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Oversight? No Thanks | The Nation

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The Notion

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Oversight? No Thanks

After all the reports of corporate crimes and contract abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan -- including the recent revelation by Halliburton Watch that Halliburton and its KBR subsidiary knowingly exposed thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq to hazardous levels of unhealthy water from the Euphrates River, including human fecal matter -- the Senate was offered an opportunity on Tuesday to restore a measure of Congressional oversight to the process by which tax dollars are distributed to private corporations and the activities of those corporations in regions of the world that are supposed to be of critical importance to the United States.

As part of the Senate debate over the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 -- the Pentagon budget -- North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan proposed a simple amendment "to establish a special committee of the Senate to investigate the awarding and carrying out of contracts to conduct activities in Afghanistan and Iraq and to fight the war on terrorism."

The amendment was rejected.

Fifty-two senators voted "no" -- all of them Republicans, including supposed "straight-shooters" such as Arizona's John McCain and Nebraska's Chuck Hagel.

Forty-four senators voted "yes" -- all of them Democrats, except Rhode Island Republican Lincoln Chafee.

Arguably, it was Chafee who cast the most courageous vote. He faces a September primary by a conservative foe who charges the Rhode Island moderate with failing to follow the party line. Of course, Chafee can counter by explaining that he did not know that, to be a good Republican, a senator must defend the freedom of corporations to provide U.S. troops with water containing fecal matter.

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