Monday, October 31, 2005

One man's profit, another man's grave - War and Global Coolie trade

"Welcome to Kellog Tower"

a corner of the Halliburton empire.

TWO items picked up by Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter,
show another grim aspect of the involvment of big US firms in Iraq.
War, and before that sanctions, have resulted in mass destruction and unemployment in Iraq. Iraqi workers want to rebuild their country and their lives, but firms are importing Asian Coolie labour, not just because it is cheap, but to do work which Iraqi workers would refuse either on principle or because it would make them targets.
Desperate and deceived as to where they are going, and what they are in for, these unfortunates - "third country nationals", or "TCNs"are being used to try and make Iraq safe for continuing American occupation.

U.S. cash fuels human trade

The Chicago Tribune reports (October 9th): American tax dollars are fueling an illicit pipeline of cheap foreign labour, mainly impoverished Asians who often are deceived, exploited and put in harm’s way in Iraq with little protection. The U.S. military has allowed KBR to partner with subcontractors that hire labourers from Nepal and other countries that prohibit citizens from being deployed in Iraq. That means brokers recruiting such workers operate illicitly.
The U.S. military and KBR assume no responsibility for the recruitment, transportation or protection of foreign workers brought to the country. KBR leaves every aspect of hiring and deployment in the hands of its subcontractors. Those subcontractors often turn to job brokers dealing in menial labourers. They lure labourers to Iraq with false promises of lucrative, safe jobs in nations such as Jordan and Kuwait, even falsifying documents to complete the deception.
Even after foreign workers discover they have been lured under false pretences, many say they have little choice but to continue into Iraq because they must repay brokers' huge fees. Some U.S. subcontractors in Iraq and the brokers feeding them - employ practices condemned by the U.S. elsewhere, including fraud, coercion and seizure of workers' passports.

Asia’s Poor Build U.S. Bases in Iraq

Corpwatch report (October 3rd): Tens of thousands of third country nationals (TCN) are employed through complex layers of companies working in Iraq. At the top of the pyramid-shaped system is the U.S. government, which assigned over $24 billion in contracts over the last two years. Just below that layer are the prime contractors like Halliburton and Bechtel. Below them are dozens of smaller subcontracting companies. This layered system creates an untraceable trail of contracts that clouds the liability of companies and hinders comprehensive oversight by U.S. contract auditors.
But there is also a human cost to this savings. TCNs frequently sleep in crowded trailers and wait outside in line in 100 degree plus heat to eat slop. Many are said to lack adequate medical care and put in hard labour seven days a week, 10 hours or more a day, for little or no overtime pay. When frequent gunfire, rockets and mortar shell from the ongoing conflict hits the sprawling military camps, American contractors slip on helmets and bulletproof vests, but TCNs are frequently shielded only by the shirts on their backs and the flimsy trailers they sleep in.

Vote of confidence?

IOF Newsletter also takes a detailed look at results in the Iraqi constitutional referendum, and includes this snippet from the New York Sunday Times (October 17)
Iraqi election officials said that they were investigating what they described as "unusually high" vote totals in 12 Shiite and Kurdish provinces, where as many 99 percent of the voters were reported to have cast ballots in favour of Iraq's new constitution, raising the possibility that the results of Saturday’s referendum could be called into question.

I bet Mr.Talabani's boys are searching out that bold one per cent right now.


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