leave a comment --Ken Fox
U.S. soldiers profiled in the 2006 Iraq War documentary THE WAR TAPES remark repeatedly that no matter how bad things look, you can bet someone somewhere is getting rich off this war. Muckraking filmmaker Robert Greenwald's provocative documentary explores that contention by showing exactly who's profiting from the debacle in Iraq, and how. The culprits: privately owned companies hired by the U.S. government to provide services the military can't handle, companies with disturbingly close ties to high-ranking officials who oversee military spending. These private contractors not only provide food, laundry and housing, but also security, interrogation and intelligence gathering. By one estimate cited in the film, there are currently more than 20,000 private security forces on the ground in Iraq, more than any other nation in the coalition besides the U.S. The largest private security operation — and Greenwald's first target — is Blackwater, whose CEO has contributed over $2 million to the Republican Party and its candidates. On March 31, 2004, four Fallujah-based Blackwater employees were killed by insurgents; at least two of their families blame Blackwater, claiming that by cutting corners in pursuit of profit, Blackwater left their sons exposed, outmanned and outgunned. Blackwater responded by hiring a powerful D.C. lobbying firm to protect its contracts, and the company's business ballooned over the following years — they even added a whopping $73 million post-Hurricane Katrina FEMA contract. The widespread use of contractors as interrogators and interpreters in Iraq prisons is equally disturbing: When the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, it was estimated that at least 50 percent of the prison's interrogators worked for private contractors such as CACI, which are not held to the same accountability standards as U.S. soldiers. Is it in America's best interests to insert a private company into the military chain of command, and should we outsource translation of information gleaned from prisoners to a private company more concerned with profit than accurate intelligence? The dismaying details Greenwald assembles begs such troubling questions, and he devotes the lion's share of the film's running time to the exploits of one of the war's worst corporate offenders, Halliburton. According to one Army National Guard sergeant, "If you don't know (Halliburton subsidiary) KGB, you've never been to Iraq," and it appears that Vice President Dick Cheney's old company is running much of the war and reconstruction, profiting handsomely while often putting employees and even U.S. soldiers at risk. Greenwald makes questionable use of the notorious photos of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, but like his other films (WAL-MART: THE HIGH COST OF LOW PRICE; UNCOVERED: THE WHOLE TRUTH ABOUT THE IRAQ WAR) it's carefully researched, and it's crucial to fully understanding the Iraqi/American enterprise.