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Tuesday, July 20, 2004

THE REAL STORY: DEFENSE CORPORATIONS USE GOVERNMENT TO LINE THEIR POCKETS 

We went for nearly a year without negative coverage of anything to do with the Bush administration appearing in the mainstream press. Now it's not uncommon to find articles and commentaries picking at the edges of the war effort, highlighting the human rights violations and damage to international relations. Still, though, we find little to do with the bigger story behind all of this -- the fundamental corruption of our government by the influence of, and cozy relationship with, big business. Democrats and Republicans are both culpable in this corruption, as Thomas Frank shows in this essay which appeared last week at TomDispatch and is now making its way around the progressive Internet circuit.

Here, though, is an article which appeared last weekend in the Los Angeles Times: IRAQ: Advocates of War Now Profit From Iraq's Reconstruction.

We found this at one of our favorite Web sites, CorpWatch.org.

Here is an excerpt:

Lobbyists, aides to senior officials and others encouraged invasion and now help firms pursue contracts. They see no conflict.
In the months and years leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, they marched together in the vanguard of those who advocated war.

As lobbyists, public relations counselors and confidential advisors to senior federal officials, they warned against Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, praised exiled leader Ahmad Chalabi, and argued that toppling Saddam Hussein was a matter of national security and moral duty.

Now, as fighting continues in Iraq, they are collecting tens of thousands of dollars in fees for helping business clients pursue federal contracts and other financial opportunities in Iraq. For instance, a former Senate aide who helped get U.S. funds for anti-Hussein exiles who are now active in Iraqi affairs has a $175,000 deal to advise Romania on winning business in Iraq and other matters.

And the ease with which they have moved from advocating policies and advising high government officials to making money in activities linked to their policies and advice reflects the blurred lines that often exist between public and private interests in Washington. In most cases, federal conflict-of-interest laws do not apply to former officials or to people serving only as advisors.

Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, said the actions of former officials and others who serve on government advisory boards, although not illegal, can raise the appearance of conflicts of interest. "It calls into question whether the advice they give is in their own interests rather than the public interest," Noble said.

Michael Shires, a professor of public policy at Pepperdine University, disagreed. "I don't see an ethical issue there," he said. "I see individuals looking out for their own interests."


We encourage you to read the rest, here, and let us know what you think. We also hope you'll send us links and URLs, here, when you come across similar coverage and commentary in your own reading. Thanks.

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