The film Iraq for Sale by Robert Greenwald showed at a local college last night. I went over and watched it after work. It’s being shown all over the U.S. and Canada this fall and Senator Kerry is scheduled to host a screening in Ohio tonight. This is a modest film, in a budgetary sense, mostly consisting of a series of interviews with former employees of private contractors (e.g., Halliburton-KBR, Blackwater, CACI) or family survivors of those killed while employed with such companies. Former Brigadier General Janice Karpinsi is also in it.
The film brought out several key points, for example:
1. Friction between Halliburton-KBR policies and soldiers. In one narrative, a soldier describes insurgent attacks on a long line of soldiers queing up to a mess hall. The soldiers were all fed together at certain regular times during the day and were an easy, predictable target for attacks. The soldier claims that KBR would not serve food 24-hours a day so that soldiers could eat in smaller groups on a randomized schedule.
2. Shoddy work and services by KBR and others.
3. KBR failing to adequately provide for the safety of their employees.
4. Contractors are not bound by the Military Code of Conduct, or other rule of law.
5. Drastic pay inequality between contractors and soldiers performing similar work.
6. No known chain of command or accountability among contractors.
7. Inhumane treatment by contractors at Abu Gharaib prison.
8. Contractors work according to “cost-plus” contracts, which, in contrast to fixed “not-to-exceed budget” contracts, base the contracting company’s profits on a percentage of its costs. The higher the overhead, the greater the profits. Companies are thereby encouraged to run up their operating expenses. There is no incentive to control costs. This incentivises waste on a grand scale. One particularly egregious example is described by a former employee whose job was to burn and in some cases blow up and bury trucks and other equipment. When a truck had a flat tire or other minor problem, rather than fix the flat, KBR would destroy the truck and order a new one.
9. Efforts by senators Byron Dorgan, Chris Dodd, Patrick Leahy and others to attach oversight provisions to bills in congressional committees were all defeated.
10. Several examples of ex-government officials (in the film, basically all Republicans) that are now working for or running military contracting companies in the “revolving door system” of the growing military-service contractor complex. This goes to the issue of how we finance campaigns in this country.
11. The inherent conflict of interest between the military mission of (in the President’s words) “getting the job done” and getting the hell back home to that of the corporations who want to milk the Iraq War “cash cow” for as long as they can (Halliburton has made billions and its stock has quadrupled since 2003).
…and on and on, which brings us to the 2006 Mid-term Election. The movie never (that I recall) even mentions the upcoming election, but the implication is pretty clear,
THE ONLY WAY TO MAKE THE PENTAGON AND THE CONTRACTORS ACCOUNTABLE IS TO CHANGE THE LEADERSHIP IN THE CONGRESS. THERE MUST BE GENUINE OVERSITE.
Cross-posted from Sustainable Middle Class