The continued use of the death penalty in the United States remains an act of racial injustice as well as an inherently cruel, unusual and degrading punishment.
A report recently issued by Amnesty International confirmed the racial bias in sentencing that has been increasingly evident as capital punishment has been stepped up in a number of states, particularly Texas, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
As AI reported, eighty percent of people executed since judicial killing resumed in 1977 were put to death for murders involving white victims, although blacks and whites are murder victims in almost equal numbers in the US. And, though African-Americans account for only 12 percent of the US population, they represent more than 40 percent of those on death row.
Even more stark: Since 1977, 200 African-Americans have been executed for the death of white victims, which is 15 times as many the number of whites put to death for killing blacks during that period even though African-Americans make up about 50 percent percent of all homicide victims.
When you consider this demonstrable racial bias along with numerous credible studies showing that capital punishment does NOT act as a deterrent to crime, it's clear that Rick Perry and the rest of the nation's governors would do well to heed the brave example of the Dallas Morning News, no liberal paper, which recently editorialized in support of a state moratorium on further executions to provide experts time to examine what the paper deems Texas's "broken system." (This comes after a year, 2002, when Texas was the only jurisdiction in the entire world to execute a juvenile offender, according to Amnesty.)
Robert Sherrill's award-winning Nation essay from 2001 makes it crystal clear why the death penalty is such a bad deal all around. Not only is it ineffective in deterring crime, more expensive than life imprisonment, and very fallible under the best of circumstances, but it's also considered barbaric in most of the rest of the world, not helping the US image abroad, and causing continued strife, even with allies, in various extradition matters.
To highlight and combat the growing use of capital punishment in America, we put together an online calendar compilation each month of prisoners slated for execution nationwide, along with an easy way to email letters requesting stays on behalf of these inmates. Time is running out for David Brewer, who is scheduled for execution in Ohio this Tuesday, unless Republican Governor Bob Taft grants a stay.
We've also compiled a list of the top ten reasons to oppose the death penalty. Write to your local paper using these talking points as ammo. Call your local talk radio show too. National polls show the tide is starting to turn with support for the death penalty dropping, even if slightly, from coast to coast. So now's the time to speak up.
And turn to both the Death Penalty Information Center and The Nation Online Directory death penalty page for a wealth of links to studies, reports, essays, articles and ways you can get involved in the fight to abolish the death penalty in the US.
Rick Santorum is a bigot. And, like others bigots before him, he seeks to promote his views be claiming the American people face "threats" that do not exist.
Santorum, the Pennsylvanian who chairs the Senate Republican Caucus, is blatant about his bigotry. Unlike former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, who got in trouble for praising Strom Thurmond's Dixiecrat presidential campaign of 1948, Santorum was talking about the here and now when he objected to efforts to strike down sodomy laws because he opposes lifting criminal sanctions against gay and lesbian relationships. To this senator's view, gays and lesbians who engage in consensual, monogomous and loving relationships "undermine the basic tenets of our society and the family."
Just as Santorum is blatant about his bigotry, he is equally blatant in his fearmongering, arguing that, "(If) the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does."
Santorum told an Associated Press reporter that respecting the rights of adult citizens to engage in loving, respectful relationships is wrong because such a stance "destroys the basic unit of our society because it condones behavior that's antithetical to strong healthy families. Whether it's polygamy, whether it's adultery, where it's sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family."
Wrong as he may be, Santorum has a right to his point of view -- just as people have a right to believe in trickle-down economics and other dangerous fallacies. But Santorum has no right to have his retrograde viewpoints treated with respect. To do so would be to legitimize the bigotry that has eaten away at his ability to recognize -- or, at least, respect -- reality.
Charges that striking down laws that criminalize same-sex relationships will eliminate restrictions on incest and polygamy used to heard quite frequently from politicians who sought votes by pitting groups against one another. But even on the right-wing of the political spectrum, such talk has become less common in recent years. Why? Because states across the country have been striking down sodomy laws for more than 40 years, without weakening laws against incest and polygamy.
Twenty-six states have repealed sodomy laws since Illinois began the trend in 1962. The courts have struck down sodomy laws in nine more states.
More than two dozen states have passed laws barring different forms of discrimination against gays and lesbians since Wisconsin did so in 1982. Hundreds of communities have done the same. The courts have upheld these moves, while continuing to recoginize the ability of states and communities to impose sanctions against incest, polygamy and other behaviors on Santorum's list.
So the senator is wrong. And, because of his prominent position and history of dealing with social issues as the fair-haired boy of the Republican right, it is fair to assume that he knows better. So it is certainly reasonable to assume that Santorum is motivated not by genuine concern about the spread of polygamy but by his bigotry against lesbians and gays.
Fair enough. There are plenty of bigots in politics. And, in this democracy, voters are permitted to elect them.
However, voters are also permitted to ask whether Santorum speaks for the Republican Party. He is, after all, the chair of the party's caucus in the upper house of the Congress.
Two prominent Republican moderates have been appropriately critical of Santorum. "Discrimination and bigotry have no place in our society, and I believe Senator Santorum's unfortunate remarks undermine Republican principles of inclusion and opportunity," says Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine. Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-Rhode Island, says that, "I thought his choice of comparisons was unfortunate and the premise that the right of privacy does not exist -- just plain wrong. Senator Santorum's views are not held by this Republican and many others in our party."
But is Chafee right? Is Santorum the one who stands outside the GOP mainstream? So far, the nation's leading Republican is refusing to comment on the Santorum flap. The Bush White House is officially silent. Most leading Republicans in Congress have also gone uncharacteristically mum -- though, in some cases, they are actually defending Santorum. The man who replaced Lott, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, has gone so far as to claim that Santorum is "a consistent voice for inclusion and compassion in the Republican Party."
So where does the Grand Old Party stand? Exactly how big is the big tent? The moment demands some clarification, and Republicans have a model for how to approach such a circumstance.
When Trent Lott made statements that seemed to suggest a sympathy for the racist bigotries of the 1940s, President Bush and his aides were quick to distance themselves from that senator's sentiments. So too were a number of prominent conservative Republicans in the Senate. Bush and other party leaders ought to do the same with regard to Santorum, unless, of course, they share his point of view.
Is Bush taking lessons from Julius Caesar? Apparently so. When Caesar's short but bloody conquest of the Celtic tribes led to the founding of the Roman province of Gaul (modern France) in 52 B.C. he divided the country into three parts. Well-connected sources tell us that Bush plans to divide Iraq into three parts as well: Premium, regular and unleaded.
The obvious question is, where are the weapons of mass destruction that supposedly prompted the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz quartet to invade Iraq?
The less obvious one is, where's the massive search-and-secure operation that should be scouring Iraq to locate and control those stocks of chemical and biological weapons and WMD-related materials, technology and records?
The US military certainly has been looking for chemical and biological weapons as well as evidence of a nuclear bomb program (Iraq was never said to be in possession of nuclear weapons). But what is surprising--if not scandalous--is that two weeks after US troops moved into Baghdad the Bush Pentagon has not yet mounted a full sweep of Iraq for WMD, or even dispatched a sufficient amount of trained troops and specialists to conduct such a mission. It's as if the Bush administration and the Pentagon had not bothered to listen to their own rhetoric about Iraq's purported weapons of mass destruction while planning the invasion and occupation. Shouldn't a mess of these units have been scrambling across Iraq--using all that prewar intelligence that allowed administration officials to declare without pause that Saddam Hussein controlled enough of these dangerous weapons to be a direct threat to the United States--within days, if not hours, of the collapse of Hussein's murderous regime? Perhaps they should even have been among the forward-deployed troops. Yet while some US WMD-hunters are hard at work, the Pentagon acknowledges that nothing close to a full detachment has been sent to Iraq. As The Los Angeles Times reported on April 20, the Defense Department is still preparing to send "hundreds of additional investigators to speed up the search" for WMD and remains in the process of "assembling a 'survey group' with more than 1,000 experts to interrogate Iraqi scientists and sift through recovered documents to broaden the search for weapons of mass destruction."
Is it dumb to ask, why wasn't all this ready to go when the war started?
It's not as if the invasion came as a shock. The Pentagon had months--actually, over a year--to ready WMD teams for Iraq. As early as November 2001, Bush warned Hussein that trouble would be coming unless he opened up Iraq to international weapons inspectors. That was two months before he designated Iraq an original member of his axis of evil. With so much lead time, why did the Pentagon not arrange for a force of specialists who could immediately be dropped into Iraq to find and control the weapons that were the reason for the war?
On March 20, the day after the bombing began, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld noted, "We have a serious task before us, and it is to remove that regime and find the weapons of mass destruction." The following day, he identified several "specific objectives." Number one was smashing the regime and its military. The second item on his to-do list was, "to identify, isolate and eventually eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, their delivery systems, production, capabilities, and distribution networks." (After that came driving out terrorists, delivering humanitarian relief, securing oil fields, creating conditions that would allow a transition to a new, representative government.) He noted that "we will...ensure their weapons of mass destruction will not fall into the hands of terrorists." Days later, he remarked, "we're there to eliminate the weapons of mass destruction in that country."
But the available public evidence suggests Rumsfeld had no plan for quickly and fully addressing this priority. Or for preventing that much-discussed nightmare scenario: in the chaos caused by war, chemical and biological weapons and WMD-related materials (if any did exist in Iraq) are grabbed by terrorists, crooks, former officials, or whomever, and spirited out of Iraq. At a press conference on April 9--the day US forces took Baghdad--Rumsfeld said, "We are in the process of trying to liberate that country. And at the moment where the war ends and the coalition forces occupy the areas where those capabilities--chemical and biological weapons--are likely to be, to the extent they haven't been moved out of the country, it obviously is important to find them." To the extent they haven't been moved out of the country? Was the Pentagon not taking deliberate action to try to stop that from occurring? Two days later, Rumsfeld again made it seem as if dealing with possible WMD was a secondary mission: "When there happens to be a weapon of mass destruction suspect site in an area that we occupy and if people have time, they'll look at it." If people have time? Indeed, the task of military units is to win the battle of the moment. But the Marines could have been accompanied by the WMD-seekers assigned to examine suspected sites.
The point of this war was to make sure Hussein could not hand off nuclear, chemical or biological weapons to terrorists who would use them against the United States. (It was uncertain whether Hussein had such weaponry, whether--if he did--he had the inclination to share them with terrorist groups, and whether he maintained any operational links to such outfits.) And before the war, an obvious possibility loomed: a US invasion would cause the collapse of the central government, which presumably would lead to a breakdown of the command and control system in charge of Iraq's purported WMD arsenal. All that dangerous stuff would then be up for grabs. As Rumsfeld said on April 9, "the thought that as part of this process, some of that--those materials could leave the country and in the hands of terrorists networks would be a very unhappy prospect. So it is important to us to see that that doesn't happen." Yet this "unhappy prospect" was most likely to occur during the turmoil of war or in the first chaotic days and weeks following its conclusion. Rumsfeld and the Pentagon offered no indication they had prepared thoroughly for that contingency.
On April 17, Rumsfeld noted that the Pentagon's WMD teams "for the first time in the last few days" had been able to start looking at suspected sites. But, he added, "I don't think we'll discover anything, myself. I think what will happen is we'll discover people who will tell us where to go find it. It is not like a treasure hunt where you just run around looking everywhere hoping you find something. I just don't think that's going to happen. The inspectors didn't find anything, and I doubt that we will. What we will do is find the people who will tell us."
Imagine if Rumsfeld had said that before the war: We're invading another country to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction, but I doubt we'll find them unless people there tell us where they are.
As of this writing, there have been no confirmed sightings of WMD in Iraq. On Monday, The New York Times, in a story reviewed by military censors, reported that an American military squad hunting for WMD--the Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha--had found an Iraqi scientist who claimed to have worked in a chemical weapons program. He reportedly told his American handlers that Hussein's government destroyed chemical weapons and biological warfare equipment days prior to the US invasion. This scientist, according to MET Alpha, led the Americans to a spot where illegal weapons-related material had been buried. (Judith Miller, the Times reporter embedded with this MET, was not allowed to interview the scientist.) The day the story ran, Rumsfeld refused to comment on it.
Perhaps the MET Alpha discovery will be the WMD prize the Bush administration has been seeking. But until now the WMD indicators have not been encouraging for the White House. A front-page story in today's Washington Post begins, "With little to show after 30 days, the Bush administration is losing confidence in its prewar belief that it had strong clues pointing to the whereabouts of weapons of mass destruction concealed in Iraq, according to planners and participants in the hunt. After testing some--though by no means all--of their best leads, analysts here and in Washington are increasingly doubtful that they will find what they are looking for in the places described on a five-tiered target list drawn up before the fighting began. Their strategy is shifting from the rapid 'exploitation' of known suspect sites to a vast survey that will rely on unexpected discoveries and leads."
In other words, whoops. Or would that be, never mind? More the former--if the Bushies were right and there were WMD in Iraq before the war. As the Post noted, "If such weapons or the means of making them have been removed from the centralized control of former Iraqi officials, high-ranking US officials acknowledged, then the war may prove to aggravate the proliferation threat that President Bush said he fought to forestall." And as of April 21, the Pentagon had yet to examine tens of the 100 or so top-priority targets.
It could be that tomorrow incriminating weaponry is discovered or the MET Alpha find turns out to be the WMD equivalent of King Tut's tomb. But in the Post piece, one can discern the rapid construction of a fallback position. Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy, raised the possibility that some of the postwar looting was conducted by Iraqi insiders who swiped files, electronic data, and equipment from WMD programs to conceal their involvement or make off with technology and information they can sell. Consequently, the US WMD-hunters have had a tougher time.
It's worth remembering that the Bush administration, in its go-to-war push, did not say that Hussein--who was not cooperating fully with inspections-- might possess biological and chemical weapons and a program to develop nuclear weapons. They maintained there was no question he had awful weapons and a nuclear program. "If there are no weapons of mass destruction, I'll be mad as hell," David Albright, a former UN weapons inspector told The Los Angeles Times. "I certainly accepted the administration claims on chemical and biological weapons. I figured they were telling the truth. If there is no [WMD program], I will feel taken, because they asserted these things with such assurance."
Whether biological and chemical weapons and the remnants of an active nuclear program are found or not, Bush and his national security team have already violated their prewar commitment to the United States and the world. They claimed that finding and eliminating WMD in Iraq was the prime reason for the war. Yet they--of all people--do not seem to have taken the threat seriously, for they failed to draw up adequate plans to deal with it. Even if the MET teams and the come-lately reinforcements uncover WMD caches, they will likely never know what they missed--and where and with whom it might be today.
"America has entered one of its periods of historical madness," argues author John Le Carré, who suggests that the current drive by conservatives in Congress and their media allies to search out and destroy dissent is "worse than McCarthyism." That may sound extreme to some, but it certainly must ring true for Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines, whose mild criticism of President Bush in the days before the war with Iraq began has made the group target No. 1 for the Elite Republican Guardians of patriotic propriety.
After Maines, a native of Lubbock, told a crowd at a London Dixie Chicks show that "we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas," South Carolina legislators passed a bill declaring those words to be "unpatriotic," disc jockeys organized rallies at which tractors were used to destroy Dixie Chicks CDs, and radio stations across the south barred songs by the groups. Though officials of Clear Channel, the media conglomerate that controls more than 1,200 radio stations across the US denied that they had issued a network-wide ban order, Clear Channel's country and pop music stations were among the first to declare themselves "Chicks Free." And the chattering class of conservative talk-radio and talk-TV piled on with calls for boycotts of the group's upcoming concert tour.
With the experience of the Dixie Chicks providing a cautionary tale--and with high-profile actors who have expressed antiwar views, such as Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and Janeane Garofalo, being branded "casting couch Bolsheviks" and worse--there was a clear signal coming from the entertainment industry in general, and the music industry in particular, about what happens when artists speak out. While outspoken groups and individual performers such as the Beastie Boys, System of the Down, REM, Lenny Kravitz, Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder and Zack de la Rocha dared to speak out musically, radio playlists have tended increasingly to feature Bush Administration-friendly songs like Darryl Worley's "Have You Forgetten" and "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)" by Toby Keith--who criticizes Maines as a "big mouth." Madonna remade what had been described as an antiwar video for her new single, "American Life," because she said, "I do not want to risk offending anyone who might misinterpret the meaning of this video." And, against the pressure to make music conform to the conservative agenda of the Bush Administration, there has been a whole lot of silence from most of the music industry's biggest names.
But Bruce Springsteen is not one to let his voice be frozen out by a free speech chill. Springsteen featured a roaring version of Edwin Starr's anti-war hit, "War (What Is It Good For?)," during March shows in the U.S. and Australia; at a Melbourne show during the first days of the war, he told the crowd between performances of the songs "My City of Ruins" and "Land Of Hope and Dreams" that: "We pray for the safety of our sons and daughters, innocent sons and daughters and innocent Iraqi civilians." Now, the man whose song "Born in the USA" remains an anthem for patriots of many stripes--including those who see dissent as the truest expression of Americanism--has let rip with a powerful defense of the Dixie Chicks and artistic free speech.
"The Dixie Chicks have taken a big hit lately for exercising their basic right to express themselves. To me, they're terrific American artists expressing American values by using their American right to free speech. For them to be banished wholesale from radio stations, and even entire radio networks, for speaking out is un-American," Springsteen said in a statement that was set to be posted today on the www.brucespringsteen.net website.
"The pressure coming from the government and big business to enforce conformity of thought concerning the war and politics goes against everything that this country is about--namely freedom. Right now, we are supposedly fighting to create freedom in Iraq, at the same time that some are trying to intimidate and punish people for using that same freedom here at home," added Springtseen, whose 2002 album The Rising, a groundbreaking rumination on September 11th and its aftermath, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart and has been certified double platinum.
"I don't know what happens next," Springsteen said of America's current moment, "but I do want to add my voice to those who think that the Dixie Chicks are getting a raw deal, and an un-American one to boot. I send them my support."
As usual, Springsteen has his finger closer to the pulse of America than the ranting right and those over-cautious celebrities who have shied away from the controversy. Of the 59 shows on the upcoming Dixie Chicks tour of major arenas, 53 have already sold out and the remainder are on the verge of being fully booked.
Skip the stories about pro-consul Jay Garner, Bechtel's war profiteering and the Bush Administration's professed commitment to building democracy in Iraq. For a clear-eyed view of democracy-building according to Bush, see today's edition of Aaron McGruder's celebrated comic-strip Boondocks.
Chief protagonist and avid news junky Huey Freeman sits in front of his TV, listening to the latest news report:
"To guarantee free and fair elections in Iraq as soon as possible, President Bush announced he would be sending Katherine Harris to Baghdad next week."
With America's leading evangelist in the White House, is it any wonder that Christian preacher Franklin Graham and his relief agency, Samaritan's Purse, are "poised and ready" to bring their missionary zeal to the Iraqi people?
Franklin Graham, Billy's son, has, like his father, earned the title of "pastor to presidents." He has also earned widespread criticism from Muslims for calling Islam a "very evil and wicked religion" bent on "world domination." Such statements have made many people, not only Muslims, question the decision to give him a role in the Middle East. Nevertheless, Graham and his relief agency are about to head into Iraq, eagerly awaiting, in the words of Maureen Dowd, "to inveigle Iraqi infidels with a blend of kitchen pantry and Elmer Gantry."
And, in the meantime, Donald Rumsfeld invited Graham to deliver this past week's Good Friday prayer service to a packed audience at the Pentagon--over the objections of the lay leader of the Pentagon's Muslim community, who charitably called Graham a "divisive' figure, and a number of Muslim Pentagon employees. (Washington Post," At Pentagon, Graham Lets Controversy Sit Silently.")
Yes, let's raise tough questions about Graham's divisive statements and what they augur for his missionary work in Iraq. But, let's remember that it's our President, Evangelist #1, who bears ultimate responsibility for the religious right's strength--at home and abroad.
Click here to listen to President Bush's weekly radio address from April 19. It's a sermon worthy of the best of Franklin (or Billy) Graham and may help explain why so many people around the world see the war in Iraq as part of a crusade against Islam.
There are many things that one can rightly call Los Angeles Times columnist and Nation contributing editor Robert Scheer. But "anti-American" is just not one of them. A lifelong "moderate radical," Scheer has spent decades arguing sensibly and passionately against extremism on all sides. He's also one of America's most accomplished journalists and interviewers--having interviewed every US president from Nixon to Clinton, and one of the few voices on a major op-ed page that regularly dares to speak truth to power. Animated by moral outrage, Scheer's commentary is also infused with a keen sense of what it means to be a truly patriotic citizen.
So when Bill O'Reilly uses his TV program and website to attack Scheer as a "traitor," and as "blatantly anti-American," he's distorting the truth. The taunts are a cheap way of trying to tarnish Scheer's reputation without having to rebut the merits of his arguments. Unfortunately, with his platform, when O'Reilly encourages his viewers to contact the Los Angeles Times and demand Scheer's dismissal, which he did a few weeks ago, a bunch of people do just that.
Though I'd suspect that many of these folks were misled by O'Reilly's propaganda, it's nonetheless, of course, their right to complain. And it's our obligation to respond in turn. So please be in touch with the LA Times. Click here for contact info. Let them know that you think Scheer is one of the best things about the paper, that you appreciate their balanced op-ed page, and that you think that the Scheer column which set O'Reilly off was an important expression of patriotism.
Even better, contact your local newspaper and ask them to consider carrying Scheer's syndicated weekly column (which appears on The Nation's website). Tell them it's available from Creator's Syndicate at reasonable rates. Expanding the audience of the column would go some way to redressing the awful conservative imbalance in the media today. Click here for contact info on local media nationwide, part of the Nation's activist page.
There are also two good websites striving to document, satirize and thwart O'Reilly's daily disinformation: O'ReillySucks.Com and O'Reilly Exposed. They both sponsor interesting activist campaigns, including a boycott of O'Reilly's regular advertisers.
In 1917, at the height of World War I, Wisconsin Sen. Robert M. La Follette caused quite a stir when he suggested that one of the best ways to support the US troops fighting in Europe was to expose and challenge American corporations that engage in all forms of war profiteering. Even as attention is focused abroad on battles still raging, La Follette said, it is important to remain ever mindful "that there are enemies of democracy in the homeland."
"These," the Senator continued, "are the powers of special privilege that take advantage of the opportunity which war affords to more firmly entrench themselves in their control of government and industry. These interests are amassing enormous fortunes out of the world's misery."
More than 85 years later, America finds itself embedded in a very different conflict, yet La Follette's words still ring true. No matter what Americans think about the Bush Administration's preemptive invasion of Iraq, there should be broad agreement on the need to ensure that corporations do not turn the war and its aftermath into a bonanza for their bottom lines and a boondoggle for US taxpayers. In other words: Now that the statues of Saddam Hussein have been toppled, it is time to topple the war profiteers. But where to begin?
Recent days have brought news of the awarding of a contract worth up to $680 million to rebuild Iraqi roads, schools, sewers and hospitals damaged in the war. Bechtel, which is jokingly referred to in business circles as Bushtel, donated $1.3 million to political candidates during the last two election cycles -- with most of it going into the coffers of Republican campaigns, including the 2000 Bush for President effort. Surely, Bechtel is an attractive target for a Congressional investigation of war profiteering--like those begun after World War I and during World War II.
But if Congress is going to get serious about war profiteering, there is no better place to begin than the Texas-based Halliburton Corp. energy conglomerate that Vice-President Dick Cheney once headed. According to a letter from the Army Corps of Engineers released this week, a Pentagon contract given without competition to a Halliburton subsidiary to fight oil well fires in Iraq is worth as much as $7 billion over two years.
The contract allows Kellogg Brown & Root, the Halliburton subsidiary, to collect as much as a 7 percent profit. That could amount to $490 million.
Cheney, who collected more than $33 million in compensation from Halliburton when he quit to become vice president--and who still receives deferred compensation from the company of about $180,000 a year--says that he has not intervened on behalf of his old company. And National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton says, "The White House has no role in selecting individual contractors."
But Kellogg Brown & Root has had quite a run of luck since the Bush Administration took over. The federal government and the Pentagon have paid the firm tens of millions of dollars to build cells for detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. And the company is earning hundreds of millions as the exclusive logistics supplier for the Navy and the Army, providing services like cooking, construction, power generation and fuel transportation. The best accounting so far available suggests that, between October 2000 and March 2002, the government awarded Kellogg Brown & Root work worth more than $624 million.
Two senior members of the US House--Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and John Dingell, D-Mich.--have asked the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, to review contracts received over the last two years by Halliburton and its subsidiaries. "The ties between the vice president and Halliburton have raised concerns about whether the company has received favorable treatment from the Administration," Waxman and Dingell bluntly declared in their letter to the GAO.
The investigation of Halliburton should coincide with congressional action to tighten procedures for awarding government contracts and with steps to ensure that corporations are prevented from profiteering in wartime or its aftermath--as in World War II, when the chair of the Senate's Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program referred to war profiteering as "treason." That Senator was Harry Truman.
When asked by Larry King about Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's charges that the media had exaggerated the lawlessness and looting in Baghdad in the early days of the US occupation, Dan Rather, not given to picking fights with the White House, couldn't lay off this one. See the excerpt below and click here for the full transcript from April 14.
KING: Secretary Rumsfeld has said that the media has given an exaggerated picture of the looting and the lawlessness. What have you found?
RATHER: Well, I don't have any argument with the Defense Secretary. But I will say that I'm here. I try to be an honest reporter, be an honest broker of information. And I--it's my judgment that if Secretary Rumsfeld had been here, he might have worded that at least in a somewhat different way. There's no question the looting has been rampant and widespread. It was for several days here. We were told that it began to taper off some today. And in fact, I think it did, but primarily because most things of value have been stripped out of most places where they could be.
But you know, it's not a time to argue. The Defense Secretary has his judgment, and if that's his judgment, well, he'll ride with it. But as a reporter, I can simply say that I don't--I've never seen anything like the looting here. I don't think anybody else has seen anything like the looting here. It was widespread, and it did have a depressing effect on the population. To say that it was just, quote, "exuberance," unquote--you know, the Secretary of Defense has to talk about a lot, and he probably would want to take back that word himself, if he had a chance to do so.