...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004
      ( 3:41 PM )
The Price We Pay

The spoils of this war are not going to the most exalted members of the human race, that's for sure. Marketplace's series on where the $22 billion is spilling away to is striking:

Who's watching the money as it streams through
Baghdad? Just about no one, and bribes and black
marketeering are rampant, witnesses say. A
leading anti-corruption group claims that massive
amounts of U.S. money spent in Iraq is being lost to
corruption. From Halliburton subsidiaries charging
double for gas, Iraqi officials and Arabic translators
unrestrained from pocketing millions of dollars, or
even members of the interim governing Council
accusing each other of taking tens of millions in
bribes. Trouble is, the root of the problem can't be
found anywhere near the Green Zone. Try the White
House, and Capitol Hill, where oversight of Iraqi
construction crews and U.S. contractors like Halliburton
has only just begun to be assigned? more than a
year after the war began.

But our taxpayer dollars aren't just being frittered away to corruption. Nope, while our soldiers struggle to find bullet proof armor and their families at home must go to food banks to survive, our tax dollars are paying thousands of "contractors" - mercenaries, more to the point -- to do the work that might have been done by solders, if there were enough (then again, some of the things these mercs are doing would never be done by soldiers). These mercenaries, four of whom were murdered and their bodies mutilated by locals in Fallujah a few weeks ago, are paid anywhere from $100,000-300,000/year and are not under the command of any of our military units. Yet our tax dollars pay those nice big salaries. And where do we get our mercenaries?

Body and Soul reminds us that many of them come from South Africa - or more specifically, out of the South African Defense Force and South African Police. One of the mercs killed last week was infamous:

A security contractor killed in Iraq last week was once
one of South Africa's most secret covert agents, his
identity guarded so closely that even the Truth and
Reconciliation Commission did not discover the
extent of his involvement in apartheid's silent wars.

Gray Branfield, 55, admitted to being part of a death
squad which gunned down Joe Gqabi, the ANC's
chief representative and Umkhonto weSizwe
operational head in Zimbabwe on July 31 1981.
Gqabi was shot 19 times when three assassins
ambushed him as he reversed down the driveway
of his Harare home.

It seems almost fitting (though extremely scary) that the president has handpicked John Negroponte (of Honduran disapearances, killings and human rights violations fame - read Digby for full run down) to be the next US Ambassador to Iraq. Negroponte, Chalabi (the convicted bank robber) and their highly-paid mercs should feel right at home together.

Too bad we have be the ones to provide their paychecks.

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