Asleep at the wheel

Is this a sign of an exit strategy or a desire to continue avoiding accountability?

Investigations led by a Republican lawyer named Stuart W. Bowen Jr. in Iraq have sent American occupation officials to jail on bribery and conspiracy charges, exposed disastrously poor construction work by well-connected companies like Halliburton and Parsons, and discovered that the military did not properly track hundreds of thousands of weapons it shipped to Iraqi security forces.

And tucked away in a huge military authorization bill that President Bush signed two weeks ago is what some of Mr. Bowen’s supporters believe is his reward for repeatedly embarrassing the administration: a pink slip.

The order comes in the form of an obscure provision that terminates his federal oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, on Oct. 1, 2007. The clause was inserted by the Republican side of the House Armed Services Committee over the objections of Democratic counterparts during a closed-door conference, and it has generated surprise and some outrage among lawmakers who say they had no idea it was in the final legislation.

I don’t have the answer, although this administration and Congress have convinced me that cynicism is probably the best first response. So, if I had to guess between the two, I’d say it’s the latter, inexcusable explanation.

That’s not what got me fired up, though. The timing of this is a coincidental indication for why we need change. Lawmakers presumably voted for the bill but had no idea that a “yea” vote meant ending this oversight of reconstruction in Iraq. I’m offended by much of what this Congress has passed knowingly, but what has it passed without knowing it? I’m not foolish enough to think we can enforce a requirement that lawmakers read every piece of legislation before voting on it. (Congressional book reports?) But we must hold them accountable when they don’t.

Our strategy Tuesday should not be to vote out the Republicans. We should vote them all out, Republicans and Democrats alike. There are a few exceptions, perhaps, but the damage of throwing out a few good ones seems minimal given the damage caused by the rest.

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