The stench of corruption
The stench of corruption permeates the occupation of Iraq as huge US corporations are awarded enormously profitable contracts by the US Army and other government agencies. Heading the list is Halliburton which was formerly headed by Dick Cheney who is now Bush's Vice President. The company has won contracts worth more than US$1.7 billion under "Operation Iraqi Freedom" and stands to make hundreds of millions more dollars under a no-bid contract awarded by the US Army Corps of Engineers. "The amount of money [going to Halliburton] is quite staggering, far more than we were originally led to believe", said Democrat representative for California, Henry Waxman. "This is clearly a trend under this administration, and it concerns me because often the privatisation of government services ends up costing the taxpayers more money rather than less." It is estimated that as much as one-third of the monthly US$3.9 billion cost of keeping US troops in Iraq is going to private contractors. Services performed by Halliburton, through its Brown and Root subsidiary, include building and managing military bases, logistical support for the 1200 intelligence officers on a fruitless hunt for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, delivering mail and producing millions of hot meals. Often dressed in Army fatigues with civilian patches on their shoulders, Halliburton employees and contract personnel have become an integral part of Army life in Iraq. Halliburton has emerged as the biggest single government contractor in Iraq. Others making big windfalls include Bechtel, a California-based engineering firm that has won hundreds of millions of dollars in US Agency for International Development reconstruction contracts, and DynCorp, which is training the new Iraqi police force. Indicating that wars have been planned well in advance, Daniel Carlson, a spokesman for the Army's Joint Munitions Command, said Brown and Root won a competitive bidding process in 2001 to provide a wide range of "contingency" services to the military in the event of the deployment of US troops overseas. Halliburton was awarded a no-bid contract in March with a US$7 billion limit to put out fires at Iraqi oil wells. In the event, very few oil wells were torched by the Iraqis. The practice of delegating a vast array of logistics operations to a single contractor dates to the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War and a study commissioned on military outsourcing when Dick Cheney was Defence Secretary. The Pentagon chose Brown and Root to carry out the study and subsequently selected the company to implement its own plan. Cheney served as chief executive of Brown and Root's parent company, Halliburton, from 1995 to 2000, when he stepped aside to run for the vice presidency. The new Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld is another champion of outsourcing. It is estimated that the number of contract workers in Iraq is 20,000, or about one for every 10 soldiers. During the first Gulf War, the proportion was about one in 100. Inevitably reliance on private corporations suffers from a lack of accountability and transparency on the part of private military firms and questionable billing practices. Furthermore, neither these private corporations nor their employees are bound by military justice, and it is up to them whether they show up or not. This has resulted in delays in providing services for troops such as showering facilities and even getting their cooked meals. Another consequence is the rising cost of hiring contract workers because of skyrocketing insurance premiums. One correspondent says that insurance premiums have increased by 300 percent to 400 percent this year. All these costs are passed on to American taxpayers.
* * *Acknowledgement to CorpWatch http://www.corpwatch.org