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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Follow the Money

By Circles Robinson
December, 2004

In the two years preceding the 2004 US elections several of my friends and colleagues let their hopes -that a discredited, warmongering Bush would be dumped by the electorate- cloud the reality that it would be very hard for middle-America to vote against the president at a time of war.

The experience of the 1972 elections, when Richard Nixon was easily reelected despite massive opposition to the Vietnam War, told me that Bush had a lot going for him despite the growing unpopularity of the Iraq War and his fabricated reasons for invading in the first place.

Nonetheless, there may be another valid analogy between Bush and Nixon that bodes poorly for the president.

In the case of "Tricky Dick" the botched Watergate burglary and other campaign scams spiraled into a life threatening crisis for the administration due to the all encompassing cover-up that virtually took over the White House and all the president's men.

Thirty years after Nixon was forced to resign in disgrace, the George W. Bush of early 2005, resembles the Nixon of early 1973, when the last thing on his mind was having to leave office before his term ended.

Bush comes off an election victory that, while not like Nixon's landslide, was about as good as could be expected by his camp and looked a little more legitimate than 2000, when the Democrats threw in the towel despite having won the fraud ridden elections.

What sunk Nixon was the mysterious "Deep Throat", a man close to the president nicknamed after a porno movie. As journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein strived to weave a picture of seemingly isolated illegal activities and unscrupulous officials together, Deep Throat, their key source and guiding light, told them to "Follow the Money."

In his film Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore began the job of maping the money trail of the Bush family and their close associates. Moore builds on the work done by dozens of authors that have published books on or about the president.

The documentary deals mostly with high-level influence trafficking and raises many ethical questions about both the handling of the post 9/11 period, the Saudi connection, and the administration's obsession with attacking Iraq.

Nevertheless, last November, Bush was able to convince a 51 percent majority of the voters that ethics should not be on the table at a time of war. He won that battle, at least for the time being.

Then, during the first week of February, what most of the world already suspected came to light in news reports that got relatively little coverage. Underneath the death and destruction that has been Iraq for almost two years, there's a banquet going on in a select group of US corporate boardrooms.

For starters, a report from the Inspector General of the US Coalition Provisional Authority shows 8.8 billion dollars in Iraq reconstruction contracts unaccounted for, an amount that exceeds the GDP of over a 100 countries.

Instead of even trying to come up with some receipts, Paul Bremer, the man in charge of the US occupation during the period audited, admitted to the press that accounting doesn't exist because the war chaos made it impossible to keep track of the funds dispersed.

Forget about snapshots of restored public services or reconstructed buildings -which still don't exist-, US troops were too busy having fun using their digital cameras to document their own sick atrocities committed against Iraqi prisoners.

In what promises to be just the beginning in a chain of incriminating evidence, recent testimony at the Senate Democratic Party Committee further illustrated the money madness occurring in Iraq.

Frank Willis, a former senior aviation officer for Iraq's (read US) Ministry of Transportation and Communication, said Baghdad was like the Wild West where millions of dollars in cash packed in gunnysacks were dispersed by US officials from a vault.

Willis said the money was counted upon its delivery to contractors, but that nobody kept track of the money's use after that. "This isn't penny ante," said panel chairman Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota. The senator added, "Millions, perhaps billions of dollars have been wasted and pilfered."

While these revelations may be only the tip of the iceberg, the president banks on the major US networks to fill their TV news programs with reporting on whether Michael Jackson molested children at his Never-Never Land Ranch, the gruesome details of teenagers killing their grandparents, an occasional beheaded American, and little veiled threats against Iran, Syria and North Korea.

Like the stonewalling Nixon, who swore up and down he would never tell a lie, the President addressed the union at the onset of February and totally sidestepped the multi-billion dollar bookkeeping issue. He can get away with that for now, as he banks on a legislature that has so far funded his budget requests to finance the corporate party.

Instead of asking what happened to the fortune already invested, enough to put a big dent in the illiteracy and hunger around the globe, Bush is now asking Congress for an additional 82 billion dollars for the coming months in Iraq and Afghanistan?

For now, fiscal accountability is still far from the presidential table. Putting together the puzzle that would link well-placed government officials and the corporate fiesta depends on whether gutsy journalists -like Woodward and Bernstein back in the early seventies- can get the backing to "Follow the Money." If they do, we may yet see a non-electoral end of the Bush family dynasty.


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