What's it going to take for us to hold the Iraq War profiteers accountable? The Bush administration's $3 trillion war in Iraq has been the direct cause of our current recession, and yet private defense contractors continue to reap billions in profits. I'm not even talking about KBR for the moment. That loathsome Cheney-backed Halliburton subsidiary has actually been the focus of a bit of media and Congressional attention recently (though not nearly enough) for contaminating our troops' water supplies, ignoring electrical safety standards that led to troop casualties, and dodging hundreds of millions in tax payments. No, I'm talking about L-3, the second largest employer in the Iraq occupation behind KBR.
L-3 makes about $1 billion a year off of the outsourcing of intelligence gathering in Iraq. The U.S. government hired L-3 to work with the military in interrogating and running background checks on Iraqi prisoners and civilians. L-3 now employs approximately 7,000 translators and 300 intelligence experts in Iraq, and has grown to become the ninth largest defense contractor in the U.S and the sixth largest Iraq war profiteer. While this outsourcing alone is cause for alarm, it is how L-3 runs its company that is particularly egregious.
Not only is L-3 the parent company of Titan -- the company that provided the translators at Abu Ghraib prison -- but they have also suffered more casualties than any other civilian contractor. 280 L-3/Titan employees have already died. According to a new report from CorpWatch, L-3/Titan employees are "dying at a rate that is far greater than that of the U.S. military itself." That is because L-3 employees face daily threats of assassination for collaborating with our military. Even worse, L-3 doesn't provide employees with proper training or medical care.
CorpWatch Managing Editor Pratap Chatterjee claims that L-3 fills positions with unqualified personnel simply to meet their contractual quotas. Of course, these interrogators, analysts, and screeners don't want to lose their jobs, since they are getting paid upwards of $100,000 a year. And so, as ex-Titan translator Marwan Mawiri has said, these translators are willing to say and do whatever it takes to keep their jobs safe. Just watch Chatterjee and Mawiri on Democracy Now, as they explain how L-3 failed to prepare employees as to what to expect in Iraq.
The Abu Ghraib scandal was a direct result of this disgraceful mismanagement, but what was L-3/Titan's response? They covered their own asses by implementing mandatory refresher courses for interrogators: power-point presentations delivered by officers, many of whom have never been interrogators themselves. CorpWatch calls these training sessions nothing more than "window dressing."
Perhaps this will be enough to prevent another scandal of Abu Ghraib's magnitude from leaking to the press, but how many L-3 employees will die before the company is forced to provide adequate training for its employees? How many innocent Iraqis will be victimized and how much will we compromise in terms of national security because our government put L-3 in charge? And how many billions will our government pay L-3 along the way while we should have put reconstruction in the hands of capable Iraqis?
Meanwhile, L-3 met last week to tell its shareholders just how well their company is doing, and how much money they've made.
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