by Helen Gerhardt
As we prepare to elect a new Mayor here in Pittsburgh, as we consider the aspirations of potential new Chief Executives to address the evident mismanagement of accounts, staffing, supervision, and secondary employment in our Police Bureau, as we consider hiring a new Chief of Police, it may be useful to consider the mercenary boondoggles and abuses of force that have been enabled by our last two Presidents at the behest of powerful and wealthy corporate Networks that deploy force for profit rather than the public good. The local and national patterns darkly reflect each other.
Back in 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama inspired thousands of dedicated volunteers by promising to redirect spending from Iraq and Afghanistan back into investment in our own country’s needs and to bring accountability and transparency back to the Executive Office.
But even as the national sequester now takes hold and bites deep into the most crucial infrastructure and social investments, even as our Pennsylvania state legislators argue over where/if we will find the revenue to fund our own health care, transportation, education, a recent audit showed that, at least right up through 2012, many billions of our tax payer dollars have continued to pour into Iraq and Afghanistan, a large proportion of such projects left unfinished or botched beyond any hope of functionality:
Between 2003 and 2012, the U.S. spent an average of $15 million a day on Iraq reconstruction, running up a tab of more than $60 billion. At least $8 billion has been lost to contract abuse and mismanagement, according to a final audit released this month by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).
Perhaps Bowen’s most depressing conclusion is that the U.S. government is no better prepared for reconstruction work in other countries than it was in 2002. No single government office has responsibility for such operations, he notes, and no tracking system has been established to help oversee related contracting…
Over the past few months, developing news accounts have raised concerns that shadowy private-public partnerships may all too often determine how force is deployed throughout our own city. It seems that many of our police officers are living double lives just as they work double shifts, public servants of all our diverse communities by day, paramilitary gunslingers for hire by whoever can pay by night.
Part 2 of this series will further explore the tensions generated by endemic conflicts of private and public interests and the consequent damages to enforcement of the most basic standards of accountability and the protection of our fundamental civil rights and liberties.