Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

I must be missing something here, because the White House seems to be stabbing itself in the heart. Scottie Mac and his crew are usually extremely careful not to go on record at all, ever, about anything. That way they don't really have to worry about being consistent in their lies; they just say "oh well you misunderstood me."

But here's the White House official line on the $700 million they diverted from the Afghanistan war to prepare for the Iraq war.

Scottie Mac:
Congress was kept informed and the funding, the emergency funding from the -- the emergency funding gave the Pentagon broad discretion in how funds were used. And they also pointed out that the funding specifically for Iraq came after the resolution that Congress passed. And Congress was kept fully informed of the funding.

OK, he's got to be talking about the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Recovery From and Response to Terrorist Attacks on the United States, HR 2888. It was passed just a couple of weeks after the September 11th attacks. What he's saying - that the bill is pretty vague about what exactly the money is for - is true. Also, if the provisions of the bill were followed, it's also true that Congress would have had to be informed about where the money was going. Here is the relevant snippet:

"Provided further, That the President shall consult with the chairmen and ranking minority members of the Committees on Appropriations prior to the transfer of these funds."

Which means, in short, that if the Pentagon was planning to use money allocated in this bill to prepare for war in Iraq, he would have had to talk to at least one Democrat. In fact, the Democrat he would have had to talk to is David Obey of Wisconsin. It seems completely unthinkable that he would have done that. Why? Obey wouldn't have gone for it. He opposed the Iraq war from the start and he voted against the IWR. If Bush had come to him and said "we're diverting funds from Afghanistan to prepare for war in Iraq" he would have gone completely apeshit.

So what the hell is going on? Did Bush lie to Obey about where the money was headed? Probably not. He was probably just vague. Indeed, committee Chairman Bill Young's statement on the Woodward allegations seems to confirm this, if you read between the lines. Check out Young's statement here. Here's the quote that jumps out at me:

"In most cases, these funds were provided with unprecedented flexibility because of the dynamic combat environment and a unconventional terrorist threat. Because of the lack of specificity in the Woodward account it is impossible to determine what specific funds he is alleging were spent without Congress’s knowledge. The Administration is required to provide regular reports on the expenditure of war funds. The war on terror is a global fight, our soldiers need the resources and flexibility to fight the enemy wherever they are located.

A couple of key tacit admissions here. One, that basically the President came to Congress and said "Need money to kill bad guys" and Congress signed the checks. There was no accountability to speak of, which is not surprising with this bunch. But what's more interesting is the last sentence, where he says the Administration is required to provice regular reports on the expenditure of war funds. Read the bill; he's right, technically. It's actually the OMB director who's required to provide a quarterly report to Congress on where the money is going. What the President is required to do is consult with the Appropriations chair and the ranking Democrat.

So the guy we need to talk to is David Obey. I haven't seen any quotes from him in any news stories yet. Maybe I should give him a call.

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