AUSTIN, Texas -- Anyone see any reason to think Haiti will be better off without Jean-Bertrand Aristide? Just another little gift from the Bush foreign policy team, straight out of the whacko-right playbook.

            Jesse Helms always did think Aristide was another Fidel, not being able to distinguish between a Catholic and a communist. We know the main armed opposition group is a bunch of thugs and that they have been joined by old Duvalierists, including members of the Tonton Macoutes, the infamous torturers.

            The Bush administration wanted this to happen -- it held up $500 million worth of humanitarian aid from the United States, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and International Monetary Fund. Without U.S. or multilateral help, the country spiraled downward.

            So here we are, reduced to hoping for the best again.

            David Corn of The Nation magazine developed a wonderful metaphor for this experience. It goes like this: Two kids are playing, and one says, "I'm gonna take this stick and whack that hornets' nest."

            Second kid says, "Don't hit he hornets' nest."

            "I will."

            "Don't hit the hornets' nest."

            "Will so."

            "Don't hit the hornets' nest."

            Kid hits the hornets' nest, all the hornets fly out and starting stinging, kid turns and says: "Now you have to help me deal with all these hornets. It would be irresponsible and disloyal if you didn't."

            So here we are dealing with Iraq -- because it would irresponsible and unpatriotic not to "support our troops" and try to make this dubious if not unsound venture achieve some good. And now they've gone and whacked the hornets' nest in Haiti, and they're not even willing to deal with the hornets themselves. There are no plans for nation-building in Haiti -- even bad, inadequate planning, as there was in Iraq. Near as one can tell, the administration's only plan for a post-Aristide Haiti is to send the Coast Guard to prevent anyone from fleeing the place as it descends into anarchy. This will not improve our image around the world, and our image around the world does have something to do with the terrorism we are supposed to be fighting.

            If we were to try being constructive in Haiti -- perhaps even "nation-building" -- I have a suggestion based on our experience so far in Iraq. Let's not outsource nation-building to private contractors. And if we do, let's not parcel it out in no-bid contracts.

            As the Halliburton whistle-blowers told Rep. Henry Waxman, whenever concerns were raised within Halliburton about consistent overcharges, people were told, "Don't worry ... it's cost-plus." As the Center for Corporate Policy points out, the top executives of the contracting firms make 30 to 175 times as much as a U.S. Army general with 20 years experience, and nearly 2,000 times the pay of entry-level soldiers.

            Some of the outrageous overcharges in Iraq are being investigated. And of course the investigations are paid for by the taxpayers, as well. KBR overcharged $16 million for meals served to troops at one base in Kuwait in one month alone. It had claimed 42,000 meals a day were served, when only 14,000 were served. KBR imported fuel for Iraq from Kuwait for $2.64 a gallon when it was available for 96 cents, according to the Congressional Research Service. The record on Halliburton/KBR government contracts is so bad, "Halliburton" is becoming a synonym on the Internet for ripping off the government.

            Those familiar with reconstruction efforts in Iraq agree part of the problem is that the Department of Defense called the shots, rather than going to civilian agencies with experience in reconstruction. Further, the DOD is given to both secretive decision-making and changing its mind. Good thing we have that CEO administration in place, isn't it?

            In one of the mind-boggling deceptions wrought by said CEOs, the cost of the war isn't in Bush's budget, even though Bush is blaming his budget deficit on the cost of the war. Honest: War cost is not in there. Bush will ask for another supplemental budget after the election to cover it. And at this rate, it won't be the estimated $40 billion to $45 billion, it'll be another $87 billion.

            It is a source of continuing frustration to me that we have so many big problems I rarely get to report on the little things this administration is doing that are just as telling as the big ones. Here's an example: Last week, Bush dismissed two members of his own handpicked Council on Bioethics. One is a scientist, and the other a moral philosopher -- and both are advocates of stem-cell research.

            According to The Washington Post, "In their place he appointed three new members, including a doctor who has called for more religion in public life, a political scientist who has spoken out precisely against the research that the dismissed members supported and another who has written about the immorality of abortion and the 'threats of biotechnology.'"

            To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.