Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

  Bush & Co. fires back at Special Inspector General for Iraq

Yesterday the Special Inspector General for Iraq, Stuart Bowen, released to Congress yet another damning report about the administration's failures in Iraq. Bowen's office, long a thorn in the side for Bush & Co., investigated 8 large reconstruction projects in Iraq that recently were declared successes. The study found that 7 of the 8 were not operating as designed any longer because of incompetence and looting. A very embarrassing story at the worst time, undercutting the fantasy that Democrats don't appreciate the many successes achieved in Iraq.

Today, by a curious coincidence, news leaks out that Bowen is himself under investigation by the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency.

From Reuters:

Stuart Bowen, the U.S. special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction whose office has uncovered abuse of both Iraqi and U.S. funds, is under investigation himself, a White House spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

"Complaints against Mr. Bowen are being looked at by the integrity committee of the PCIE (President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency), said spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore.

She gave no details about the investigation or the nature of the complaints against Bowen...

PCIE is headed by the OMB Deputy Director for Management, Clay Johnson, the most influential member of Bush's inner circle whom you've never heard of.

When Bush was elected governor of Texas in 1994, he put the buddy he calls "Big Man" -- Johnson is six feet four -- in charge of all state appointments. Johnson, a former executive at Neiman Marcus and Frito-Lay, refers to Americans as "customers" and is partial to Chamber of Commerce bromides such as "We're in the results business."

He is also partial to giving corporate lobbyists a direct role in gutting regulatory protections.

One of his first acts in Texas was to remove all three members of the state environmental-protection commission and replace them with a former Monsanto executive, an official with the Texas Beef Council and a lawyer for the oil industry.

PBS Frontline

Clay Johnson told Reuters that the investigation of Stuart Bowen "has been going on for a long time". All the more curious, then, that the news dribbles out only today.

Johnson also stressed to Reuters that, though he chairs the Council, he has played only a bitty role in the investigation of Bowen. Make of that what I know you will.

The allegations against Bowen are hard to assess, given that nobody is doing more than flinging mud. They appear to be both old allegations, and penny ante stuff...not showing up at work "for long periods".

Bush & Co. have had it in for Stuart Bowen for a long time, evidently. You may recall this report from last November:

Investigations led by a Republican lawyer named Stuart W. Bowen Jr. in Iraq have sent American occupation officials to jail on bribery and conspiracy charges, exposed disastrously poor construction work by well-connected companies like Halliburton and Parsons, and discovered that the military did not properly track hundreds of thousands of weapons it shipped to Iraqi security forces.

And tucked away in a huge military authorization bill that President Bush signed two weeks ago is what some of Mr. Bowen’s supporters believe is his reward for repeatedly embarrassing the administration: a pink slip.

The order comes in the form of an obscure provision that terminates his federal oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, on Oct. 1, 2007. The clause was inserted by the Republican side of the House Armed Services Committee over the objections of Democratic counterparts during a closed-door conference, and it has generated surprise and some outrage among lawmakers who say they had no idea it was in the final legislation.

Funny how nobody ever knows how these kinds of surprises get tucked into large bills. Most Congressional Republicans and Democrats were up in arms when the news came out, and the Office of the Special Inspector General was saved from extinction.

Already in 2004, this former lawyer in Bush's White House was stirring things up in his new post as Special IG for Iraq. Even the Wall Street Journal seemed to approve of his corruption probes: Former Bush aide turns critic as Iraq inspector.

Mr. Bowen has become one of the most prominent and credible critics of how the administration has handled the occupation of Iraq. In a series of blistering public reports, he has detailed systemic management failings, lax or nonexistent oversight, and apparent fraud and embezzlement on the part of the U.S. officials charged with administering the rebuilding efforts.

White House officials declined to comment on Mr. Bowen. But he has drawn harsh criticism from other quarters.

Aides at both the State Department and the Defense Department have tried to curb the independence of his office.

By 2006, there was an "undeclared war" on Bowen according to the Washington Times.

There is a battle going on between Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction (SIGIR), and bureaucrats responsible for thousands of rebuilding contracts in Iraq.

But it's an undeclared war. As is his mission, Mr. Bowen simply puts out a series of reports detailing failings in the reconstruction effort. The bureaucrats, who don't dare publicly speak against an IG who has wide support in Congress, fire back by issuing a stream of press releases recounting accomplishments in Iraq.

Privately, Bush administration officials tell us that Mr. Bowen's quarterly reports and audits are too negative and that he glosses over what they have been able to achieve in the face of an extremist enemy who will kill anyone, at any time, to stop a project.

See also Steve Benen's thoughts from last year about the "undeclared war" on Stuart Bowen.

crossposted from Unbossed

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