Scahill: ‘Spineless’ Congress stands up to activists, not criminal contractors
Where is the Defund Blackwater Act, investigative reporter asks
Lawmakers’ defunding of community activist group ACORN “means there is no spine in Congress when it comes to standing up against the real crooks and criminals in this society,” military-affairs reporter Jeremy Scahill says.
Scahill, a writer for The Nation who this summer broke the story that Erik Prince, CEO of Blackwater, had been implicated in at least one murder, told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that ACORN got “pennies” compared to military contractors who have been convicted of crimes but continue to receive hundreds of millions of dollars from US taxpayers.
Scahill suggested that it’s relatively easy to go after a grassroots community group like ACORN, while pursuing much worse allegations against defense contractors requires actual courage.
“This is political, this isn’t really about upholding the law,” Scahill said on the Rachel Maddow Show. “On the one hand, you have an organization that registered 1.3 million people to vote, 400,000 members, works with the poor and working class people of this nation, and they don’t have lobbying power in the form of massive campaign contributions.
“On the other side, you have 600 war corporations on the government payroll,” Scahill continued. “You want to know an actual election scandal? Twenty-five to 40 cents of every dollar spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — $2.5 billion a week — that money goes directly to war corporations who in turn contribute campaign dollars to the Republicans and Democrats.”
Earlier in the program, Maddow had listed off a litany of criminal accusations against numerous government contractors, including murder allegations against Blackwater; the 2000 scandal involving DynCorp, in which 13 company employees were sent home from Bosnia for running an underage forced sex slave ring; and recent claims about ArmorGroup and its alleged links to fraud and prostitution.
“Not only have these contractors not been defunded by outraged members of Congress, they all continue to get spectacularly lucrative government contracts even after all these things have been exposed,” Maddow told viewers.
“If this isn’t just a witch hunt against ACORN … then we can all look forward to the explanation from the fake-outraged Republicans and the cowering Democrats about why nothing ever inspired them to defund anyone before ACORN,” Maddow said.
In a recent article in The Nation, Scahill measured up Blackwater’s behavior to that of ACORN:
Blackwater was paid more than $73 million for federally funded, no-bid security contracts with the Department of Homeland Security in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, billing taxpayers $950 per man per day, a spending decision the Bush administration called “the best value to the government.” In the wake of the hurricane ACORN, meanwhile, only helped poor people who were suffering as a result of the government’s total failure to respond.
A recent federal audit of Blackwater, compiled by the State Department and the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, suggests the company may have to repay some $55 million to the government for allegedly failing to meet the terms of just one federal contract in Iraq–which, it is important to note, is $2 million more than the total amount allotted by the government to ACORN over the past fifteen years.
Scahill ends the piece with the words: “How do you justify making this a major league legislative priority while Blackwater continues to be armed and dangerous around the globe on the US government payroll? Where is the Defund Blackwater Act?”
The following video was broadcast on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show on Sept. 25, 2009, and uploaded to YouTube Sept. 26, 2009: