“I Was Shocked at the Ignorance and Rudeness of the Members of Congress”

Joe Roche attended Rep. Henry Waxman’s hearing on private military contractors on February 7. He wasn’t very impressed — with Rep. Waxman and his colleagues, that is.

Dear Amy,The House Governmental Reform Committee hearings, led by Rep. Henry Waxman, are an absurd display of abuse, distortion and recklessness. I attended it today because there were some people testifying who deserve America’s greatest thanks. Instead, they were treated horribly and made to look very bad.

It wasn’t a hearing to actually learn of the work and value of the private military contractors (PMCs) who serve our country. Instead, it was a fiasco performance meant to demonize and humiliate them. I was shocked at the ignorance and rudeness of the members of Congress there.

PMCs, like Haliburton, perform an absolutely critical role for our nation and our military. They take care of things that we, the military, simply can’t do for a number of reasons. Food, supplies, housing units, things like that they take care of thus allowing us soldiers to be the spear of the nation. I believe that what they save us financially because of the competitive marketing they go through, as opposed to sinking all this into a federal bureaucracy, is far more than any lost sums of money in waste and fraud.

The people who run and work the PMCs are frequently people of absolutely heroic character. I remember some in Iraq I worked with who had been soldiers in Vietnam. Now, after 30-plus years, they want to continue serving our country, so there they are in every war zone we are involved in today. They suffer and die just like the rest of us soldiers, and leave behind families for many months at a time.

The Members of Congress on the Committee were hiding behind the suffering of the families who lost loved ones in attacks on the PMCs in Iraq. That was disgusting! They made the PMCs look bad, insinuating all sorts of malicious things, all the while saying they’re doing this for the families. Nonsense!

What Waxman, Dennis Kucinich and the other Congressmen are trying to do is bleed out every little shred of suspicion of scandal against the Bush Administration. They acted like vultures, ignoring the important service of the PMCs and instead just kept hammering away on all sorts of scandal-suggesting themes.

Waxman, with an elitism that was grotesque, acted all offended when for reasons of national security or Arab cultural practices, the PMC representatives couldn’t answer some things. Waxman, Kucinich and the others know exactly what they are doing. It was all a performance meant to emotionally upset the American people who only catch the short sound-bite news coverage.

For example, it was easy to lament the unaccountable huge sums of money that have been spent on projects. Yes, there was some waste and abuse. More important, though, is that those operations are happening in Arab culture, Iraqi society, where Wall Street accounting just doesn’t happen. This doesn’t mean all that money was lost and wasted, but just that it was spent differently. This is what happens in war zones, in foreign lands, in places where things have been bad and corrupt.

I sat next to the press corps table and watched as they laughed, snickered, and got excited with every little challenge that was thrown at the PMCs. One reporter said, “I’m just here to see Haliburton get nailed.” I glared, but then realized this is just the process that has been unleashed by such hearings as this.

There is no way we are being served well by Congress with hearings like this. The members of Congress gave really bizarre speeches at the beginning that had nothing to do with the real issues. Instead, they were just speaking to impress viewers and readers of the news with short attention spans. Then, after they gave their speeches, only four-or-so remained for the rest of the hours of the hearings. They didn’t care about the issues, the PMCs, what is really involved. All they wanted to do was to perform so as to manipulate and fool the American people into thinking there is all sorts of Bush Administration scandal with the PMCs.

I was intrigued how the Democrats harped on the PMCs as being a Bush scandal. The reality is that PMCs became a vital part of our military after the Cold War, DURING the Clinton Administration because of the damaging downsizing that happened in the 1990s. In fact, Haliburton’s contract that they are operating on in Iraq was negotiated by the Clinton Administration in 1998.

Rather than all this vulture-like scandal-mongering, I wish someone on the Committee would just say, “Thank you for having a Can-Do attitude and getting the job done!” This is all Patton, Bradley, McArthur or any of our past military leaders did. This nitpicking by Congress against the PMCs could do our military great harm in the future if this Committee fools too many people.

I want to suggest a book to read for those interested in a balanced and clear view of PMCs in Iraq. It is called A Bloody Business: America’s War Zone Contractors and the Occupation of Iraq. I’m sorry that the title and cover picture aren’t good to have around children, but it is a good book to read.

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