President's Silence Tonight is Deafening

Tuesday June 28, 2005

President Bush spoke tonight and his silence was deafening. If anyone was surprised… if anyone was shocked to see their Commander-In-Chief so divorced from reality, they really haven’t been paying much attention. But day by day more Americans are seeing the light.

Each day they see the news… More casualties. More wounded. Billions of dollars lost or wasted. Congress cutting off veterans benefits. New memos discovered detailing White House plans to invade Iraq using manipulated or manufactured evidence. The list goes on and on.

Its no surprise that more than 50% of Americans now believe they were lied to in the run to war. Its also no surprise that more than 50% of Americans no longer support the war in Iraq and want our troops home.

The time has come for Congress to pass H.J.Res. 55 which calls on the President to develop and implement a plan for the withdrawal of United States Armed Forces from Iraq.

So while we work hard to sign up more co-sponsors in the House for H.J.Res. 55 (become a citizen co-sponsor), we must also work hard to seek accountability for what has already happened in Iraq.

During World War II, Harry Truman established what became known as the Truman Commission. The Commission consisted of a group of dedicated public servants who were committed to examining all financial and military transactions related to the war effort. Their work served to expose and eliminate any waste, mismanagement, or corruption which could have detracted from the effectiveness of Allied troops or the pockets of taxpayers.

Today, we are deeply involved in another war. It is a different kind of war, one which has been divisive and has strained our nation and our Congress.

Our reconstruction efforts in Iraq are saddled with blights – not by any fault of our troops, but by the refusal of our government to reign in and properly manage those in charge. Numerous private contractors were given huge contracts following the war to carry out a variety of tasks in Iraq – to rebuild its water and electrical grids for example – and billions of dollars have been earmarked to be spent on restarting Iraq’s economy and civil society. And yet, our Congress has never acted to ensure that the companies hired have been trustworthy, or that the billions and billions of dollars in reconstruction funds thus far spent have been used in responsible ways. No equivalent of the historic Truman commission has ever been created by our leaders.

What has been the result? Sadly, it has been all too predictable. In 2004, the American public became aware that Halliburton – the company with perhaps more ties to the White House than any other and a recipient of billions of dollars worth of reconstruction contracts – had been overcharging the Army for gasoline, inflating its profits at the expense of our troops. Then, earlier this year, the Special Inspector General for the Iraqi Reconstruction released a study stating that nothing less than $9 billion dollars in reconstruction money – nearly 5 percent of the total amount of money spent on the War – could not be accounted for. And just last month, new reports revealed that approximately $100 million theoretically spent on small yet vital building projects between 2003 and 2004 has simply disappeared, most likely into a black hole of unchecked fraud and incompetence.

Every dollar which is lost in Iraq is a dollar which could have been used to stabilize the country and protect out troops. It is a dollar which could have been used to help our soldiers to complete their mission so that they can come home sooner. Indeed, every dollar wasted is a dollar spent fighting against, rather than for, our men and women in uniform.

Long recognizing that massive gaps in accountability exist regarding the reconstruction effort, I and my Democratic colleagues have on numerous occasions called for the creation of a modern-day Truman Commission, a body tasked with monitoring post-war U.S. government activities in Iraq and making sure that money and resources go where they are supposed to go – not into the pockets of a corrupt contractor or into the black hole of confusion produced by the fog of war, but to the Iraqis and American soldiers who need them.

But no such commission has been created, solely because the Republican majority in Congress has consistently opposed any amendment which would lead to its creation. What could explain this seemingly incomprehensible lack of interest in protecting our troops and helping them to win the war they are in? Republican legislators have never explained their intransigence, but I suspect it is the product of their inherent fear of being held accountable for their actions.

Democrats in the House have seen this fear in action for years now, as the Republican majority has done everything it can to stand in the way of transparent and responsible governance.

Republicans have sought to hide the shameful lapses in judgment and accountability which have dogged our troops in Iraq rather than addressing and correcting them. This time, the consequences of their actions could not be more severe. By refusing to monitor post-war events in Iraq with a truly concerned eye, our soldiers have been directly endangered, left to struggle against the whims of unregulated companies and the irregularities of chance.

Our troops have been fighting two wars at once: one against a vicious insurgency which seeks to see them fail, and one against a self-interested party which seeks above all else to see itself escape being held accountable for its own mistakes and lapses in judgment.

The time has come for us to bring decency and accountability back to the House. Let us reconstitute a new Truman Commission dedicated to eliminating the corruption and waste plaguing American conduct in Iraq, and more broadly, reconstitute our commitment to honest and open government.

I know many will doubt our ability to create the change we seek… but if we all do our part… If we all join together… If we speak out, tell our friends and write our Members of Congress, even those who stand against us cannot stop us.

I encourage you to sign our petition demanding an Audit in Iraq in the form of a Truman Commission. By signing the petition you will be making your voice heard and we will be able to contact you directly when specific action is needed.

Together we can make the implausible a reality.


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