This latest from Judith Miller and the Times on the Congressional hearing into the UN Oil-for-Food program will create some controversy (Drop the pretence - it will OUTRAGE people):
WASHINGTON, Oct. 5 - A House subcommittee investigating the United Nations oil-for-food program expanded its inquiry on Tuesday to the Bush administration's postwar stewardship of Iraq's oil money.
Yielding to pressure from his panel's Democrats, Representative Christopher Shays, the Connecticut Republican who is chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, agreed to subpoena documents on the administration's management of oil revenues and, if necessary, audits on contracts for reconstruction projects, including one given to Halliburton, the oil services giant once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney.
Mr. Shays said he would subpoena records from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the banker for the administration's Development Fund for Iraq, which contains its oil revenues, and send a letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld demanding audits on the fund's noncompetitive contracts, including one to Halliburton for $1.5 billion, the single largest awarded.
The agreement came after subcommittee Democrats staged a surprise revolt at a hearing on accusations of corruption and mismanagement in the $67 billion program. It was intended to examine whether companies hired to monitor the program were crippled by the Security Council and the United Nations sanctions office, both of which have been accused of permitting Saddam Hussein to plunder money.
But the hearing quickly evolved into a partisan showdown, a perhaps inevitable development so close to a presidential election. While Republicans denounced France and other Security Council members for permitting the United Nations to mismanage the seven-year oil-for-food program that ended with the American invasion in 2003, Democrats criticized the Bush administration for its mismanagement of Iraqi oil money.
They also criticized the subcommittee for failing to investigate numerous accusations of fraud, favoritism and undue secrecy surrounding the administration's stewardship of the fund and Iraqi oil money.
Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, the panel's ranking Democrat, warned that failing to explore the administration's stewardship of Iraq's money would lead people to believe that the United States had invaded Iraq for oil.
Representative Bernard Sanders, an independent of Vermont, joined Democrats in arguing that while the panel had investigated even wild accusations against the Clinton administration, it had failed to scrutinize the Bush administration, ignoring questions like why the country had gone to war in Iraq, who leaked the name of a Central Intelligence Agency agent, or how Halliburton received its huge contract...
Well. The Dem talking points will focus on clean hands, Caesar's wife, and our already tarnished international credibility. They will also argue that this is not impeding the Congressional investigation into the United Nations, it is simply expanding it.
Rep screaming points will include the famous "Blame America First" speech and questions about "whose side are they on?". Reps will also note that the US has a regular procedure for awarding Pentagon contracts, and the GAO provides oversight, as the NY recently observed in appraising the Cheney-Halliburton relationship.
And the Moral Equivalence Watch will wonder whether Cheney and Halliburton really need to be investigated in the same forum with Saddam and the United Nations. I suspect each side has a deeply heart-felt answer to that.
More absurdities abound. First, the NY Times has given the story to Judith Miller. After her discredited reporting of the WMDs in Iraq, she is probably not high on the "must-read" list amongst Times readers.
Secondly, her current story tells us that this "partisan showdown" was "a perhaps inevitable development so close to a presidential election.
However, Ms. Miller gave only the bare bones of the story in her account from Oct. 2, telling readers that "Congressional investigators say that France, Russia and China systematically sabotaged the former United Nations oil-for-food program in Iraq by preventing the United States and Britain from investigating whether Saddam Hussein was diverting billions of dollars. "
She provided no suggestion that this interfered with Security Council deliberations on the war against Iraq. Nor did she provide any quotes from either the Bush or Kerry campaigns suggesting that there might be a partisan angle to this. Too obvious to report, perhaps? Or too painful? When did the partisan breakdown become inevitable?
MORE: A wonderfully inflammatory headline from the LA Times: "Oil-for-Food Probe to Reach White House". Call it "Mission Accomplished" for Waxman.
Oh, my opinion? If it is not obvious, it is because I am a model of restraint. And because I counted to ten. A hundred times.