abandoned arsenals.

On Wednesday the Iraqi council, in a testy exchange with the occupation administrator, L. Paul Bremer III, challenged an American decision to spend $1.2 billion to train 35,000 Iraqi police officers in Jordan when such training could be done in Iraq for a fraction of the cost. Germany and France have offered to provide such training free.

These decisions are being questioned by Iraqi officials as Congress is also seeking to examine how the American occupation authority and the military are spending billions of dollars here. Iraqi officials and businessmen charge that millions of dollars in contracts are being awarded without competitive bidding, some of them to former cronies of Mr. Hussein's government.

"There is mismanagement right and left, and I think we have to sit with Congress face to face to discuss this. A lot of American money is being wasted, I think. We are victims and the American taxpayers are victims."

A number of businessmen say they believe it is necessary to pay kickbacks to win contracts. A spokesman for one of the largest American corporations awarding subcontracts here, Bechtel, said his company had neither paid any kickbacks nor had been approached by Iraqis seeking to pay kickbacks. He said Bechtel made all of its contract information available on its Web site and at offices in Baghdad and Basra. A check of the Web site on Friday found no information, only a notice that the site was "under construction."

Asked about Iraqi assertions that Bechtel and other major American companies were awarding contracts to Iraqis who had grown rich under Mr. Hussein, Mr. Mumm said all of the Iraqi businesses that received Bechtel subcontracts were vetted by the occupation authority under Mr. Bremer.

The largest and most prominent Iraqi subcontractor that has emerged belongs to the Bunnia family, which grew immensely wealthy under the former government and was known for lavishing gifts, especially luxury cars, on members of the Hussein family.

"It is hard to understand the rationale for giving them contracts," said an American businessman.

Looking at a list of companies that received subcontracts from Becthel, Mr. Othman, the Governing Council member, said he recognized at least a half-dozen that had profited from close relations with Mr. Hussein or members of his family.

Samir Sumaidy, a member of the Governing Council who owns a construction firm doing business in China, said Friday that the Iraqi interim government received no information from Mr. Bremer's authority on how it was spending Iraqi and American funds.

An American businessman, who would not allow his name to be used, said the occupation authority was doling out contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars by simply telephoning favored companies and announcing, "I have a contract for you," as he characterized a telephone call he received this week.

Mr. Othman said, "I hope Congress knows what is going on, but if they don't know and we don't know, then God help everybody."

This is nothing but a confirmation that Bush has extended the graft and corruption he has initiated inside the United States to his now conquered territories. And it is another reason why the reconstruction work inside Iraq needs to be turned over to the UN immediately. Those US senators who are running for president need to make the $87 billion a serious campaign issue. There is no way that GOP senators can defend this during the open floor debates over this aid.

Steve :: 8:58 AM :: Comments (5) :: Digg It!