Level of Bush administration incompetence is truly
By Molly Ivins
Sacramento Bee" -- -- AUSTIN, Texas -- The
administration's competence problem is already at the yadda, yadda,
yadda stage. They were supposed to protect us from terrorist attack,
they said Iraq would be a cakewalk, that we only needed 50,000
troops. They failed to plan for the occupation or Hurricane Katrina
or the prescription drug plan. Yadda.
But when you look at the details of what incompetence means, it
becomes both chilling and really, really expensive. The Army
announced this week it has decided to reimburse Halliburton for
nearly all of the disputed costs in the more than $250 million in
charges the Pentagon's own auditors had identified as excessive or
According to the Pentagon's figures, it normally withholds an
average of 66 percent of what the auditors recommend. In this case,
the Pentagon wound up paying all but 3.8 percent of the disputed
costs, a figure so far outside the norm it was noticed immediately.
Rick Barton of the Center for Strategic and International Studies
told the New York Times, "To think that it's that near zero is
ridiculous when you're talking these kinds of numbers."
You may recall Bunnatine Greenhouse, a senior civilian contracting
official with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who said the
Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) contract was "the most blatant and
improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my
professional career." (Greenhouse was later demoted for her
honesty.) Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said, "Halliburton gouged the
taxpayer, government auditors caught the company red-handed, yet the
Pentagon ignored the auditors and paid Halliburton hundreds of
millions of dollars and a huge bonus." In addition to costs, the
Army, which blamed the excess to "haste and the perils of war," also
awarded the company additional profits and bonuses provided in the
And now comes a curious new contract for KBR, the Halliburton
subsidiary. The contract provides for establishing temporary
detention and processing capabilities to augment existing
Immigration and Custom enforcement. It's a contingency contract --
the contingency they have in mind apparently being "in the event of
an emergency influx of immigrants into the United States." Canadians
drowning from global warming? Mexicans feeling the return of PRI?
Ah, but the contract also specifies the detention centers are to
"support the rapid development of new programs." New programs? Far
be it from me to speculate.
The alarmmeisters in the blogosphere, whose imaginations know no
bounds, are already positing any number of horrors. (I cannot
imagine where they get some of these far-out ideas. From reading the
right-wing blogosphere?) What surprises me is that the
administration has planned for ... whatever it is it's planning for.
How forethoughtful of them to have something in place in case ... a
lot of citizens need to be rounded up or something.
What else are these people planning for? How to get body armor to
the troops after all this time? Improved port security?
One of the problems we have here is that in order to fix a mistake,
it is first necessary to recognize that you've made one. But we're
dealing with George W. Bush. We should be getting ready for three
Katrinas next year, but first the administration would have to
recognize that global warming is taking place.
One of the most discouraging morsels of news in recent days is that
President Bush was so enchanted by Michael Crichton's novel
purportedly debunking global warming that he asked Crichton to the
White House to chat with him. HELP! Why can't we ever get a break?
Think what would happen if the president read the "The Da Vinci
And so we are back to the ultimate mistake. I'm all in favor of
saving face in Iraq; they can call it Iraqification or whatever they
want to. Declare victory and go home, fine by me. But somewhere,
somehow, some grown-ups are going to have to admit that this whole
endeavor was a terrible idea. I'm for democracy. I'm against Saddam
Hussein. I'm sorry it didn't work out the way they wanted it to. Now
let's go. Because anybody who tells you it couldn't possibly get
worse is a fool.
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