Director and producer Robert Greenwald, whose previous films include progressive documentaries such as “Outfoxed” (about Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News) and “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price,” has brought us an extremely important movie with his latest production, “Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers.” Greenwald examines war profiteering, being carried out on an almost unimaginable scale, by private American companies in Iraq.
Without any question, the Iraq war has been privatized to a degree unseen in U.S. history. American taxpayers have paid this enormous corporate welfare bill with their money, while thousands of American troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have paid with their lives. The privatization has generally fallen into two categories: actual private combatants or contractors (i.e. paid mercenaries), and all logistical, maintenance and supply functions previously performed by the military.
Over 20,000 private military personnel have served in Iraq in various functions such as combat, interrogation and the torture of prisoners. This mercenary force is the second largest military force on the ground in Iraq.
The film explores the role of these forces as well as their funding and connections with supporters of the Bush administration. Security companies providing funds to these combatants have been able to fend off investigations due to retired senior military officers who sit on their boards and have ties with the Republican Party and the religious right.
One of the companies is Blackwater Security, which lost four contractors when they were killed, burnt and strung up from a bridge in Fallujah in 2004. The company later saw a five-fold increase in the size of its contracts to over $200 million in 2005.
Halliburton and its subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) are the major culprits in the corporate rip-off in Iraq. The corporation took over every conceivable noncombat function in the military including support, supply, maintenance, and food and water provisions. The film points out how they failed miserably in each of these functions.
Halliburton was paid to provide soldiers with clean and safe cooking, cleaning and shower water. What actually happened was quite different, including the provision of shower water contaminated with typhus, malaria and countless other dangerous disease-carrying germs. Of the 67 water treatment plants operated by Halliburton, 63 did not provide safe water.
Halliburton saved money by having large concentrations of troops together at mealtime, thus exposing them to attacks — food should have been available around the clock. Coca-Cola was actually made in the desert at a cost of $45 per six-pack. The company charged $99 per bag of laundry and sent it out of Iraq for cleaning. Mail delivery was charged by the truckload, even when there was only one sack in the truck. No spare tires or parts were sent to Iraq, so when vehicles broke down, they were simply destroyed.
Halliburton’s role in Iraq cries out for investigation. Vice President Dick Cheney was the former CEO of that company and the film charges that his office coordinated Halliburton’s contracts in what it terms “the moral equivalent of insider trading.”
With the recent elections resulting in Democratic control of Congress, a serious investigation and exposure of this scam is now a realistic possibility. This film itself needs to be seen by as many Americans as possible, and should be bought, distributed and shown in order to support mass public outcry and expose the deadly war profiteering.
Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers
Produced and directed
by Robert Greenwald
90 min., The Disinformation Co.
Brave New Films, 2006