The Beltway Bandit

An online journal of politics, culture, and sports

Thursday, December 11, 2003

NOBODY LIKES BEING IN THE ARMY IN IRAQ -- It isn't just our soldiers who are finding service in Iraq to be less than desirable. Apparently, Iraqis themselves agree.
Efforts to create a new Iraqi army to help take over the country's security have suffered a setback with the resignations of more than one-third of the soldiers trained so far, officials say.

The recruits said they were unhappy with salaries and other terms of employment, so the U.S. occupation authority will review those issues, an authority official said Thursday.

Promoted as essential to Iraq's future, the army's first 700-man battalion lost some 250 men over recent weeks as they were preparing to begin operations this month, Pentagon officials said.
The battalion was highly celebrated when the newly retrained soldiers, marching to the beat of a U.S. Army band, completed a nine-week basic training course in early October. The graduates, including 65 officers, were to be the core "of an army that will defend its country and not oppress it," Iraq's American administrator, L. Paul Bremer, said at the ceremony.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other officials have repeatedly trumpeted the growth of Iraqi security forces, announcing breakneck speed in recruiting and training.

"Across the country, Iraqi security forces -- now number close to 160,000 -- are assuming more responsibility for the security of their country," Rumsfeld said at the Pentagon on Tuesday.

He did not mention the problem with the army recruits. Officials said Wednesday they were unaware of any other sizable resignations from the rest of the 160,000 new Iraqi security groups, which they said includes 68,000 police, 13,200 civil defense forces, 65,300 guards at facilities and infrastructure and 12,500 border police.

The crumbling of Iraq's first revived army battalion holds considerable symbolism because Bush administration officials have placed great importance on handing to Iraqis some of the duties performed by the 130,000 Americans now occupying the country.
Amateur hour continues in Iraq, well beyond its standard 60 minutes.

BECHTEL BLOWS IN IRAQ -- Bechtel, a gigantic U.S. corporation and close ally of the Bush-Cheney White House, has, naturally, received a load of contracts for work in the reconstruction of Iraq. How's it going?
On its corporate Web site, under a page titled "A Fresh Start for Iraqi School Children," Bechtel Group showcases sparkling new classrooms filled with happy, young Iraqi students.

But the reality is far different, according to Army investigators.

"In almost every case, the paint jobs were done in a hurry, causing more damage to the appearance of the school than in terms of providing a finish that will protect the structure," a recent Army investigation into Bechtel's work found. "In one case, the paint job actually damaged critical lab equipment, making it unusable."

Bechtel is one of the biggest corporate winners of U.S. contracts to rebuild Iraq. Before the war ended, it received a $680 million contract to fix Iraq's electrical grids, water ports and more than 1,200 schools. In October, it won an additional $350 million contract to continue the electrical work.
It's not going too well, apparently. Well, it's going very well for Bechtel, not so well for anyone who has to use Bechtel's products.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003


For the first time in months we have a new team atop the Beltway Bandit Power Poll. Behold and worship...

01. New England Patriots [11-2]: Nine straight wins. Nine straight wins. [+1]

02. Kansas City Chiefs [11-2]: Stop Priest Holmes and the Chiefs are definitely mortal. That's easier said than done, but the Broncos did it on Sunday. [-1]

03. Indianapolis Colts [10-3]: Huge win in Tennessee to sweep the Titans and take control of the AFC South. Incredibly, that might not be enough to give the Colts a week off in January. [No change]

04. Philadelphia Eagles [10-3]: Eight straight wins. Eight straight wins. [+1]

05. St. Louis Rams [10-3]: With the NFC West firmly under his control, Head Coach Mike Martz must set his sights on home field advantage throughout the playoffs. He does not want to play in Philadelphia in late January. [+1]

06. Tennessee Titans [9-4]: With a healthy Steve McNair the Titans are definitely better than the Rams and probably better than the Eagles. They don't have a healthy Steve McNair right now, though. [-2]

07. Denver Broncos [8-5]: In Portis they trust. [+6]

08. Baltimore Ravens [8-5]: Ray Lewis + Jamal Lewis = division title. [+4]

09. Miami Dolphins[8-5]: It's no shame to lose to the Patriots in Boston, but to be shut out? The Dolphins have got to find a way to win a big game in December. [-2]

10. Seattle Seahawks [8-5]: There are two Seattle Seahawks teams. One plays at home and can beat anyone. The other plays on the road and can't beat anyone. [-2]

11. Dallas Cowboys [8-5]: The Eagles taught the Cowboys a painful, but important lesson in gravity: Eagles soar. Cowboys don't. [-2]

12. Carolina Panthers [8-5]: Exposed, but will win the division by default.[-2]

13. Cincinnati Bengals [7-6]: Bitter defeat on the road to division rival Ravens showed which team knows how to win and which is still learning. The Bengals need some help to reach the playoffs. [-2]

14. Minnesota Vikings [8-5]: No wonder Head Coach Mike Tice looked so happy on the sidelines on Sunday. His team just saved its season--for now. [+2]

15. Green Bay Packers [7-6]: Brett Favre flirted with disaster yet again, but this time rallied his team after putting them in a hole. The Packers are alive for another week. [No change]

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [6-7]: It would take a minor miracle for the Bucs to get back to the playoffs this year, but they've still got enough life left in them to spoil the season for New Orleans. [+3]

17. New Orleans Saints [6-7]: What a team of flakes. Let a flat-on-their-back team like the Buccaneers spoil their season. [-3]

18. Buffalo Bills [6-7]: Drew Bledsoe has dropped off the map, but Travis Henry is earning his paychecks now. [+4]

19. San Francisco 49ers [6-7]: The most inconsistent team in the NFL puts 50 points on the Cardinals. Some days these guys look great. Others they look terrible. The result is breathtaking mediocrity. [+1]

20. New York Jets [5-8]: Baffling loss to Buffalo. I thought these guys were better than that. [-3]

21. Pittsburgh Steelers [5-8]: Finally found a quarterback that could not take advantage of Pittsburgh's horrid secondary: Rick Mirer. [+2]

22. Washington Redskins [5-8]: Beat another badly injured team, but at least beat them soundly this time. Quick: Which Hasselbeck brother had a better game on Sunday? If you said "the one married to the hot chick from Survivor," you're right. [+3]

23. Atlanta Falcons [3-10]: Vick is back and if his throwing arm has a bit of rust on it, his legs surely do not. Nobody wants to play these guys right now. [+7]

24. Chicago Bears [5-8]: Looked like the Chicago Bears of the first two months of the season against Green Bay on Sunday. [-6]

25. Jacksonville Jaguars [4-9]: Fred Taylor, Byron Leftwich and an improving defense have moved this team up six slots in two weeks. [+3]

26. Houston Texans[5-8]: Quarterbacks are going down and taking the rest of the team with them. [-5]

27. New York Giants [4-9]: Beaten at home by a bad team with a backup quarterback. It could get worse, but not by much. [-3]

28. Detroit Lions [4-9]: Followed up great Thanksgiving Day win over Green Bay with pathetic home loss to the woeful Chargers. Yep, same ol' Lions. [-1]

29. Cleveland Browns [4-9]: The agony continues. The team needs a quarterback, a running back, and more help almost everywhere except wide receiver. [-3]

30. San Diego Chargers [3-10]: LaDainian Tomlinson is wasted on this team. [+2]

31. Oakland Raiders [3-10]: From second best to second worst. [-2]

32. Arizona Cardinals [3-10]: Gave up 50 points to the Niners? Jeebus, these guys suck! [-2]

Monday, December 08, 2003

REPORT: GORE TO ENDORSE DEAN -- It could be true and if it is, it won't end the race, but it is another colorful feather in Dr Dean's cap.