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Politics & Power

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Blackwater Told “Get Out” by Iraqi Government

The Iraqi government announced that they have concluded their investigation into the incident involving Blackwater personnel and the killing of several Iraqi civilians on September 16th in Baghdad. The result of the investigation showed the Blackwater personnel acted improperly by opening fire on unarmed civilians killing as many as 17 by the accounting of the Iraqi government. With that finding the Iraqi government determined that the private security company hired by the U.S. State Department to provide security for western businessmen and dignitaries should be escorted out of Iraq by U.S. forces as soon as possible.

While the Iraqi government investigation and U.S. inquiry have been taking place, Blackwater CEO Erik Prince has been on a PR tour trying to convince Congress and the media that his organization has done nothing wrong and that the killings were both justified and necessary.

During an interview for the Charlie Rose Show Prince was confronted with a quote from a military colonel on the September 16th incident. "USA guards shot at Iraqi civilians as they tried to drive away from a Baghdad square on September 16th, according to a report complied by the first U.S. soldiers to arrive at the scene, where they found no evidence that Iraqis had fired weapons. Quote -- 'It appeared to me they were fleeing the scene when they were engaged. It has every indication of an excessive shooting,' said Lieutenant Colonel Mike Tarsa, whose soldiers reached Nisour Square 20 to 25 minutes after the gunfire subsided. His soldiers report -- based on the observations at the scene, eyewitness interviews and discussions with Iraqi police -- concluded that there was no enemy activity involved and described the shootings as a criminal event."

In response Prince replied: “It's from one colonel. And I don't know what his experience is in doing crime scene investigations, but I'm confident that was a very large traffic circle with a very large area to cover. Enemy fire can come from closer -- from farther than 50 yards away. You know, the Iraqi government has also had all sorts of reports that nothing -- not even a rock was thrown at our guys. I'm confident that one of our vehicles was disabled by small arms fire, to the point that it had to towed away from the scene, and I've seen pictures of multiple pockmarks from bullets in that vehicle.”

Despite the findings of the Iraqi investigation and supporting statements from the U.S. military, some Republicans have tried to bolster the position of Blackwater during hearings raising concerns about a “rush to judgment” even calling the Blackwater staff “heroic” when pointing out the fact that no diplomats under Blackwater protection have died. The majority of the politicians in Washington have been skeptical of the claims of innocence made by Blackwater. During hearings on Capitol Hill Prince was questioned at length about the tactics of the staff under his command in Iraq with little of his responses seeming to satisfy the committee members. One member of the committee noted that the committee needed to determine if Blackwater has created a “shadow military of mercenary forces that are not accountable to the U.S. government” and if the presence of Blackwater was “undermining our ability to accomplish our mission in Iraq.”

With the faith of the Iraqi government, U.S. military and many in Congress in Blackwater all but gone it seems that Blackwater will likely not have the number of U.S. contracts in 2008 that they have enjoyed in 2007 bringing them nearly $500,000,000 in income. Bush administration officials have said that they are waiting for the U.S. inquiry to conclude before taking action but it seems clear that if the U.S. does not get Blackwater out of Iraq it will be the source of a major diplomatic breakdown between the U.S. and Iraq. The Prime Minister of Iraq Nuri al-Maliki as well as many others within the Iraqi government have called for the removal of Blackwater and have made it clear that refusal to remove them will not be acceptable.

If the Bush administration chooses to ignore the Iraqi government it is likely that Blackwater forces will become the primary targets of forces within the Iraqi government. Despite the claims of the head of Blackwater that his personnel will not be allowed to be tried in Iraqi courts, if they don’t leave he may have no control over their fate. Whatever the case, the presence of Blackwater in Iraq seems to be coming to an end.

Troy Wilson-Ripsom - Staff Writer | Give your feedback on this article. | Visit Troy's blog at http://reform-america.blogspot.com | Visit Troy's MySpace page at www.myspace.com/reform_america

Fiscal Irresponsibility

There are fewer topics concerning our current political landscape that get me more upset than the fiscal irresponsibility of our Congress and President. As President I promise to veto any and all bills that include the barrels of pork as discussed below. If we don't get our country back on a footing of fiscal responsibility soon, we are going to leave a bankrupt, second level economy to our children and grandchildren. The President is our leader and he needs to act like one and do what is right for the country now and in the future.

Under the "fiscal restraint" of the Republicans our deficit has ballooned and spending has increased (even ignoring the war in Iraq) at a greater pace than at almost any time in the history of our country. There was the hope and, as we were promised by the Democrats during the last Congressional elections, that they would show some fiscal restraint and get the country back on a path of fiscal responsibility. Well, based on the current negotiations over a water projects bill (the Water Resources Development Act) for the Army Corps of Engineer, that "promise" has already been forgotten and we are back to business as usual.

Originally, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers requested a budget of $4.9 billion for works they identified as necessary. However, once Congress got their hands on the bill it ballooned to around $14 billion in the Senate and around $15 billion in the House. Of course a rational person would think, "Well that's pretty bad, but hopefully when they reconciled the two bills calmer heads would prevail and cut some of those costs." Nope, not with this bunch of drunken sailors. By the time it came out of committee the total cost of the bill had risen to $23.2 billion.

How does a bill go from a request from the people who are planning to actually spend the money on the projects of $4.9 billion to a total of $23.2 billion? An increase of almost 400%. Is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers so incompetent that they can't see all the projects that need to be done to keep our country safe? I don't believe so and neither should you.

Rather, over $18 billion of your money was added to the bill so the members of Congress could add almost 900 items of Pork Barrel spending and special-interest boondoggles to pay off their supporters at home.

Examples of these extra and often unnecessary projects (per the Heritage Foundation) include:

  • Funding for a study on the impact on navigation of the proposed Knik Arm Bridge (renamed "Don Young's Way" in SAFTEA-LU) at Cook Inlet in Alaska (Section 4005);
  • Riverfront development to enhance recreation in Perth Amboy, New Jersey (Section 4048);
  • Authorization of $5,300,000 for the construction of Lake Lanier Olympic Center in Georgia (Section 5061); and
  • Authorization of $65,000,000 for a Lido Key Beach, Florida, replenishment project (Section 3036).
  • $21,000,000 for Imperial Beach, California, beach replenishment; $101,000, 000 for beach replenishment at Ocean City, Sea Isle City, and contiguous New Jersey seashore resorts;
  • $59,000,000 for central New Jersey seashore beach replenishment;
  • $122,000,000 for beach replenishment in northern New Jersey; and
  • $10,600,000 for beach replenishment on Pawley's Island, South Carolina.
Behind the diversion of taxpayer money from essential flood safety programs to geographically and seasonally limited recreation activities like the Corps' beach replenishment program is a trade association-the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA)-that represents seaside resorts. Also involved are lobbying firms that specialize in obtaining resort-oriented earmarks, among which is Marlowe & Co., a firm that also represents the ASBPA and serves as a contact on the Association's press release.

Assuming that Marlowe was describing his company's success accurately, one has to wonder exactly how his firm was allowed to participate so intimately in the congressional budgeting, authorizing, and appropriations processes. Indeed, as these and other earmarks suggest, and as the lobbyists' own promotional materials imply, Congress and the congressional committees responsible for water resources and the Army Corps of Engineers have effectively privatized some portion of the congressional budget process to the K Street lobbying firms and appear to have allowed them wide latitude in selecting what projects are included in the legislation.

Now you can't blame just the Democrats for this because it appears that all the little piggies lined up at the trough for this one. The Democrats are in charge of the most important committees, but they let the Republicans pile on as well so that if President Bush actually shows some fiscal restraint and vetoes the bill (amazing how he'll now veto things since they come from Democrats) they will have enough votes lines up to override the veto.

If this were an isolated incident it might not matter much, but unfortunately, this seems to be the way Congress operates on a regular basis with the approval of the President and it will lead to a severe financial downturn for all Americans before too much longer.

That is why I continue on with my campaign to be President of the United States. We need someone running this country who will take fiscal responsibility seriously and, as far as I can tell, none of the front runners for the job from either party have demonstrated much fiscal restraint in their careers.

Most of the problems that arise with a country can be dealt with fairly easily if that country is operating on a firm foundation of fiscal restraint. Think of your own lives. If you have a reserve to fall back on, you can weather problems much easier than if you are living hand-to-mouth and have absolutely no back-up or reserves.

We cannot, as a nation, continue to be this fiscally irresponsible. Like the past several years of real estate madness, it's all fun and games while the good times last, but when they come to an end, they come to an end very hard. If our government continues to spend like a drunken sailor on shore leave we, the people who end up paying the bills, are all going to wake up with a major hangover one day soon.

Remember, it is your money and it should be spent responsibly. It is up to the President to do whatever he can to ensure that happens and I will do exactly that.


Frank Mcenulty - Independent Candidate for President | Give your feedback on this article. | Visit the campaing website at at www.frankforpresident.org

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