I watched a little of today’s hearing on Iraq war profiteering and contracting. It’s really nothing short of amazing. It’s like watching the movie Iraq For Sale in Congressional hearing form. They’re focusing on Blackwater Securities today, whose contract for Iraq couldn’t even be found until today, and who were sending out truck drivers without proper equipment to save money, while pocketing hundreds of millions of dollars through overcharging the government. It’s great to see these bastards nailed to the wall.
And the man who’s putting this all together is my Congressman, Henry Waxman. He is nothing short of heroic for bringing the spotlight to this war profiteering in his House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. And he’s a dogged investigator and questioner. He painted the picture in yesterday’s session with Paul Bremer of the Federal Reserve packing 363 tons of cash in palettes onto military aircraft to be sent to Iraq to simply be passed out. Today, Waxman repeatedly asked a spokeswoman from the Army how many security contractors they have hired, and she dodged and dodged and finally had to answer that she didn’t know the precise number. And finally, there was his brilliant smackdown of GOP attack dog Rep. Patrick McHenry, who spent the entire session trying to blame profiteering on the Clinton Administration and calling it a show trial: he said “I suggest the Congressman return under his rock.”
Waxman deserves a lot of credit for his pursuit of lawbreaking and official corruption. And his reputation in this district is gold sterling. He was right there on the front page of the New York Times the other day. And he’s a great, longtime champion for liberal values. He took on the cigarette companies. He wrote the Clean Air Act. And on and on.
However, it’s important to note that Waxman voted for the war, is not part of the Out of Iraq caucus, and while he has finally come out against the escalation, is “on the fence” about de-funding the war and bringing the troops home.
On the flip…
He keeps this incredibly quiet. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone in this district that knows this. I was talking to a few friends about this very topic recently, and they looked at me like I was nuts. They actually couldn’t believe it.
You have to dig, but you can find Waxman’s statement about Iraq at his website.
On October 10, 2002, Rep. Waxman voted for resolution H.J.Res. 114, authorizing the use of military force to ensure Iraq’s disarmament of weapons of mass destruction. He did so with the expectation that a strong bipartisan stand in Congress would pressure the United Nations to carry out its responsibilities to enforce its own resolutions and because he believed it was necessary to send a tough message for Saddam Hussein to understand he would have to comply.
On March 17, 2003, Rep. Waxman called for an investigation of the revelation that the President relied on false intelligence sources to present the case for war with Iraq to the American people and the United Nations. On June 26, 2003, he introduced H.R. 2625, which would establish an Independent Commission on Intelligence about Iraq – modeled after the September 11 Commission – to examine pre-war intelligence and the representations made by executive branch officials about Iraqi efforts to develop and deploy weapons of mass destruction.
In addition, Rep. Waxman has initiated an intensive investigation of the Bush Administration’s process for awarding post-war contracts in Iraq to ensure fairness and accountability in U.S. funded projects for Iraq reconstruction. He remains deeply concerned about allegations that Halliburton, a company with close ties to Vice President Dick Cheney, has received special treatment from the Administration in the awarding of Defense Department contracts, including some related to Iraqi reconstruction.
Waxman’s actions about intelligence – almost immediately after voting for the war – are noble. He also cosponsored legislation to ban permanent bases in Iraq or a “long-term or permanent” military presence. But he is not committed to stopping funding on this war, and he has been allowed to coast on his reputation and give no definitive answer on the conflict. This came to a head a couple weeks ago at the Palisades Democratic Club:
Addressing a crowd of 200 at a Palisades Democratic Club meeting in Los Angeles Sunday, Congressman Henry Waxman said he opposes the US occupation of Iraq but may continue to fund it because “I don’t want to make any promises before I see what the (funding) proposal will be.”
Greeted by grassroots Democrats holding a banner that read “Liberals do not fund occupation,” Waxman acknowledged there were members of the audience who would like to see him support bills calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops, but said he was not sure bringing the troops home now was the answer […]
Waxman, now Chair of the Government Reform Committee, told the standing-room only crowd he opposes the Bush troop escalation and wants to conduct vigorous investigations into the 8-billion US dollars missing in Iraq, but said he is not convinced it is time to use the power of the purse to end the war or even co-sponsor legislation that would bring the troops home within six months. Waxman said a civil war could develop when US troops leave Iraq. “But there already is a civil war,”
said one audience member, whose objection went unanswered.
And I have to add this, which gave me quite a bit of pause.
Asked if he would oppose US military use of Israel as a proxy to bomb or invade Iran, Waxman said he opposed a war against Iran, though added, “If you want to lose sleep, think of a nuclear-armed Iran.” The Congressman said he favored economic sanctions over the use of force, referencing the enormous impact of world economic sanctions against the apartheid government of South Africa.
Waxman, simply put, is trying to skate on this war, and furthermore is buying in to right-wing frames about Iran which do nothing but enable war hawks who would like nothing more but to come up with any pretext to attack Iran. In fact, now is the time to stop this drumbeat toward Iran in the US Congress.
Congress should not wait. It should hold hearings on Iran before the president orders a bombing attack on its nuclear facilities, or orders or supports a provocative act by the U.S. or an ally designed to get Iran to retaliate, and thus further raise war fever.
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has warned the administration that it had better seek congressional authorization for any attack on Iran. But we need Senate and House hearings now to put the Bush administration on notice that, in the absence of an imminent military attack or a verified terrorist attack on the United States by Iran, Congress will not support a U.S. military strike on that country. Those hearings should aim toward passage of a law preventing the expenditure of any funds for a military attack on Iran unless Congress has either declared war with that country or has otherwise authorized military action under the War Powers Act.
The law should be attached to an appropriations bill, making it difficult for the president to veto. If he simply claims that he is not bound by the restriction even if he signs it into law, and then orders an attack on Iran without congressional authorization for it, Congress should file a lawsuit and begin impeachment proceedings.
Anyone that is throwing up belligerent and fearmongering rhetoric on Iran gives the President more leeway to do the same and manufacture a conflict. Waxman may have his reasons for doing so, all of them perfectly sincere. But starting another war in the Middle East right now would be the height of insanity and would continue to fuel hatred in that part of the world for generations.
There are going to be street actions soon around this issue, to both thank Rep. Waxman for what he’s doing, but to pressure him to do the right thing on denying the appropriation of funds and bringing this war to an end. Waxman seems like he doesn’t want to come to terms with this issue. He’d rather do what he’s very good at doing, investigation and oversight. But this vote matters and it’s a major priority. If liberal lions like Henry Waxman cannot represent the views of his district and the vast majority of the American people, then I don’t know what it will take. I don’t want to psycho-analyze Waman and try to understand why he’s being so noncommital on this issue. I just want him to do the right thing.