Monday, June 8, 2009

Jeremy Scahill Discusses the Rise of Private Contractors with Bill Moyers

This past weekend, investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill was on The Bill Moyers Journal to discuss the expansion of private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their conversation was pretty thorough and included sections that discussed the expansion of contractors under President Obama:

BILL MOYERS: So we're supposed to be withdrawing from Iraq. But you're suggesting, in all that you've written, that I've read lately, that we will be leaving a large mercenary force there.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Absolutely. In fact, you're going to have a sizable presence, not only of U.S. forces, certainly in the region, but also in Iraq. These residual forces... I mean, Bill, you remember, during Vietnam, the people who were classified as military advisors. Or analysts. And, in reality, the U.S. was fighting an undeclared war. So, in Iraq, I think that we've seen reports from Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News' Pentagon correspondent. He's quoting military sources saying that they expect to be in Iraq 15 to 20 years in sizable numbers. Afghanistan, though, really is going to become Obama's war. And, unfortunately, many Democrats are portraying it as the good war.

They also discussed the shoddy electrical work that KBR (a subsidiary of Halliburton) performed in Iraq. What Scahill calls, "one of the greatest corporate scandals of the past decade":

BILL MOYERS: You recently wrote about how the Department of Defense paid the former Halliburton subsidiary KBR more than $80 million in bonuses for contracts to install what proved to be very defective electrical wiring in Iraq. Senator Byron Dorgan himself, called that wiring in hearings, shoddy and unprofessional. So my question is why did the Pentagon pay for it when it was so inferior?

JEREMY SCAHILL: This is perhaps one of the greatest corporate scandals of the past decade. The fact that this Halliburton corporation, which was once headed by former Vice President Dick Cheney, was essentially given keys to the city of U.S. foreign policy. And allowed to do things that were dangerous for U.S. troops. Provide then with unclean drinking water. They were the premier company responsible for servicing the US military occupation of Iraq. In fact, they were deployed alongside the U.S. military in the build up to the war. This was a politically connected company that won its contracts because of its political connections. And the fact is that it was a behemoth that was there. It was it was the girl at the dance, and they danced with her.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah. The Army hired a master electrician, I read, in some congressional testimony, to review electrical work in Iraq. He's now told congress that KBR's work in Iraq was, quote, "The most hazardous, worst quality work he'd ever seen." And that his own investigation, this is not a journalist, this is an employee of the Army, had found improper wiring in every building that KBR had wired in Iraq.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. And we're talking about thousands of buildings. And so we've had, U.S. troops that have died from electrocution in Iraq as a result of the faulty work of KBR. This should be an utter scandal that should outrage every single person in this country. And, yet, you find almost no mention of this in the corporate media.

Take a look below for more of the interview:

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