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THE WANDERING EYE ‌ Bean Counters, Schmean Counters

Who's watching the store?

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The Eye has spent the better part of the last few weeks watching local, state, and national candidates engage in what could charitably be called a raging case of foot-in-mouth disease.

While this activity was fascinating in the train-wreck sense, it only served to yet again distract ordinary Americans from the real problems facing an "at war" nation on the eve of midterm elections.

News came out late last week of an order squirreled away in a super-sized military appropriations bill that set a termination date for the federal oversight agency, the Office of Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, on the first of October 2007.

The agency is led by a Republican lawyer, Stuart W. Bowen Jr., who has served under both George W. Bush's gubernatorial and presidential administrations.

Bowen and his trusty investigators have exposed shoddy construction work by firms such as Halliburton and Parsons, engineered prosecution on bribery charges of government occupation officials and private contractors, and brought to Americans' attention the fact that the Pentagon has no idea of where or how many weapons and armaments it has provided Iraqi security forces.

The office came into being in Jan. 2004 and has over 300 investigations and summary reports to date — far more than any other agencies with similar mandates — and has always been seen as a temporary fix, but no one ever came up with an expiration date.

Neither side of the political aisle has been 100 percent happy with the agency from the get-go, citing both the temporary nature of the entity and Bowen's close ties to the White House. However, the Bush White House has frequently been chagrined by Bowen's work, as many of the targets are campaign contributors and beneficiaries of administration flunkies' penchant for no-bid contract awards.

Bush signed the aforementioned authorization bill two weeks ago and the clause deadlining Bowen's agency was put in at the last minute by the GOP-controlled House Armed Services Committee in conference committee with its Senate counterpart.

Staff monkeys for Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) added the clause despite the strenuous objections of Democrats and a bunch of ticked-off Republican members who were shocked at the agency's scheduled demise. Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, also announced his 2008 presidential intentions on the day before Halloween.

Sen John Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released a statement declaring his intention to join Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) in reestablishing Bowen's agency's mandate because it "was making a valuable contribution to the Congressional and public understanding of this very complex and ever-changing situation in Iraq."

Rep Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), was less diplomatic, commenting, "It appears to me that the administration wants to silence the messenger that is giving us information about waste and fraud in Iraq ... I just can't see how one can look at this change without believing it's political."

Go get 'em Hank! The Eye loves this guy!

Bowen has remained largely silent on the fate of his team and its work, saying only, "We will do what the Congress desires."

What bugs The Eye about this is the lack of a palpable sense of outrage in the national media and the citizenry-at-large at the erasure of this agency when it's needed most.

Congressional supervision on a project as intertwined and huge as the American involvement in Iraq requires an agency such as Bowen's that has cross-institutional authority for investigation purposes.

As far as The Eye could determine, Bowen's team was the only one with said authority.

Where's that palpable sense of outrage now?

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