In Other Words… Military Contractors Gone Wild Part2

Who is Blackwater and why are they building a privately owned mercenary army in our country?

Written By: Sara Ledesma

• Founded in 1996, Blackwater has used government contracts granted by the Bush administration to build up a private army of twenty thousand soldiers of fortune and a massive military base. The Blackwater compound in North Carolina is worth about $50 million.

• The Blackwater base contains: tanks, helicopter gunships, a Boeing 767, a Zeppelin and a complete arsenal of weapons.

• The most publicized incident involving Blackwater involved the shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians on Sept. 16 in Baghdad labeled by American troops present at the scene a “criminal event.” It is alleged this was payback for the killing and hanging of Blackwater troops. The subsequent investigation cleared Blackwater of any criminal liability. As it turns out, the report exonerating Blackwater for the massacre was written by a Blackwater employee. Is it any surprise he found his company innocent of any wrongdoing?

• Another case of unprovoked assassination was the murder of the Iraqi Vice President’s bodyguard by an intoxicated Blackwater contractor.

• None of these violations were deemed prosecutable by law. Blackwater effectively plays both sides of the fence to escape prosecution. When they are being sued in the U.S they claims they are part of the U.S. Armed Forces to declare immunity, and alternately assert themselves as an independent contractor domestically, to avoid being subjected to the military court martial system. Thanks to Paul Bremmer who, on his last day in Baghdad signed the order making this legal, the strategy is airtight.

• Blackwater recently re-branded itself as ”Xe” in order to separate itself from the notorious reputation of scandal and lawlessness tied to its former name.

• Their original contract in Iraq was to provide private security for Bremer, but within a year, their services expanded to include military combat.

• The U.S .occupation is now dependent on this one private, mercenary company and can’t function without Blackwater on the roads.

• The White House has systematically fought every attempt to establish oversight of the contractors and has granted them immunity under Iraqi law.

• Blackwater is not the only company making its own rules while the government writes the checks –tens of billions of our tax dollars have been allocated to the rebuilding of Iraq, and the tally keeps rising. Add to that the estimated $9 billion of Iraq’s own oil money that has gone missing and we’ve got waste, and possibly fraud, on a massive level.

• We’ve now added Afghanistan to the bill, and still, there is no effective oversight as to how the money is being spent.

The Iraq Embassy Scandal

• The embarrassing photos coming out of the ArmorGroup scandal proves we have learned nothing from the debauchery and contemptible behavior by contractors at Abu Ghraib.

• September 15, 2009: photos are released showing half naked, boozing contractors, entrusted with the job of protecting our embassy, running wild like immature frat boys.

• Members of the independent Commission on Wartime Contracting, established to investigate contracting issues in Iraq and Afghanistan, make parallels between the infamous photographs of detainee abuse and those depicting the Kabul Embassy guards caught engaging in various acts of lewd conduct. The widely publicized photos show contractors: urinating on one another, exposing themselves, engaging in sexually deviant behavior, drinking off each other’s naked body parts and more.

• The photos circulate online, embarrassing the State Department and endangering our missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

• Terry Pearson, a 23-year veteran of the British Army who worked for ArmorGroup subcontractor RAI in Kabul gave the following firsthand account: “The first thing that struck me was they had a metal container in the middle of the road, on which they were burning wooden pallets. The second thought that went through my mind was alcohol and a fire this size, looked very unsafe. Most of people there were wearing underwear, but many were also wearing coconut shell braziers [sic] and coconut shells over their groins, and were for the best part naked. Some were standing there urinating on the ground and on each other.”

• As recently as March 2009, spot checks revealed that the guards were often absent for hours at a time.

• An employee of ArmorGroup made counterfeit purchases from his wife’s company worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

• The Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight investigated AmorGroup’s 5 year, 189.3 million dollar contract awarded to them in 2007 by the State Department. They found AmorGroup failed to provide: a sufficient number of guards, proper weapons training, requisite levels of ammunition or the proper security clearances. They also severely lacked the adequate number of medical technicians and emergency planning.

• As of today, AmorGroup still holds its contract in Kabul

Commission on Wartime Contracting 


Congress formed The Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan to study the allocation and administration of privatized military contracts. These are a few of the findings in their report:

• The commission calculated that investigators had issued 1,287 recommendations to fix waste, fraud and abuse in the Pentagon, but many had never been implemented.

• The 111-page report documents mismanagement, lack of oversight, and a failure to learn from past mistakes.

• The Commission noted a perfect example of waste/mismanagement: Houston-based KBR was building a 30-million-dollar dining facility at Camp Delta in southern Iraq, after the company had just completed a 3.36-million-dollar renovation of the old dining facility—making the new one a sickening waste of tax payer money.

• Of the 504 oversight officials that the military estimated it needed to oversee contracting in Afghanistan, only 166 were actually in the field in April 2009.

• The Pentagon had only four auditors in Afghanistan to supervise billions of dollars in government money.

• The Pentagon failed to deduct money from contractors who underperformed or didn’t meet the terms of their contracts.

• The investigators were prevented from uncovering the full extent of the fraud because they were not allowed to examine the work of sub-contractors.

• Although companies like ArmorGroup and KBR work directly for the U.S. government, an estimated 70 percent of the work is done by sub-contractors (like First Kuwaiti Trading Company, Prime Projects International from Dubai or Tamimi of Saudi Arabia) and these companies operate outside the jurisdiction of the oversight committee.

• Many of the soldiers assigned to supervise the contractors had never received the formal training necessary to conduct their oversight duties. 


KBR

KBR, a former subsidiary of Halliburton, holds the contract for the electrical services performed in Iraq. They are being sued for causing the unnecessary deaths of our courageous men and women in uniform as a result of criminally negligent electrical work.

• An Army inspector found thousands of buildings at U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan have such poorly installed wiring that it places the lives of American troops at risk.

• Many of the wires installed in Iraq need to be replaced.

• Jim Childs, a master electrician and the top expert in the Army Safety Survey told CNN that “with the buildings the way they are, we’re playing Russian roulette.”

• In Iraq, 18 U.S. troops have died by electrocution since 2003.

• Of the nearly 30,000 buildings the Army’s “Task Force Safe” has examined so far: more than half “failed miserably” and 8,527 were given a “flash” warning to repair in four hours or evacuate the facility.

• After the January 2008 elocution death of the Army’s Green Beret Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth at a U.S. base in Baghdad, faulty electrical work has become a chief concern in Iraq and Afghanistan.

• Staff Sgt. Maseth’s electrocution in the shower prompted the creation of “Task Force Safe,” a team of master electricians assigned to inspect Army posts for electrical dangers.

• At least two service orders were issued warning of the hazard in Maseth’s quarters.

• Maseth’s family is suing KBR. An Army investigator has sided with Maseth’s family and recommended his death be declared a “negligent homicide.”

• KBR denies responsibility for Maseth’s death or those of any other soldiers.

• KBR was not the only company found to be negligent. Unbelievably, the Army survey found problems with every contractor whose work it inspected.

• Task Force Safe has begun to inspect another 70,000 buildings in Iraq and is commencing a review of bases in Afghanistan. Pentagon spokesman Chris Isleib told CNN, “We are correcting hazardous conditions every day.”
The vote against Franken’s Amendment

A final case study exposes the true depths of depravity to which our government leaders will sink in order to protect the cash cow contracts of their cronies in the ever-expanding privatized military contracting industry. 30 Republican members of the United States Senate voted to protect a private contractor, in this case Halliburton/KBR, over a woman who was gang raped. The shocking details of this implausible low to which our Congress has sunk:

• In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones was working for Halliburton/KBR in Baghdad and was gang-raped by her co-workers. She was locked in a shipping container for at least 24 hours without food, water, or a bed, and “warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she’d be out of a job.”

• As sick as this is, it was not an isolated incident.

• Jones was denied the right to bring charges against KBR because her employment contract stipulated that sexual assault allegations could only be addressed in private arbitration.

• Senator Al Franken of Minnesota stepped up to the plate to confront this glaring injustice committed against Jamie Leigh Jones. He proposed an amendment to the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill that would withhold defense contracts from companies like KBR “if they restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court.”

• Despite the obvious responsibility of our government to protect women from rape, 30 Republican senators voted against justice for victims of violent sex crimes in order to allow private contractors to continue living above the law.

• Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions of Alabama had the audacity to claim that allowing victims of sexual assault their day in court is tantamount to a “political attack” of Halliburton. Apparently the GOP believes the interests of their contractor cronies supersede the constitution of the United States.

• The fact that 29 others, exclusively men, chose to join the Republican lawmaker in opposing the Franken amendment is too sick and sad to comprehend.

• Those senators who refused to protect a victim of rape in order to privilege a callous corporation are:
Alexander (R-TN)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Gregg (R-NH)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Kyl (R-AZ)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)

• Ten Republican senators did vote according to their humanity and conscience, including every female member of the GOP.

• Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska defended her vote for Franken’s Amendment by stating: “I want to make sure that a woman, any individual who is a victim of a terrible act, knows that they have got protections.” Republican Sen. George LeMieux of Florida explained his vote in the following words: “I can’t see in any circumstance that a woman who was a victim of sexual assault shouldn’t have her right to go to court,” LeMieux said. “So, that is why I voted for it.” Perhaps a hint of morality still exists in the GOP.



Conclusion

From Abu Ghraib, to the gang rape of a contractor at Halliburton, to Blackwater’s repeated abuses of power and KBR’s criminally negligent electrical work, we have witnessed a spectacle of waste and debauchery unleashed by unregulated military contractors. Halliburton overcharges us for everything from towels to gas. KBR sticks it to us for over 33 million dollars for a dining hall and is so criminally negligent in the performance of their duties that enlisted soldiers, fighting for their lives on the battlefield, are dying in their bathrooms as a result of shoddy wiring.

A woman can be gang raped and 30 Senators will vote to deny her justice. A U.S. Watchdog agency can report such fraud as: “The State Department does not know specifically what it received for a billion-dollar contract with security firm DynCorp International to provide training services for Iraqi police”. Despite these incidents, and more, nothing is done to rein in these rogue companies. The only explanation is that our government is complicit.
In Other Words…our military and intelligence agencies are being outsourced to private companies who are running wild like cowboys on the frontier and pillaging our federal treasury, unaccountable to the laws of our country or to us tax payers who are footing the bill.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: