Tuesday, 25 November 2014 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

Down in the Ditch

Wednesday, 15 June 2011 09:54 By William Rivers Pitt, Truthout | Op-Ed
Down in the Ditch

On the shores of the Tigris River, locals use the water to filter through pans of trash in hopes of finding flakes of gold sometimes found outside a jewelry store in Baghdad, May 10, 2011. Several times a month, men desperate for an income descend as far as 15 feet into the city's sewer system in search of gold bits that have washed down the drain by craftsmen cleaning up after a day of etching and molding jewelry. (Photo: Ayman Oghanna / The New York Times)

There is never a shortage of Stupid in American politics, but by normal standards, our recent history has been pretty spectacular. Rep. Anthony Weiner is caught in what could very easily go down in history as the single most absurd sex scandal to ever unfold. The Republican leadership continues to play chicken with the debt limit, making even the titans of the financial industry nervous. Michele Bachmann is being taken seriously by the "mainstream" news media after the first GOP debate...and as far as Stupid goes, really, that's all you need to say.

Sometimes, however, the Stupid skyrockets to new and heretofore unknown heights. It takes a special kind of purebred dunderhead to raise the benchmark, and in that spirit, I give you Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who opined last week that once Iraq becomes a rich and prosperous country, they should repay the United States for the money spent on the invasion and occupation.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Now, don't get me wrong: it would be awfully nice to have back the hundreds of billions of dollars that were wasted through our blood-soaked exercise in futility in Iraq. Given the current state of the American economy, suddenly having gobs of cash injected back into society would indeed be a boon. We could maybe stop terrorizing elderly people with threats to the continued existence of Medicare. We could stop dunning public-sector employees and actually pay them what they deserve. We could even perhaps fix a bridge or two.

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But you see, that money is already spent. It did not just dry up and blow away. It was stolen in fistfuls by companies like Halliburton and KBR. It was stolen in fistfuls by private mercenary contractors like Blackwater. Thieving scumbags like Ahmed Chalabi got their slice, and as for the rest? Well...

The Iraqi and U.S. governments have been unable to account for a substantial chunk of the billions of dollars in reconstruction aid the Bush administration literally airlifted into the country. If the cash proves to have been stolen, the heist could represent "the largest theft of funds in national history," according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

Pentagon officials determined that one giant C-130 Hercules cargo plane could carry $2.4 billion in shrink-wrapped bricks of $100 bills. They sent an initial full planeload of cash, followed by 20 other flights to Iraq by May 2004 in a $12-billion haul that U.S. officials believe to be the biggest international cash airlift of all time.

Iraqi officials say it was the U.S. government's job to keep track of the funds, which were brought in as an emergency measure to keep basic infrastructure going after Saddam Hussein's ouster. House Government Reform Committee investigators found in 2005 evidence of "substantial waste, fraud and abuse in the actual spending and disbursement of the Iraqi funds."

Witnesses testified that millions of dollars were shoved into "gunnysacks" and disbursed to Iraqi contractors on pick-up trucks, with what seemed to be little financial controls or accounting on the part of the U.S. government.

Think it was an accident? That all this plunder took place because of a lack of "oversight?"

Ha.

The first thing George W. Bush and his people did upon (literally) taking office was to rampage through the Clinton surplus by way of two insane tax giveaways to the wealthiest among us. This was done for one reason: to kill the federal government's ability to spend money on the citizenry. The Grover Norquist "Drown It In The Bathtub" tactic extended to a pair of wars - one in Afghanistan and the other in Iraq - that became the single greatest defense industry payday in human history...while further denuding the federal government's ability to spend money on the citizenry. It was not an accident, but a deliberate plan, and from their perspective, it was executed flawlessly. This was a smash-and-grab robbery writ large, and if you think all that money is just "gone," well, you must not travel in the "right" circles.

The current crop of Republican leaders still play from the same cheat sheet, as evidenced by their desire to annihilate the remaining shreds and tatters of the American economy by threatening to let the debt limit slip, even as they chortle into their sleeves about getting away with several of the greatest American bank robberies of all time. Why are they daring the economy to implode? So they can eviscerate Medicare and Social Security, of course, not to mention collective bargaining rights and the ability of workers to earn a fair wage.

And after all that, one of their bright bulbs coughs up the suggestion that a nation we literally ground into powder should do us a big favor and pay us back all the money we spent putting boots to their necks and bullets through their bodies.

Hm...I wonder how soon that will happen...

BAGHDAD-In a city where sand clings to everything and the culture permits empty plastic water bottles to be tossed into the street, residents in the city's prosperous Zayuna neighborhood make sure their lawns stay green and their fruit trees are pruned. But when residents step out of their walled-in sanctuaries, they can't escape a city that in many ways still feels ungovernable more than eight years after the U.S.-led invasion.

They see dirt and gravel streets marked by ruts and sinkholes large enough to swallow a tire. Empty lots are garbage pits, and sewage from broken pipes collects in small pools on neighborhood streets amid downed cables and wires. There are a few slides at the neighborhood playground, but nearly as many abandoned cars.

Although security has improved in recent years, the task of overseeing the estimated 250,000 police and army officials who guard the city has also created new management concerns, ranging from gaps in intelligence sharing to frustrations from local officials about who should be contacted to report a suspicious vehicle. Meanwhile, Baghdad's municipal government continues to sputter as different entities jockey for control over reconstruction dollars and grapple over whether American-style local governments can work in the Middle East.

"Baghdad lives in chaos, chaos, chaos," said Jawad al-Hasnawi, a parliament member.

Yes, friends and neighbors, these are the strokes of genius we have come to expect from our friends in the GOP. And people wonder why the United States of America is down in the ditch.

William Rivers Pitt

William Rivers Pitt is Truthout's senior editor and lead columnist. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know, The Greatest Sedition Is Silence and House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation. His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with Dahr Jamail, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in New Hampshire.


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Down in the Ditch

Wednesday, 15 June 2011 09:54 By William Rivers Pitt, Truthout | Op-Ed
Down in the Ditch

On the shores of the Tigris River, locals use the water to filter through pans of trash in hopes of finding flakes of gold sometimes found outside a jewelry store in Baghdad, May 10, 2011. Several times a month, men desperate for an income descend as far as 15 feet into the city's sewer system in search of gold bits that have washed down the drain by craftsmen cleaning up after a day of etching and molding jewelry. (Photo: Ayman Oghanna / The New York Times)

There is never a shortage of Stupid in American politics, but by normal standards, our recent history has been pretty spectacular. Rep. Anthony Weiner is caught in what could very easily go down in history as the single most absurd sex scandal to ever unfold. The Republican leadership continues to play chicken with the debt limit, making even the titans of the financial industry nervous. Michele Bachmann is being taken seriously by the "mainstream" news media after the first GOP debate...and as far as Stupid goes, really, that's all you need to say.

Sometimes, however, the Stupid skyrockets to new and heretofore unknown heights. It takes a special kind of purebred dunderhead to raise the benchmark, and in that spirit, I give you Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who opined last week that once Iraq becomes a rich and prosperous country, they should repay the United States for the money spent on the invasion and occupation.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Now, don't get me wrong: it would be awfully nice to have back the hundreds of billions of dollars that were wasted through our blood-soaked exercise in futility in Iraq. Given the current state of the American economy, suddenly having gobs of cash injected back into society would indeed be a boon. We could maybe stop terrorizing elderly people with threats to the continued existence of Medicare. We could stop dunning public-sector employees and actually pay them what they deserve. We could even perhaps fix a bridge or two.

Don’t miss a beat - get Truthout Daily Email Updates. Click here to sign up for free.

But you see, that money is already spent. It did not just dry up and blow away. It was stolen in fistfuls by companies like Halliburton and KBR. It was stolen in fistfuls by private mercenary contractors like Blackwater. Thieving scumbags like Ahmed Chalabi got their slice, and as for the rest? Well...

The Iraqi and U.S. governments have been unable to account for a substantial chunk of the billions of dollars in reconstruction aid the Bush administration literally airlifted into the country. If the cash proves to have been stolen, the heist could represent "the largest theft of funds in national history," according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

Pentagon officials determined that one giant C-130 Hercules cargo plane could carry $2.4 billion in shrink-wrapped bricks of $100 bills. They sent an initial full planeload of cash, followed by 20 other flights to Iraq by May 2004 in a $12-billion haul that U.S. officials believe to be the biggest international cash airlift of all time.

Iraqi officials say it was the U.S. government's job to keep track of the funds, which were brought in as an emergency measure to keep basic infrastructure going after Saddam Hussein's ouster. House Government Reform Committee investigators found in 2005 evidence of "substantial waste, fraud and abuse in the actual spending and disbursement of the Iraqi funds."

Witnesses testified that millions of dollars were shoved into "gunnysacks" and disbursed to Iraqi contractors on pick-up trucks, with what seemed to be little financial controls or accounting on the part of the U.S. government.

Think it was an accident? That all this plunder took place because of a lack of "oversight?"

Ha.

The first thing George W. Bush and his people did upon (literally) taking office was to rampage through the Clinton surplus by way of two insane tax giveaways to the wealthiest among us. This was done for one reason: to kill the federal government's ability to spend money on the citizenry. The Grover Norquist "Drown It In The Bathtub" tactic extended to a pair of wars - one in Afghanistan and the other in Iraq - that became the single greatest defense industry payday in human history...while further denuding the federal government's ability to spend money on the citizenry. It was not an accident, but a deliberate plan, and from their perspective, it was executed flawlessly. This was a smash-and-grab robbery writ large, and if you think all that money is just "gone," well, you must not travel in the "right" circles.

The current crop of Republican leaders still play from the same cheat sheet, as evidenced by their desire to annihilate the remaining shreds and tatters of the American economy by threatening to let the debt limit slip, even as they chortle into their sleeves about getting away with several of the greatest American bank robberies of all time. Why are they daring the economy to implode? So they can eviscerate Medicare and Social Security, of course, not to mention collective bargaining rights and the ability of workers to earn a fair wage.

And after all that, one of their bright bulbs coughs up the suggestion that a nation we literally ground into powder should do us a big favor and pay us back all the money we spent putting boots to their necks and bullets through their bodies.

Hm...I wonder how soon that will happen...

BAGHDAD-In a city where sand clings to everything and the culture permits empty plastic water bottles to be tossed into the street, residents in the city's prosperous Zayuna neighborhood make sure their lawns stay green and their fruit trees are pruned. But when residents step out of their walled-in sanctuaries, they can't escape a city that in many ways still feels ungovernable more than eight years after the U.S.-led invasion.

They see dirt and gravel streets marked by ruts and sinkholes large enough to swallow a tire. Empty lots are garbage pits, and sewage from broken pipes collects in small pools on neighborhood streets amid downed cables and wires. There are a few slides at the neighborhood playground, but nearly as many abandoned cars.

Although security has improved in recent years, the task of overseeing the estimated 250,000 police and army officials who guard the city has also created new management concerns, ranging from gaps in intelligence sharing to frustrations from local officials about who should be contacted to report a suspicious vehicle. Meanwhile, Baghdad's municipal government continues to sputter as different entities jockey for control over reconstruction dollars and grapple over whether American-style local governments can work in the Middle East.

"Baghdad lives in chaos, chaos, chaos," said Jawad al-Hasnawi, a parliament member.

Yes, friends and neighbors, these are the strokes of genius we have come to expect from our friends in the GOP. And people wonder why the United States of America is down in the ditch.

William Rivers Pitt

William Rivers Pitt is Truthout's senior editor and lead columnist. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know, The Greatest Sedition Is Silence and House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation. His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with Dahr Jamail, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in New Hampshire.


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