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No Profits for Profiteers | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

No Profits for Profiteers

New York Times columnist Bob Herbert put it well: "War is a tragedy for some and a boon for others." (Spoils of War, April 10.) "The war against Iraq," Herbert writes, "has become one of the clearest examples ever of the influence of the military-industrial complex that President Dwight Eisenhower warned against so eloquently in his farewell address of 1961. This iron web of relationships among powerful individuals inside and outside the government operates with very little public scrutiny and is saturated with conflicts of interest."

Thanks to the Center for Public Integrity's recent investigation we now know that at least nine of the thirty members of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board--a non-elected group that is central in the formulation of US foreign policy--are linked to companies that were awarded more than $76 billion in defense contracts in 2001 and 2002 alone. (We're also likely to see many of the same corporations--like the Bechtel Group--that made hundreds of millions of dollars doing business with what they knew was a murderous Iraqi regime receive billons of dollars worth of contracts to now rebuild Iraq.)

There's a word for what's going on--war profiteering. Fortunately some are taking notice: Representatives Henry Waxman (D, CA) and John Dingell (D, Michigan) are to be commended for taking on the issue and the corporate conflicts of interest so pervasive in this Administration.

On April 8, they asked the General Accounting Office to conduct a comprehensive investigation into how the Pentagon is handling the bidding process for lucrative contracts for the rebuilding of Iraq. They also urged the GAO to investigate whether Halliburton (Vice-President Cheney's old company--through which he is still eligible for deferred compensation) has received special treatment from the Administration in the awarding of Defense Department contracts.

It's estimated that corporations and their well-connected bosses will cash in on some $100 billion worth of postwar reconstruction contracts. But why should war in Iraq be good for those who have been good to the Republican party? Why should US companies who did business with Hussein profit from his ouster? Why should working people in the US support their tax dollars being used to pay for rebuilding schools, roads and hospitals destroyed by the US in Iraq, when those things are also crumbling in the US?

If you believe that postwar contracts should be designed to rebuild Iraq--not line war profiteers' bank accounts--consider supporting the following proposals:

* Fund the rebuilding of postwar Iraq through a special 50 percent Excess Profit/"Windfall for War" tax on all contracts offered to US corporations.

* Support Rep. Rahm Emanuel's (D-IL) "American Parity Act," which seeks to balance America's investments in housing, education, health care and other domestic priorities with equal spending in the Iraq postwar reconstruction plan. (So far, the bill has 28 co-sponsors, including Reps. Hinchey, Lee, Schakowsky, McGovern, DeFazio, DeLauro and Woolsey.)

* And consider the idea offered by Robert Jervis of New York in a letter to The New York Times from April 14:

"The Bechtel Group and other American companies could make a great contribution to both Iraq and America by renouncing all profits from the rebuilding of Iraq. People all over the world believe that the United States fought the war to make money. Our companies have a unique opportunity to show that this is false."

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