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Top House Republican: “We Weren’t Ready For Primetime” in Iraq

Virginia’s Tom Davis, the ranking Republican on the House oversight committee, told The Washington Independent that the Iraq war is “a war we fought where we weren’t ready for primetime.” Davis’s criticism is notable, because he’s saying we’re still not doing things right — unlike GOP peers who say the war was once a fiasco but the surge has solved everything.

Davis, who is retiring from Congress at the end of this term, was specifically discussing the government’s reliance on private contractors to fight the war in Iraq. “A lot of decisions were made by people in comfortable desks in Washington,” Davis said, “not trained, experienced officers on the ground making decisions.”

Davis says he doesn’t have a problem with private contractors waging the war — or at least says contracting is a fact of life as long as government doesn’t pay top dollar to the best and the brightest. But the problem Iraq continues to have is the lack of contractor oversight. Davis stressed that such officers need to be trained and empowered and “Frankly, they ought to be paid very well.”

Davis has had a front row seat for the War on Terror, Inc. Companies in his Northern Virginia district have secured billions in defense and intelligence gathering contracts. A coming Washington Independent piece will look at the politics and economics behind the post-9/11 contracts given to Northern Virginia information technology companies. Davis, who comes from the IT sector, defends the contracts in theory, if not necessarily in practice.

“People get their anti-war fix by bashing contractors,” Davis said. “The problem is that there’s been very poor government oversight.”

Davis is arguably part of that problem. As chair of the House oversight committee between 2002-2006, he focused little attention on the issue. But as the war drags on, and Davis nears retirement, he’s now made a call for reform.

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