March 13, 2008

Best of today's items - Iraq for sale

Hard day today.

I am GLUED to marketwatch, as I knew I would be. Reading the comments posted over there is the BEST.

But of course the world of electioneering continues on unabated in the US, and here in Canada, we are gearing up for a weekend of ACTION as our Parliament acts like spineless jellyfish in a world gone mad. So PLENTY of reading.

This the best item I ran across so far today. It is SO true. All of it.

Kerry Candaele

Posted March 13, 2008 | 09:42 AM (EST)

When I first met Ben Carter by telephone in January of 2006, he was somewhat of a lone voice shouting into an empty stadium. He had been working for KBR -- a Halliburton subsidiary that had billions of dollars worth of government contracts in Iraq -- as a water contamination specialist. I was working with Robert Greenwald's Brave New Films on a documentary film (Iraq For Sale) about war profiteering companies who used the war as a way to line their pockets with gads of tax-payer cash for such things a bag of washed laundry at $100 a pop, or $45 for a six pack of Coke.

The war had been outsourced, privatized, and the likes of Kellog Brown and Root were not so privately robbing the country blind with cost-plus contracts. Based on this bright idea, the more a company spent, say, on that Hummer for the boss running the ice cream concession for the troops on leave in Kuwait, the more that company made. Or rather, and looked at from the publicus side of the ledger, the more the taxpayer paid.

Back in early 2006, Ben was talking to anyone who would listen about how he had discovered contaminated water on at least three Army bases in Iraq, water supplied by KBR, with the kind of stuff in it that you have to magnify to convince yourself it could kill you. But few people were listening, and certainly not the executives at Halliburton/KBR to whom he reported the problem. At the time, Halliburton said there is ``no evidence to substantiate allegations made by these former employees.''

But, as there is a fairly crisp logarithm about the Iraq War in all it's facets, namely, that every problem having "no evidence to substantiate it" eventually finds that the evidence does point to the problem having been real, Ben Carter, of course, has now been vindicated.

A just released Pentagon report by the Inspector General maintains that "soldiers experienced skin abscesses, cellulitis, skin infections, diarrhea and other illnesses after using discolored, smelly water for personal hygiene and laundry [remember that $100 bucks] at five U.S. military sites in Iraq." And that KBR's water quality "was not maintained in accordance with field water sanitary standards."

Ben Carter has been vindicated, but it took a hard slog. In Ben's case, the documents confirming his assertions were not shredded, but only hidden from sight, denied a hearing. And even as the evidence is laid out before them, KBR executives continued to claim that their hands, if not those of the soldiers they poisoned, are clean.

For Ben Carter, who lost a twenty-year old son just prior to joining the KBR water crew in Iraq, the emotional connection with the men and women he was supposed to be protecting--not from IEDs, but from one-celled animals--was instant and profound. "I hadn't anticipated seeing him in a lot of the marines' faces.These marines and army soldiers, they're just kids. 19, 18, 20 years old. And I could see in their eyes that they've got a lot to learn. And they trust, but sometimes that trust isn't what they expect. They trust that when people are there to do what they're getting paid much more than the young marine's getting paid, they trust that job is getting done. And they're not wise enough to the world, to the corporate world especially, to know that that trust doesn't matter when it comes to money."

There's that algorithm again. If the Bushies say trust us and KBR with your money and your lives, best to put your hands in your pockets and head in the opposite direction, and fast.

As we see with this Inspector General's report, often the evidence for malfeasance winds it way to the public ever so slowly. So it just might be that before your day of reckoning, before it is revealed that what you believe to be true is in fact true, you could be broke, have died waiting, or both.

Iraq was for sale, and it still is. The missing and ripped-off billions in this three-trillion dollar war, are now making their entrance into public consciousness, meandering toward their public hearing, as evidence to be weighed into the balance sheet of this awful and unnecessary act of imperial hubris.

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