Friday, May 11, 2007

I Smell A Rat

Two days ago, the President issued an Executive Order basically replacing the existing State Dept. office overseeing Iraq reconstruction efforts with a new "transitional" office, whose mandate seemed to suggest a phasing out of Iraq reconstruction funding altogether. In a telephone interview with a State Dept press officer, I confirmed that the new office does in fact represent a policy of "...moving away from large infrastructure reconstruction to facilitate Iraq's transition to self-sufficiency."

I did some digging, and found this WaPo article which describes way back in January, 2006, the Bush administration's plans to draw down Iraq reconstruction funding, leaving whatever work remains to foreign donors and the Iraq government itself.

In and of itself, that seems pretty scandalous. But it gets worse. Because Wednesday's executive order follows directly on the heels of a scathing report from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) that blew holes in so-called "successful" reconstruction projects, and detailed continued "diversion" of reconstruction funds. That report was a follow-up to one last fall which documented the poor performance and lack of oversight in Iraq reconstruction assistance.

Almost by coincidence, the head of SIGIR, Stuart Bowen, is now under (a Republican-initiated) Congressional investigation for misuse of funds, and his oversight office has been scheduled to be closed come October.

So, why formally change bureaucratic structures? Why do it by executive order? Why do it now? And why the assault on effective oversight that's already brought wild abuses to light? Nothing in this administration's track record leads me to believe it's just a wild coincidence.

I'll keep digging. Stay tuned.

Update: According to the Public Affairs rep at SIGIR, the new office in the State Dept. doesn't limit SIGIR's oversight capacity or otherwise effect their work in any way. She also clarified that SIGIR's mandate is budget-determined. So according to current estimates, they will be in operation until December 2008. Finally, she had a firm and concise no comment to my questions regarding the Congressional investigation of Mr. Bowen.

Posted by Judah in:  Iraq   

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