Conservatives and their carnival of fraud

I wonder if, back in the rosy-fingered dawn of our conservative era, all those Adam Smith-tied evangelists of “limited government” had any idea that they were greasing the skids for a character like 22-year-old arms dealer Efraim Diveroli?

Mr. Diveroli, whose tousled, slightly confused visage recalls the perpetually stoned Jeff Spicoli from the 1982 film “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” was the improbable recipient of a 2007 government contract to supply ammunition to our allies in Afghanistan.

The trouble was the munitions he sold were, like, seriously bogus. Old and partially defective, the stuff apparently originated in China, which is a Pentagon no-no. Mr. Diveroli was indicted by a federal grand jury in Florida on Friday on numerous counts, including allegedly attempting to defraud the government.

How could a kid barely able to buy beer secure a nearly $300 million defense contract? It will be interesting to find out. Maybe Mr. Diveroli’s story will be the one that finally fixes public attention on the carnival of fraud, waste and profiteering that characterizes our system of government-by-contractor. Maybe it will finally persuade us to ask our politicians why it is that they hire Blackwater to do the job of the Marines and pay Kellogg Brown and Root to arrange the logistics for the Army wherever it goes.

See also, the New York Times report that got the ball rolling, a YouTube with audio of Diveroli’s arms dealing, Diveroli’s recent indictment, the ambassador who appears to be complicit in a cover-up, and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on AEY contracts with the US government chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman.

Iraqi officials outraged by U.S. raid in prime minister’s hometown

Outraged Iraqi officials demanded an investigation into an early morning U.S. military raid Friday near the birthplace of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, saying the operation violated the terms of the handover of Karbala province to Iraqi security forces.

Karbala Gov. Oqeil al Khazaali said U.S. forces killed an unarmed civilian and arrested at least one person in the raid in the southern town of Janaja. The governor’s brother, Hassanein al Khazaali, said late Friday that the Iraqi killed in the operation was a relative of the U.S.-backed prime minister.

The U.S. military command in Baghdad had no comment. Two senior aides to Maliki weren’t available for comment; one was still in a meeting with the prime minister after midnight. The governor is said to belong to the prime minister’s Dawa Party.

Iraqi MPs stall deals on Bush benchmarks

Three key US-backed measures on oil, provincial elections and the future of US troops are mired in the Iraqi parliament, raising doubts as to whether they can come into effect before George Bush leaves office.

Once listed as a crucial “benchmark” allowing the US president to claim success in Iraq, the provincial elections look likely to be delayed until next year. The oil law, which nationalist MPs blocked last summer over fears that foreign companies would take over Iraq’s major resource, is facing the same problem again.

The pact to permit US troops to remain in Iraq is equally sensitive, and was described by the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, this month as being in stalemate. Intensive US-Iraqi talks on new drafts have resumed and, after meeting Bush in the White House this week, President Jalal Talabani tried to sound optimistic. “We have very good, important steps towards reaching to finalise this agreement,” he said. Many MPs complain that it will give the US excessive rights.

Israeli strike on Iran not likely – local analysts

The past week’s spate of signals that Israel might be preparing a strike against Iranian nuclear targets – an attack which would almost certainly provoke a wave of retaliation engulfing Hizbullah and Lebanon in regional conflict – amounts to nothing more than posturing to prod the West in negotiations with the Islamic Republic, a number of analysts told The Daily Star.

The New York Times reported on June 20 that Israel had carried out military maneuvers simulating a long-range bombing run and attendant rescue operations, but internal political considerations in Israel, the US and Iran’s Arab neighbors augur against such a strike, with the show of force designed instead to push the US and European to move more forcefully against Iran’s nuclear program, the analysts said.

Iran military chief says Israel can’t stop nuclear program

The commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards warned Israel against launching a military strike on Iran, adding that any such attack would not halt Iran’s nuclear program given that Tehran’s nuclear capabilities are at an advanced stage.

In comments published on Saturday in the Iranian newspaper Jam-e Jam, the Guards commander-in-chief Mohammad Ali Jafari said that Israel “is completely within the range of the Islamic republic’s missiles” and it cannot confront Iran’s missile power.

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