THE BLOG
03/13/2008 09:42 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Iraq Still for Sale

When I first met Ben Carter by telephone in January of 2006, he was
somewhat of a lone voice shouting into an empty stadium. He had been
working for KBR -- a Halliburton subsidiary that had billions of dollars
worth of government contracts in Iraq -- as a water contamination
specialist. I was working with Robert Greenwald's Brave New Films on
a documentary film (Iraq For Sale) about war profiteering
companies who used the war as a way to line their pockets with gads
of tax-payer cash for such things a bag of washed laundry at $100 a
pop, or $45 for a six pack of Coke.

The war had been outsourced, privatized, and the likes of Kellog Brown
and Root were not so privately robbing the country blind with
cost-plus contracts. Based on this bright idea, the more a company
spent, say, on that Hummer for the boss running the ice cream concession
for the troops on leave in Kuwait, the more that company made. Or
rather, and looked at from the publicus side of the ledger, the more
the taxpayer paid.

Back in early 2006, Ben was talking to anyone who would listen about
how he had discovered contaminated water on at least three Army bases
in Iraq, water supplied by KBR, with the kind of stuff in it that you
have to magnify to convince yourself it could kill you. But few people
were listening,
and certainly not the executives at Halliburton/KBR to whom he
reported the problem. At the time, Halliburton said there is ``no
evidence to substantiate allegations made by these former employees.''

But, as there is a fairly crisp logarithm about the Iraq War in all
it's facets, namely, that every problem having "no
evidence to substantiate it" eventually finds that the evidence does
point to the problem having been real, Ben Carter, of course, has now been
vindicated.

A just released Pentagon report by the Inspector General maintains that
"soldiers experienced skin abscesses, cellulitis, skin
infections, diarrhea and other illnesses after using discolored,
smelly water for personal hygiene and laundry [remember that $100
bucks] at five U.S. military sites in Iraq." And that KBR's water
quality "was not maintained in accordance with field water sanitary
standards."

Ben Carter has been vindicated, but it took a hard slog. In Ben's
case, the documents confirming his assertions were not shredded, but
only hidden from sight, denied a hearing. And even as
the evidence is laid out before them, KBR executives continued to
claim that their hands, if not those of the soldiers they poisoned,
are clean.

For Ben Carter, who lost a twenty-year old son just prior to joining
the KBR water crew in Iraq, the emotional connection with the men and
women he was supposed to be protecting--not from IEDs, but from
one-celled animals--was instant and profound. "I hadn't anticipated
seeing him in a lot of the marines' faces.These marines and army
soldiers, they're just kids. 19, 18, 20 years old. And I could see in
their eyes that they've got a lot to learn. And they trust, but
sometimes that trust isn't what they expect. They trust that when
people are there to do what they're getting paid much more than the
young marine's getting paid, they trust that job is getting done. And
they're not wise enough to the world, to the corporate world
especially, to know that that trust doesn't matter when it comes to
money."

There's that algorithm again. If the Bushies say trust us and KBR
with your money and your lives, best to put your hands in your pockets
and head in the opposite direction, and fast. As we see with this Inspector
General's report, often the evidence for malfeasance winds it way to
the public ever so slowly. So it just might be that before your day of
reckoning, before it is revealed that what you believe to be true is
in fact true, you could be broke, have died waiting, or both.

Iraq was for sale, and it still is. The missing and ripped-off
billions in this three-trillion dollar war, are now making their entrance
into public consciousness, meandering toward their public
hearing, as evidence to be weighed into the balance sheet of this
awful and unnecessary act of imperial hubris.