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Last Updated: 08/25/2003
Ceara Donnelly and William D Hartung

Your average CNN-watching American may be able to report the latest on soldiers killed or Iraqis successfully “found, killed or captured,” but you’d be hard pressed to find an average American who could tell you how the scene is really unfolding. How complex is the situation?

Published this month is a report by Ceara Donnelly and the veteran reporter William D Hartung of the World Policy Institute that tries to unravel some of the  background to the war in Iraq and its aftermath.


It begins thus:


Numbers dominate the recent headlines and sound bytes from Baghdad and the Pentagon. 


·          147,000: the number of U.S. ground troops on Iraqi soil. 

·          237: the number of U.S. service men and women killed since the beginning of ground operations. 

·          99: the number of these deaths since May 1, the day Bush declared combat victory for the coalition. 

·          9: the number of months since members of the 3rd Infantry Division have seen their families. 

·          3: the number of times their homecoming has been delayed. 

·          $3.9 billion: the number of U.S. dollars, estimated by Donald Rumsfeld, it costs per month to support U.S. efforts in Iraq. 

·          $400 billion: the projected military budget recently approved by Congress for FY 2004.


The list goes on.


What many reports lack, despite all of these statistics, are the real details.  When it comes to who is doing what in Iraq, the facts are less clear.  Your average CNN-watching American may be able to report the latest on soldiers killed or Iraqis successfully “found, killed or captured,” but you’d be hard pressed to find an average American who could tell you how the scene is really unfolding.  How many Americans know who supplied the war, who is in charge of reconstruction, how much they are being paid for it, and how they were hired? 


The answer is not quite so simple as a predictable response—“the military.”  Few know the real details: how the projects and personnel planning post-war Iraq come from private American corporations making world-class lemonade out of the sour situation in the Persian Gulf.


From providing the weapons and tanks that took us to Baghdad, to the personnel rebuilding dams and bridges or operating ports, to the pencils and lesson plans revamping the education system for young Iraqis, private American corporations are spearheading U.S. campaigns in Iraq and reaping the financial rewards of warfare. 


Private corporations have played an unprecedented role in the Second Gulf War, and from the looks of just one more number—$680 million, the projected contract with Bechtel Group Inc. for its reconstructive work in Iraq—they will continue to do so.


Some of jobs undertaken by the Bechtels and the Halliburtons- such as rebuilding water and electrical systems for instance are necessary and important.  Yet as a nation and a democracy we must ponder seriously whether such private corporations, with firm connections to our leadership, are necessarily the ones who should be handed these jobs.  The privatization of the United States military is not a new controversy.  P.W. Singer’s new book Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 2003) offers insights into the questions that should be asked about the unprecedented levels of privatization of military planning, training, construction, and services that were pursued during the Clinton/Gore administration and have been accelerated under the Bush/Cheney administration.  If the experience thus far in Iraq is any indication, we clearly have a long way to go before we establish the appropriate balance between profits and patriotism in the use of private corporations to implement our national security strategy.


From a taxpayers’ perspective, the most important question is how many billions of dollars has our government paid private corporations to ensure a final victory in Operation Iraqi Freedom—whatever “victory” ultimately comes to mean?


What follows is a breakdown of the major corporations involved in Iraq from the incipient days of U.S. military action to the forthcoming years of rebuilding.


The report in full is contentious so judge for yourself by clicking on: