Thursday, December 11, 2003

Amal Winter is an Arab-American political scientist who recently travelled to Iraq. Here's her report. The complaints about the out of touch CPA bureaucrats (almost none of whom speak Arabic), the lack of security for ordinary Iraqis, and her scant hopes for real democracy in any future arranged by the CPA should, regrettably, come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. What's surprising is her disgust, as an American taxpayer, at the way that favored military contractors are pigging out at our expense:

It turns out that corporations like Bechtel and Halliburton reap guaranteed profits. Their contracts typically provide full reimbursement of costs plus a 7 percent profit: the more the companies charge the Pentagon, the more profit they make. Perhaps that explains why KBR flies in all the food-chicken and ground meat, lettuce and tomatoes-from the States instead of buying from the Iraqis. ...

The more I discovered about the corporate buy-out of Iraq the more upset I became. I was upset as an American-an American taxpayer happy to support social, medical, and security services. The transfer of money from the poor and middle-class tax payer into corporate coffers is a scandalous affront to the American sense of fairness. Corporations are supposed to pay taxes for the common good, not take collect them for their own private use. Let us not fool ourselves about 'military spending.' Functions such supplying food and fuel and munitions, building barracks and other facilities, and conducting logistical operations in Iraq have been privatized. The young foot-soldiers who do the actual shooting and killing may be equipped with more reliable flak-jackets out of the $66 billion dollars appropriated for the military but the rest will go to the corporations that supply the military. The funds appropriated by Congress will go primarily to large American corporations like Bechtel and Halliburton connected to, or should I say 'imbedded in,' the Bush administration.

In case the favoritism wasn't already blindingly obvious, the Pentagon has since announced that it would be refusing contracts to all but a small, favored list of countries -- hours before James Baker started trying to arrange debt forgiveness for Iraq from several countries not on the list. (Russia and Canada have already publically declined). And, to avoid any trouble from natives who might want a fair shake from foreign-dominated employers, the CPA is cracking down hard on Iraqi labor unions. Dubya's crew is still talking the "Iraqi freedom" game, but they're acting more and more like what they really want is compliant corporate serfs...

via Juan Cole.


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