Justice in a Sea of Destruction?
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Thank you for purchasing the game of PetropolyTM! It’s the game of corporate corruption and war profiteering for the whole family! Get a leg-up on the competition for reconstruction contracts — any war will do — by working those "political connections." (Like having the current vice president as a former CEO is a plus, but not required. Setting up shop in just the right district is a good start, however.) Soon, you’re on your way to Baghdad and insurgent strongholds to put up lights in a school… that eventually start to fall from the ceilings. Or perhaps you will build emergency clinics — all 20 of the 142 you were suppose to. Maybe you will be delivering trucks that you think don’t need to be working to fulfill your end of the deal. But hey, you got paid. And that’s all that really matters, right?
The allegations of impropriety by contractors in Iraq are well documented. Within the past couple months, I have tried to drag out some of these stories and outrageous quotes from the recesses of the the back pages of newspapers where they go to die and wither away from the consciousness of the general public.
For instance, how many people in the real world know about this story from an article on March 25, 2006 on the Washington Post‘s page A15?
Military investigators said yesterday that they will not file any charges after completing their investigation into an incident in Iraq last May in which a group of Marines alleged they had been fired on by U.S. security contractors.
The contractors, in turn, had said they were detained by the Marines for three days in a holding facility normally reserved for suspected insurgents, and subjected to rough treatment. The incident highlighted tension in the field between active-duty military personnel and the burgeoning ranks of private contractors the Defense Department has hired to support the war effort.
The 16 American contractors have never denied that they fired shots on May 28, 2005, as they traveled through Fallujah. But they say their shots — three in total — went straight into the ground as they tried to get the attention of a truck driver who was moving precariously close to their convoy.
The Marines told a different story, accusing the contractors of firing indiscriminately at civilians and at a Marine checkpoint. Buice said yesterday that investigators had not been able to verify that conclusion.
Zapata Engineering has been contracted by the U.S. military since late 2003, according to the Center for Public Integrity, to provide "ordnance and explosives management." More from CPI:
For $3.8 million, Zapata Engineering will provide one year of ordnance and explosives management services of five Zapata staff members—one liaison officer and four program managers—who will work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Captured Enemy Ammunitions program in Iraq. The task order negotiated a salary based on an 84-hour work week for the liaison officer at a rate of $159.47 per hour, or $696,564.96 for 52 weeks. Each program officer receives the rate of $119.26 per hour, or $520,927.68 for 52 weeks. (emphasis mine)
This goes straight to the demoralization of U.S. armed forces in Iraq due to unequal pay, as explained by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA):
Soldiers often find themselves working next to contractors who make ten times more money than the troops. The average enlisted service member makes roughly $25,000 a year compared to a civilian contractor, who can make up to $200,000 a year. This is unfair. Considering that soldiers often struggle to support their families back home, it is frustrating and demoralizing for troops to witness such a salary discrepancy. Low morale can significantly reduce the combat effectiveness of these army units.
Way to support the troops, guys…
Back in May, Amnesty International, the human rights group, bashed the United States’ practice of what AI called "war outsourcing… the corporate equivalent of Guantánamo Bay." (This president sure knows a thing or two about outsourcing.) Also in May, private security guards shot and killed a Baghdad ambulance crewman, as reported by Reuters:
The incident drew an angry response from Iraqi officials, who often complain private foreign guards kill civilians with impunity. Tens of thousands of armed foreigners work in Iraq licensed by U.S. authorities and beyond the reach of Iraqi law.
[A U.S. military spokesman] declined to name the contractors involved or say if any action would be taken against them. An Iraqi Interior Ministry official said the security guards drove off after the shooting. One damaged armoured four-wheel drive vehicle was left behind. (emphasis mine)
It is a corporate Club Med for war profiteers in Iraq these days, but one can hope justice, lost in a sea of destruction, finds its way.
And finally — this one should be brought up on charges for this — immediately.
Other Posts in the Series:
"Merchants of Misery" and the "Do-Less-Than-Nothing" Congress (introduction), 04.29.06
Houston, We Have a Problem (Halliburton), 05.06.06
Friends in High Places (Bechtel), 05.20.06
Transforming Risk into Opportunity (Custer Battles), 06.03.06
The Insider (General Dynamics), 06.25.06
A Day Late and a Dollar Short (Parsons), 07.01.06