Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Blast From The Past - Essay I Wrote on Iraq and the Privatization of War

If I could die for anything, I would die for the end of warfare. For the last half century, the U.S. government has directly, or through proxies, carried out campaigns of terror and repression on every continent. It was the U.S. government that armed and trained many different groups of people and countries, setting them on the path of terrorism. Pending the September 11 attacks, politicians, corporate leaders, and many others called for retaliation. They felt they needed to bomb someone in order to show that they were in control of the situation, which happens to be the same lashing out that motivated the morally indefensible attacks in the first place. All we are doing is feeding an unending cycle of destruction, death, and retaliation. This creates a pattern of violence including invasions, aerial bombardment, assassination, repression, oppression, sponsorship of bloody counterrevolutions and military coups, and dawdling starvation through economic attacks. Any decent human being would say that there are inevitable problems with sending a country's children to fight a cause that is unnecessarily and devastatingly unscrupulous. This must end before there is nothing left in this world.

The amount of money that goes to war alone is enough to cause outrage. This money could be used to better the country and the lives of its citizens, as well as fix our economic, political, and corrupt policies within our own nation. This does not mean that America should not help other countries, however, exploitation, invasion, oppression, depression, and repression are immensely decadent, intolerable actions that should never be used as a means for economic opportunity. This is what war has become: profit. In Francis Ferguson's article "The Privatization of War," he talks about military privatization for profit. "Since 2000, there has been a huge increase in private contracts let by the US government. Spending on private contractors has risen from $174.4 billion to $377.5 billion, an increase of 86%. Over this same period, private contractors' collections for the Department of Defense increased from $133 billion to $279 billion annually, an increase of 102.3%. These expenditures represent a unique new source of revenue and profit for American business, because much of what it being purchased are services which would previously have been done by military personnel."

Basically, by shifting to private contractors, workers can be hired in low wage nations and put to work doing menial labor. This is not cheap, however. Contractors such as Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) charge substantial sums of money for meals, laundry and other services provided, and still pay minimal wages for the workers in order to have an increase in financial gain. What was once a relatively minor expense to taxpayers has now become a major source of revenue for private companies. Ferguson also mentions that "in addition to new opportunities for profit in a war theater, there are new opportunities for corruption. Third World contract workers have reported their employers withholding their passports, effectively making them indentured servants. KBR and its subsidiaries have been discovered charging premium prices for meals they never served and with supplying contaminated drinking water to the troops. Government investigators report literally billions of dollars have gone missing with no accounting for who received them or what was done with the money."

When US troops provided their own logistics and support, prospects for economic gain arose largely through the provision of supplies. Many businesses supplied food, vehicles, weapons, airplanes, trucks, jeeps, tanks, ships and other necessary equipment. This ended up requiring military personnel to support other soldiers during warfare because none of these soldiers were (or are) paid very much. The cost of logistics, while significant, was a relative labor cost bargain. The military made no profit on the work performed by GIs, but this is no longer true.

By just looking at the amount of war spending in Iraq, there is an inevitable disconnect--a large sum of money that is not going to the causes that taxpayers pay for. As seen below, the amount of money spent on the war in Iraq is undoubtedly immense.

Spent & Approved War-Spending

About $900 billion of US taxpayers' funds spent or approved for spending through Sept 2010.

U.S. 2009 Monthly Spending in Iraq

$7.3 billion as of Oct 2009

U.S. 2008 Monthly Spending in Iraq

$12 billion

U.S. Spending per Second

$5,000 in 2008 (per Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on May 5, 2008)

Cost of deploying one U.S. soldier for one year in Iraq

$390,000 (Congressional Research Service)

Lost & Unaccounted for in Iraq

$9 billion of US taxpayers' money and $549.7 million in spare parts shipped in 2004 to US contractors. Also, per ABC News, 190,000 guns, including 110,000 AK-47 rifles.


$1 billion in tractor trailers, tank recovery vehicles, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and other equipment and services provided to the Iraqi security forces. (Per CBS News on Dec 6, 2007.)

As the US began to get further into recession, economists wondered why the massive government spending on Afghanistan and Iraq did not provide much economic stimulus. Some may say that World War II brought an immediate end to the Great Depression, yet a current $600 billion dollar defense budget (not counting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) does little to stop the emerging recession. Part of this effect results from the fact that "we were already spending well over $300 billion on the military prior to 9/11, whereas the US defense budget was trivial prior to the beginning of World War II," according to Ferguson. The other reason for the minimal economic stimulus is a result of a large amount of the expenditure used to fund wages and corruption in Iraq and Afghanistan. Furthermore, a very high probability of military spending is being used to buy imported consumer goods, which in turn, providing stimulus, to our economic allies such as China.

So why support all the privatization and imperialism? If there is one thing that I know, the death of thousands of people during combat is tragic enough to deride, despite the amount of military personnel, civilian lives, money, cities, countries, and continents that go unaccounted for in these "wars against terror," especially when the countries we are invading are the ones who oppose it the most. When looking at statistics about the occupation in Iraq, the percentage of Iraqis strongly opposed to presence of coalition troops is 82%, Iraqis who believe Coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security is less than 1%, Iraqis who feel less secure because of the occupation is 67%, and Iraqis who do not have confidence in multi-national forces is 72%. War is not necessary and it is in fact a menace to society. I would propose a war on war itself, but that would be contradictory to my actual objectives. If one individual does not have the right to kill, then what makes one billion individuals have the right? As Ernest Hemingway once said, "Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime."

No comments: