Yesterday, the Commission on Wartime Contracting released its final report.
The Commission reported that between $31 billion and $62 billion of the tax money spent on contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan has been wasted. It also said that between $10 billion and $19 billion of what contractors billed and received was fraudulent. In fact, $360 million of our tax dollars went straight to . . . the Taliban.
Wow. Who could have imagined that?
Well . . . me.
When I saw that the Bush Administration was doing nothing about fraud in Iraq, I revived a law going back to the Civil War that allowed whistleblowers to bring lawsuits in the name of the U.S. Government. I filed case after case, which were promptly greeted by the Bush Administration with gag orders – gag orders that they kept in place for years. They didn’t want any more bad news coming out of Iraq.
So I went on CNN, spoke to the New York Times and the Washington Post, and told America whatever I could say without violating those gag orders. And when the Bush Administration finally let one case out from under those gag orders – and declined to prosecute it – I took that case to trial, and won a $14 million judgment. It was the third-largest judgment for whistleblowers in the 143-year history of that law.
Those contractors built bases without hooking up the plumbing. A general testified that when he went there, he felt like throwing up.
The Wall Street Journal reported in a front-page article that I was “waging a one-man war against contractor fraud in Iraq.” The national organization Taxpayers Against Fraud named me “Lawyer of the Year.” And people started to think, “what is going on over there?”
In Congress, I spoke out against the wars, and I voted against the wars. I wrote and introduced The War is Making You Poor Act, HR 5353. My bill pointed out that you could:
- Require the Pentagon to fund the wars from its own budget of over $500 billion, not supplemental appropriations;
- Take all the money that would save and eliminate taxes on everyone’s first $35,000 of income, $70,000 for married couples; and
- Still have over $10 billion a year left over, to cut the federal deficit.
After I left Congress in January, I took up the work against contractor fraud in Iraq again. And I won an $8.7 million settlement from DynCorp and the Sandi Group. The defendants paid our attorney’s fees last Friday.
Here’s some simple arithmetic. We’ve budgeted $159.3 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year, through next month. (The true cost is much more, but let’s leave that aside.) That’s:
You could take all that money and create 5,310,000 jobs here in America paying $30,000 a year, rebuilding our bridges, our roads, our schools, instead of the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. That would immediately lower the unemployment rate from 9 percent to 5.5 percent, and get money flowing in our communities again.
Now, that’s a job program. I’ll put that up against whatever President Obama proposes next week.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have killed more than 8,000 Americans, and who-knows-how-many Iraqis and Afghans. War has destroyed our economy, just as the war in Afghanistan destroyed the Soviet economy. According to the calculations of Nobel Prize-winner Professor Joseph Stiglitz, the war in Iraq alone has cost us around 8% of our $50 trillion national net worth, all of the wealth that America built up over two centuries. Over $13,000 for every single American, young and old.
We’ve taken our inheritance, and dumped it into a wood chipper.
My father served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He told me once that one of the most common questions that men of his generation heard was, “what did you do in the war?” Maybe our children will ask us, “what did you do against the war?”
That’s a question I can answer.