Tuesday, November 28, 2006

# Posted 12:25 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SUNDAY MORNING ROUND-UP: NBC presented an exclusive interview with the victorious Gov. Schwarzenegger. Afterward, there was a roundtable on Iraq. CBS introduced its audience to three novice senators, Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Bob Corker (R-TN). ABC talked to Jordan’s King Abdullah, followed by Dick Durbin and Sam Brownback.

Ahnuld: B. Most politicians insist that they are motivated by core values, but Schwarzenegger unapologetically insists that his job is to eagerly please the voters of California. That seems to be the lesson the Governor has decided to draw from the failure of his proposed referenda in 2005 and his success in compromising with Sacramento Democrats in 2006, followed by his landslide re-election. But that kind of moderation tends to be a luxury that only state-level politicians can afford. To win a national election, you need ideas. Or a failed incumbent to run against.

Roundtable: B. The panelists included two retired four-star generals -- McCaffrey and Downing -- and the senior members of the House Armed Services Committee, Duncan Hunter and Ike Skelton. The discussion was a restrained, non-partisan affair, although Hunter made way for some of his usual bluster. But the bottom line is that even well-informed, relatively disinterested observers have no ideas for how to salvage the war in Iraq. Perceptive criticism was abundant, but all of the advice from the panelists boiled down to “Keep doing what you’re doing, just do it a whole helluva lot better.”

McCaskill: B-. Moderate in most regards, and honest enough to admit that neither party has any real idea what to about Iraq except wait for the Baker Commission to deliver its report. But then out of nowhere came her strange insistence that “people are getting rich on this war” and that Congress needs to investigate “war profiteering”. It sounded like something out of a socialist pamphlet from the 1930s. We all know that KBR, Bechtel and Halliburton are making money in Iraq, but that’s because cooperation with the private sector is integral to modern warfare. McCaskill’s rhetoric only feeds the paranoia of those fringe leftists who think we’re staying in Iraq to benefit Dick Cheney and his golf buddies.

Brown: B. Claire McCaskill can say what she wants about the party as a whole, but Sherrod Brown has a policy for Iraq. It’s called redeployment. Or withdrawal. Or something less pleasant. But it is a policy. It just happens to be a policy that the Democratic Party refuses to admit that it wants. The moderates and the doves want so badly to be unified, but neither will openly embrace the position of the other. Instead, both sides have begun to tip-toe towards one another, hoping perhaps that a compromise will emerge without anyone having to admit that they changed their position. Brown clothed his preference for withdrawal in the language of caution and patience. McCaskill clothed her preference for not abandoning Iraq with nods to the desirability of withdrawal. It was a lovely dance.

Corker: B-. Bob Corker is looking for shelter from the storm. He doesn’t want to carry the party’s baggage in Iraq. For the moment, reference to the Baker Commission will suffice instead of an actual position on the war.

Abdullah: D. That’s ‘D’ as in ‘dictator’. Without question, the silver-tongued monarch deserves tremendous credit for engineering such a positive reception for himself from the American media. What other authoritarian ruler gets treated as a visiting sage by a press corps that prides itself on speaking truth to power? Stephanopoulos’ questions were a total embarrassment. Perhaps ABC cut some sort of deal with the King to get him on the show and Stephanopoulos had no choice but to be so tame. But that isn’t a very pleasant thought, either. Forgive me for not providing details and evidence in this abbreviated polemic. Perhaps a fisking will be necessary (if an interview can be fisked). But neither liberals nor conservatives should have much reason to doubt that a “moderate”, pro-American dictator got much better treatment than he could ever deserve.

Durbin: B-. He’s fired up about the war in Iraq. I like passion in politics. But Durbin seems willing to latch on to any proposal that sounds like a good idea without thinking it through. Stephanopoulos suggested that Bush deliver an ultimatum to Maliki saying that he shut down the militias or we pull out of Iraq. Durbin was ready to sign on the dotted line, without ever asking whether surprise ultimatums are a good way of dealing with intricate situations. Or whether they should be delivered to those who, more than less, are on our side. Usually, Democrats talk about the importance of nuance, but Durbin was ready for the sledgehammer once Stephanopoulos held out the hope of a withdrawal following a potential ultimatum.

Brownback: B-. Like Corker, he’s running for cover and waiting for Baker to report. He doesn’t want the war around his neck, especially if he runs for president. Not that he has any ideas of his own about how to deal with the problem. Which is much more problematic for a veteran senator than for a novice.

By the way, CBS political correspondent Gloria Barger sat in for Bob Schieffer. Her energy and persistence were a major improvement. It's time for Schieffer to go.
(15) opinions -- Add your opinion

To win an election he'll probably need tactics, and some sense as well as some money.


I'm intrigued by your comment that, "Cooperation with the private sector is integral to modern warfare." If this "integral" cooperation leads to such a massive failure of operation, I'm not sure it's that integral.

I'll grant you it's impossible to pin the blame on the failure of the Iraq war squarely on the cooperation between private and public enterprises. But the administration has a seemingly intractable reliance on private industry to provide essential services in our war effort -- with little or no oversight. How is McCaskill's point that war profiteering is occuring in Iraq invalid? War profiteering is occurring. Even though this fact may lead some to believe the Iraq war is only for profit, that doesn't mean McCaskill's argument is flawed. It's a valid point.

You're attempting to minimalize her point about war profiteering. And that to me is doing a disservice to the troops, who have to deal with the private contractors that would rather turn a profit than actually provide for the Army.
"Profiteering", as opposed to "profiting" entails exploitation. It is about charging exorbitant prices for goods that tend to be scarce or rationed. A classic example would be selling bread for $100 a loaf during a siege.

Basically, it is an accusation that companies are manipulating the war for their own ends, instead of being hired by the government to perform a service.

MG, you are concerned that troops have to deal with contractors who work for profit. The only way to avoid that situation is to expand the US military to the point where it has enough personnel to perform for itself all the services of a KBR, Bechtel or Halliburton.

As I understand it, that's how we did things in World War II when we had millions and millions of men and women in uniform. If a volunteer force is integral to modern American warfare, then so is cooperation with the private sector.

And accusations of profiteering should be reserved for breaches of faith and contract, not just resentment of the fact that capitalism doesn't stop at the water's edge.

An audit of the KBR subsidiary of Halliburton by The Pentagon’s Defense Contract Audit Agency found $108 million in "questioned costs" and, as of mid-March 2005, said they still had "major" unresolved issues with Halliburton.

Oh, and MG is on to something. The troops HATE the contractors. Freaking HATE THEM.

And lastly, David has struck a fine phrase. Breach of faith. If Iraq is anything, it is a breach of faith.
David, your point about war profiteering is correct: It does entail exploitation. And that's currently going on, as well.

As an example, I would recommend the "Private Warriors" episode of PBS's "Frontline." In it, it tells us: "An audit by the U.S. Government Accountability Office of dining hall costs for one four-month period alleges KBR charged $88 million dollars for meals they never served. And Pentagon audits allege that KBR overcharged $108 million for fuel and billed the government $1.8 billion in other unsupported costs. The Pentagon terminated the fuel contract."

Now, were this to be a public enterprise, the money would simply go down the drain. But with KBR, the top brass at the company get paid, even if their products aren't worthy of the money we spent. And since we solely rely on their services for major elements of the effort, they can charge exhorbitant prices -- hence, exploitation.

It's not 1930s socialism to suggest that we're being taken for a ride here by people who run some of these companies. And asking for more oversight is our patriotic duty, not some leftist rant against capitalism.

P.S. Anonymous is correct: Private contractors are loathed by much of the U.S. force. Are they 1930s socialists, as well?
The leftwong socialist talking points are all well and good but -

Which private contractors are loathed by the military.

Of course the troops could live in trenches and eat K rations.
PS: Leftwong should read left wing.
I am active duty US Army and work with contractors regularly and I do not loathe them.
In Defence of Bush even now, in the height of sectarian carnage.
Regretfully, we must admit that one of the world’s finest men, President Carter, gave the world the Universal Terrorism that we, now, have vowed to eradicate. He believed, as a cultured civilized person, in ‘reasoning’ with people. They perceived it, politically and culturally, as a sign of apparent weakness and vulnerability.
In failing to give an ultimatum to the Iranians, (release our hostages within 48 hours or we will destroy your military installations) who were in breach of Universal Diplomatic Standards by invading sovereign US territory, he inflicted on the world the plague of those who embrace a Culture of Death to promote the Agenda of degenerate autocrats.
Clearly, we must accept that Terrorism is orchestrated by the heinous despots, supported by religious fundamentalists, who are willing to sacrifice even the last of their exploited, deprived and spiritless people in defense of their narrow vested interests.
The terrorists who, for years, have being waging war against the USA, the Epitome of Democracy, are being abetted and financed by all those Despots, of the Middle East, who are in dire fear of the relentless march of encroaching democracy.
The one advantage of dealing with Despots is that they are capable, by decree, to change forces of hatred into forces of love.
Until the Despots decree the end of their avowed destruction of Israel (the spearhead of Democracy in the Middle East) and their war on Democracy - their well-financed terrorists will continue their Jihad to the detriment of the Palestinians the Israelis and the Iraqis.
President Bush instinctively knew that terrorism required financing, sheltered training camps and sanctioned Jihads. These, he knew, were carefully nurtured and promoted by the wealthy Despots intent on warding off the march of democracy.
Clamping down on world terrorist-funding and making an example of the Iraqi Despot were essential first steps in the declared campaign against evil.
The Democratic Allied-Forces were willing to make untold sacrifices to liberate the Iraqi people. As a result of their blessed initiative the downtrodden Iraqi people, who were incapable of sparking their own revolt, are now offered the opportunity to forge their own constructive future.
The Iraqi example will, undoubtedly, compel the despotic leaders of Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia to move, for their own survival, towards eradication of the terrorists and the training camps dotting their landscapes.

If they don’t heed the warnings, democracy will continue its progressive march ensuring their eradication and the emancipation of their peoples.
It seems that the right wing can deny any news that doesn't fit its agenda.

From that notorious left wing organ, the Stars and Stripes:

At Camp Victory, too many SUVs, too few trailers

Nancy Montgomery / S&S

A Camp Victory dining facility lot is filled with SUVs at lunch. Some soldiers wonder why the vehicles are routinely used for on-base travel.

BAGHDAD — Three soldiers riding the shuttle bus between areas of the sprawling U.S. military base around Baghdad’s airport passed the time talking about life’s inequities. The young sergeant wondered why U.S. contract employees were paid so much more than soldiers when, as he noted, “We’re the ones getting shot at.”

Although by no means universal, many soldiers here have noticed what seems like excess at big bases like Camp Victory — in salaries, food quantities and so many sport utility vehicles used to drive only around the base. One captain said that when her unit wanted a photograph of their group as a memento of their time in a war zone, “We had to borrow a Humvee.”

The sergeant on the shuttle bus offered a political comment. “You know what I say KBR stands for?” he said. The other soldiers waited.

“Keep Bush Rich,” the sergeant said.

But then the soldiers noticed the new guards at various checkpoints on the route. Among the U.S.’ newest coalition partners, they were quite distinct. Their uniforms were olive green and their skin was a deep, dark hue.

“Where are they from?” asked one.

“Uganda,” they were told.

A private first class had one more question.

“Where’s that?” he asked.
Master of his domain

His title is billeting supervisor, but if Scott Bowans were a character in an XBox game, he’d be known as the powerful “Tent Master.”

Bowans is the KBR employee in charge of assigning tents and trailers for all of south Camp Victory, the part of Victory closest to the palace and therefore considered by many to be the most desirable. He oversees assignment of some 6,000 “bed spaces” in 129 tents and 742 highly coveted trailers.

It isn’t always easy.

“Right now there’s about 600 people on the list to get into trailers,” he said. “There’s always been a waiting list, but it’s never been this big.”

Do people ever get snippy about it?

“Every day,” Bowans said. “But nobody ever crosses the line.”

Bowans didn’t really have an answer why trailers are in such short supply.

“They’re bringing in more,” he said. Also, he said, there seemed to be more civilians coming to Iraq than ever, and V Corps brought more people than its predecessor at Multi-National Corps-Iraq.

The shortage has left lieutenant colonels sharing tents for weeks, and at least one sergeant major had been inching his way up the list and out of his tent shared with two other men for more than two months.

“Last I looked I was at No. 2,” he said.

The tents are more spacious but far dustier than the trailers. Everyone from private to colonel is eligible for a trailer and is placed there on a first-come, first-served basis, Bowans said.

“Everything is based on when you arrived and when you signed in (to the waiting list),” he said.

But rank does have its rewards. Everyone must share his trailer with another — except for lieutenant colonels and above, the top two chief warrant officer ranks and sergeants major.

Colonels rate their own trailers with the added luxury of a shared, adjoining bathroom with another colonel. At least that’s the theory.

“We only have 20 ‘wet’ trailers on all of south Victory,” Bowans said. “So 40 colonels have their own [shared] bathrooms.”

Bowans said he conducts trailer checks on majors and others required to share a trailer, to see whether they’ve somehow finagled to be roommate-free.

“I had one guy put out fake mail with fake addresses to make it look like he had a roommate, but he didn’t,” Bowans said. “You have to be like a detective.”
MG, you've gotten my interest. I don't have enough facts at my disposal to respond to yours, so I'll have to do some more reading. Feel free to post any links you have to useful articles, etc.
David A., I appreciate your honest opinion. That's why I read your blog; you are a truly honest person. I will happily write a more thorough essay of my evidence of war profiteering and anti-private-contractor-sentiment of the military in the next few days. I hope to continue this discussion! If I can be proved wrong, I would be pleased, but honestly there is too much information out there for me to say war profiteering is not occurring. I'll compile it, and hopefully you can rebut it.
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