Bush cronies hit jackpot in Iraq, Afghanistan
By Emad Mekay
Washington, DC, Oct 30 (IPS) Some 70 US companies with
good connections to the Bush administration have won at least eight
billion dollars worth of reconstruction contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan
in the past two years, an independent research group said Thursday.
This is all outrageous, said Charles Lewis, executive
director of the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), the organization
that carried out the investigation.
The last time I checked, in this democracy we are supposed to
have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people,
not public officials protecting private companies behind closed doors,
According to the six-month probe by the center, the 70 firms donated
more money to the presidential campaign of George W. Bush than they
collectively did to any other politician over the past dozen years.
The investigation, which examined contracts awarded in 2002 through
September 2003, provides the most complete list to date of US contractors
in the two nations that were invaded by the United States in its self-styled
war on terror.
The study does not look into dozens of subcontracts.
The findings that came out in a brief report, Windfalls of War:
US Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, show that Kellogg, Brown
& Root (KBR), the subsidiary of the giant US oil field services
firm Halliburton, was the top recipient of federal contracts for the
two countries, worth more than $2.3 billion.
Vice President Dick Cheney led the Houston-based corporation prior
to being chosen as Bushs running mate in August 2000. Cheney
still receives a six-figure deferred annual compensation from Halliburton
that the company says is not affected by current business decisions.
Halliburton said on Wednesday that its revenue rose to $4.1 billon
from $3 billon in the third quarter as a result of government work
KBRs no-bid contract with the US Army Crops of Engineers to
modernize Iraqs oil industry has been under fire from many congressional
Democrats and civil society groups who say the deal illustrates favoritism
in the Republican administration.
The San Francisco-based Bechtel Group, a leading engineering company
and a major government contractor, also with high-ranking ties, was
second with awarded contracts worth $1.03 billion.
Bechtels CEO Riley Bechtel was appointed in February by Bush
to the Presidents Export Council, an influential economic advisory
Another company with ties to the administration that won contracts
in Iraq and Afghanistan is Science Applications International Corp
It received seven contracts in Iraq, one of them to help rebuild the
countrys media, a deal estimated to be worth $38 million in
year one but perhaps more than $90 million in 2004.
David Kay, the former United Nations weapons inspector who was hired
by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to track down weapons of
mass destruction in Iraq, is a former vice president of SAIC.
The CPI, which prides itself on public service journalism
and says it does not accept funding from corporations, labor unions
or governments, said its research also found that dozens of lower-profile
but well-connected companies also won big in the reconstruction bonanza.
The top 10 US contractors in Iraq include International American Products,
Perini Corporation, and Contrack International.
Their tasks ranged from rebuilding Iraqs government, police,
military and media, to providing translators for use in interrogations
and psychological operations, said the report. There are
even contractors to evaluate the contractors.
The center says that nearly 60 percent of the 70 companies had employees
or board members who either served in or had close ties to the executive
branch for Republican and Democratic administrations, for members
of Congress of both parties or at the highest levels of the military.
It also found that nearly every one of the 10 largest contracts awarded
for Iraq and Afghanistan went to companies employing former senior
government officials with close links to those agencies or to Congress.
Using an analysis of campaign finance records, the findings show that
the top 10 contractors were also long-time political donors.
The companies gave nearly $11 million to national political parties,
candidates and political action committees since 1990.
Indeed, most of the companies that won contracts in Iraq and
Afghanistan were political players, says the report.
Among individual candidates that received money from those contractors,
Bush collected more money than any other, a little more than $500,000.
According to the investigation, Iraq outpaced Afghanistan, once ground
zero in Washingtons war on terrorism, as the locale for contracted
The center says at least $5.7 billion in government funding went to
US contractors in Iraq.
Nearly one-half of that, $2.7 billion, went for work in Afghanistan.
The centers team of journalists, researchers and former media
officials complained that they had to wrestle the information in the
report from the administration.
The group had to rely on 73 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests
and appeals to demand information from the Pentagon, the State Department,
and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The center filed suit in the US District Court in Washington, DC,
against the State Department and the Army after both agencies failed
to cooperate fully with its request for information as outlined under
In a statement, the center charged that USAID and the Pentagon went
as far as to initially omit the largest contracts they had awarded
in Iraq from the information provided to the investigationcontracts
to Bechtel and to Halliburtons KBR subsidiary.
The CIP warned that because of such secrecy shrouding contracts in
Iraq, and because of official reluctance to share information, the
total value of contracts awarded for reconstruction work in Iraq and
Afghanistan may be actually much larger than what is publicly known.
Experts say such findings are disturbing and illustrate how US policy
in Iraq is in fact counter-productive.
Both US and Iraqi interests would be better served if the management
of reconstruction funds served as a concrete demonstration of how
to create a capable post-war state rather than a secretive contracting
operation, said Gayle Smith of the Center of American Progress,
a liberal think tank here. The mere perception that US contractors
with ties to the Bush administration are profiting from their connections
damages support for the operation in Iraq and at home.
UN sends mission to prevent
collapse of Karzai regime
By Katherine Butler
Nov. 3 The UN Security Council sent a high-ranking
delegation to Afghanistan yesterday to bolster the countrys
leader, Hamid Karzai, amid signs that his authority is steadily
slipping to powerful warlords and warnings that an opium boom could
turn Afghanistan into a failed state run by drug cartels.
The delegation, including the UN ambassadors of the United States,
Britain, France, Mexico, Spain and Bulgaria, are aiming to demonstrate
the international communitys commitment to rebuilding the
country, said the head of the mission, Germanys UN ambassador
The ambassadors are to visit Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif, he said,
to pressure powerful regional warlords to co-operate fully
with the central government so elections next year can be
held in a climate of stability. We will speak to the local
warlords and call to their attention the responsibility for the
whole country demanded from them, that they work together with the
central government, economically, politically and above all for
security, he said.
But even as he spoke, there were reports of further violence. Two
civilians were killed in clashes between rival militias. And there
were unconfirmed reports that eight villagers had died in an airstrike
on a remote eastern village. The strike hit a house belonging to
Mawlawi Rabbani, a prominent local cleric who is said to have co-operated
with the US-led coalition.
The finishing touches are being put to the countrys first
post-Taliban constitution. The terms of the document are to be debated
at a constitutional convention next month. The draft document could
be released within days.
But prospects of a smooth transition to democracy are bleak, with
much of Afghanistan still ruled by competing warlords and their
private armies. Last month, the Security Council approved an expansion
of the 5,500-member NATO-led military force outside the capital.
A German advance team is preparing for the arrival of a 450-strong
mission in the northern city of Kunduz. But no country has yet volunteered
troops for an expanded mission to other parts of Afghanistan where
the risk would be considerably higher.
More than 350 people have been killed across Afghanistan in the
past three months, the worst period for violent deaths since the
Talibans collapse. Civilians, US soldiers, Afghan troops,
police and local aid workers have been targeted.
The UN delegation will avoid Kandahar, the former Taliban stronghold,
because of the unrest. Pashtun leaders from that region will travel
to Kabul to voice their views to the ambassadors.
Taliban insurgents in Kandahar threatened to kill a kidnapped Turkish
engineer yesterday unless the authorities release 18 Taliban prisoners.
The engineer, Hasan Onal, had been returning to a camp for workers
repairing the Kabul to Kandahar highway.
Tension is also high around Mazar-i-Sharif, between the Uzbek leader
General Abdul Rashid Dostum and his Tajik rival, General Atta Mohammed.
They were key figures in the Northern Alliance that worked with
the American-led coalition to invade and oust the Taliban from power
in late 2001.
A military clash between the two factions last month led to 60 deaths.
In more recent clashes, at least three soldiers and two civilians
Source: Independent (UK)
Huge Afghan opium harvest reported
by UN agency
Afghanistan produces three quarters of the worlds opiumthe
raw material for heroinand two thirds of all opiate users
take drugs of Afghan origin, according to a report by the UN Office
on Drugs and Crime.
The UN said that unless the problem was tackled the country could
be over-run by violence, corruption, and terrorism. High prices
for opium had recruited more farmers, spreading poppy cultivation
to 28 of Afghanistans 32 provinces, from 18 four years ago.
The report, The Afghanistan Opium Survey for 2003, found
that Afghan opium farmers and traffickers took home about $2.3 billion,
or about half of the countrys legitimate GDP in 2003.
Afghanistan has re-established itself as the worlds biggest
opium producer after the fall of the Taliban regime, which banned
The 2003 harvest of 3,600 tons was the second biggest recorded since
the agency began surveying the country in 1994. The biggest harvest,
of 4,565 tons, was recorded in 1999. The area devoted to opium poppy
cultivation was the third largest since 1994, and is comparable
to the area used before 2001, when a Taliban ban on cultivation
reduced it to 8,000 hectares.
Poppy cultivation involves 1.7 million people, or seven percent
of Afghanistans population. Though declining prices have reduced
the average opium growers annual income by 15 per cent to
$594, this is more than three times the average national income.
Farmers revenues from opium in 2003 were about $1.02 billion,
or $3,900 per family.
Source: Independent (UK)
Soverign traditional nations assert
By Brenda Norrell
Seattle, Washington, Oct. 29 American Indians began
efforts for traditional sovereign governments to replace tribal governments
resulting from the Indian Reorganization Act.
Oglala Sioux, Northern Cheyenne and Sissteon-Wahpeton delegations
told the United Native Nations that it is vital to act now.
Already, the Sisseton-Wahpeton and Northern Cheyenne have established
We are starting to tell the truth of what America was doing
yesterday and what it is doing today, said Tim Night Bear
Lame Woman, Tsisistas Northern Cheyenne from Lame Deer, Mont.
The government will come after us, because what we have is the
Lame Woman was among the speakers at the United Native Nations legislative
assembly Oct. 13 - 17.
Guy White Thunder, Lakota elder from Pine Ridge, illustrated a traditional
Lakota government. He diagrammed four elders in a box shape in the
middle, with a circle of twelve people around them, and finally the
people in the outer circle.
The sacred pipe is in the center to be smoked when a consensus is
The people are the decision makers. The people have the voice,
we are working for them, White Thunder said.
Speaking of the Sisseton People of the Star Nation, Darlene
Pipe Boy said her people are the eastern door in South Dakota.
We are a woodland, prairie people who have ties to medicine
and spiritual mysteries.
Remembering her father and others, who traveled by wagon to Rapid
City to struggle for land rights, she said, They are very proud
of who they are and who we are.
Sisseton is a non-IRA tribe. My grandfather did not agree to
a constitutional government.
Since the beginning, she said, the intent of the federal government
was to eliminate traditional Indian governments.
When our young people can no longer speak their language, then
cultural genocide has taken place.
Richard Grass, Lakota, Dakota and Nakota elder said, Reservations
are prisoner of war camps and we are under military occupation.
George Samuel, Taanta Kwaan elder from Alaska, was among those who
spoke on gaining and losing power. If you take federal recognition,
you lose your sovereignty because you empower them.
Speaking of wealth and materialism, Samuel said those who have gone
away and return to the reservations, come back with the bottom
line syndrome, always looking at money and their percentage.
Rudy Al James, Secretary-General of the United Native Nations, said
the power of traditional Indian governments rests with the elders.
The power goes back to the elders where it should have been
Antoinette Red Woman, Tsisistas Northern Cheyenne, said sovereigns
must defend the children, woman, and elders being abused.
Our traditional Native laws supercede state, county, and federal
law. We have a lot of power.
Dispelling myths about power in America, speaker Dennis Foisy, a banker,
said it is not the federal government that wields the ultimate power
It is the banks, Foisy said, pointing out that the Federal
Reserve is privately owned. About 52 percent is owned by the
Bank of England.
Weve all been duped, he said. Referring to the economic
systems resulting in Americans living in debt, he said, Theyre
Exercise your power, he said, urging Indians to rid themselves
of prisoner of war status and become truly sovereign nations.
Foisy said the attitude should be: This is our land and were
going to sue you for it.
Displaying an example of sovereign nation rule, Vincent Johnson, Onondaga,
displayed his Onondaga passport for international travel.
Tlingit Paul Jackson explained the canoe ceremony held and the dance
of the ravens and eagles held during the week-long assembly. We
want this song to pull the people together.
Jackson said his tribal elders left a box of knowledge with the instruction
to take whatever is useful into the future.
Wayne Price, Tlingit, and Pike Powers, Native from Quebec, built the
canoe in Alaska and Washington and rowed it to shore for the ceremony.
The canoe ceremony was held in the rain to the sound of the Tlingit
drum and whirl of Tlingit dancers, with a backdrop of the flags of
During the assembly, Calixta Gabriel from Guatemala said Mayans are
petitioning the government to respect indigenous human rights and
But as the United Native Nations session was taking place, news came
that Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu Tum was threatened
and roughed-up by those opposing indigenous rights during a court
Ramon Nenadich, Taino from Puerto Rico and Ph.D. said in Central and
South America, the murders of indigenous have been massive.
He also shared a vision: A relay walk from the Northwest US to Chile
and back up through Brazil to the north.
Expressing hope it will become a reality, in the vision he saw indigenous
peoples walking south, heralded by horseback riders, in a relay walk
through countries where indigenous peoples rights are violated.
They were walking for Mother Earth, human rights, and sovereignty.
Humberto Pagan Hernandez, Taino from Puerto Rico, said he learned
a great deal from his brothers and sisters here: The way you
are, the way you do things, the way you relate to Mother Nature and
the way you relate to the rest of humanity.
That is something my people have been losing and that is something
we must recover.
Lame Woman said it is time to fight back. Everything that happens
in Afghanistan and Iraq happens here to our people.
Health disparity is the worst kind of genocide.
In solidarity with indigenous losing lands to cattle producers in
Brazil, James urged the worlds 400 million indigenous people
to boycott McDonalds restaurants.
Now in its fourth year, the United Native Nations began after an alliance
was formed in 1999 at D-Q University to promote sovereignty, advancement,
During the session, the Seattle Times quoted W. Ron Allen, former
president of the National Congress of American Indians. Allen said
the majority of Indians dont buy into the breakaway philosophy
of the United Native Nations.
The majority of tribes feel they are very much a part of the
US and have a unique relationship with the US government, Allen
told the Times.
However, at the United Native Nations tribal members from many regions
found the comments revolting. Lame Woman said, NCAI has never
done anything for us.
David Bald Eagle, Tetunwun Lakota elder from Cheyenne River, SD serves
on the United Native Nations Grand Council. He addressed Indian youths.
Use the past, the traditional government with modern technology.
Dont look back, look ahead. Look forward with your new weapon,
The Sisseton delegation spoke on the racism of law enforcement and
false imprisonment of Indian youth in South Dakota.
Pipe Boy said, If you are real quiet you will hear the cry of
the Red Man. That is why we have come here today, to hear the cry
of the Red Man.
Source: Indian Country Today