Wednesday, August 04, 2004

We don't do politics

The White House is claiming that there was other, better intelligence behind this week’s orange alert, it was just happenstance that the only intel they told us about was years old. Sound familiar? Yes, the same White House insists that there was other intel about Iraq trying to buy Nigerien yellowcake, much better than the only evidence they ever released, which happened to be amateurish forgeries.Tom Ridge said yesterday, "We don’t do politics in the Department of Homeland Security." Right: if politics is the art of the possible, what they do at HeimatSec is the art of the imaginary.

The Post has a must-read on how Bremer stole billions dollars of Iraqi money (I say "stole" advisedly: there are strict rules in international law on what occupiers can do) and awarded them in contracts to Halliburton and other American companies. So the Iraqis are made to pay for their own occupation, and the money can be doled in secret and out without oversight. Saves all that paperwork. And the American corporations, also acting without oversight, hire non-Iraqis at inflated salaries, lose equipment (see 2 posts ago), and spend most of the money for "administration" and security, so they accomplish very little at the most expensive price possible. Which is one reason why almost nothing has been done, as the LA Times points out today, to supply Iraqis with clean water, resulting in epidemics of typhoid and hepatitis E.

This is part of a pattern in which the Bushies see any government program with a large budget as a way to reward their friends. Think of the attempts to shift social-service spending to "faith-based" groups. Or compare Iraqi "reconstruction" with Bush’s AIDS initiative of 2003. If the goal is to deliver services, both do so in the least efficient way possible, with American contractors/drug companies charging First World prices the host countries can’t afford, while making them more dependent on American multinationals in the future because locals with the appropriate skills are starved out of the field (Iraqi builders, engineers, etc) or not trained in the first place (African doctors, nurses). Another comparison is the way Bush has used African famine as a lever to force countries to take genetically modified foods.

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