While John McCain continues to stoke the narrative that Barack Obama’s youth and inexperience on Capitol Hill could be a danger to the country, some of the seeds of his own decades-long tenure in Washington — his “judgment” and “leadership” — are starting to bloom stink weeds. $4 billion dollars worth. Seems that while McCain, the pork busting maverick, was “out in front” in criticizing former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, when, let’s be honest, it wasn’t really politically risky to do so, he played no outstanding role in making sure billions of taxpayer dollars weren’t dropped down a sinkhole in the desert, even when there was evidence that private contractors were ripping off Uncle Sam since the beginning of the war.
From the The Associated Press today:
In the flatlands north of Baghdad sits a prison with no prisoners.
It holds something else: a chronicle of U.S. government waste, misguided planning and construction shortcuts costing $40 million and stretching back to the U.S. overseers who replaced Saddam Hussein.
“It’s a bit of a monument in the desert right now because it’s not going to be used as a prison,” said Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, whose office plans to release a report today detailing the problems at the vacant detention center in Khan Bani Saad.
The pages also add another narrative to the wider probes into the billions lost on scrubbed or substandard projects and one of the main contractors accused of failing to deliver, the Parsons construction group of Pasadena, Calif.
In the pecking order of corruption in Iraq, the dead-end prison project at Khan Bani Saad is nowhere near the biggest or most tangled.
Bowen estimated up to 20 percent “waste” — or more than $4 billion — from the $21 billion spent so far in the U.S.-bankrolled Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund. It’s just one piece of a recovery effort that swelled beyond $112 billion in U.S., Iraqi and international contributions.(Emphasis mine)
According to The Washington Post this morning, the inspector general reiterates in his most recent report familiar admonishments from past reviews to congress: “widespread problems of contractors doing poor work, being late and overspending on projects. Those issues combined with bad record-keeping, lack of oversight by overworked government managers, and high personnel turnover for both the government and contractors in an unstable war zone have created millions of dollars in waste.”
Not only is it a gross waste of taxpayer money at a time when we could use it for so many other things back home (including keeping it in our own damn pockets!), but it underscores with a razor’s touch the failure of our promise to rebuild Iraq as a lasting testament of our “good intentions” in invading in the first place.
McCain’s support of that invasion, his blind eye to the public-private corruption fueled by the ongoing occupation — don’t bode well for the “experience” factor Obama is supposedly lacking. Reporters, in their zeal to ensure they aren’t too so soft on Obama, need to ask why a senior member of the Armed Services Committee did not do more to make sure Iraq didn’t become the Middle East capital of Waste, Fraud and Abuse over the last five years.
UPDATE: The story seems even more perverse when taking into account the $482 billion deficit the Bush Administration is expected to leave the next president. My favorite line from today’s reports:
The administration actually underestimates the deficit, however, since it leaves out about $80 billion in war costs. In a break from tradition — and in violation of new mandates from Congress — the White House did not include its full estimate of war costs.