Friday, November 03, 2006

Same old, same old

Some people say we should question facts and not motives. However, questioning motives has its uses and survival value. Take this NYT report for instance.

Congress Tells Auditor in Iraq to Close Office

Investigations led by a Republican lawyer named Stuart W. Bowen Jr. in Iraq have sent American occupation officials to jail on bribery and conspiracy charges, exposed disastrously poor construction work by well-connected companies like Halliburton and Parsons, and discovered that the military did not properly track hundreds of thousands of weapons it shipped to Iraqi security forces.

And tucked away in a huge military authorization bill that President Bush signed two weeks ago is what some of Mr. Bowen’s supporters believe is his reward for repeatedly embarrassing the administration: a pink slip.

The order comes in the form of an obscure provision that terminates his federal oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, on Oct. 1, 2007. The clause was inserted by the Republican side of the House Armed Services Committee over the objections of Democratic counterparts during a closed-door conference, and it has generated surprise and some outrage among lawmakers who say they had no idea it was in the final legislation.

Mr. Bowen’s office, which began operation in January 2004 to examine reconstruction money spent in Iraq, was always envisioned as a temporary organization, permitted to continue its work only as long as Congress saw fit. Some advocates for the office, in fact, have regarded its lack of a permanent bureaucracy as the key to its aggressiveness and independence.

But as the implications of the provision in the new bill have become clear, opposition has been building on both sides of the political aisle. One point of contention is exactly when the office would have naturally run its course without a hard end date.

The bipartisan opposition may not be unexpected given Mr. Bowen’s Republican credentials — he served under George W. Bush both in Texas and in the White House — and deep public skepticism on the Bush administration’s conduct of the war.

Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who followed the bill closely as chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, says that she still does not know how the provision made its way into what is called the conference report, which reconciles differences between House and Senate versions of a bill.

Neither the House nor the Senate version contained such a termination clause before the conference, all involved agree.

“It’s truly a mystery to me,” Ms. Collins said. “I looked at what I thought was the final version of the conference report and that provision was not in at that time.”

“The one thing I can confirm is that this was a last-minute insertion,” she said.

A Republican spokesman for the committee, Josh Holly, said lawmakers should not have been surprised by the provision closing the inspector general’s office because it “was discussed very early in the conference process.”

But like several other members of the House and Senate who were contacted on the bill, Ms. Collins said that she feared the loss of oversight that could occur if the inspector general’s office went out of business, adding that she was already working on legislation with several Democratic and Republican senators to reverse the termination.

One of those, John W. Warner, the Virginia Republican who is chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that Mr. Bowen was “making a valuable contribution to the Congressional and public understanding of this very complex and ever-changing situation in Iraq.”

“Given that his office has performed important work and that much remains to be done,” Mr. Warner added, “I intend to join Senator Collins in consulting with our colleagues to extend his charter.”

While Senators Collins and Warner said they had nothing more than hunches on where the impetus for setting a termination date had originated, Congressional Democrats were less reserved.

“It appears to me that the administration wants to silence the messenger that is giving us information about waste and fraud in Iraq,” said Representative Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat who is the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Government Reform.

“I just can’t see how one can look at this change without believing it’s political,” he said.

The termination language was inserted into the bill by Congressional staff members working for Duncan Hunter, the California Republican who is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and who declared on Monday that he plans to run for president in 2008.

Mr. Holly, who is the House Armed Services spokesman as well as a member of Mr. Hunter’s staff, said that politics played no role and that there had been no direction from the administration or lobbying from the companies whose work in Iraq Mr. Bowen’s office has severely critiqued. Three of the companies that have been a particular focus of Mr. Bowen’s investigations, Halliburton, Parsons and Bechtel, said that they had made no effort to lobby against his office.

This follows revelations that Bush Loyalists, crony capitalists and Christians unqualified and incompetent to do the job, administered Iraq reconstruction. About the only bright spot has been the special Iraq auditing.

The Bush Administration has not earned the right to have their motives go unquestioned. Bad news, especially corporate corruption allied with government mismanagement, never makes it on the radar screen unless someone makes a heroic effort to put it there.

Different day; some old, same old.


At 6:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your reply, Lynn. You write:

What interest me are the limits of forming new ideologies and the possibility of cosmopolitan politics. I am reading the Derrida/Habermas exchanges on that basis right now.

That's a fascinating topic, and I hasten to add that I haven't read the Derrida/Habermas exchanges. Could I ask you to give a brief summary of their positions and your take on them.

Ever since reading Kant's Perpetual Peace (or rather since I was young) I have always been attracted to this utopia of cosmopolitanism and I guess I won't give it up. Kant has this poetic image of the world as a globe, meaning that we as people inhabiting this round planet are bound together and will sooner or later meet each other since we will be traveling round and round.

Of course, I would be the first cynic to point out the sentimentalism of this, but I still stick to it.

Anyway, let's take it from Derrida/Habermas.


Orla Schantz

At 6:47 PM, Blogger Lynn said...

Orla -

I will write somes notes and post them when I am further along in the Derrida/Habermas papers. I'm about half way through right now.

I, too, have been interested in cosmopolitanism since read Kant's Perpetual Peace, although I cam to late.



At 5:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Lynn,

Thanks for your quick responses. This gives our exchange of ideas a good flow. I'll try to keep up. Also thanks for your offer to post your notes from reading the Derrida/Habermas conversation. I look forward to seeing them.

Another Kant text that I came to late is, of course, "What Is Enlightenment" - Just the first couple of paragraphs are so powerful that I keep returning to them and teaching them as often as I can. I'm skeptical of the whole "Master" syndrome, but this essay comes as close as any to being my guiding light.

All the best,

Orla Schantz

At 5:24 AM, Blogger Lynn said...

Orla -

I have read the essay several times. I have seen Foucault's essay of the same title discussed on the Internet.

At 6:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I have seen Foucault's essay of the same title discussed on the Internet.

That's news to me. Thanks for the tip. I'll look it up when I have a bit more time.


PS: You're up early.


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