Handover of Sovereignty?
In less than two weeks the Coalition Provisional Authority will be handing over sovereignty to the new Iraqi interim government. The nature of this “sovereignty” was spelled out last week in UN resolution 1546. While resolution 1546 promises the interim government “full sovereignty,” it also allows for the U.S. occupation of Iraq to continue without giving the interim government any say in how the U.S. troops are deployed or what operations they will commence. Resolution 1546 does give the interim government increased control over Iraq’s oil revenues but there is one catch attached. While oil contracts given out by the U.S. occupation forces have been granted special immunity from any sort of regulation or lawsuits, this privilege will not be extended to contracts given out by the interim government. Resolution 1546 also requires the new interim government honor all existing obligations. Not surprisingly, the CPA has been loading on as many of these “existing obligations” as they can in an effort to cement US corporate control of the reconstruction process and oil revenues. Most of these new “obligations” appear to be rather suspect expenditures that duplicate existing funding and will most likely result in waste and corruption. It is interesting to note that the majority of these expenditures will be paid for with oil revenues, even though Iraq’s oil production has been severely curtailed by bombings and sabotage.
War Profiteering in Iraq
David M. Walker, head of the General Accounting Office told Congress this week that at least $1 billion of U.S. taxpayer money was wasted in Iraq because of illegal overcharges by government contractors. Five former Halliburton employees and one former executive of a Halliburton subcontractor have blown the whistle on Halliburton defrauding the government on Iraq contracts. In a letter written by Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), these whistleblowers describe a variety of ways in which Haliburton fleeced the government, such as billing the government $45 for pack of soda, $100 for bag of laundry. Also this week the GAO (General Accounting Office) released a report about how the Pentagon had violated procurement law by issuing a “task order” to Halliburton to develop plans for extinguishing oil well fires in Iraq. The report also found that Iraq contracts worth billions of dollars, including Halliburton?s no-bid oil infrastructure contract, were not awarded under full and open competition.
In other contract news, a 293 million dollar contract has been awarded to Aegis Defense Services to coordinate all the security for Iraqi reconstruction projects?a job that will create the world’s largest private army. Aegis is headed by Lieutenant Colonel Tom Spicer, a former officer with the Scots Guard who has been investigated for illegally smuggling arms and planning military offensives to support mining, oil, and gas operations around the world.
Finally, Bechtel, who received a $680 million contract for rehabilitating the Sharkh Dijlah water treatment plant in Baghdad and the Kerkh Waste Water Treatment Plant back in April of 2003, has made little progress in rehabilitating the plants and the Tigris River remains incredibly polluted.
Bush Administration Keeps Lying about Al-Qaeda/Iraq Link
On Tuesday, Vice President Dick Cheney, no stranger to lying in order to bolster the case for invading Iraq, once again claimed that Saddam Hussein “had long established ties with Al-Qaeda.” Of course, Cheney’s lies are not unusual, but what is unusual is that they were almost immediately contradicted by the 9/11 Commission’s announcement that there was no connection between Iraq and Al-Qaeda, yet both President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair claimed their were connections between Iraq and Al-Qeada. While Bush stated, “there was a relationship between Al-Qeada and Iraq” Blair charged that Saddam Hussein “created a permissive environment for terrorism and we know that the people affiliated to al Qaeda operated in Iraq during the regime.” Apparently the two administrations do not realize that if they just kept their mouths shout nobody in the corprate press would bother to investigate the subject.
A poll requested last month by the Coalition Provisional Authority found that, not surprisingly, 92% of Iraqis consider the Untied States an occupying force. This poll confirms what journalists like Patrick Cockburn have recently reported regarding Iraqi attitudes towards the occupation.