In 1961, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 gave a face to war profiteering with the character Milo – a mess officer during WWII. Milo secretly replaces the CO2 cartridges in the emergency life vests with certificates for shares in his company M&M Enterprises. Milo uses his private Air Force to contract missions from German forces, including one that results in the bombing of his battalion’s ship. Milo wheels and deals trading morals for money, committing treason in no uncertain terms but in the end he declares to a U.S. court that what is good for M&M is good for the country because everyone gets a share. One of the most hated characters in literature, Milo is still alive today in the minds of some CEOs. They know, in the current political and economic environment, you can make a killing during war.
We’ve heard about Blackwater. This private contracting firm is said to be responsible for the needless deaths of countless Iraqis, as well as numerous American employees who were ill-equipped to protect themselves in the field. The actions of Blackwater employees (who are mostly former U.S. Military) are so atrocious and well documented that the Iraqi government has demanded the U.S. find a new company to provide security for civilian diplomats and that Blackwater pay reparations to the families of its victims. The U.S. Senate will vote on legislation to hold Blackwater and other private war contractors accountable for these actions. Show your support with an email.
We’ve heard about Halliburton, Dick Cheney’s friends and colleagues who have made over 10 Billion Dollars from U.S. contracts in Iraq. Halliburton does its killing through poor workman ship and exploitation. A report by TruthOut speaks to this, “Over the last year, government auditors have issued at least nine reports criticizing Halliburton’s Iraq work, and there are multiple criminal investigations into overcharging and kickbacks involving Halliburton’s contracts. Former Halliburton employees have testified before Congress about egregious instances of over billing. Despite these concerns, the Bush Administration continues to reject the recommendations of its auditors that 15% of Halliburton’s LOGCAP reimbursements be withheld until the company can provide better substantiation for its charges.” What is particularly egregious is how the long term affects of their ignorance will not only disable Iraqi infrastructure but may hurt U.S. troops and their families for generations. Like Milo trying to serve cotton to his troops for dinner to cut costs KBR/Halliburton sees nothing wrong with allowing our troops to bath in contaminated water.
We’ve heard about these companies because their offenses have recently been covered by mainstream media (Frontline documentary series on war contractors); but, do you know how many have died because of a lawnmower company? Caterpillar, a well known construction equipment company has provided thousands of demolition machines, complete with gun turrets, to the Israeli army for the sole purpose of destroying Palestinian homes. Too many times women, children, and the elderly are bowled over inside their houses. At least 18 people, including American Rachel Corrie, have been killed by the Israeli military use of CAT bulldozers. The U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is organizing a day of action on October 19th to heighten awareness of these destructive killing machines.
So many companies benefit from war: Bechtel, CACI and Titan. All of these companies have made billions on the blood of U.S. troops and Iraqi citizens. They claim their profit benefits our country as a whole. But they have no allegiance to the U.S. The only pledge these companies make is to the almighty dollar. You can do something.
Divest: Look into your portfolio and do research on the companies you invest in. Uniting as shareholders and participants in this economy we can send a strong message that we will not profit from this oil war.
Shareholder Activism: If you decide to keep stock in these profiteering companies, participate at shareholder meetings. Work with other shareholders to vote on resolutions that would require corporate compliance with international human rights standards.
Call Your Representative: Ask for more accountability for contracted work, demand we disband our private army, and push to bring justice to criminals who hide behind contracts.
Organize: The majority of Americans want the U.S. out of Iraq. How many of them know about war profiteering? Now is the time to deepen the debate around war, war profiteering is a good place to start.