Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Iraq II: The Debate

The torture deaths of the two American troopers in Iraq was the perfect excuse the Senate needed yesterday to back away from debating and voting on a troop withdrawal timetable.

Having bailed earlier on holding the White House and contractors accountable for billions of dollars in wasted Iraqi rebuilding monies, the debate devolved into two votes in reaction to the torture deaths and Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's little publicized proposal for a limited amnesty as part of a national reconciliation plan that may include pardons for Sunni insurgents who have attacked U.S. troops.
In my view, there is much to like and not like in the plan. Reconciliation is good, but immunizing insurgents for their thuggery is not. Worse yet, al-Maliki's plan sets a double standard. The insurgents would not be protected from prosecution for attacking Iraqis.

By a vote of 79 to 19, the Senate voted to declare that it objects to any amnesty. By 64 to 34, it voted to commend the new Iraqi government for not granting any amnesty, which was its round about way of saying that it wasn't meddling in Baghdad's business while doing exactly that.

Don't be misled: The "no" votes had more to do with confusion over just what Al-Maliki proposes to do than a bunch of senators suddenly growing testicles.
Democrats have struggled to appear united in calling for troop withdrawals, but John Kerry is complicating that effort.
The problem is, the gutless dems want to call for withdrawals, but with a lily-livered timetable that calls for some troops to be out of Iraq by year's end but not a complete withdrawal. Kerry, who was unable to find his voice during his wretched 2004 presidential campaign run, insists on there being a timetable with a 12-month end date for a complete withdrawal.
The Senate Democratic leadership is so concerned that Kerry will blow their scheme that they have pushed Kerry's floor time into Wednesday evening after nightly TV news shows.


Earlier in the debate, Republicans defeated by a 52-44 vote a Democratic measure calling for an investigation into waste and fraud in military contracts in Iraq.

Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, called for a panel like the one led by then-Senator Harry Truman which uncovered many abuses in military spending during World War II.

Dorgan offered several anecdotes, including

The tale of 25 tons of nails buried in the Iraqi desert simply because "someone ordered the wrong-sized nails."
The debate played out as the Army Corpse of Engineers annonced that it had canceled a $99 million contract with Parsons, one of the largest companies working in Iraq, to build a prison north of Baghdad after the company fell more than two years behind schedule, threatened to go millions of dollars over budget and essentially abandoned the construction site.
Parsons is no stranger to fleecing the American taxpayer.

Only last month the Corpse canceled more than $300 million of the company's contracts to build and refurbish hospitals and clinics across Iraq after an investigation found that some of the clinics were little more than empty shells and that only 20 of 150 called for in the contract would be completed without millions more.
The single largest single project previously canceled in Iraq was a $75 million contract that called for KBR, a Halliburton subsidiary, to restore a brace of 15 oil pipelines across the Tigris River that were bombed by the U.S. in the opening days of the war. The crossing had been the main link between Iraq's rich northern oil fields and export terminals and refineries.<>
The project was key to repairing Iraq's decrepit oil refining infrastructure in order to generate big bucks for the new Iraqi government as well as clearing the way for gadzillion barrels of crude to be shipped to the thirsty U.S., where gasoline prices were creeping ever upward.

KBR was paid $100,000 a day, but the money was pissed away and the pipeline crossing remains in a bombed out state.
For more, go here.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is drawing well deserved heat for her waffling on the war. Writes Robert Sheer at truthdig:
How do you triangulate among death, hypocrisy and stupidity? Not at all logically, which is why Hillary Clinton’s dissembling on Iraq has become a fatal embarrassment not only for her but for anyone who hopes she can provide progressive leadership for the nation. If she has still not found the courage to reverse course on this disastrous war, why assume that as president she would behave any differently?

It is unconscionable that those who can accurately measure the true cost of the Iraq folly in wasted lives and resources — more than 2,500 Americans, tens of thousands of Iraqis and hundreds of billions of dollars — dare prefer her to potential 2008 presidential election rivals John Kerry, Al Gore, Russ Feingold and John Edwards, who have all come to speak honestly of this quagmire and our need to extricate ourselves from it.
Then there's the Republicans' favorite Democrat, Joe Lieberman, who faces a tough primary challenge because of his support of the Bush administration's war policy.

Notes Taegan Goddard at Political Wire:
Lieberman's Democratic colleagues are putting him on the spot this week, forcing him to go on the record again on the issue central to the primary challenge against him: the war in Iraq.

If Lieberman goes along with his fellow party members' plan to urge the Bush administration to begin redeploying troops by the end of the year, it could look like he's flip-flopping on his stay-the-course stance just six weeks before his primary . . . But if he votes against the measure, he's likely to be one of only a handful of Democrats siding with virtually all the Senate's Republicans -- thus giving [primary opponent] Ned Lamont and anti-war Democrats fresh ammunition for attacking him.

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