Friday, November 23, 2007

Absolute War Corrupts Absolutely

The Iraq war is a tragedy in so many aspects, it's hard to pick one as worst. But the corruption in contracting and in operation of its many support systems ranks among the rankest.

The army is being forced to look more deeply into the graft because of a personal tragedy, that resulted in suicide, for some vendors who got deeply involved in a corrupt system.

The flashy Laila Tower office building in this wealthy oil capital is a world away from the mean streets of Baghdad. But the U.S. government says they are linked by a web of fraud and bribery that stole millions of dollars provided by American taxpayers to support U.S. combat troops in Iraq.

The U.S. military and prosecutors have launched 83 criminal investigations into alleged contract fraud, including a total of $15 million in bribes.

It was the apparent suicide of an Army major in Baghdad a year ago that brought them to the 15th floor of the Laila Tower. There, overlooking the Persian Gulf, is the firm run by American George H. Lee and his family, a small part of that huge web.

None of the Lees has been charged with any crime. But the Army suspended them from doing business with the U.S. government, and a federal judge in Huntsville, Ala., upheld the order in August, as a military investigation into their case continues.

The case of Lee, a 64-year-old former Army supply clerk from Pennsylvania, provides rare insight into how fraud was able to occur, in part by exploiting the chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It also shows the flaws in the U.S. system of bids between private contractors and the U.S. military officers who doled out billions of dollars in contracts since 2003, often with little oversight.

Kuwait's close-knit expatriate community also played a role, in a place where business is traditionally done away from the glare of public scrutiny.

"Bribery and kickbacks are common with big projects," said Ali al-Nemash of the Kuwait Transparency Society, a private organization that seeks to combat graft and corruption. "They call it 'gifts,' but it is bribery."

Teams of U.S. investigators are reviewing a sample of about 6,000 U.S. military contracts worth $2.8 billion that were awarded by a single Army office at Camp Arifjan, a huge logistics and supply base about 40 miles south of the Laila Tower.

The U.S. has publicly identified only some of the companies and individuals linked to the alleged bribery and fraud. The Army cited the need to protect "the integrity of the ongoing investigation" in refusing a request by The Associated Press for an interview at Camp Arifjan.
Davis' children are seeking to reverse a government order seizing their mother's bank accounts, which were frozen one day before she was found dead of a gunshot wound in Baghdad.

She and others may have fallen into what Rep. Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, referred to as a "culture of corruption" at Camp Arifjan, where about a dozen people gave out contracts worth tens of millions of dollars.

The occupied White House tore down the guards of regulation and loosed the contracting process in seeming confidence that the market would work to keep all the dollars flowing and that would make everybody happy. Corruption, though, is the byproduct of the deregulated system, and it has resulted in poor quality of services to our troops as well as the unbridled throwing our dollars down the drain of graft. That hasn't worked out very well for anyone. Caught up in the crookedness, some of the civilian cogs seem to have gotten crushed.

The helter-skelter nature of the war has shown up the weaknesses in letting contracts through laissez faire methods, and ought to serve as a lesson for all time in how regulation keeps the systems running, and the servers of that system in line so that it can operate.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm, Ruth. It seems you just don't like Congressman Tancredo, now is that discrimination or racial hatred of Italian Americans, or something else, or you just don't agree with people who tell the truth? By the way, his family came here, from Italy, the LEGAL way, and learned ENGLISH immediatement (that's French for immediately).

So what if he ate in a Mexican restaurant?! I make burritos for my husband for lunch, with my own homemade guacamole, does that make me a racist and a xenophobe??? That has nothing to do with assimilation of non English speaking legal, or ILLEGAL immigrants. You obviously don't live in a part of the country where the whole thing is out of hand. I challenge you to go to any sanctuary city, towns overrun with illegals, or any border town and get a taste of it all first hand. You'll get your fill real fast, and you won't be joking about Tom Tancredo eating in a Mexican restaurant. You are making something out of nothing, and he is not a racist or a xenophobe. You need to research this man before you start spewing accusations! He has A to A+ ratings from every conservative group in the country, and he has legislative history to go with it. You know, it all boils down to people in denial about illegal immigration and not wanting to hear the truth about what is really happening in this country, and you happen to be one of those unfortunate few. While you're researching Conressman Tancredo (, look up the NAU and the Trilateral Commission and the Bilderberg Group. If you want to keep our country sovereign, you'll want to take a honest look at the Congressman and how he is trying to stop all this. Also, there is an interview he did with the Bulletin--Philadelphia's Family Newspaper. Bulletin. Read that, and I believe you will see a true American patriot, and not the bigot, racist you are trying to portray.

3:56 PM  
Blogger Diane said...


You realize, of course, that you placed your comment under a post that had nothing to do with Mr. Tancredo.

You really need to pay closer attention to the world around you.


4:49 AM  
Anonymous larry, dfh said...

IMHO, deregulation doesn't lead to corruption, rather deregulation is the progenitor of corruption. Deregulation is sold to the public under the guise of efficiency, but corruption cannot occur without the deregulation. Corruption is the motive, deregulation is the means. And, in my book, Tancredo has a 95% putz rating. If he's such a bona fide conservative, why didn't he vote against the 'thought crimes' committee, as exposed earlier by Diane?

3:54 PM  

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