FRANK P. BELCASTRO Dubuque, IA
Once private companies take on military and war-making tasks in Iraq, where does the buck stop? It is not uncommon, for example, for a company hired to perform a service for the Pentagon to subcontract part of the job to another company, which may then subcontract part of its task to a third. Who, then, is in charge? When something goes wrong, who is culpable?
A recent investigation found that KBR has subcontracted to more than 200 different firms – many based in Kuwait – to transport materials into Iraq.
One result of this: The United States has ended up paying companies that are essentially enslaving Filipinos, Sri Lankans, and other “third country nationals” who drive supplies into Iraq. A Filipino described how Jassin Transport and Stevedoring Company – one of KBR’s sub-contractors – took his passport, nullified the contract he had signed in the Philippines, and issued him a new contract written in Arabic. Employees were “given an ultimatum: sign or be abandoned.” Then they were handed the keys to unarmored tractor-trailer trucks and told to drive fast along roads to be dangerous.
One of many legacies of the Bush Administration.