Cost of the U.S. Colonial War Against Iraq
By Lenora Foerstel
Most citizens of the world
assume that when their country declares war, the country’s
army and weapons industry will be called upon to fight the battle.
But what we find today is that a
group of CEOs heading
privatized military firms are sharing the power once vested exclusively
in the president and Congress. Private military contractors are the new
corporate face of war. They have sent their own mercenaries to Croatia,
Macedonia, Colombia, Afghanistan and Iraq. These contractors enable the
United States to wage war by proxy and without the kind of congressional
oversight or media coverage to which conventional wars were earlier subjected.
The U.S. government increasingly relies on corporate enterprises such as Military
Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI), which specializes in supplying military
training and expertise to the U.S. government and other countries. MPRI sees
war as a commercial enterprise. On March 24, 1994, the defense minister of Croatia
appealed to the U.S. for military assistance against Serbia. Under the United
Nations arms embargo, the U.S. could not legally provide any military assistance
to the entities of the former Yugoslavia, but the Pentagon simply referred the
Croatian minister to MPRI for aid. Just months after MPRI was hired, the Croatian
army under their guidance launched a stunningly successful military operation
against Krajina, a region of Croatia inhabited almost exclusively by ethnic Serbs.
The MPRI employed air power, artillery and infantry forces, resulting in the
death of countless Serbs and causing 250,000 of them to flee the country. And
so Krajina was ethnically cleansed.
A large number of private military corporations have crossed the fine line of
legality, employing illegal business practices and hiring employees with criminal
records while serving potentially illegal clients. Congress and the Pentagon
inadequately supervise the use of private military contractors, allowing them
to break down the traditional norms of control.
Currently, some 15,000 to 20,000 contractors are stationed in Iraq. There is
a mercenary in place for every ten occupation soldiers. The contracted individual
has a free hand in threatening or killing an Iraqi citizen: as mercenaries, these
contractors do not fall under the UN charter, the Geneva Accords or the Nuremberg
doctrine. On October 6, 2003, the Washington Times reported that military contractors
guarding ministries killed Iraqi citizens without punishment or inquiries. Many
of these contractors are not U.S. citizens and are not subject to U.S. laws.
Blackwater USA, one of the largest of these corporations, flew in a group of
60 former commandos from Chili. Many of them were trained under the military
government of Augusto Pinochet. Squads of Filipinos, Bosnians and U.S. men are
trained and hired for tasks ranging from military training, intelligence, combat,
and local security including protecting administrators like Paul Bremer. The
salaries paid these mercenaries are as high as $1,000 to $1,500 a day. Filipinos,
often referred to by their employers in racist terms, usually get $4,000 a month.
These are good times for recruiting mercenaries. Since the end of the Cold War
some six million servicemen have been thrown into the unemployment market. With
minimal job skills, they use their combat training to find work with private
military corporations which offer them attractive salaries.
Private military corporations now do an estimated $100 million in business worldwide
each year. Much of it goes to top U.S. corporations like Halliburton, its subsidiary
Kellogg, Brown and Root, or DynCorp and Raytheon. These corporations frequently
overcharge the government for their services, and Congress and the Pentagon have
begun investigations into how the money is being spent. Some $1.6 million is
now being withheld from Halliburton for overcharging for meals that were never
sent to soldiers in Iraq. Another Halliburton scam was to charge exorbitant amounts
for delivering equipment in Iraq using trucks that carried nothing. Such practices
cost U.S. taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
DynCorp (aka Computer Sciences Corp) has a contract worth tens of millions of
dollars to train an Iraqi police force. This same corporation had an earlier
contract to train the police force in Bosnia, but a scandal developed when the
contractors were implicated in a sex slavery scandal which involved the buying
and selling of young girls from Eastern Europe. No one was prosecuted, but the
two whistleblowers were fired.
DynCorp also functions as an intelligence network for the Pentagon and the CIA.
Following DynCorp advice in Haiti, the U.S. occupation force integrated former
members of Ton ton Macoutes, the private death squad begun by Haitian dictator
Francois Duvalier, into the Haitian National police and installed military officers
involved in the 1991 coup d’etat in prominent positions.
Private military corporations have penetrated Western warfare so deeply that
they now constitute the largest portion of coalition forces in Iraq after the
U.S. military. Corporate power has always played a role in war, but it has never
been so blatant in exercising its power. When their activities are questioned,
corporations claim that private businesses cannot be subject to government scrutiny.
Vice President Cheney refused to release the notes and attendees of his energy
plan to the Supreme Court, claiming “executive privilege” and protection
of “national security.” All of
this to protect corporate power.
The U.S. Army estimated that of the $87 billion earmarked in 2004 for the Iraqi
campaign, Central Asia and Afghanistan, $30 billion of this will be paid to private
military corporations. On July 22, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly
to approve more than $400 billion in defense spending, including some $25 billion
in emergency funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. While the House
of Representatives rubber stamps billions of dollars for the war, the budget
for children in poverty, the disabled and the elderly was drastically cut, leaving
36 U.S. states in deep crisis. Aside from eliminating proper services for its
citizens, the U.S. government is now running a $444 billion deficit.
According to estimates provided by the U.S. Law Report and U.S Labor Against
the War organizations in June 2004, the war in Iraq has already cost the U.S.
$118, 518, 293, 319. As we move into 2005, the increased budget for the rebuilding
of Iraq will cost billions more.
Lenora Foerstel teaches cultural history at the Maryland Institute. She is the
North American Coordinator for Women for Mutual Security. She has written numerous
articles and recently co-authored a book, Confronting the Margaret Mead
Scholarship, Empire, and The South Pacific (Temple University Press). This
article was originally published by the Centre for Research on Globalisation
August 28, 2004. Reprinted with permission.