Tell it to the Marines

Question: What does a Marine on a “float,” a soldier “in country” and a sailor homeported in the U.S. have in common with the Iraqi working class?

Answer: It is illegal for them to organize in their collective interest and protest the privatization of society a.k.a. “the war in Iraq.”

When it was announced that well connected companies like Halliburton, Bechtel and MCI would receive billions of additional taxpayer dollars for contracts in occupied Iraq, the news overshadowed recent proposals to cut back military pay and benefits.

While it has become common knowledge in labor and left circles that Dick

Cheney’s Halliburton and George Schultz’s Bechtel as well as other corporations have garnered several billion dollars in “no bid” contracts, the cutbacks in basic pay, imminent danger pay, family separation allowance and military housing construction for service people are not as well known.

The Army Times June 30 editorial titled “Nothing but lip service” outlined the financial sacrifices the current administration is requesting of our men and women in uniform: rollbacks of $225 to $150 in monthly imminent danger pay, cutbacks of $250 to $100 in family separation allowances, downgrading military construction projects by $1.5 billion, and capping certain pay raises. As tax breaks to the wealthy and sweetheart deals to corporations loot the nation’s treasury, working people as a class, including members of the armed services, are forced to bear the brunt of the “war on terrorism,” while privatization of the military sector has increased tenfold!

This trend is not going to be reversed in the current political climate. Speaking at Lackland Air Force Base, following his appearance before the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in San Antonio, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld mentioned that as many as 300,000 military jobs could be replaced by non-uniformed personnel. As reported in the Aug. 25 issue of the Department of Defense News (www.defenselink.mil), Rumsfeld promoted the pending Defense transformation bill and its role in “reforming” the Pentagon’s civil-service-based personnel system. Transformation was also on the mind of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice as she spoke before the same VFW convention, several times citing the transformation of the entire Middle East as rationale for a continued military occupation and in fact calling this the “moral mission of our time.”

Here in California, a similar zeal for privatization and outsourcing is heralded by right-wing Republican State Senator and governor wannabe Tom McClintock, who on his website makes clear his intent to “personally de-fund every state agency that duplicates local or federal jurisdictions or overlaps other state agencies or that is performing functions that the private sector could do or should do.”

Working people worldwide are failing to see the “morality” of this crusade. The people of Iraq probably never will. After all, Bechtel and Halliburton collaborated for years with the regime of Saddam Hussein. DynCorp, which is organizing the Iraqi national police, has a history of organizing mercenary armies. And MCI WorldCom, which consistently opposed union organizing efforts, received its Iraq contracts after declaring bankruptcy, wiping out the pensions of thousands of its own workers along with $2.6 billion in public pension funds, and after being found guilty of securities fraud and fined $500 million by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Further evidence of the moral bankruptcy of this crusade came on June 29 this year when hundreds of Iraqi workers organized and petitioned the U.S. administration in Iraq to hear their grievances against privatization and the contracting out of labor. The U.S. occupation forces responded by arresting the organization’s leader and 20 others.

The phrase “tell it to the Marines” means that you don’t believe the tall tale someone is telling you.

So when the Bush administration, its apologists or even some of its political challengers try to obscure the privatization question and divert us to other issues, we should have them tell that line to the sailors and airmen and women far from home. We should have them tell that stuff to the soldiers who are sweating and dying for the profits of some well-connected Wall Street corporations, but above all we should have them “tell it to the Marines!”





Moe Radd is a Navy veteran who lives in San Diego, Calif. He can be reached at pww@pww.org