Thursday, July 13, 2006 | 7:23 a.m.
The amount of time it takes the Bush administration to catch on is, at times, nothing short of astonishing.
Pentagon officials have announced that Geneva Conventions protections will now apply to all terrorism suspects in the United States' custody. And, they also declared, that they will end the Army's exclusive, multibillion-dollar contract with Halliburton Co. to provide services for soldiers.
President Bush and his administration ignored years-long criticism of both policies until a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and federal investigations forced them into changes of heart.
Geneva protections were reinstated earlier this week in the wake of a Supreme Court decision that rejected the Pentagon's stance that the Geneva standards did not apply to terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in other U.S. military locations. The United States' treatment of prisoners suspected of terrorist acts has been criticized since 2002.
And on Wednesday, The Washington Post reported, the Pentagon canceled its contract with Halliburton as the sole provider of such work as feeding and sheltering soldiers. This work now will be spread among three companies. Odd, considering that Pentagon officials once defended the exclusive contract with Vice President Dick Cheney's former employer by claiming that Halliburton was the only company that could provide the needed services.
Government audits of Halliburton's services have revealed more than $1 billion in suspect costs. Perhaps Pentagon officials meant to say that Halliburton was the only company that could charge $45 for a case of soda pop with a straight face.
While the most optimistic among Americans might praise federal officials for ending the government's human and financial abuses, we have to wonder why it took years of criticism, federal audits and a Supreme Court ruling to inspire this supposed epiphany.
Geneva Conventions protections for U.S. military prisoners and competitive bidding for government contracts? We say it's about time.