Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Secret War in Somalia
Somalia, a US War 'Nobody is Watching'
To glimpse America's secret war in Africa, you must bang with a rock on the iron gate of the prison in this remote port in northern Somalia. A sleepy guard will yank open a rusty deadbolt. Then, you ask to speak to an inmate named Mohamed Ali Isse.
Isse, 36, is a convicted murderer and jihadist. He is known among his fellow prisoners, with grudging awe, as "The Man with the American Thing in His Leg."
That "thing" is a stainless steel surgical pin screwed into his bullet-shattered femur, courtesy, he says, of the U.S. Navy. How it got there -- or more to the point, how Isse ended up in this crumbling, stone-walled hellhole at the uttermost end of the Earth -- is a story that the U.S. government probably would prefer to remain untold.
That's because Isse and his fancy surgery scars offer what little tangible evidence exists of a bare-knuckled war that has been waged silently, over the past five years, with the sole aim of preventing anarchic Somalia from becoming the world's next Afghanistan.
It is a standoff war in which the Pentagon lobs million-dollar cruise missiles into a famine-haunted African wasteland the size of Texas, hoping to kill lone terror suspects who might be dozing in candlelit huts. (The raids' success or failure is almost impossible to verify.)
It is a covert war in which the CIA has recruited gangs of unsavory warlords to hunt down and kidnap Islamic militants and -- according to Isse and civil rights activists -- secretly imprison them offshore, aboard U.S. warships.
Mostly, though, it is a policy time bomb that will be inherited by the incoming Obama administration: a little-known front in the global war on terrorism that Washington appears to be losing, if it hasn't already been lost.
"Somalia is one of the great unrecognized U.S. policy failures since 9/11," said Ken Menkhaus, a leading Somalia scholar at Davidson College in North Carolina. "By any rational metric, what we've ended up with there today is the opposite of what we wanted."
What the Bush administration wanted, when it tacitly backed Ethiopia's invasion of Somalia in late 2006, was clear enough: to help a close African ally in the war on terror crush the Islamic Courts Union, or ICU. The Taliban-like movement emerged from the ashes of more than 15 years of anarchy and lawlessness in Africa's most infamous failed state, Somalia.
At first, the invasion seemed an easy victory. By early 2007, the ICU had been routed, a pro-Western transitional government installed, and hundreds of Islamic militants in Somalia either captured or killed.
But over the last 18 months, Somalia's Islamists -- now more radical than ever -- have regrouped and roared back.
On a single day last month, they flexed their muscles by killing nearly 30 people in a spate of bloody car-bomb attacks that recalled the darkest days of Iraq. And their brutal militia, the Shabab or "Youth," today controls much of the destitute nation, a shattered but strategic country that overlooks the vital oil-shipping lanes of the Gulf of Aden.
Even worse, in recent days Shabab's fighters have moved to within miles of the Somalian capital of Mogadishu, threatening to topple the weak interim government supported by the U.S. and Ethiopia.
At the same time, according to the UN, the explosion of violence is inflaming what probably is the worst humanitarian tragedy in the world.
In the midst of a killing drought, more than 700,000 city dwellers have been driven out of bullet-scarred Mogadishu by the recent clashes between the Islamist rebels and the interim government.
The U.S. role in Somalia's current agonies has not always been clear. But back in the Berbera prison, Isse, who is both a villain and a victim in this immense panorama of suffering, offered a keyhole view that extended all the way back to Washington.
Wrapped in a faded sarong, scowling in the blistering-hot prison yard, the jihadist at first refused to meet foreign visitors -- a loathed American in particular. But after some cajoling, he agreed to tell his story through a fellow inmate: a surreal but credible tale of illicit abduction by the CIA, secret helicopter rides and a journey through an African gulag that lifts the curtain, albeit only briefly, on an American invisible war.
"Your government gets away with a lot here," said the warden, Hassan Mohamed Ibrahim, striding about his antique facility with a pistol tucked in the back of his pants. "In Iraq, the world is watching. In Afghanistan, the world is watching. In Somalia, nobody is watching."
From ashes of 'Black Hawk Down'
In truth, merely watching in Mogadishu these days is apt to get you killed.
Somalia's hapless capital has long been considered the Dodge City of Africa -- a seaside metropolis sundered by clan fighting ever since the nation's central government collapsed in 1991. That feral reputation was cemented in 1993, when chanting mobs dragged the bodies of U.S. Army Rangers through the streets in a disastrous UN peacekeeping mission chronicled in the book and movie "Black Hawk Down."
Yet if Mogadishu was once merely a perilous destination for outsiders, visiting today is suicidal.
For the first time in local memory, the airport -- the city's frail lifeline to the world -- is regularly closed by insurgent mortar attacks despite a small and jittery contingent of African Union peacekeepers.
Foreign workers who once toiled quietly for years in Somalia have been evacuated. A U.S. missile strike in May killed the Shabab commander, Aden Hashi Ayro, enraging Islamist militants who have since vowed to kidnap and kill any outsider found in the country.
The upshot: Most of Somalia today is closed to the world.
It wasn't supposed to turn out this way when Washington provided intelligence to the invading Ethiopians two years ago.
The homegrown Islamic radicals who controlled most of central and southern Somalia in mid-2006 certainly were no angels. They shuttered Mogadishu's cinemas, demanded that Somali men grow beards and, according to the U.S. State Department, provided refuge to some 30 local and international jihadists associated with Al Qaeda.
But the Islamic Courts Union's turbaned militiamen had actually defeated Somalia's hated warlords. And their enforcement of Islamic religious laws, while unpopular among many Somalis, made Mogadishu safe to walk in for the first time in a generation.
"It's not just that people miss those days," said a Somali humanitarian worker who, for safety reasons, asked to be identified only as Hassan. "They resent the Ethiopians and Americans tearing it all up, using Somalia as their battlefield against global terrorism. It's like the Cold War all over again. Somalis aren't in control."
When the Islamic movement again strengthened, Isse, the terrorist jailed in Berbera, was a pharmacy owner from the isolated town of Buro in Somaliland, a parched northern enclave that declared independence from Somalia in the early 1990s.
Radicalized by U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, he is serving a life sentence for organizing the killings of four foreign aid workers in late 2003 and early 2004. Two of his victims were elderly British teachers.
A dour, bearded man with bullet scars puckering his neck and leg, Isse still maintains his innocence. Much of Isse's account of his capture and imprisonment was independently corroborated by Western intelligence analysts, Somali security officials and court records in Somaliland, where the wounded jihadist was tried and jailed for murdering the aid workers. Those sources say Isse was snatched by the U.S. after fleeing to the safe house of a notorious Islamist militant in Mogadishu.
How that operation unfolded on a hot June night in 2004 reveals the extent of American clandestine involvement in Somalia's chaotic affairs -- and how such anti-terrorism efforts appear to have backfired.
Interrogation aboard ship
"I captured Isse for the Americans," said Mohamed Afrah Qanyare. "The Americans contracted us to do certain things, and we did them. Isse put up resistance so we shot him. But he survived."
A scar-faced warlord in a business suit, Qanyare is a member of Somalia's weak transitional government. Today he divides his days between lawless Mogadishu and luxury hotels in Nairobi.
But four years ago, his militia helped form the kernel of a CIA-created mercenary force called the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism in Somalia. The unit cobbled together some of the world's most violent, wily and unreliable clan militias -- including gangs that had attacked U.S. forces in the early 1990s -- to confront a rising tide of Islamic militancy in Somalia's anarchic capital.
The Somalis on the CIA payroll engaged in a grim tit-for-tat exchange of kidnappings and assassinations with extremists. And Isse was one of their catches.
He was wounded in a CIA-ordered raid on his Mogadishu safe house in June 2004, according to Qanyare and Matt Bryden, one of the world's leading scholars of the Somali insurgency who has access to intelligence regarding it. They say Isse was then loaded aboard a U.S. military helicopter summoned by satellite phone and was flown, bleeding, to an offshore U.S. vessel.
"He saw white people in uniforms working on his body," said Isse's Somali defense lawyer, Bashir Hussein Abdi, describing how Isse was rushed into a ship-board operating room. "He felt the ship moving. He thought he was dreaming."
Navy doctors spliced a steel rod into Isse's bullet-shattered leg, according to Abdi. Every day for about a month afterward, Isse's court depositions assert, plainclothes U.S. agents grilled the bedridden Somali at sea about Al Qaeda's presence.
The CIA never has publicly acknowledged its operations in Somalia. Agency spokesman George Little declined to comment on Isse's case.
For years, human-rights organizations attempted to expose the rumored detention and interrogation of terror suspects aboard U.S. warships to avoid media and legal scrutiny. In June, the British civil rights group Reprieve contended that as many as 17 U.S. warships may have doubled as "floating prisons" since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Calling such claims "misleading," the Pentagon has insisted that U.S. ships have served only as transit stops for terror suspects being shuttled to permanent detention camps such as the one in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
But Tribune reporting on Isse indicates strongly that a U.S. warship was used for interrogation at least once off the lawless coast of Somalia.
The U.S. Navy conceded Isse had stayed aboard one of its vessels. In a terse statement, Lt. Nathan Christensen, a spokesman for the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet that patrols the Gulf of Aden, said only that the Navy was "not able to confirm dates" of Isse's imprisonment.
For reasons that remain unclear, he was later flown to Camp Lemonier, a U.S. military base in the African state of Djibouti, Somali intelligence sources say, and from there to a clandestine prison in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Isse and his lawyer allege he was detained there for six weeks and tortured by Ethiopian military intelligence with electric shocks.
Ethiopia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and office of prime minister did not respond to queries about Isse's allegations.
However, security officials in neighboring Somaliland did confirm that they collected Isse from the Ethiopian police at a dusty border crossing in late 2004. "The Man with the American Thing in His Leg" was interrogated again. After a local trial, he was locked in the ancient Berbera prison.
"It doesn't matter if he is guilty or innocent," said Abdi, the defense lawyer. "Countries like Ethiopia and America use terrorism to justify this treatment. This is not justice. It is a crime in itself."
Tales of CIA "snatch and grab" operations against terror suspects abroad aren't new, of course. President George W. Bush finally confirmed two years ago the existence of an international program that "renditioned" terrorism suspects to a network of "black site" prisons in Eastern Europe, Iraq and Afghanistan.
As for the CIA's anti-terror mercenaries in Mogadishu, they may have kidnapped a dozen or more wanted Islamists for the Americans, intelligence experts say. But their excesses ended up swelling the ranks of their enemy, the Islamic Courts Union militias.
"It was a stupid idea," said Bryden, the security analyst who has written extensively on Somalia's Islamist insurgency. "It actually strengthened the hand of the Islamists and helped trigger the crisis we're in today."
In the sweltering Berbera prison, Exhibit A in Washington's phantom war in Somalia had finished his afternoon prayers. He clapped his sandals together, then limped off to his cell without a word.
A sinking nation
The future of Somalia and its 8 million people is totally unscripted. This unbearable lack of certainty, of a way forward, accommodates little hope.
Ethiopian and U.S. actions have eroded Somalis' hidebound allegiance to their clans, once a firewall against Al Qaeda's global ideology, says Bryden. Somalia's 2 million-strong diaspora is of greatest concern. Angry young men, foreign passports in hand, could be lured back to the reopened Shabab training camps, where instructors occasionally use photocopied portraits of Bush as rifle targets.
Some envision no Somalia at all.
With about $8 billion in humanitarian aid fire-hosed into the smoking ruins of Somalia since the early 1990s -- the U.S. will donate roughly $200 million this year alone -- a growing chorus of policymakers is advocating that the failed state be allowed to fail, to break up into autonomous zones or fiefdoms, such as Isse's home of Somaliland.
But there is another possible future for Somalia. To see it, you must go to Bosaso, a port 300 miles east of Isse's cell.
Bosaso is an escape hatch from Somalia. Thousands of people swarm through the town's scruffy waterfront every year, seeking passage across the Gulf of Aden to the Middle East. Dressed in rags, they sleep by the hundreds in dirt alleys and empty lots. Stranded women and girls are forced into prostitution.
"You can see why we still need America's help," said Abdinur Jama, the coast guard commander for Puntland, the semiautonomous state encompassing Bosaso. "We need training and equipment to stop this."
Dapper in camouflage and a Yankees cap, Jama was a rarity in Somalia, an optimist. While Bosaso's teenagers shook their fists at high-flying U.S. jets on routine patrols -- "Go to hell!" they chanted -- Jama still spoke well of international engagement in Somalia.
On a morning when he offered to take visitors on a coast patrol, it did not seem kind to tell him what a U.S. military think tank at West Point had concluded about Somalia last year: that, in some respects, failed states were admirable places to combat Al Qaeda, because the absence of local sovereignty permitted "relatively unrestricted Western counterterrorism efforts."
After all, Jama's decrepit patrol boat was sinking.
A crew member scrambled to stanch a yard-high geyser of seawater that spurted through the cracked hull. Jama screwed his cap on tighter and peered professionally at land that, despite Washington's best-laid plans, has turned far more desperate than Afghanistan.
"Can you swim?" Jama asked. But it hardly seemed to matter. Back on dry land, in Somalia, an entire country was drowning.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Amen - Kid Rock
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Labels: mind control
Monday, November 10, 2008
Vietnam War #2 - pics
Soldiers walk in a clearing surrounded by heavy jungle brush.
Soldiers walk downhill in a line toward a large rice paddy area.
Two men in the heat of Vietnam's battle were photographed firing their guns.
Soldiers walk through knee deep water surrounded by thick brush.
An armored convoy with ARVN troops drives down a dirt road.
South Vietnamese Soldiers run through smoke on the battlefield.
Labels: vietnam War - #2 - pics
Vietnam War Videos
Photograpers in Vietnam - American and Vietnamese
Labels: vietnam war videos
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Filed in archive Business-General, Companies, War by Ryan on July 22, 2008 |
The Iraq war is many things to different people. It is called a strategic blunder and a monstrous injustice and sometimes even a patriotic mission, much to the chagrin of rational human beings. For many big companies, however, the war is something far different: a lucrative cash-cow. The years-long, ongoing military effort has resurrected fears of the so-called “military-industrial complex.” Media pundits are outraged at private companies scooping up huge, no-questions-asked contracts to manufacture weapons, rebuild infrastructure, or anything else the government deems necessary to win (or plant its flag in Iraq). No matter what your stance on the war, it pays to know where your tax dollars are being spent.
Following is a detailed rundown of the 25 companies squeezing the most profit from this controversial conflict.
The first name that comes to everyone’s mind here is Halliburton. According to MSN Money, Halliburton’s KBR, Inc. division bilked government agencies to the tune of $17.2 billion in Iraq war-related revenue from 2003-2006 alone. This is estimated to comprise a whopping one-fifth of KBR’s total revenue for the 2006 fiscal year. The massive payoff is said to have financed the construction and maintenance of military bases, oil field repairs, and various infrastructure rebuilding projects across the war-torn nation. This is just the latest in a long string of military/KBR wartime partnerships, thanks in no small part to Dick Cheney’s former role with the parent company.
2. Veritas Capital Fund/DynCorp
At first blush, a private equity fund (and not, say, Exxon-Mobil) being the number 2 profiteer in the Iraq war might sound strange. However, the cleverly run fund has raked in $1.44 billion through its DynCorp subsidiary. The primary service DynCorp has provided to the war efforts is the training of new Iraqi police forces. Often described as a ‘state within a state‘, the sizable company is headed by Dwight M. Williams, former Chief Security Officer of the upstart U.S. Department of Homeland Security. With this and other close ties to defense agencies, Veritas Capital Fund and DynCorp are well-positioned to capitalize on Iraq even more.
3. Washington Group International
The Washington Group International has parlayed its expertise the repair, restore, and maintenance of high-output oil fields into $931 million in Iraq-related revenue from 2003-2006. The publicly traded 25,000 employee company’s other specialties include the building and maintenance of schools, military bases, and municipal utilities, such as watering systems. Some have complained that Washington Group’s hefty government payoffs have served primarily to raise its trading price on the New York Stock Exchange. One thing is for sure - with oil prices continuing to rise, there will be no shortage of demand for the oil protection services Washington Group International brings to bear.
4. Environmental Chemical
All war zones eventually becomes cluttered with spent ammunition and broken/abandoned weapons, creating a lucrative niche for any company willing to clean it all up. In Iraq, this duty has fallen into the hands of Environmental Chemical. The privately held Burlingame, California company has stockpiled $878 million by the end of fiscal 2006 for munitions disposal, calling upon its “decade of experience planning and conducting UXO removal, investigation, and certification activities.” The company has close ties to several defense agencies and is staffed by graduates of the U.S. Navy’s Explosive Ordinance Schools, as well as the U.S. Army’s Chemical Schools at Anniston.
Aegis has done the United Kingdom proud after reeling in a contract to coordinate all of Iraq’s private security operations. The Pentagon contract is good for $430 million (incredibly lucrative by any standard) but it has landed Aegis in some hot public relations water. The company’s decision to contribute to Iraq war efforts has lead to a rejected membership application from the International Peace Operations Association. According to The Independent, the influential trade organization does not consider Aegis worthy of inclusion in the “peace and stability industry.” It remains to be seen whether Aegis will continue to be ostracized for participating in the training of Iraqi security forces.
6. International American Products
Even with all of the blinding innovation and trailblazing advances in military technology, none of it would be very useful without electricity. Running electrical wiring in hostile war zones is dicey business, but International American Products has stuck their neck out and collected a cool $759 million in just 3 years for its efforts. While avoiding enemy fire, their work has become increasingly dangerous - and yet, critically necessary - as Coalition forces struggle rebuild cities, put down warring forces, and stabilize the chaotic nation. Schools, oils wells, and other public infrastructure have relied on IAP for the electricity needed to operate. With Iraq slowly beginning to stabilize, International American Products is holding out hope that its job will eventually become less treacherous.
London-based Erinys has so far scored $136 million for its effort in securing Iraq’s precious oil reserves. Riding the coattails of its considerable mining, petroleum, and construction expertise, the company has already made considerable headway toward this critically important goal. In the space of just 16 months, Erinys successfully trained, equipped, and mobilized an all-Iraqi guard force of nearly 20,000 to protect the nation’s oil pipeline from terrorist attack or sabotage. With crude oil prices skyrocketing and no end in sight, Erinys looks to have its hands full for years to come.
Fluor scored a monster $1.1 billion contract in 2004 to build, service, and manage water/sewage systems in Iraq. The deal is actually a joint venture between Fluor (a 44,800 employee company based on Aliso Viejo) and London’s AMEC, PLC and actually encompasses two separate contracts. The first - worth $600 million - obligates Fluor to build a water distribution infrastructure and cleaning system for Iraq’s major cities. A second $500 million deal will have the lucrative joint venture performing similar tasks in other, less hostile regions of the country.
Perini (controlled by financier Richard Blum) is one of the more controversial companies to have scored big-time Iraq war money. That’s because Blum’s wife, Senator Dianne Feinstein, appears to have used her seat on the Military Construction Appropriations subcomittee to steer the $650 million environmental cleanup deal in his favor. This has lead to outrage and cries for conflict of interest investigations among those in the media, as well as Feinstein’s peers in Congress. Feinstein has also neglected to comment on this potential conflict of interest. This has lead to what Metroactive.com calls an “omission [that] has called her ethical standards into question.”
10. URS Corporation
Another widely disparaged, Blum-controlled company that has profited from Iraq is URS Corporation. Long known as one of the nation’s major defense contractors, San Francisco-based URS has collected $792 million in environmental cleanup fees in Iraq war zones. As with Perini, both Blum and Feinstein have come under intense scrutiny to answer questions about the apparent conflict of interest inherent in Feinstein helping to secure such an exorbitant government contract for her investment banker husband. Both Blum and Feinstein have refused to produce copies of the ethics commitee’s rulings on Perini and URS, leading to considerable suspicion.
Few Iraq contractors have come under fire as much as Parsons, who reportedly mismanaged the construction a police academy so poorly that human waste dripped from its ceilings. Far from being an isolated incident, reports from federal government auditors revealed lackluster work on 13 of the 14 Iraq projects entrusted to Parsons. Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped the Pasedena-based firm from making off with $540 million in U.S. government funds for the poorly executed reconstruction projects at Iraq’s healthcare centers and fire stations. For obvious resaons, Parsons’ work in Iraq has generally been considered an embarassment.
“This is the lens through which Iraqis will now see America,” lamented Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said. “Incompetence. Profiteering. Arrogance. And human waste oozing out of ceilings as a result.”
12. First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting
First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting is another example of the apparent cronyism that has gone into the process of awarding Iraq war contracts. It now seems that the company has succeeded on the strength of its ties to Bush Administration officials than its business merits. Rival companies have been extremely vocal in their displeasure at First Kuwaiti being awarded $500 million to build a United States Embassy in Baghdad.
“First Kuwaiti was not the lowest bidder”, complained Framco senior vice-president Gilles Kacha.
13. Armor Holdings
Armor Holdings (now a subsidiary of publicly traded BAE Systems) is one company whose opinion of the Iraq war can’t be all that negative. Since combat commenced in 2001, the company’s revenue has skyrocketed by a mind-blowing 2,247%, up to $634 million. Armor Holdings’ specialty is providing state-of-the-art armor for military vehicles and important personell as they traverse dangerous Iraqi war zones. The civil war between opposing Sunni and Shia and general unrest throughout the country have greatly increased the demand for the company’s products.
14. L3 Communications
L3 Communications has carved out a neat $359 million slice of Iraq’s security screening needs as of fiscal 2006. The New York-based company has been charged with overseeing the screening and training of law enforcement personell for the growing all-Iraqi security force, as well as replacing equipment in the field. Linguistics is another one of L3’s specialties, one that is heavily relied upon to interface with native speaking Sunni and Shia forces.
L3 Communications has also purchased Titan, a corporate intelligence company with a $1 billion Iraq contract. Prior to being acquired by L3, Titan plead guilty to international bribery charges (a felony) and paid a record-breaking $28.5 million under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
15. AM General
AM General (a subsidiary of Renco) is another company that has seen its revenue sail toward the heavens since the beginning of combat in Iraq. The renowned maker of extra-wide all terrain vehicles (shown below) has seen its Pentagon revenues soar by 92%, a phenomenal leap for any business. This placed Renco sixth in a 2005 analysis of the fastest growing contractors by dollar amount, and sixth in an analysis of fastest growing contractors by percentage. Growing hostilities prior to the Bush Administration’s “surge” strategy in 2007 helped fuel the sudden demand for AM’s heavy duty combat vehicles.
16. HSBC Bank
Already the third largest financial institution on the planet, HSBC has seen its fortunes brighten beyond its wildest dreams since the start of combat. It has purchased a controlling stake (70%) of the newly created Iraqi national bank, Dar es Salaam Investment Bank, which, though small, has already amassed assets of $91 million. HSBC’s chief executive of Middle East operations, David Hodgkinson, was quoted as saying HSBC intends to “develop the bank’s services by investing in computerised payment systems and cash machines.’
HSBC’s stake in the fledgling Iraqi bank could turn out to be a significant strategic foothold in the developing country. According to a BBC report, the bank already has 14 operating branches across Iraq and a modest but growing staff of 450. It is also the first private bank in Iraq since the toppling of Saddam Hussein, as the late dictator did not allow them during his rule.
Cummins has staked its claim to $45 million in Iraq war-related revenue with its robust line of diesel engines and power stations. According to a press release, United Kingdom-based Cummins”signed a distribution agreement with HMBS in Iraq for all Cummins brand products and equipment.” Antonio Leitao, Cummins’ General Manager of the commercial power generation business in Europe, spoke approvingly of the deal.
“Cummins Power Generation is proud to be the first generator set manufacturer to establish a distributorship in Iraq that covers the whole country.”
Cummins and power-generating companies like them will be instrumental over the coming years, as the world learns whether Iraq truly has a future as a rebuilt, independent nation.
MerchantBridge got its “in” to the growing money pot of Iraq’s fledgling financial sector by casting a wide net. The investment banking group has ambitiously targeted marketshare in Iraq’s developing construction, telecommunications, financial services, real estate, hotels, and information technology industries, all of which have been made easier by being the “lead advisor” to Iraq’s Ministry of Industry. The inside partnership has paved the way for MerchantBridge’s factory lease program, the opening of Mansour Bank, and an overall capitalization of $61 million.
Furthermore, 90% of MerchantBridge’s initial operating capital in Iraq has been supplied by Iraqi investors.
19. GlobalRisk Strategies
Risk management is a lucrative business the world over, and the stakes are nowhere higher than the high-pressure war zones of a foreign nation. GlobalRisk Strategies has capitalized on the bewildering uncertainty to the tune of $24.5 million, which it has primarily earned by advising U.S. and Coalition forces on the risks of various counter-terrorism strategies. Some of the more noteable risks the company’s 2,000 employees have managed include distributing fresh currency to the locals and guarding the heavily fortified Baghdad airport during 2004.
Alternatively, GlobalRisk has also assisted with reconstruction and delivering humanitarian aid in the banking, aviation, oil and infrastructure sectors throughout Iraq.
ControlRisks is another risk management company that has successfully hopped on the Iraq bandwagon. The UK-based firm has extracted roughly $37 million in war-related profits by providing discreet armed security and logistics support to troops on the ground and in the air. With a presence of 250 employees in Iraq, ControlRisks has provided security for the disastrous Parsons Usaid buildings (prior to the revelation of the embarassing shoddy work scandal) and has also been tasked with protecting Iraq’s active duty UK forces. While Iraq has recently begun to cool down in terms of insurgent violence and infighting, the region should provide opportunities for companies like ControlRisks to profit for years or even decades to come.
CACI was called upon by the U.S. government to provide 36 interrogators to Iraq, 10 of which were assigned to Abu Grhraib. While all the details have not yet come to light, it looks like CACI profited from Iraq in the worst possible way. One website notes that a leaked Army investigation implicated CACI employee Stephen Stefanowicz in the abuse of prisoners.” Furthermore, the allegations have led the Center for Constitutional Rights to agitate for trying CACI and its affiliates in U.S. courts.
Susan Burke, an attorney working on the case on CCR’s behalf, was quoted as saying “We believe that CACI and Titan engaged in a conspiracy to torture and abuse detainees, and did so to make more money.”
Bechtel is yet another Iraq contractor who seems to have benefited from close ties to the Bush Admistration. How else would a company recommended by the man who oversaw the Big Dig disaster possibly be awarded a $2.4 billion, no-bid reconstruction contract for Iraq’s infrastructure? Journalists and competitors are scratching their heads at why the Bush Administration trusted the choice of USAID chief Andrew Natsios after his woefully ineffective tenure at the head of the Massachussetts Turnpike Authority. While in that capacity, the Big Dig’s operating costs ballooned from an initial $2.6 billion to $14.6 billion, and the job still took years to complete!
In line with Natsios’ track record of recommendations, this one turned out to be a flop. Bechtel proceeded to lose its contract for the Basra Children’s Hospital Project after falling a year and a half behind schedule and $70-$90 million over budget.
23. Custer Battles
Custer Battles has the dubious distinction of being the first Iraq war contractor to be found guilty of fraud. In March 2006, a jury ordered Custer to pay damages in excess of $10 million for 37 counts of fraud, including what the judge called “false and fraudulently inflated invoices.” While Custer wriggled out of serious penalties on a technicality (the Coalition Provisional Authority is not part of the U.S. Government and therefore crimes against it cannot be tried under U.S. law), the whole ordeal has muddied the company’s reputation greatly, possibly beyond repair. It also seems to have opened the floodgates for similar cases of contractor fraud. As of fall 2006, a backlog of 70 fraud cases were pending against Iraq contractors doing all manner of work.
During the trial, a retired Army general testified that the inflated invoice scandal stood out to him as “probably the worst I’ve ever seen in my 30 years in the Army.”
24. Nour USA
Of all the companies on this list, Nour USA might be the only one who actually did not exist until the Iraq war got underway. Since its opportunistic opening, the company has recieved $400 million in Iraq-related contracts, including a gigantic $80 million deal to secure the nation’s oil pipelines. Some critics allege the contract was pushed through by Ahmed Chalabi (whom one website calls “Iraq’s No. 1 Opportunist.”) While Chalabi has denied this allegation, several other bidders on the pipeline contract point out how awfully strange it is for a company with no prior experience to be awarded such a large contract.
Of course, it probably didn’t hurt Nour to have William Cohen (former Defense Secretary under Bill Clinton) on board as a company consultant, but that’s another story.
25. General Dynamics
According to a Washington Post report in July of 2006, General Dynamics is one of the big-name defense contractors that has gotten the biggest monetary boost from the Iraq war. The key to General’s war profiteering strategy has been a broad focus on virtually everything the government needs to wage war, including tank shells, bullets for small arms, and even Stryker vehicles, which were first put to use during the initial 2003 invasion to remove Saddam.
All of this has lifted the company to tripled profitability since 9/11, and critics are speculating that ties to top Defense Agencies helped grease the wheels. According to the Project on Government Oversight, Genearl Dynamics formally announced that it was hiring a former top aide to the Army Chief of Staff in November 1999 - conveniently, just a month after the aid announced a grand new vision to introduce wheeled, light armored vehicles like the Stryker into regular use.
Mary French was the most incompetent project manager I ever saw and should be brought up on criminal charges for a wide variety of reasons. How could a project director run a job site of that magnitude without any kind of safety program. I was on site everyday and I never saw one safety meeting. I think every labor law on the books was broken on that site, not to mention human and civil rights violations. Again, another reason they didn't want Americans on that job.
The fact that she was not qualified to manage the project was the reason she got the job. She let FKTC do anything they wanted to do, and get away with shoddy and substandard workmanship as well as endangering peoples lives. This was partly because she didn't know any better and also because Jim Golden and Ret.General Williams of Overseas Building Operations told her to.
I was amazed when I got there and saw OBO (US Government)only had a handful of people overseeing the job, and none of them had ever been on a embassy construction site before. Not including a few security people, there were only four people who were supposed to be supervising FKTC. The mechanical superintendent was from the Navy, he worked on ships boilers and had never been on an Embassy project before. There was a guy from another company "not OBO" who looked after electrical part time, then there was Juvencio Lopez who was there to supervise the staff housing buildings and didn't seem to have a clue about embassy construction.
I think it was around April or May 06 when OBO ( Golden & Williams) brought in around twenty Malaysian or Indonesian engineers and secretaries (none had a security clearance), Golden's wife was Indonesian and I'm told that’s how they got the job. I heard the logistics manager Jim Schofield also had a Indonesian wife. Schofield wasn't allowed on site much because Mary French didn't like him and FKTC hated him, FKTC did not want any Americans on the job, that's why I was the only one on site who worked for FKTC. I guess they thought they could control me, and I'd keep quiet the same way they controlled Mary.
So, we had inexperienced primary contractor whose management staff was made up of about 95% Lebanese and twenty or so Indonesian staff for the State Dept. responsible for building the largest and most fortified US Embassy in the world. I would say the only time most of these people had ever even been in a US Embassy was to get turned down for a visa to the states, they certainly didn't have a clue how to build one.
I could write a book on this, I mean, who would think you find could Anti-Americanism on a US Embassy Construction Project.
I have a lot of information about that job if the American public found out about, well, they would probably really get angry, think about all the skilled American tradesmen in the states who would have gone over there and built an Embassy that wouldn't be condemned before it's occupied, too bad Americans weren't allowed to work there, they just send tax dollars for foreigners who don't seem to like Americans, only American dollars.
Thank you for your story. I will publish anything you care to input.
(The following comment post is too long to publish here but click on to read. The writer offers provocative insights.)
Comments: The purpose of this email is to make certain accusations against the Chinese government and my
cry for help. Thank you for your time and your help will be highly appreciated.
Chen,Shun-Chuan 2002.10.13* Republic of China (Taiwan)
Thank you Shun-Chuan. We appreciate your comment. Worried American
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