[President Bush Thursday in Billings, Montana, photo by Jason Reed, Reuters, left; President Bush speaking under a halo at the dedication of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship’s Youth Education Center in Dallas, Texas, 10/29/03, photo by Charles Dharapak, AP, right.]

Recent polls from a number of news organizations and independent groups make it clear that the Bush administration’s dragged-out, coalition-of-the-once-upon-a-time-willing war in Iraq can best be labeled “Mission Botched.” A Newsweek poll from October 26-27 indicated that twice as many American adults think the current strategy is losing ground (60%) as opposed to making progress (29%) in Iraq. Recent polls also indicate that despite the White House election strategy of not straying (even if not calling it staying) from the course, public opinion is singing the blues even in the red states. The reasons for this dissatisfaction with the way in which the war has been waged now cross party lines. The liberal vs. conservative, cut-and-run vs. lobby-and-don’t-tell mantras are increasingly (and fortunately) falling on deafened ears.

What the Bush administration will not do is admit incompetence. The president with no clothesure on this war simply raises his ten-gallon hat high in the air, but more and more Americans see how empty the space within the brim really is. It is not just about a military strategy flawed by neocon artists who thought the magic of the mere word “democracy” could charm Iraqis into pro-Western docility. There are also the lobbying scandals, especially the massive documented waste of taxpayer millions by overstuffed Haliburtonesque contract artists. Fortunately there have been whistleblowers. Take Stuart W. Bowne, Jr, for example, a Republican lawyer who heads the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. At least he is scheduled to head it until October 1, 2007, when the office will be terminated by a tucked-away surprise clause in the recent military authorization bill.

Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who serves on the Armed Forces Committee, expressed surprise at the provision, which she states was neither in the agreed-upon senate or house version. The mystery of its insertion is detailed by James Glanz in today’s New York Times:

The termination language was inserted into the bill by Congressional staff members working for Duncan Hunter, the California Republican who is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and who declared on Monday that he plans to run for president in 2008.

Mr. Holly, who is the House Armed Services spokesman as well as a member of Mr. Hunter’s staff, said that politics played no role and that there had been no direction from the administration or lobbying from the companies whose work in Iraq Mr. Bowen’s office has severely critiqued. Three of the companies that have been a particular focus of Mr. Bowen’s investigations, Halliburton, Parsons and Bechtel, said that they had made no effort to lobby against his office.

It is, I suppose, only a coincidence that an individual huntering for the next Republican nomination for president should be the point man to prevent public exposure of the excessive waste by contractors such as Haliburton, Parsons and Bechtel. Perhaps Rep. Hunter was not lobbied by these firms that stand to lose millions in profit if a watchdog is unleashed on their contracts. Perhaps it is Rep. Hunter who is lobbying the corporate players who cheney-ganged tall-tale Republican Bush into power. ‘Don’t bite the hands that are feeding off the system’ would be an apt Machiavellian adage for such a political ploy.

Perhaps we should take President Bush at his word when he does not shy away from asserting that he believes he is on a mission from the Almighty. In this case there is ample biblical justification for ending the oversight mandate of the special inspector general. As the Sermon on the Mount so eloquently reminds the faithful, “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee” (Matthew 5:29). In this case it would be yet more proof of the blind leading the blind.

One thing is sure: we may have an administtion in which the bucks do not stop flowing in, but the whistle blower stops here.

Daniel Martin Varisco