Iraq for Sale: the War Profiteers (Robert Greenwald 2006) is about the privatization of the war in Iraq and four of the Wall Street corporations that endangered enlisted troops, committed war crimes and cheated taxpayers out of billions of dollars. The film has just become available for free viewing on YouTube.
The film’s most shocking revelation is that torture at Abu Ghraib was primarily the responsibility of two private corporations, CACI International and Titan. CACI was originally contracted to perform database services in Iraq. The contract was expanded to include army intelligence work and eventually the interrogation and torture of prisoners.
Titan was originally contracted to provide translation services. According to GIs interviewed for the film, Titan never assessed their translators for their language skills and provided no training nor supervision of their ongoing work.
The GIs who tortured prisoners at Abu Ghraib were ordered to do so by these civilian contractors. When the scandal broke, the GIs were court martialed and faced average sentences of eighteen years. The civilian contractors who ordered the torture were merely sent home. Many went to work for new contractors and returned to Iraq within weeks.
Gouging the Taxpayer
The role of Halliburton (the company Dick Cheney ran before becoming vice-president) and Blackwater in Iraq has been well publicized thanks to a series of high profile scandals.
Even before the war started, the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) was awarded a no-bid contract to provide meals, water and construction, laundry, repair and transport services. Because it was a no limit cost-plus contract, there was a strong incentive for Halliburton/KBR to add on and inflate billable services.
Specific examples include charging the Pentagon $45 for a can of Coke, $99 for a bag of laundry and $250,000 on a three year lease for a $25,000 SUV. Instead of repairing trucks and SUVs that broke down, KBR would order GIs to burn or blow them up so they could charge the taxpayer for new ones. Hundreds of millions of dollars simply disappeared.
n 2005, Pentagon auditors ascertained that Halliburton had overcharged them by more than $1 billion. Despite a high profile Congressional investigation, the Pentagon paid the $1 billion over charge. Not only was there no effort to prosecute Halliburton, but their contract in Iraq was expanded.
Placing GIs at Risk
In addition to gouging the taxpayer, Halliburton/KBR placed GIs at significant risk in the slipshod way they provided water and food service. Out of the sixty-seven water treatment plants they operated in Iraq, sixty-three were unsafe due to contamination with giardia, cryptosporidium and other infectious organisms.
The mess halls Halliburton/KBR ran also placed GIs at substantial risk because the company refused to provide a twenty-four hour food service. Iraqi insurgents were quick to learn the meal schedules and frequently attacked as GIs waited an hour in line to be fed.