Dying to Get Paid in Iraq
The issue of Iraq is not one that is only debated in our halls of government. Corporate interests have a heavy say in the war through private contracts vetted by the U.S. military. A recently Los Angeles Times Article (one heavily quoted in this blog) said, “The number of U.S. paid, private contractors in Iraq now exceeds that of American combat troops, newly released figures show, raising fresh questions about the privatization of the war effort and the government’s capacity to carry out military and rebuilding campaigns.” The contracts given for the missions in Iraq were given to private companies with links to the Bush administration in 2003 without a proper bidding process required by law.
Government officials claim that some duties are contracted out because they provide necessary services giving military personal time to engage in combat operations. The problem, of course, is that private contractors, unlike military personal, are not subject to the same rules of engagement and code of conduct the U.S. military is said to enforce. “At one point in 2004, for example, U.S. forces were put on food rations when (contracted) drivers balked at taking supplies into a combat zone.” These logistical contracts are primarily owned by Kellog Brown & Root (a Houston-based oil services company) and its parent company Halliburton Co.
Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention the security contracts held by Blackwater, Triple Canopy and Erinys. “We don’t have control of all the coalition guns in Iraq. That’s dangerous for our country,” said William Nash, a retired Army general and reconstruction expert. Military policy experts report that on several occasions “heavily armed private contractors have engaged in firefights when attacked by Iraqi insurgents.”
This brings to light the question, why are civilians engaging in activities mandated to the military? The answer is, as always, money. Peter Singer, a Brookings Institution scholar said, “This is not the coalition of the willing. It’s a coalition of the billing.”
This ‘billed coalition’ is counter productive to keeping troops safe and getting them home faster. Because they are not subject to any law, they help to create dangerous situations for themselves and U.S. troops. Democracy Now has been following a case against Blackwater whose contractors were brutally killed in Iraq. Jeremy Scahill, author of the New York Times bestseller, “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, said, “We have to remember that when those four men were killed in Fallujah, dragged through the streets, strung up from a bridge, the Bush administration responded by laying siege to the Iraqi city of Fallujah, carrying out some incredible 37,000 air strikes. Hundreds of people were killed. Thousands were displaced from their homes. In many ways, it was the week that the war turned and that the anti-occupation resistance exploded.”
So, as our Representatives on both sides proclaim their disdain for the war and refuse to take substantial action to end it, let us be reminded of the links between corporate and government interests. We cannot allow our leaders to maintain the status quo while people are dying by the thousands, money is wasted, and our reputation as a country is flushed down a million dollar toilet. Find out who paid for you Reps re-election campaign and you just may have some insight into why they consistently vote against the will of the American people. As activists, we are derelict in our mission if we don’t engage this topic in our work.