Citing "the Bush administration's failure to take aggressive action to enforce and punish wartime fraud," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) on Friday introduced legislation to crack down on the massive fraud and theft by some defense contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan and allow the government to criminally prosecute guilty parties even after the war is over.
S. 2892, the Wartime Enforcement of Fraud Act of 2008, would close a loophole in the 66-year-old Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act, that allowed the government to investigate and prosecute contracting fraud up to three years after the end of a war, but that does not apply to the current Bush-McCain war in Iraq because it was never formally declared.
"In times of war, we often do not learn about serious fraud until years after the fact," said Leahy. "What we do know is that tens of billions of dollars are unaccounted for, and potentially lost to fraud. The problem is not new, and Congress has the opportunity now to address it, starting with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."
The Wartime Enforcement of Fraud Act would clarify that the term "war" includes Congressional authorizations for the use of military force, such as the ill-advised blank check given to George W. Bush in 2002 and would extend the statute of limitations for such criminal offenses from three to five years after the end of a war.
"This country recently marked the 5-year anniversary of the war in Iraq -- a war that the Bush administration refuses to end," said Leahy in introducing his bill on Friday. "The losses in this war have been staggering. More than 4,000 American soldiers have been killed and nearly 30,000 wounded. Hundreds of billions in taxpayer dollars has been spent to fight this war, money which could have been -- and should have been -- used to help American needs here at home. Estimates for the cost of the President's adventure in Iraq are now into the trillions."
"Through it all, the Bush administration has chosen essentially to ignore one of its primary obligations during wartime -- to protect American taxpayers from losses due to fraud, waste, and abuse of military contracts."
Leahy also spoke of the sheer number of hearings he has chaired on war profiteering since the war began and how all of that testimony fell on deaf ears with Bush and Congressional Republicans.
"The testimony at those hearings has exposed the Bush administration's failure to take aggressive action to enforce and punish wartime fraud," said Leahy, adding that "These problems have been exacerbated time and time again by the Bush administration, as tens of billions of dollars in no-bid' and cost-plus contracts have been awarded with little, if any, oversight or accountability."
All of this begs an obvious question: With Bush so rabidly trying to get telecommunications companies off the hook for participating in his illegal domestic spying program, how long before he similarly begins blocking any attempt to hold his buddies in companies like Halliburton accountable for ripping off Americans and cheating our troops?
We know the party that fancies themselves the guardians of fiscal responsibility, doesn't actually give a damn about driving the next generation hopelessly into debt for a useless war, but is there any doubt that the support-the-troops types in the GOP will try to protect the same people who supplied our combat troops with faulty ammunition, unsafe bulletproof vests and unsanitary drinking water?
Republicans will always play the 9/11 card as they have with all attempts to hold companies responsible for aiding in Team Bush's domestic spying program, saying that Democrats hurt -- you guessed it -- national security by simply asking that big telecommunications companies obey the law.
Said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) earlier this month: "It's time for us to get serious and protect the companies that protect us."
It's only a matter of time before Congressional Republicans and their master in the White House apply that rationale to companies supplying American troops with bulletproof vests that do everything but, well, stop bullets.
Leahy's bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for further consideration.
You can read more from Bob at The Agonist.