Washington, DC, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Ralph Nader, consumer lawyer and former presidential candidate, claimed Thursday that several of President Bush's family members and their political allies profited from insider deals regarding the war in Iraq.
Nader urged more public and congressional focus on what he called the "institutionalization of corruption and secrecy."
Nader also used his announcement of the "Stop the War" campaign by the so-called Democracy Rising activist group for an overall attack on the Bush administration.
Nader, who ran in the last election for president as an independent after the 1996 and 2000 campaigns as the Green Party candidate, said the administration was doing business with "corporate criminals" and the agency and department heads responsible for this corruption continued to serve in office.
"Never in American history has there been more corruption without anybody being required to resign. The corruption, even when exposed, continues on a base that the corrupters are not held accountable and those who receive the benefits of the corruption are not held accountable," Nader said.
Nader and the Democracy Rising activists handed out a list of names of Bush family members that they say are "profiteers" of the war in Iraq. The list includes former president George H. W. Bush, who "only recently resigned as a board member of the finance giant the Carlyle Group."
According to Democracy Rising, Carlyle was 43rd among federal contractors with $676.5 million in contacts in 2002, but one year later it moved to 11th place with $2.1 billion in contracts, "partly from the war on terrorism and partly from Iraq."
Other names listed include the president's brothers Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Marvin P. Bush and Neil Mallon Bush and the president's uncle William H. T. Bush.
Not all of Nader's ire was directed at the Bush family. He also blamed the Democratic Party for a lack of political pressure on the government, saying: "The political system is not doing its job. Why did John Kerry and John Edwards not question the Bush family's involvement in the Iraq war contracts? Well, John Kerry was put in the defense by the Swift boat veterans. That reflects the lowering of political pressure in the system."
Nader finished third in November's U.S. presidential elections. Bush, the Republican Party nominee, collected 60.6 million (51 percent) of the votes cast while Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., running on the Democratic ticket with Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., had 57.3 million votes (48 percent). Nader was third with about 407,000 votes -- about 1 percent of votes cast.
Nader posited a three-point plan for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq within six months. Nader also called for continued development aid and international peacekeepers from Islamic and countries with experience in nation building.
As he has done before, Nader accused the administration of not reporting the appropriate numbers of casualties of the war in Iraq. "Bush does not count troops who suffer serious diseases in Iraq or commit suicide," he said.
According to Nader, more than 10,000 members of the military should count as casualties. About 1,475 U.S. military personnel have been killed in Iraq, Pentagon figures show.
Nader also pointed to the Iraq Commission, criticizing its secrecy. Bush created the commission in response to David Kay's search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
"Institutionalization of secrecy is dangerous for a democratic society," Nader said. "The American people deserve to know how and when intelligence information about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were manipulated by the president and his advisers in order to plunge the nation into war."
Nader also decried the Jan. 30 Iraqi elections as undemocratic.
"This election was a farce. The candidates were pre-selected," Nader said. He complained that the candidates had to be approved by the U.S.-backed "Independent Election Commission of Iraq" and, in addition, needed to have a secondary education. Administration officials were unavailable for comment late Thursday.
Virginia Rodino, steering committee member of United for Peace and Justice, criticized Bush in the same news conference for his budget policy, saying the U.S. people "understand the connection between the war budget and the abolishment of social programs."
Rodino said that the strategy of many anti-war groups in the 2004 U.S. elections was a mistake. She referred to the presidential campaign as a "fiasco" because United for Peace and Justice supported Kerry, a "pro-war candidate."
On March 19, one day before the second anniversary of the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, her group is planning a "global day of action" in major U.S. cities.
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