Iraqi Police Not Getting U.S.-Made Guns

Posted October 21, 2003 at 6:14pm

House Small Business Chairman Don Manzullo (R-Ill.) is angry about the fact that the Pentagon is arming the new Iraqi police force with Russian-made guns instead of weapons made in America.

Manzullo revealed to his colleagues at last week’s GOP Conference meeting that the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority — headed up by Ambassador Paul Bremer — recently awarded a sizable contract to a firm called Jordanian Armed Services. The CPA will purchase 34,000 Russian-made AK-47s at $59.99 a gun from the Jordanian company.

“The issue becomes, why weren’t American-made guns bought?” Manzullo asked in an interview on Tuesday, noting that no U.S. manufacturer makes that model.

According to documents obtained by the Small Business chairman’s office, the CPA specifically requested AK-47s, citing Iraqi officers’ familiarity with the guns as a reason for not accepting one of two bids submitted by U.S. companies.

Furthermore, the CPA said it wanted to avoid the appearance that it is “Americanizing” the Iraqi police force, said Manzullo spokesman Rich Carter.

Carter added that the Small Business chairman also wants to know why the contract could not have at least gone to an American distributor.

Manzullo said he and other lawmakers are seeking answers from the Pentagon, especially “in light of massive unemployment in the U.S. manufacturing sector.”

“It’s [also] ironic in light of hundreds of thousands of new and barely-used” guns turning up during raids by U.S. forces in Iraq, he said, asking why new guns are even needed now.

One senior GOP lawmaker said the concern raised by Manzullo at the Conference meeting shows the political concern Republican Members have about the potential ramifications of portions of the $87 billion supplemental bill being used to purchase non-American goods and services in the rebuilding of Iraq.

“There was a big dust up about this at Conference,” noted the GOP lawmaker.

Stuart Roy, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), said the leadership supports the “Buy America” concept.

“We’re all for that,” Roy said. “The number one priority is fighting the war on terror, after that, of course, American manufacturers should be given first consideration as long as it doesn’t hinder the war on terror.”

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) said the AK-47 incident is just one part of a bigger problem.

“It’s part of a larger concern that our American manufacturers are not being given fair and full consideration in the Iraqi rebuilding process,” he said.

“We’re taking [our] tax dollars and giving them to [our] competitors,” he said. “I intend to work with the administration until we find common ground or that we need to introduce legislation.”

Manzullo is also expected to delve into the matter further through his Small Business panel.

The desire for accountability from the administration among rank-and-file Republicans was evident in two key votes during last week’s House debate as well.

Forty-seven House Republicans joined Democrats in approving an amendment that would require open bidding on the bill’s $2.1 billion contracts to build oil infrastructure in Iraq.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), the amendment’s sponsor, speculated that Republicans are concerned about the potential political fallout from sweetheart deals going to companies like Halliburton, which was previously run by Vice President Dick Cheney.

“I knew Democrats don’t trust the Bush administration when it comes to giving no-bid contracts to big oil companies,” Sherman said. “What surprised me was that 47 Republicans agreed. They took away from Bush flexibility and authority that they happily entrusted to [former President] Bill Clinton.”

A similar amendment drafted by Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) passed overwhelmingly as well. The administration would have to notify Congress within a week if it awards a no-bid contract to a company for any good or service in Iraq.

“I voted for it and ran out,” one senior Republican lawmaker said of Kirk’s amendment, noting that he did so to avoid arm-twisting by GOP leaders.

John Scofield, GOP spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee, said such amendments are unnecessary.

“It duplicates what already is in the bill,” he said. “There’s already provisions for transparency in the bill.”

The Bush administration has already threatened to veto a final package if it includes the Senate’s loan provisions to convert part of the supplemental into a loan, and is now expressing its displeasure for amendments such as those sponsored by Kirk and Sherman.

“The administration is also concerned that both versions of the bill contain numerous burdensome and duplicative reporting requirements,” Office of Management and Budget Director Joshua Bolten wrote to House Appropriations Chairman Bill Young (R-Fla.) on Tuesday.

“The administration appreciates Congress’ concern with transparency and will work with Congress to ensure that the final bill establishes an appropriate reporting and accountability regime.”