Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Barry's not-so-secret secrets



Senate Democrats are scrambling to rewrite portions of President Barack Obama's jobs bill as they seek elusive party unity around the measure even as Obama tries to pin the blame squarely on Republicans for Congress' failure to act.




Last Thursday on KPFK's The Lawyer's Guild with Jim Lafferty (7:00 p.m. PST every Thursday; 55 days left in the KPFK archives), Jim spoke with Shakeel Syad about an upcoming action:
Jim Lafferty: And now we're going to turn our attention to activists around the question of the war. We're coming up now to the 10th anniversary of course of the war in Afghanistan and there's a war in Iraq and a war in Pakistan and what have you. And there's a wonderful group in town, the Interfaith Clergy United for Justice and Peace. They've been active in the anti-war movement and social justice movement for some time now. And they are going to hold an action on the 10th anniversary of the war, that's next Friday October 7th, which will include both peaceful and legal protest and a parade and speeches and what have you. But they're also putting into it a feature of civil disobedience and joining us on the air to explain all that my guest is Shakeel Syed. He is the executive director of the Shura Council Mosques of Southern California, that's simply a coalition of the mosques here in southern California. Mr. Syed is one of this nation's really, really great true religious leaders and activists for for peace and social justice and especially I think for religious tolerance. Shakeel Syed, welcome back to the Lawyers Guild Show.
Shakeel Syed: Thanks for inviting me, Jim.
Jim Lafferty: As always. No, no, it's my pleasure. So next Friday, you and as many as a dozen of other members of Clergy United for Justice and Peace and some others who may not be clergy members but are part of that religious community are prepared to get arrested in protest of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why?
Shakeel Syed: Gosh, I think this is an imperative for people of conscience to remind ourselves and our fellow citizens that for ten consecutive years we have been killing innocent people and getting our young men and women killed while destroying our treasure, whatever little is left, and having people like Rose [Gudiel whose story was covered in the first segment of the show] get evicted and so it is time that people should rise up. We are only 24 or 25 people who will be doing this civil disobedience on October 7th in downtown LA but I hope and pray that there would be a mass uprising throughout the country in fact to remind the country, remind the nation, remind our political leaders that we are not going to forget the misadventures of our state.
Jim Lafferty: Yeah, I would hope so to. And I want to be clear that while there are this couple of dozen folks who are going to be peacefully and nonviolently of course getting arrested, they hope that hundreds and hundreds of others will join them. And we're going to tell you about that in a moment, friends. To simply show support and to join a peaceful, legal protest which is part of this day of action as well. Now the costs of the war? I'm hoping and I suspect that I don't have to worry about it, that's certainly going to happen, is that part of the focus that you folks are going to be doing next Friday is going to include the fact that at a time when we're now up to 3 trillion dollars of costs that we are already paying or committed to in Afgahnistan and Iraq, we're pretty clearly in a biapartisan way to deal some blows to Social Security and Medicare -- to say nothing of the unemployment problem and the housing problem. So I assume those domestic costs of the war are going to be part of what moves the conscience of you folks too. Am I right?
Shakeel Syed: I hope and pray that, yes indeed. The costs certainly is a major, major factor only because now we are feeling it. Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace has been preaching this to our elected leadership for that past ten years, that it is going to be -- to become an economic crisis in our country, for the past ten years. Now that the country's waking up to this fact of how we are into such a deep, deep hole that we don't know how to get out of it. So certainly it will be highlighted and reminded that if those trillions of dollars were to have been available to the country today that joblessness that exists -- 18%, one of the highest in the country, in LA county -- probably would have not been the case today. So certainly the moral aspect of it, the economical aspect of it and most importantly it is time for us to revist the idea and notion that our country has now become immune to simply killing people in different parts of the world on a sustained basis. That paradigm has got to change.
Jim Lafferty: Yeah. Yeah, we're in a state of permanent war. It's quite amazing. At last count, I think there were 193 or 194 nations recognized by the United Nations as nations and the United States government -- if I'm wrong here, I'm not wrong in principle, I'm just wrong on the actual numbers -- we're in something like 150 or 170 of those, I can't remember which now, by that I mean that we have US military forces operating in one way or another in 85% of the nations on this earth. And we're waging active war, full-fledged war in several countries, we're certainly still bombing Libya and we're engaged in Black Ops operations with our military forces trying to overthrow governments and destabilize governments in most of the rest of the world. Shakeel, I count and I know surely you do among the costs of Afghanistan and Iraq what's happened to your and my Muslim brothers and sisters in this country. I mean, talk to us a little bit about the costs that your community has paid as a result of this.
Shakeel Syed: Yeah, I think there are two major costs or two broad areas that the Muslim and Arab community has paid very dearly and that continues to pay today. One is the demonization of the faith itself -- of the entire 1.4 billion people, a 1500-year-old faith group. Number two is the dehumanization of Muslims. Muslims have become a Fifth Column in our country just as Japanese people were looked at after the Second World War. On a daily basis, you see all sorts of Islamaphobic acts of hate and bigotry throughout the country including, in southern California, the burning of Korans and hate mails and hate messages. I just received a little over 100 e-mails, after the UCI 11 verdict, at the Shura Council office challenging the statements that we have given in the context of freedom of speech. So there is an ongoing demonization and dehumanization of Muslim Americans and their faith in this country which is very, very unfortunate. But thank God that there are also good people in America, many good people, such as the community here, the Interfaith Community of Justice and Peace for the past ten sustained years who have been a voice of conscience, the true voice of America which embraces people of all faiths and of no faith, all ethnicities, all colors and languages for the greater good of the society at large.
Jim Lafferty: Yeah, you've had to deal with and are still dealing with FBI infiltration into the mosques, infiltrators from the FBI inserting themselves into mosques, trying to stir up trouble, trying to -- really more than entrap, trying to encourage somebody in some cases to do something which is illegal despite the fact that all sane people know that the mosques in this country are not hot beds of Islamic radicalism or anything like it. You've been very clear in speaking out against that. Is that problem getting any better, do you think, or not?
Shakeel Syed: Not really. It is only getting worse. If not in LA, we heard all that has happened recently in New York, for example, where the CIA and local police department have been mapping the Muslims and mapping the mosques and God knows what else. And this continues to happen on a regular basis in a variety of ways. FBI, whom we pay our tax dollars to supposedly protect us, are training their own officers -- mistraining, rather -- in fostering and formenting hate and bigotry against Mulim Americans, law abiding, lawful and peaceful Muslim Americans. So there is all sorts of -- It has become a new normal.
So much money has been wasted on the wars. In the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing this morning, US House Rep Edolphus Towns was rightly decrying a contractor charging the US government $900 for a control switch that retailed for $7. That's a mark up of $893 for just one control switch. The Committee was hearing from the waste of time Commission. Over the weekend, Nathan Hodge (Wall St. Journal) reported on the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, "The internal records of a congressionally mandated panel that reported staggering estimates of wasteful U.S. wartime spending will remain sealed to the public until 2031, officials confirmed, as the panel closed its doors on Friday." They've finished their study and they've closed their books. And, if you were at the hearing today, you learned just how wrong that is as Co-Chair Shays waived around the Commission's published findings and declared, "Our problem with Mr. Tieffer was that this book would have been three times as thick if we'd let him put in everything he wanted to put in so we limited him to 40 cases. But it could have been many more."
Great, so US tax payer money went down the drain again. The Commission unearthed tons of things but decided just to publish 40 of them. Because they didn't want their book to be too thick.
Right. We covered the Commission's public hearings. It was always a waste of time which describe the Commission itself and those members of Congress that pushed for it. The only value the Commission could have had was in making public its records now while the wars continue in the hopes that contract waste and abuse could be caught and some money saved. However, that's not going to happen with the Commisson's records being sealed and the published report only focusing on a small number of cases of fraud and abuse. As noted before, the Commission's purpose was never to find fraud and abuse. The purpose was to distract outraged Americans from what was being done with their money. The Commission had no powers. No charges have been filed over fraud. The Commission has wrapped up their business. Today they made a guest starring appearence before a Congressional committee. Excerpt.
US House Rep Jason Cahffetz: One of the questions that I hope our Committee continues to explore is what in the world is wrong over at the Dept of Defense? I want to read here from -- This is page 162 and this has to do with the Defense Contracting Audit Agency -- which seems aptly named. But it says, "The current unaudited" -- and you mentioned this in your opening statement -- "The current unaudited backlog stands at $558 billion having risen sharply from $406 billion in only 9 months. At current staffing levels, DCAA has reported that the backlog will continue to grow virtually unchecked and will exceed one trillion dollars by 2016."
Commisoner Dov Zakheim: Can I, uh, try to deal with that?
US House Rep Jason Chaffetz: Yes, please. Try to tackle that one. That would be great.
Commissioner Dov Zakheim: Absolutely. When I was Under Secretary of Defense, Comptroller DCAA was under me. DCAA simply doesn't have enough people. It is --
US House Rep Jason Chaffetz: How many people are there?
Commisoner Dov Zakheim: When I was there it was about 4,000. They've added about another thousand. It's nothing compared to the level of contracting that's going on and to the number of contracts that are going on. These are very, very professional folks. Most of them now have CPAs. Many of them come from the outside and then come into government, much as lawyers do now a days. But we just don't have enough of them. This goes to the point that was made earliler by Commissioner [Robert] Henke and some of my other colleagues, and we all believe this very strongly, that even in this time of cutting budgets and deficits, there has to be some spending to save money. And it's a matter of being penny wise and pound foolish. If we don't get these people in, we're going to end up hurting both the government and industry. The government because there might be money that could be recovered and industry because they're not getting paid when they should get paid. If the audit isn't completed, they have a problem too.
Co-Chair Christopher Shays: Could I just -- I'm going to change the word "might" to "will." Because it is just a proven fact that if you have these audits, you are going to discover bills that were submitted that were either fraudulently submitted or frankly just mistakes and they were paid more than they should be paid. The outrage is that all these companies have to keep these records on file for two, three, four, five, six, seven years and guess who pays for their having to do this? The government pays for their keeping the records. So this five hundred billion -- million we're talking ab -- excuse me, 500 billion that we're talking about -- million is going to just accelrate if you don't reverse it.
US House Rep Jason Chaffetz: I guess, to my colleagues, what I would highlight here is also that the GAO just recently released a report in September 2011 documenting that there are at least 58,000 contracts awarded between Fiscal Year 2003 and 2010 that must still be reviewed and closed out. But I agree with you, the numbers are absolutely staggering. I would call upon the White House: "Please, prioritize these IGs, get them nominated and get the Senate over there to do their jobs so that --" We have 3 of the 5 that are unfilled and that's just inexcusable in my opinion.
At a time when the 'Super Congress' is going to fix the economy by cutting and gutting the safety net, it's rather telling how much money the White House is willing to waste on the continued wars. Iraq specifically came up in the hearing at several times. We'll note this section because it's not really registered in a Congressional hearing before.
US House Rep James Lankford: Let me make one other quick comment here, you have an extension section here on foreign contractors using human trafficking. Obviously that's -- That's a very stark comment. Some of the work that's happening in Iraq and Afghanistan is basically done with slave labor -- people compelled to work in this for whatever amount is done. How extensive do you think that is?
Commissioner Dov Zakheim: What we understand is that it's really quite extensive. Because what they do is they bring people in, uh, hold onto their passports and essentially lock them up as prisoners. It's virtually slave labor.
US House Rep James Lankford: And we're aware of that? The United States government, the people on the ground, we're aware of that either after the fact when it's over or during the process?
Commissioner Dov Zakheim: Okay, at a minimum, everybody's aware of it after our report and, of course, a lot of people were aware of it before our report.
If they'd had more time, Shays declared, they would have gone deeper into the contracting issue because "I think there is a lot more to this story than any of us have confronted."
Before we go further, let's note two other antiwar actions this month. Cindy Sheehan speaks tomorrow, October 5th, 7 p.m., at the First United Church in Bloomington. That's tomorrow. The LA action is Thursday. And there's also an event Saturday. This is Angela Keaton's write up for
Kelley B. Vlahos along with military veterans Daniel Lakemacher and Students for Liberty's Peter Neiger will be appearing at an Antiwar Break Out Session at the 2011 Students for Liberty Philadelphia Regional Conference. The conference will be held Saturday, October 8th. Register here.
Vlahos is a contributing editor for The American Conservative magazine, a Washington correspondent for the DC-based homeland security magazine, Homeland Security Today, a long-time political writer for, and weekly columnist for

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"

No comments: