Billions of Dollars "MIA" in Iraq

According to an auditors’ report to a House of Representatives committee overseeing work in Iraq, some $10,000,000,000 has been “squandered” by the U.S. government in the course of the war. As if the billions of dollars spent on the war wasn’t already a big enough waste, the audit found that contractor overcharges and unsupported expenses accounted for one in six dollars spent on the war so far! It also found that Defense and State department officials condoned or allowed repeated work delays, bloated expenses and payments for shoddy work or work never done.

This is all part of the “privatization” of the war, in which services formerly provided by the military itself are now contracted out. They do everything from providing security and interrogating prisoners to cooking and serving food, cleaning barracks, and fixing machinery. They do all of this with no oversight and no accountability. And as private corporations, the activities of mercenary companies like DynCorp and Blackwater Security are not subject government oversight or examination through the Freedom of Information Act.

Companies such as Halliburton, Kellogg-Brown-Root, and Bechtel – many of them with close ties to the government -  claim that competition between private companies for the contracts provides savings and efficiency. But the fact is, “no-bid” contracts are the norm – there is usually zero competition involved. Incredibly, these contracts often include built-in profits, a system called “cost-plus”.  In other words, the more they spend, the more profit they make!  Brilliant! 

Since 2001, the use of private contractors has doubled to about $400 billion a year in 2006. It’s no accident that the top 20 service contractors have spent nearly $300 million since 2000 on lobbying and have donated some $23 million to political campaigns of both parties. Waging war is big business and having friends in government sure doesn’t hurt!

The use of contractors borders on the absurd. According to the New York Times, last June, the General Services Administration (GSA), an independent agency of the U.S. government that helps manage and support the basic functioning of federal agencies, was short of employees to review cases of incompetence and fraud by federal contractors.  The solution? Hire a private contractor to do the investigation!  The cost? Six people were each paid more than $104 an hour- that’s more than $200,000 per person per year.

This is just “business as usual” under capitalism!

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