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Slave-Driving for the US War

by Rainer Rupp Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2006 at 1:56 PM
mbatko@lycos.com

In a luxurious room reserved for Americans and whites, the "liberators" sit at the sumptuous table and distribute Iraq's wealth among themselves.

SLAVE-DRIVING FOR THE US WAR

Low-wage workers from Asia build American bases in Iraq. Pentagon and corporations want to retain this wage slavery.

By Rainer Rupp

[This article published in: Junge Welt, 1/2/2006 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.jungewelt.de/2006/01-02/009.php.]




Three years ago US president George W. Bush announced “zero tolerance” for the slave trade with low-price workers. US contractors employed cut-price workers from the poorhouses of the third world at starvation wages to fulfill their government contracts abroad and for construction projects at US bases in Iraq. His practice should be stopped. Although the US Congress made a similar statement two years ago, the Pentagon has done nothing to stop this kind of trade in its foreign projects. Like US businesses, the pentagon also profits enormously from cheap workers.

In Iraq this has had disastrous consequences that the American cartoonist Khalil Bendib described as follows in a drawing at the beginning of October: In a luxurious room reserved for Americans and whites, the “liberators” sit at the sumptuous table and distribute Iraq’s wealth among themselves. For these “liberators,” careworn figures from Bangladesh, India and the Philippines slave away in kitchens or drag overloaded trays to tables. Excluded from feasts and labor, the “liberated” natives outside press their noses to the window.

WAGE DIFFERENCES

The cartoonist could not have described the situation any better. Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), the subsidiary firm of Halliburton Corporation that captured several Pentagon contracts in the billions in Iraq under the auspices of US Vice President Dick Cheney pays its US truck drivers, construction workers and office personnel between ,000 and 0,000 a year. If the usual paid home vacation is included, the US worker Chuck Morris receives an hour. In contrast, the Philippino Jing Soliman only receives .56 an hour although he does the same work as his US colleague as a warehouse employee in Camp Anaconda in Iraq for Halliburton’s subcontractor “Prime Projects International” (PPI). Unlike Morris who works only 40 hours a week, Soliman grinds away twelve hours a day, seven days per week.

Nevertheless Soliman was glad about his job in Iraq. At home, unemployment is over 20 percent. According to the World Bank, half of the 84 million inhabitants of the Philippines must manage with less than a day. In Iraq he can save several thousand dollars for his family despite the pitiful pay and come home “rich.” Every year this simple dream entices hosts of unemployed from over three-dozen countries to the contractors in the sphere of the US military. They come to Iraq or to US bases in other countries where they work for subcontractors of mammoth corporations like Halliburton or Bechtel under miserable working conditions, without accident protection at slave wages on Pentagon projects and spend their leisure time in wretched accommodations.

The work slaves in US contractor “jargon” are called “Third Country Nations” (TCN). Thousands upon thousands currently slave away in Iraq for the US war. As a rule they are cheaper than workers hired locally. In addition, the Americans need not comply with the labor laws of the respective host country in employing TCNs. This is another reason why the pentagon and is contractors in Iraq hire hardly any Iraqis. The supposed US reconstruction program for the Tigris and Euphrates land continues ad absurdum.

BUSINESS IN THE BILLIONS

Work and contracts are not lacking. In the last two years alone, the Bush administration has awarded billion in contracts to firms like Halliburton and Bechtel that employ a whole army of – mainly US – subcontractors. Sub-subcontractors ultimately hire TCN low-wage workers. According to the report of the US Federal Accounting office of April 2005, this impenetrable structure obscures how many TCN jobbers are employed. In this way, the businesses can cut down the costs for health insurance obligatory for every employee who works on US government contracts according to US law.

Protest was raised even in capital-friendly US against this form of “globalization” practiced by the US military and big capital. According to a bill, businesses active abroad for the Pentagon would be prohibited in the future from cooperating or profiting from the slave trade, from coerced prostitution and trade with cut-price workers. However five powerful lobbies from the military-industrial complex have mobilized against the planned prohibition. An end of unscrupulous exploitation of cheap laborers serving the US military machine is again uncertain.





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