I was somewhat remiss in not reviewing “Iraq for Sale” immediately after receiving it. Unfortunately it arrived around the same time I received a slew of screeners sent out by the studios in anticipation of the NYFCO awards in December. “Iraq for Sale” should have gone to the top of the heap.
Directed by Robert Greenwald, who has an acclaimed documentary on Walmart to his credit as well, “Iraq for Sale” is a hard-hitting exposé of how companies such as Halliburton-KBR, Blackwater, CACI and Titan used a form of “insider trading” to reap super-profits since the war began. In every instance, the boards of directors of such big contractors are filled with former military men who use their connections to cement sweetheart contracts at the expense of the tax-payer.
If wasting the tax-payer’s money was the only problem, then “Iraq for Sale” might not have the impact that it does. Additionally, it shows how the same hunger for profits resulted in cutting corners in Iraq itself, as GI’s, the supposed beneficiaries of companies like Halliburton-KBR, end up getting the shitty end of the stick. But as might be expected, the worst abuse is reserved for the Iraqi people themselves.
Many people have learned about Halliburton-KBR’s misdeeds as a result of intense scrutiny on its ex-CEO Dick Cheney, as they have learned about Blackwater’s activities in press coverage on the private contracting of security guards (there are 20,000 in Iraq, making it the second largest military detachment after the US military). We should be grateful to Robert Greenwald for new revelations on Halliburton-KBR and Blackwater, as well as first-time investigations of CACI and Titan, two extremely filthy outfits that are hiding under the rocks.
From the film’s excellent website, we learn that CACI (the original name was California Analysis Center, Inc) and Titan provided the interrogators at Abu Ghraib. No matter how bestial the treatment of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers, they were at least subject to military codes. To this day, not a single CACI or Titan employee has been charged with crimes at Abu Ghraib, even though it is clear that they tortured and raped prisoners.
“Iraq for Sale” makes excellent use of whistle-blowers, including a number of people who went to Iraq originally with gung-ho beliefs in the war. Among them is Ben Carter, a water purification expert hired by Halliburton-KBR who went to Iraq to support the troops and reconstruction efforts. Yet soon after he arrived in Iraq he found KBR/Halliburton cutting essential corners. Carter eventually found the water being supplied to troops was severely contaminated. His testimony to the Senate is found on the film’s website.
This is one of the film’s greatest strengths. By including the voices of disillusioned former employees of the four contractors, it demonstrates the inexorable process of opposition to the war that is coming to a climax now. All across the country, “red state” bastions have finally turned against the war. The men and woman heard in “Iraq for Sale” were their vanguard.
Two of the more impressive are former Halliburton-KBR truck-drivers Bud Conyers and James Logsdon who were disgusted by how their employer wasted tax-payers’ money while giving the soldiers short-shrift. They look and sound for all the world like stereotypical “good ole boys.”
Bud Conyers and James Logsdon
Finally, there are interviews with returned veterans, who have become vocal opponents of the war in Iraq largely on the basis of watching scummy corporations like Halliburton-KBR in action. This film and Patricia Foulkrod’s “The Ground Truth” are extremely useful resources for spreading the word about the turn within the military against a brutal and inhumane war.
“Iraq for Sale” can be purchased for only $12.98 from amazon.com and can be rented from netflix.com. Highly recommended.