Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi today said "there will be a Truman Commission to investigate waste, fraud and abuse" perpetrated by military contractors in the course of President Bush's war in Iraq. While it is not the first time Democrats have called for such hearings, it rang out as a Christmas gift of freedom coming from the mouth of the next speaker.
For those who have not seen "Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers," a Brave New Film by Robert Greenwald, do yourself a favor and take a look. The movie, along with T. Christian Miller's excellent, if jarring, book "Blood Money," demonstrates the myriad abuses by Halliburton, CACI, Titan, Blackwater and others who thought they had a green light to the American treasury. Sadly, it appears that for the past six years, that's just what they've had.
The Truman Commission to which Mrs. Pelosi refers was named for the Senator who became president during World War II. Mr. Truman found literally billions of dollars of abuses by the private sector in the conduct of that war. Punishment was meted out and the abuses slowed, or so it seemed. But somewhere deep in the recesses of the Rumsfeld/Bush/Frist mind, the idea of questioning parallel abuses in this more amorphous war, though documented thoroughly by the Rumsfeld Pentagon, by Senator Byron Dorgan's Democratic Policy Committee hearings , by our film and by such indefatigable leaders as Henry Waxman, became anti-patriotic. Somehow, it was okay to send men and women to Iraq to sleep in moldy tents or to shower in filthy water while Halliburton brass stayed at four star hotels. Somehow, the disappearance of billions of dollars in cash did not rise to the level of curiosity, sufficient that the Frist-Hastert Congress thought inquiry worthy.
Democrats must not fear to hear. The right wing beneficiaries of whoring in Iraq will call the onset of hearings a "witch hunt" or retribution. The only way Democrats could fail the nation is to fail to inquire. I want to watch from the front row while Mr. David Lesar, the Chairman and CEO of Halliburton, answers questions under penalty of perjury about how he and his company rose to among the wealthiest in the nation during the course of the war in Iraq. In just the three years or so since the war started, David Lesar's total compensation exceeded $100 million. And Eric Prince, the billionaire owner of Blackwater, that brought us the death of four Americans and a war that fanned out from Fallujah thirty months ago, should have the privilege of explaining to Congress how he gained more government contracts after the death of his men.
The time is fast arriving to ask the real questions of this war: how could corporate America and its executives make billions and billions while nearly 3,000 of our brave soldiers have been killed, while hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died and all the while our national security deteriorates?