Over the course of the past few weeks, I’ve been incensed by Bush’s incessant whining and tough-talking
as part of his ongoing battle with the U.S. Congress over funding for the war in Iraq and whether or not the new funding bill will contain necessary benchmarks and a timetable for the withdrawal of our troops.
On a seemingly unrelated note, I read an article
yesterday about the prominent role in the Bush administration played by alumni
(approximately 150 of them) of televangelist Pat Robertson’s Regent University
. For example, in 2001 Bush made Kay Coles James, the dean of Regent’s government school, director of the Office of Personnel Management, effectively opening the door to Regent alumni looking take back the government for Christ. More recently, Monica Goodling, a ’99 Regent Law School alumna and former top aide to Alberto Gonzalez, has found herself at the center of the controversy over the firing of U.S. attorneys.
These two stories have more in common than simply being two examples of the current administration’s screwy priorities. Sure, Bush wants to continue fighting the Iraq war in spite of the fact that even the Pentagon is beginning to refer to conflict as a civil war
; and, yes, he wants as many evangelicals in the U.S. government as possible in spite of their blatant disregard for the separation between church and state. As disturbing as these things are, the real unifying theme here—and one of the central problems with the Bush administration—has to do with its unsettling ties to those who do not have our collective interests at heart, but rather are using their influence with the president to advance their own self-serving agenda.
In his standoff with Congress over the war funding bill, Bush’s principle tactic has been to accuse the Democrats of depriving the troops of supplies. To be sure, this will resonate with many Americans who, in spite of whether they are for the war or against it, don’t want to see the troops put in harm’s way. A classic example of the sleazy spin I’ve come to expect from the Bush administration, such an argument belies the fact that Bush, not Congress, will be depriving the troops of resources if he vetoes the bill that will arrive on his desk.
More importantly, the Bush administration lacks the necessary credibility and moral authority to chastise Democrats (or anyone else) for undermining the troops in light of what we now know about the no-bid war contracts that have allowed companies like Halliburton/KBR, CACI, and Blackwater to make billions off the war. I posted
about this last October after seeing Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers
. The film documents not only exorbitant cost overruns, but how high prices are being charged for substandard and poor-quality services and supplies being given our troops. It also shows how inadequate oversight of private contractors and a lack of accountability have lead to a breakdown of law and order, as evinced by tragedies like Abu Ghraib.
Make no mistake: these companies are getting rich at the expense of the military and our soldiers. If Bush were truly concerned about the fate of our troops and making sure that they were adequately supplied, far more attention would be paid to how this war is being outsourced. Moreover, executives of companies like Halliburton and Blackwater have close ties to the Bush administration and they have used their influence not for the common good or the good of the troops, but for their own personal gain. I wonder how much of the $100 billion for which Bush is currently haranguing Congress will end up in the pockets of private contractors?
The cozy relationship between Regent College and Bush bears an eerie similarity to the above situation. Although Regent’s inroads into the U.S. government are admittedly less about money than power, that so many Regent alumni have found a home in the federal government demonstrates just how insidious and pervasive is the influence of the Religious Right over the current administration. The issue isn’t simply that Regent alumni are under qualified or incompetent (though this is clearly the case in many instances). It’s not simply that their behavior is unethical, as in the case of Monica Goodling (shown left) who was one of several Gonzalez aides who oversaw the firing of U.S. attorneys who didn’t tow the party line.
The real problem is that they are taking advantage of the current administration’s conservatism and openness to “faith-based” everything (i.e. Christian fundamentalism) to weasel their way in and dismantle those things—everything from sex education and stem cell research to environmentalism and the protections afforded GLBT people—that have no place within their narrow vision of a “Christian nation.” America is so much bigger and more diverse than Regent alumni are willing or able to admit. Similarly, the war in Iraq should be viewed as more than a marketplace opportunity for big companies trying to get rich(er).
Whether in the arena of who gets hired and who gets fired or in the theater of war, our government’s policies need to reflect what is good for the many, not the few. The irony is that conservatives are always the loudest to decry “special interests.” Until we go to the polls in November 2008, we must look to Congress and the courts to confront this tyranny of special interests that has hijacked our government.
And incidentally, for more information on what the war in Iraq is costing the American people—including a breakdown by city and state—please visit the National Priorities Project’s Cost of War
Labels: George W Bush, Iraq, Religious Right, War Profiteers