September 4, 2007

Utter Scum

Robert Greenwald's Iraq for Sale was a first look at the war profiteering that has run rampant since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the utter scum who are building their fortunes on the blood of others. Now, Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi has an article and a slideshow callled "The Great Iraq Swindle" that up the ante. In them, he details the blatant contempt for the American taxpayer that has been the hallmark of Bush Administration policy regarding reconstruction in Iraq, as well as the complete disregard for human life and duty to country that has been so emblematic of American private contractors working in that troubled nation. Some excerpts are below, as well as a slideshow narrated by Taibbi, but the entire piece is worth reading from start to finish.

The congressional testimony of Earnest O. Robbins, retired Air Force major general and current representative for Parsons Corporation, a company that spent $72 million to erect an unusable building intended to serve as a police training facility:
The room twitters in amazement. It's hard not to applaud the balls of a man who walks into Congress short $72 million in taxpayer money and offers to guess where it all might have gone.

Next thing you know, the congressman is asking you about your company's compensation. Touchy subject -- you've got a "cost-plus" contract, which means you're guaranteed a base-line profit of three percent of your total costs on the deal. The more you spend, the more you make -- and you certainly spent a hell of a lot. But before this milk-faced congressman can even think about suggesting that you give these millions back, you've got to cut him off. "So you won't voluntarily look at this," Van Hollen is mumbling, "and say, given what has happened in this project . . . "

"No, sir, I will not," you snap.

". . . 'We will return the profits.' . . ."

"No, sir, I will not," you repeat.
On the nature of the pervasive privatization that is ongoing in the Iraq occupation:
Operation Iraqi Freedom, it turns out, was never a war against Saddam ­Hussein's Iraq. It was an invasion of the federal budget, and no occupying force in history has ever been this efficient. George W. Bush's war in the Mesopotamian desert was an experiment of sorts, a crude first take at his vision of a fully privatized American government. In Iraq the lines between essential government services and for-profit enterprises have been blurred to the point of absurdity -- to the point where wounded soldiers have to pay retail prices for fresh underwear, where modern-day chattel are imported from the Third World at slave wages to peel the potatoes we once assigned to grunts in KP, where private companies are guaranteed huge profits no matter how badly they fuck things up.
On the cronyism that has ensured that the Iraq War has been an unprecedented opportunity for supporters of the Bush Administration to feed at the public trough:
But getting there wasn't easy. To travel to Iraq, would-be contractors needed permission from the Bush administration, which was far from blind in its appraisal of applicants. In a much-ballyhooed example of favoritism, the White House originally installed a clown named Jim O'Beirne at the relevant evaluation desk in the Department of Defense. O'Beirne proved to be a classic Bush villain, a moron's moron who judged applicants not on their Arabic skills or their relevant expertise but on their Republican bona fides; he sent a twenty-four-year-old who had never worked in finance to manage the reopening of the Iraqi stock exchange, and appointed a recent graduate of an evangelical university for home-schooled kids who had no accounting experience to manage Iraq's $13 billion budget. James K. Haveman, who had served as Michigan's community-health director under a GOP governor, was put in charge of rehabilitating Iraq's health-care system and decided that what this war-ravaged, malnourished, sanitation-deficient country most urgently needed was . . . an anti-smoking campaign.
On the $12 billion in cash that was flown into Iraq for use on the ground, but without any auditing procedures in place:
There isn't a brazen, two-bit, purse-snatching money caper you can think of that didn't happen at least 10,000 times with your tax dollars in Iraq. At the very outset of the occupation, when L. Paul Bremer was installed as head of the CPA, one of his first brilliant ideas for managing the country was to have $12 billion in cash flown into Baghdad on huge wooden pallets and stored in palaces and government buildings... When desperate auditors later tried to trace the paths of the money, one agent could account for only $6,306,836 of some $23 million he'd withdrawn. Bremer's office "acknowledged not having any supporting documentation" for $25 million given to a different agent. A ministry that claimed to have paid 8,206 guards was able to document payouts to only 602. An agent who was told by auditors that he still owed $1,878,870 magically produced exactly that amount, which, as the auditors dryly noted, "suggests that the agent had a reserve of cash." ... In short, some $8.8 billion of the $12 billion proved impossible to find.
On the wastefulness of cost-plus contracts, which encouraged contractors to spend wastefully in order to make more money from their guaranteed percentage profit:
In perhaps the ultimate example of military capitalism, KBR reportedly ran convoys of empty trucks back and forth across the insurgent-laden desert, pointlessly risking the lives of soldiers and drivers so the company could charge the taxpayer for its phantom deliveries. Truckers for KBR, knowing full well that the trips were bullshit, derisively referred to their cargo as "sailboat fuel."
And there is lots more. Check out the slideshow below, and be sure to read the whole article when you get the chance.

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