Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Big Business - War Profiteering


Today's BBC article in the Business section headlined: "BBC Uncovers Lost Iraq Billions" Reportedly, "A BBC investigation estimates that around $23bn (£11.75bn) may have been lost, stolen or just not properly accounted for in Iraq. "

Throughout history our species' atrocious acts of war have been documented in various genres from fiction, memoirs, biographies, song writing, epic poems, documentaries, movies and new articles. There are, sadly, people who profit from the ravages and death of war.

The BBC article quotes the chairman, Henry Waxman, of the investigation committee "Oversight and Government Reform". His words describe the gross indecency and greediness by the war profiteers:


""It may well turn out to be the largest war profiteering in history."

And


"The money that's gone into waste, fraud and abuse under these contracts is just so outrageous, its egregious. "

A movie came out in 2003 called "The Corporation", a Canadian documentary movie that was based on a book written by Joel Balkan. The book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power shows historically how some "top" US companies have profiteered from war.


"The movie showed close-ups of several documents including IBM code sheets for concentration camps taken from the files of the National Archives. Prisoner Code 8 was Jew, Code 11 was Gypsy. Camp Code 001 was Auschwitz, Code 002 was Buchenwald. Status Code 5 was executed by order, code 6 was gas chamber." (source: Wikepedia)


Edwin Black, a New York journalist, authored a book published in 2001 called "IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful corporation". The book "tells the story of IBM's conscious involvement-directly and through its subsidiaries-in the Holocaust, as well as its involvement in the Nazi war machine that murdered millions of others throughout Europe". The CEO, Thomas J. Watson, used IBM's overseas subsidiaries in Germany and Geneva to provide the Nazis with the punch card machines to record the European Jewry. "The book also includes IBM's internal reports that admit that these machines made the Nazis much more efficient in their efforts." (source: Wikipedia.)


What exactly does "top" mean? I could easily assume that it is a list of the highly recognized corporations that most Americans have grown to know and accept as part of their day-to-day life. Or, does "top" mean top income grossing organizations that have won government defense contracts? Perhaps it is both.

In July 2005, a subsidiary of L-3 called, Government Services Inc. (GSI), won a contract to provide intelligence specialists in Iraq. The contract was worth $426.5 million. In addition, L-3, also worked on other military contracts that had their advisors give information technology, management, and intelligent support services to the US Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.


In the article "Outsourcing Intelligence in Iraq" (http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=15017),

the CorpWatch report describes in detail about the history and methods used by L-3 in the interrogations for intelligence gathering. According to the report, L-3 was a spin-off of Lockheed Martin and Loral manufacturing that specialized in advanced electronics. L-3 was born as an independent middle company "that would supply advanced electronics to anyone" (source: Gopal Ratnam "Interview: Frank Lanza" Defense News, January 16, 2006)


The deal was designed by Wall Street investment bankers working for Lehman Brothers in 1997 and aided by two former Loral executives: Frank Lanza and Robert LaPenta. ("L-3 stands for Lanza, LaPenta and Lehman".)


A year ago, an analyst for Money Magazine, wrote about the recent hardships of "socially responsible mutual funds, which usually seek out companies with progressive labor practices and product lines that don't pollute or kill." It asks the question why many of the socially responsible funds were not performing for the investors? One reason is that these funds were designed to avoid oil companies for environmental reasons (source: http://money.cnn.com/2007/03/21/pf/funds/dogoodfunds.moneymag/index.htm )


A website called "The War Profiteers" maintained by CorpWatch (www.corpwatch.org) mission statement is to counter corporate-led globalization through "education, network-building and activism." The website is built by a group of activists (educators, journalists, designers, organizers, and techies who are disturbed by the "obscene concentration of power in the hand of an elite few who control the world's wealth and manipulate democracy through governments and corporations.


The website lists other stories that exposes on the topic of how some corporations have divided the resources in Iraq.


http://www.corpwatch.org/section.php?id=4


The journalism articles ranges from the BBC, The New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press. A couple are listed below.


IRAQ: Army to End Expansive, Exclusive Halliburton Deal
Logistics Contract to Be Open for Bidding

by Griff Witte, Washington Post
July 12th, 2006

The Army is discontinuing a controversial multibillion-dollar deal with oil services giant Halliburton Co. to provide logistical support to U.S. troops worldwide, a decision that could cut deeply into the firm's dominance of government contracting in Iraq.



IRAQ: Controversial Contractor's Iraq Work Is Split Up
by JAMES RISEN, The New York Times
May 24th, 2008


WASHINGTON — Sometime soon, a group of American corporate executives and military leaders will quietly sit down and divide Iraq into three parts.

Their meeting will not have anything to do with Iraq's national sovereignty, but instead will involve slicing up billions of dollars in work for the defense contractors that support the American military's presence in the country.

For the first time since the war began, the largest single Pentagon contract in Iraq is being divided among three companies, ending the monopoly held by KBR, the Houston-based corporation that has been accused of wasteful spending and mismanagement and of exploiting its political ties to Vice President Dick Cheney.



It is not easy to give this serious topic the proper in-depth coverage it deserves in a blog. In my weekly blogs, I strive to present topics in the realms of 'Business and Technology' that are relevant, and backing views and opinions with facts found from different sources. Of course, facts can also be manipulated, and the public (you, me, everyone ) have put automatic faith in believing published material is truth. The truth also needs to be continuously examined and questioned even if it comes from establishments, especially corporations and governments.

My original submission to the editor had some cynical comedy injected in the end, because I felt this topic has perhaps become desensitized to the public for reasons of information overload, its gravity, and also its idea of senseless inhumanity.

There was a fictionalized movie drama called "Lord of War", released in 2005, that depicted war profiteering by way of arms dealing (partially based on Victor Bout, the Russian arms dealer.) " Recent reports suggests he is also operating in Iraq using front companies and Cargo Airlifts: Airline Transport, Air West, Aerocom, and TransAvia Export" (source: Wikepedia.)

Another drama that depicted war in a tragic comedy was the TV series (and movie) M*A*S*H. Each episode featured the victims of war as both the casualties and the regular characters of the 4077th hospital crew trying to survive another day with trivial practical jokes. Do you recall the character Coloner Flagg? He was the US Military Intelligence agent with the CIA who behaved irrationally and paranoid. And this literary character allusion is, to me, the irony of the business of war: invoking fear, putting up walls, lobbing bombs, and above all these obtuse actions is the idea that there are people making profit from war.

In closing this blog, I can't resist to quote Col. Flagg in one of the M*A*S*H episodes, because it summarizes the rhetoric of war pigs:

"Nobody can get the truth out of me because even I don't know what it is. I keep myself in a constant state of utter confusion." - Colonel Flagg

-Analyn Revilla


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