Finally, A Hot Seat For Bremer
February 6, 2007 - 7:33pm ET
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The Associated Press story could hardly have made it more plain: “The former U.S. occupation chief in Iraq on Tuesday defended the way he haphazardly doled out billions of dollars in Iraqi funds after the U.S. invasion as Democrats began a two-year effort to scrutinize fraud, waste and abuse under the Bush administration.”
Yes, L. Paul Bremer III was just that brazen. But the fact that these guys have no shame is not breaking news.
What is breaking news is that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, with Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., at the helm, is scrutinizing the astonishing waste, mismanagement and, as some allege, criminal behavior of Bush administration officials and contractors involved in the Iraq invasion and the reconstruction effort.
Bremer’s testimony kicked off two days of hearings on the actions of Bush appointees and contractors, which have been cast in a harsh light by such independent investigators as Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. Waxman, in his opening statement, noted that the federal government sent the Coalition Provisional Authority, which Bremer was running, $12 billion in cash — 363 tons of mostly $100 bills loaded onto C-130 cargo planes. “The numbers are so large that it doesn’t seem possible that they’re true,” Waxman said.
Bowen, in his testimony, concluded that the CPA’s internal controls for approximately $8.8 billion in funds disbursed to Iraqi ministries “failed to provide sufficient accountability for the use of those funds.” Bremer acknowledged “some mistakes” but said that he was “proud of what we achieved.” But the most recent audit report from Bowen’s office doesn’t give anyone in the Bush administration much to be proud of. (Its key findings are highlighted in this ABC News report.)
Wednesday’s hearings were scheduled to feature family members of four people killed in Fallujah in 2004 who worked for Blackwater USA, which had a multimillion-dollar contract to provide security services in Iraq. They have been asked to testify about what they view as profiteering by Blackwater, including the company’s alleged failure to provide armored vehicles and other critical safety equipment. The Committee will also examine in detail Blackwater’s security operations in Iraq under multiple layers of contracts and subcontracts that compound costs to the taxpayer.
Before the November elections, these family members could not get a serious hearing in the halls of Congress. Now they will, and the crony contractors who have been the only winners of the Iraq war will finally be called to account.
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