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        Sunday, September 18, 2005

       9/18/05 'Bush: 'We'll do for the Gulf Coast what we did for Iraq''

By Weldon Berger, BTC News

When Jerry Bremer arrived in Baghdad to take over as Iraq proconsul, he immediately set about rewriting the country’s civil code — in violation of international law — for the benefit of US corporations, and dispensing pallet loads, literally, of cash looted from Iraqi’s oil revenues. Now that president Bush has designated political assassin and ongoing national security threat Karl Rove as the new Gulf Coast proconsul, Bremer will soon look like a classic piker.

Even before word of Rove’s new role oozed onto the pages of the New York Times, signs abounded that Bush had dropped the flag on another years-long season of corruption, greed, casual malice and graft, this time at home.

And not just any signs: flashing neon ones, such as no-bid reconstruction contracts going to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root, and to clients of former Bush campaign manager and Michael Brown’s FEMA predecessor, Joe Allbaugh. Such as the president’s possibly illegal suspension of the law requiring federal contractors to pay employees the local prevailing wage. Such as Dick Cheney’s decision to divert power company crews from providing electricity for hospitals to providing electricity for pipeline operators. Such as the administration’s decision to bump federal credit card spending limits from $2,500 up to $250,000.

Such as the sometimes ghoulish Congressional attempts to transform the entire Gulf Coast into a giant laboratory for the social Darwinist agenda radical Republicans have mostly failed to inflict on the nation at large.

As Rove prepares to channel a deluge of federal money into the hands of the administration’s cronies and political allies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, no longer guided by what in retrospect looks like an ultra-competent Michael Brown, continues to flail aimlessly, depriving hundreds of thousands of Katrina survivors the assistance they desperately need.

FEMA-contracted trucks filled with relief supplies are wandering the coast for all the world like diesel-powered ghost fleets while FEMA community relations personnel breeze through communities with no power and no phone service, distributing fliers advertising toll-free emergency numbers to the people trapped there and then moving on.

Rove’s overt involvement — and no matter who is in charge, he is in charge — marks the death of any hope that the recovery operation will become something other than a cesspool of cronyism and political pandering. The action manuals will be vote counts, the 2006 electoral map and Republican party campaign contribution lists. The result will be a hedonistic political and fiscal binge Bremer could only have dreamed of.

Bremer, you may recall, misplaced some $16 billion of Iraqi oil money; the exact amount will never be known because of his lack of interest in contract details and outcomes, and because for much of his tenure the Iraqi oil exports financing his adventures were unmetered and therefore unaccountable. But while Rove will be constrained from simply handing out pallet-loads of cash, as Bremer did, and he has no oil revenues to steal, the entire US Treasury is his.

It’s often remarked upon as an oddity that Bush has never vetoed a bill and has rarely even threatened to do so; since the turn of the last century only Warren Harding, with six vetoes, comes close to Bush’s legislative insouciance. Bush joins a handful of presidents who never met a bill they didn’t like, the most recent being James Garfield, whose tally reflects not a collegial relationship with Congress — they didn’t get along — but that he was shot six months after taking office in 1881.

But it isn’t an accident or an oddity or a quirk of presidential character. The Bush administration have made an agreement with the Republican Congress, whether tacit or overt, to cover just such situations as this and the war in Iraq: We won’t get in your way if you don’t get in ours. For Congress, that means aggressively abrogating their oversight duties and surrendering Congressional powers to the executive; for the administration, it means giving up the veto.

Either part of the bargain is a sacrifice only for someone interested in governing. For those who treat public service as nothing more nor less than an unlimited letter of marque issued against the American people, it’s no sacrifice at all.

So Congress has already placed more than $60 billion in Rove’s hands; by the end of this year the total will likely top $100 billion. Sometime next year it will match and surpass the cost of the war in Iraq. Every penny of it that isn’t simply lost will go where the administration most needs it to go, and every lunatic notion that survives Congress will meet administration approval.

And if in the process the Gulf Coast becomes a radical Republican protectorate operating under different tax, environmental and civil codes than the rest of the country, so much the better. Maybe Baghdad will finally get a US sister city.

Reprinted from BTC News: