Make war an unprofitable occupation, says journalist

  • Nation
  • Saturday, 17 Dec 2005

KUALA LUMPUR: It is essential to make war an unprofitable occupation because right now the US contractors in Iraq are making so much money out of it, said investigative journalist Pratap Chatterjee. 

He said more than 50% of the military and reconstruction expenditure for Iraq which exceeded US$12bil (RM45bil) had gone to Haliburton, the US company of which vice-president Dick Cheney was once a senior official. 

“It builds the military bases, cooks the food, cleans the toilet, delivers the mail,” he said in his speech on Globalisation and War at the Perdana Global Peace Forum 2005 organised by the Perdana Leadership Foundation here yesterday. 

Chatterjee, managing editor and programme director of CorpWatch and author of Asia Inc: A Profitable Occupation, also spoke of the resentment Iraqis felt over how much US contractors and workers and other foreigners were being paid for the same work they did. 

Truck drivers who were Americans made about US$80,000 (RM302,000) a year for their work there, non-Iraqi foreign workers like the Indians and Filipinos got US$3,000 (RM11,359) a year, but Iraqis were only paid US$1,000 (RM3,786), he said. 

The irony, he noted, was that even though unemployment among Iraqis was at 60%, the US companies undertaking reconstruction work there did not hire Iraqis for even menial jobs like doing the laundry and washing bathrooms due to the security risks. 

“Most of the work is sub-contracted to foreign labour, mostly from South and South-East Asia – Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Indian and Filipino workers. This can free up soldiers to do what they do best, which is to fight a war and kill people,” he said. 

He added that having no jobs was frustrating for the Iraqis and a dysfunctional economy was a breeding ground for terrorists. 

Three years after the US invasion of Iraq, he said, there was less electricity, more sewage on the streets and less oil production than before the war. 

Billions of dollars were being paid to build schools and hospitals and yet little had been achieved, he added.  

He also said the money for the US contractors was coming from Iraq’s oil money and taken from the oil-for-food programme. 

“The US government talks about the oil-for-food scandal but what is happening in Iraq today is worse. The military is outsourcing and the privatisation has lead to corruption, exploitation and a lack of accountability,” he added.  

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