In today's Washington Post, they break down how that $20B for Iraqi reconstruction will be spent.
The discontent is relatively contained so far, said Jim Dyer, Republican staff director of the House Appropriations Committee, but that is because few lawmakers have read the proposal's fine print. As more details seep out, he said, anger is sure to rise.
Those details include $100 million to build seven planned communities with a total of 3,258 houses, plus roads, an elementary school, two high schools, a clinic, a place of worship and a market for each; $10 million to finance 100 prison-building experts for six months, at $100,000 an expert; 40 garbage trucks at $50,000 each; $900 million to import petroleum products such as kerosene and diesel to a country with the world's second-largest oil reserves; and $20 million for a four-week business course, at $10,000 per student.
"We're not talking sanity here," Dyer said. "The world's second-largest oil country is importing oil, and a country full of concrete is importing concrete."
Then Josh Marshall drops this tidbit o' information:
New Bridge Strategies, LLC is a unique company that was created specifically with the aim of assisting clients to evaluate and take advantage of business opportunities in the Middle East following the conclusion of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Its activities will seek to expedite the creation of free and fair markets and new economic growth in Iraq, consistent with the policies of the Bush Administration. The opportunities evolving in Iraq today are of such an unprecedented nature and scope that no other existing firm has the necessary skills and experience to be effective both in Washington, D.C. and on the ground in Iraq.
A 'unique company'? You could say that. Who's the Chairman and Director of New Bridge? That would be Joe M. Allbaugh, President Bush's longtime right-hand-man and until about six months ago his head of FEMA. Before that of course he was the president's chief of staff when he was governor of Texas and campaign manager for Bush-Cheney 2000.
Allbaugh was part of the president's so-called 'Iron Triangle' -- the other two being Karl Rove and Karen Hughes. And now Allbaugh's running an outfit that helps your company get the sweetest contracts in Iraq? That sound right to you? Think he'll have any special pull?
Then Billmon jumps on the pile with a pithy comment:
There's an old joke about the Quakers: They came to America to do good, and did well. But these good old boys apparently have decided to skip the "doing good" part in Iraq and get straight to the "doing well."
But none of this makes sense until you connect the dots.
Why does Iraq, with maybe 130,000 unemployed professionals needs prison experts. If Iraq should have anything, it's people who can build prisons. These guys are living in these ornate palaces and they think they need outside construction advice. I think if Iraqis could meet construction standards where failure meant play time with Uday and Qusay, they can work to rebuild their country. But it's not about that.
New Bridge is going to serve as the broker to this aid money and the contracts which flow from them. Those needs have little to do with Iraq and a lot to do with Bush supporters who will bid and get paid for those contracts. Do you think Democratic linked companies will get New Bridge's help? Planned communities? They mean gated communities for Americans, like they have in Saudi Arabia.
Iraqis don't need business courses, it has a well developed netowrk of universities. U Baghdad was teaching students when Bush's ancestors painted themselves blue and killed Vikings. Iraqis have gone overseas for decades to get advanced degrees from Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, Oxford, the Sorbonne. They don't need or want these programs. They need modern research equipment and computers, rebuilt libraries. They have the professors and professionals needed already. A program which wasn't about looting the treasury would reenforce Iraq's institutions and not build what is in essence a colonial infrastructure.
This is a scam, which will benefit Bush cronies over Iraqis. These programs have nothing to do with Iraq. They have everything to do with enriching Republican contributors. Business courses? Why do Iraqis need business courses? They've sold things for thousands of years.
Even the plan to hire human rights investigators is a scam. Why couldn't bright young Iraqis be trained in investigatory techniques instead of a $200K a year "experts"? Who do you think will get those contracts? American firms like Kroll. Who will then still have to rely on young Iraqis to do the leg work.
It's not about helping Iraq. It's about enriching the friends of the president.
posted by Steve @ 4:09:00 PM