Nothing about the Iraq fiasco should be called a success, despite President Obama's attempt to provide closure to the troops misused and abused since the launch of that war. We must remember the truth about this catastrophic, unpopular, vicious war, and we must fight the strong national impulse to salvage our self-image in platitudes. If we do that, it becomes terribly clear that the only people for whom this nightmare was a success are the super-rich CEOs of war industry corporations who made a killing during the wars we launched since 2001.
According to the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan:
Spending on contracts and grants performed in Iraq and Afghanistan in support of operations in those countries is expected to exceed $206 billion through the end of fiscal year (FY) 2011.
The commission's final report said that somewhere between $31 and $60 billion has been lost through contract waste and fraud in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Put another way, war profiteers took as much as $60 billion from taxpayers and didn't give us anything in return. Put one other way, these companies put their profits ahead of the national defense which they were paid to support, and they put troops' lives and reputations at risk while they did so.
Take for example just one company: Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR). This former Haliburton subsidiary secured almost $41 billion in contracts on the wars. Since the start of the Iraq War, this corrupt, vicious company has racked up an impressive 22 instances of misconduct in the Project on Government Oversight's Federal Contractor Misconduct Database, for a grand total of $129.9 million in fines and settlements. These include, but are not limited to:
- Sexual assault and retaliation
- Violations of false claims laws
- Overcharging and other procurement irregularities
- Racial discrimination
- Wrongful death
- Human trafficking
KBR's CEO, William P. Utt, made $9.6 million in salary and other compensation last year, putting him squarely in the richest 0.01 percent of Americans. (That's roughly 23 times what the President of the United States, for whom Utt's company supposedly works while under contract, makes, for context's sake.) Utt's fortune is made on the backs of troops who died from KBR's shoddy work (dying, for example from electrocution when Utt's company cut corners on electrical work in base showers in Iraq). His fortune is made in part from illegitimate billing of U.S. taxpayers and from no-bid contracts cited for waste and abuse by the U.S. government.
Yes, the Iraq war was a "success" for war profiteers like Utt and his brethren at Lockheed, Raytheon, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman, if we're only talking dollars. But for the rest of us, on the hook for several trillion dollars for this fiasco, for the many, many thousands of Iraqis whose families were destroyed in the conflict, and for the military families who won't ever see their loved ones come home whole again, it was a bloody, nightmarish catastrophe that we should never, ever celebrate.
Brave New Foundation has dogged war profiteers like Utt and KBR for years through projects like Iraq for Sale and Rethink Afghanistan. We are in the early phases of our latest campaign, War Costs, which will hold Utt and the other profiteer CEOs accountable for their war profiteering. We invite you to join us on Facebook, and we hope you'll help us make sure we remember the Iraq War for what it was: a national disgrace and a boondoggle for war profiteers.