Monday, September 15, 2008

Corruption II

As a follow-up to Blog Simple's last post about the shenanigans that went down in Kuwait and Iraq, I should point out that TomDispatch has a report by Frida Berrigan that looks at the big picture of corruption. At that lofty level, no indictments are handed out, no one pleads guilty, and few traces are left of the billions that disappear into company coffers.

Not until they arise again, those billions, as campaign contributions, 527s, and ownership and manipulation of the press. Even when wrongdoing is discovered and documented, the consequences are more than benign:

Ironically, the Pentagon isn't even getting what it paid for… not by a long shot. KBR's fraudulent activities have, according to the Government Accountability Office, included the failure to adequately account for more than a billion dollars in contracted funds; the leasing of vehicles to be used by company personnel for up to $125,000 a year (despite the fact that these vehicles could have been purchased outright for $40,000 or less); the purchase of unnecessary luxuries such as monogrammed towels for use in company-run recreation facilities for military personnel; the overcharging for fuel brought into Iraq from Kuwait for military use; the charging to the Pentagon's tab three to four times as many meals as were actually consumed by U.S. military personnel; and the provision of unclean water for U.S. troops.

All of these abuses came to light thanks to investigations by Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), the Pentagon's own Office of the Inspector General, and others, but Halliburton and its former subsidiary got off with little more than such wrist slaps as the revocation of the fuel supply contract and of KBR'S exclusive LOGCAP contract for Iraq. That was recently divided into three parts and put out to bid. KBR was, however, allowed to join the bidding, and is now sharing the contract with DynCorp and Fluor Corporation. Each company has received a $5 billion contract that includes nine one-year options for renewal that could be worth, in total, up to $150 billion, according to Dana Hedgpeth of the Washington Post.

The underlying philosophy behind such massive and continuous corruption goes under the heading 'privatization'. In a sense, privatization can be thought of as the last stage of the capitalist state. The relentless quest for markets and resources has gone around the globe, only nooks and crannies remain. So the search turns inwards, and the big pieces of the state are now in play as both resources and markets. The whole process is greased by financial feedback into the political system. Neither party is immune, and if the Republicans have raised the bar higher than we would have thought possible, the Democrat's silence on these facts show that the bar will not be coming down, no matter who is elected.

In his introduction to the report, Tom Engelhardt concludes with this comment:

In the meantime, let Frida Berrigan take you past the obvious Blackwater issues and into the deeper quagmire of the massive privatization of the American military. It's an issue whose time should long ago have arrived, but don't hold your breath till the media discussion and debate begins.

Media discussion and debate might begin if one of the presidential candidates would bring it up. But both are beholden to the same private powers that are running amok. Private debts are passed over to the state, while public resources are divvied up amongst the jackals at the door. How long can it possibly continue?

Meanwhile, ...the Caesarism that is to succeed arrives with quiet firm step....


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