John Sopko, the man who is the watchdog over the war in Afghanistan, talked about a whole culture within the government of people trying to stop him from doing his job overseeing and reporting on waste, fraud, and abuse within Afghanistan. He recently gave a speech to the centrist think tank New America Foundation where he made his remarks reported by Politico.
The watchdog who tracks the billions of taxpayer dollars spent to rebuild Afghanistan says government officials have tried to silence him because they think he's embarrassing the White House and Afghan President Hamid Karzai by pointing out the waste and fraud.This is similar to the attitude of Bush's defenders as the occupation of Iraq began to unravel last decade. Sopko continues:
John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, used a speech at the New America Foundation on Wednesday to blast government “bureaucrats”' who have told him to stop publicizing damning audits that detail case after case of waste, corruption and mismanagement of rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan. Some government officials have even complained that they aren't allowed to pre-screen or edit his reports, he said.
“Over the last 10 months, I have been criticized by some bureaucrats for not pre-clearing my press releases with them, for not letting them edit the titles of my audits, for talking too much to Congress, for talking too much to the press … and, basically, for not being a 'team player' and undermining 'our country’s mission in Afghanistan,'” he said.Senator Claire McCaskill, in a news release today, backed Sopko.
“Our Inspectors General are the eyes and ears of taxpayers within each federal agency—they’re the ones protecting our tax dollars from waste, and they’re the ones to call out federal officials for abuse of power,” said McCaskill, the former Missouri State Auditor who led the effort to replace Sopko’s predecessor for incompetence and mismanagement. “Their work is what can give the American people confidence that their government is functioning the way it should. And if their independence is being threatened with political interference, then I’m going to bring this fight to every corner of the federal government, to protect the integrity of their work.”Senator Claire McCaskill notes that the State Department, US Agency for International Development, and Defense Department all have gone without inspectors general for the last three years. The President has been dragging his feet on appointing inspectors general for these posts. And then he wonders why there is so much political opposition to the war there.
McCaskill, in her release, continues:
McCaskill used a Senate hearing last year to chastise the White House for leaving such positions vacant for so long, listing the agencies which lacked Inspectors General: “We do not have SIGAR, we do not have DOD, we do not have State, we do not have AID, in terms of an appointed and confirmed Inspector General… I find it appalling that these people have not been appointed. And there is a long list of qualified people to hold these jobs… And I do not understand why this is taking so long. If you look at the world of Inspectors General, and the money that’s being spent—how these positions can go vacant for this period of time is beyond me. And I’m hoping that the White House gets busy.”It is a dysfunctional scene all the way around. We have a Republican Congress who obstructs Obama for the sake of obstructing. And then we have a President who refuses to fill posts that are critical to ensuring that the government is properly functioning. And then they wonder why so many people think Washington is dysfunctional. And then they wonder why millions of people who voted in 2008 stayed home in 2012.
Not having proper oversight in Washington has consequences. In 2011, the US Commission on Wartime Contracting -- a commission successfully pushed for by McCaskill and Senator James Webb following the rampant war profiteering by Blackwater, Halliburton, and others in Iraq -- found that as much as $60 billion of taxpayer money was being wasted in Afghanistan. If we wasted $60 billion in Afghanistan, then how much more money do we waste in the Pentagon, the Agency for International Development, and the State Department, all of whom handle hundreds of billions or even trillions of taxpayer dollars?