The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Dying to make a profit

Aug 11, 2003

Bechtel Corporation was among the first companies to be awarded a contract for Iraq. It got 700 million dollars to repair the water, power and sewage systems in Iraq. Yet there is still no safe drinking water; electricity is rarely available despite temperatures over 100°; sewage and trash fill the streets in Iraq.

How is it that the dictator Saddam Hussein could restore services – and in less time – after the first Gulf War, but Bechtel with multi-million dollar contracts has not even begun to do it? It's certainly not because Saddam Hussein cared what happened to the Iraqi population. It's because Bechtel is simply using the pretext of providing water to rip off billions of dollars – just like it ripped off Boston when it pretended to be constructing an underground highway system.

Eight other companies have been awarded multi-million dollar contracts, not counting the largest one going to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root, to restore oil production. What these corporations have in common is not only their greed to profit from the destruction of the war. They are all companies which made their names in what is now called "privatizing," meaning they have experience in taking over public functions in other countries and turning them over to companies for the sake of making profit.

Massachusetts consulting firm Abt Associates has a contract for public health, a business it has conducted for governments all over the world. What Abt does is turn health care in poor countries into a for-profit business with policies favoring "market-oriented economies." In other words, only those who can pay will get decent health care. In Iraq, where jobs have disappeared, not many can pay.

Another company awarded millions to develop "local governance" in Iraq is Research Triangle Institute. This company bragged that it took research done by NASA, to "bring [it] to markets." In other words, research paid for by government funding is turned over to profit-making companies.

Governments justify their existence by providing services – not only electricity, water, trash and roads, but also health and education and research. Building this infrastructure is exactly what local government could do, and at a much lower cost than private industry, whose aim is to make a profit.

The specialty of Bechtel – like the other companies given contracts for Iraq – is ripping off the public purse to benefit the corporate heads – including former Secretary of State George Shultz and former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger – and private investors.

The war in Iraq has already cost tens of thousands of lives. That's a price these companies are more than willing to have others pay so they can have a new field for profitable investment.