'The War Profiteers'

Random Lengths News | October 25, 2006
Robert Greenwald's Latest Documentary was Sponsored by MoveOn.org and Former Democratic Presidential Candidate John Kerry

In the past month, headlines all over the world blared, "North Korea Launches Nuclear Missile Test," while three days later a study from Johns Hopkins University surfaced, estimating that 655,000 Iraqis have been killed in the current Iraq War, which the Bush administration flatly denied. At the same time, the Pentagon declared that it plans to keep American troops in Iraq until 2010. So it is very poignant that screenings of Robert Greenwald's latest documentary Iraq for Sale The War Profiteers were held in homes, theatres, churches, and community centers all over America during the second weekend of October.

Robert Villegas, a Democrat and lifelong San Pedran, organized two screenings at the Harry Bridges Institute in San Pedro on Oct. 14 -- one through MoveOn.org, the grassroots activist organization that he joined five months ago, and the other sponsored by Sen. John Kerry.

A total of about 26 people attended both screenings at Harry Bridges, and after watching the movie one viewer of Iraqi descent, who wished to remain anonymous, declared, "What you see in this movie, is not even one percent of what is really happening over there. They are destroying my home country."

When it was announced on the movie's website that Kerry would "host" the second screening, viewers were hoping to meet the Massachusetts senator, but in reality Kerry paid to have it screened. Additionally both he and Robert Greenwald made a conference call before the start of the movie.

"[This conflict] is an occupation; that was the point that Greenwald made in his phone call," Villegas explained. "Kerry said it was an immoral war and that it was time to get the troops out of there. He spoke about the big businesses profiteering, and that we need to use the movie to let the people know what's going on. He's tired of the president's 9/11 rhetoric in defense of this war."

Perhaps this is why Greenwald chose to release this movie a month before the General Election.

"Kerry said we need to get a Democratic majority in the Senate to hold hearings. The Democrats have been asking for investigations, they just don't have a voice," Villegas added. "Greenwald plans to show this movie every weekend until the general election in November."

Mainstream media news reports are mundane sound bites anesthetizing American people to the realities of the war, but Greenwald's documentary brings the sound bites to life through his compelling interviews.

It paints the disturbing picture of the current war profiteering and privatization that is happening in Iraq through the voices of soldiers, American families, public and military officials, and private contractors.

A narrator begins the film explaining that the Iraq War has been privatized to a greater extent than any other war in history with $0.40 of every American tax dollar going to private contractors.

Through multiple interviews the viewer learns chilling details about the main corporations that the U.S. government uses to employ roughly 100,000 private contractors in Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia -- Halliburton/Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), Blackwater Security, the L3 Titan Corporation, and CACI.

As the film progresses, it shows military jobs are being outsourced to private contractors who are essentially being paid up to four times as much as a soldier in taxpayer dollars for performing the same duties. A soldier laments over having to train contractors.

"These firms are enticing hardworking patriotic Americans with high salaries. These Americans see an opportunity to make a better life for their families while also doing better for the Iraqi people [through reconstruction efforts], and once they get there they see the reality of fraud and waste and abuse on an enormous scale while at the same time getting very little or no protection for themselves," Neil Saaty, a San Pedro resident remarked after watching the movie.

"They're coming back to this country through this film to tell the rest of us so that we can do something about it," he added.

The main premise is that these multinational defense firms do not have any accountability at any level of their involvement in the war--from spending to protecting the contractors and soldiers, to training and chain of command protocol.

The film shows private soldiers from Blackwater Security who died because their vehicle wasn't fitted with the proper armor, private interrogators from CACI who aren't punished for torturing Abu Ghairb prisoners, and KBR's cost-plus contract enabling it to have $1.4 billion in overcharges, including almost-new $40,000 SUVs that are thrown into a burning pit. These are just a few examples of the grand-scale malevolence occurring in Iraq.

The exposure of these corporations' practices begs the question, "How do they get away with it?"

"All major military contractors have a board of directors of retired senior military personnel," an expert in the movie explains.

Because of their positions they are able to network with government officials to secure contracts. The film points out that Halliburton/KBR received a no-bid sole source contract. Additionally it shows that these corporations provide huge contributions to the Republican Party. For example, Erik Prince, CEO of Blackwater contributed $2 million to Republican candidates, and Halliburton/KBR contributed $4.3 million to committees for military spending.

The intricate web of defense contractors and government officials goes even deeper with corporate lobbyists meeting with high-ranking conservatives to impede investigations into any wrongdoing.

Even George W. Bush laughs at a reporter and then evades the question when she asks, "The informed code of military justice doesn't apply to the private contractors. What applies to them?"

The viewer also gets a glimpse of the battle at home when legislation proposed by Democratic Senators Leahy and Dorgan to reform both war profiteering and defense contracts is struck down by Congress, and to this date there has been no push to enact further legislation.

Random Lengths News

Founded in 1979 as a counterbalance to the conservative, corporate- owned daily paper, Random Lengths News draws on the rich history of the Los Angeles Harbor Area. The name harkens back to a description of the lumber that used to...
More »
Contact for Reprint Rights
  • Market Served: Metropolitan Area
  • Address: 1300 S. Pacific Ave., San Pedro, CA 90731
  • Phone: (310) 519-1442