President Obama will almost certainly touch down in Baghdad and Kabul in Air Force One sometime in the coming year to meet his counterparts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he will just as certainly pay a visit to a US military base or two. Should he stay for breakfast, lunch, dinner or midnight chow with the troops, he will no less certainly choose from a menu prepared by migrant Asian workers under contract to Houston-based KBR, the former subsidiary of Halliburton.
If Barack Obama takes the Rhino Runner armor-plated bus from Baghdad Airport to the Green Zone, or travels by Catfish Air’s Blackhawk helicopters (the way mere mortals like diplomats and journalists do), instead of by presidential chopper, he will be assigned a seat by US civilian workers easily identified by the red KBR lanyards they wear around their necks.
Even if Obama gets the ultra-red carpet treatment, he will still tread on walkways and enter buildings that have been constructed over the last six years by an army of some 50,000 workers in the employ of KBR. And should Obama chose to order the troops in Iraq home tomorrow, he will effectively sign a blank check for billions of dollars in withdrawal logistics contracts that will largely be carried out by a company once overseen by Dick Cheney.
Questions for the Pentagon
If Obama wants to find out why KBR civilian workers can be found in every nook and cranny of US bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, he might be better off visiting the Rock Island Arsenal in western Illinois. It’s located on the biggest island in the Mississippi River, the place where Chief Black Hawk of the Sauk nation was born. The arsenal’s modern stone buildings house the offices of the US Army Materiel Command from which KBR’s multibillion dollar Logistics Civilian Augmentation Program contract (LOGCAP) have been managed for the last seven years. This is the mega-contract that has, since September 11, 2001, generated more than $25 billion for KBR to set up and manage military bases overseas (and resulted, of course, in thousands of pages of controversial news stories about the company’s war profiteering).
Even more conveniently, Obama could pop over to KBR’s Crystal City government operations headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, just a mile south of the Pentagon and five miles from the White House. On Crystal City Drive just before Ronald Reagan National airport, it’s hard to miss the KBR corporate logo, those gigantic red letters on the eleven-story building at the far corner of Crystal Park.
Many people who know something about KBR’s role in Iraq and Afghanistan might want Obama to question the military commanders at Rock Island and the corporate executives in Arlington about the shoddy electrical work, unchlorinated shower water, overcharges for trucks sitting idle in the desert, deaths of KBR employees and affiliated soldiers in Iraq, alleged million-dollar bribes accepted by KBR managers and billions of dollars in missing receipts, among a slew of other complaints that have received wide publicity over the last five years.