Thursday, May 10, 2007

Toll that Contracting and Profiteering are Taking on Our Armed Forces

Robert Greenwald, director of "Iraq for Sale" testified to the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Defense about the effects war profiteering and private contractors have on our military in Iraq.


He saw Halliburton advertising a job for truck drivers in Iraq and he signed up. When Shane started telling me that empty trucks were being driven across dangerous stretches of desert, I assumed he was mistaken. Why would they do that? Then he explained that Halliburton got paid for the number of trips they took, regardless of whether they were carrying anything. These unnecessary trips where putting the lives of truckers at risk, exposing drivers and co-workers to attack. This was the result of cost-plus, no-bid contracts.

Another young Halliburton worker named James Logsdon told me about the burn pits. Burn pits are large dumps near military stations where they would burn equipment, trucks, trash, etc. If they ordered the wrong item, they'd throw it in the burn pit. If a tire blew on a piece of equipment, they'd throw the whole thing into the burn pit. They burn pits had so much equipment, they even gave them a nickname -- "Home Depot."

The trucker said he would get us some photos. And I naively asked, how big are they, the size of a backyard swimming pool? He laughed, and referred to one that he had seen that was 15 football fields large, and burned around the clock! It infuriated him to have to burn stuff rather then give it to the Iraqis or to the military. Yet Halliburton was being rewarded each time they billed the government for a new truck or new piece of equipment. With a cost- plus contract, the contractors receive a percentage of the money they spend. As Shane told me, "It's a legal way of stealing from the government or the taxpayers' money.
Sgt. Phillip Slocum wrote to us and said, "In previous experiences I went off to war with extra everything, and then some. This time however, Uncle Sam sent me off with one pair of desert boots, two uniforms, and body armor that didn't fit."

In addition, Greewald discovered the huge role contractors (CACI and JP London) played in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal and how they were rewarded with more power and even larger profits.

I was also shocked to discover the role of contractors in the tragedy of Abu Ghraib. Its images are seared into the minds of people throughout the world, yet few realize the role of CACI and its interrogators. As our team dug deeper and deeper into the numerous contracts, CACI and JP London kept appearing over and over. The Taguba report, the Fay report, and the Human Rights Watch report "By The Numbers" all made clear that CACI had played a significant role in the torture. As Pratap Chatterjee, head of CorpWatch has stated, CACI was using "information technology contracts through the department of Interior. So either somebody was in a big hurry or they did this deliberately so nobody would ever be able to track this ... CACI does a lot of work directly with OSD, Office of the Secretary of Defense."

And even after the investigations, there were no consequences; in fact, CACI continued to receive more and more contracts with no oversight. Later, CACI and JP London were even hired to process cases of fraud and incompetence by contractors! I kid you not -- CACI, a corporation that had profited enormously from the war and whose CEO JP London personally made $22,249,453 from his stock and salary in 2004 -- was being hired to oversee other contractors!
Our soldiers and countless Iraqis are dying and suffering the most devastating injuries imaginable all to help a few Bush-connected corporations amass a fortune off the total destruction of Iraq.


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