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WORKERS OF WAR

by By Echo Park Community Coalition (EPCC) Friday, Jan. 30, 2009 at 5:44 AM
epcc_la@hotmail.com 213-241-0995 337 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90026

Federal prosecutors are investigating a Kuwaiti company with heavy ties to Halliburton International, probing allegations that foreign employees were brought to work on the massive Bagdhad US Embassy project against their will and prevented from leaving war ravaged Iraq. The United States Department of Justice launched the investigation of First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting Co. (FKTC) when former employees, mostly third world nationals charged that workers at the company were misled by recruiters. They were hired for civilian jobs in Kuwait and Dubai, only to wind up in Iraq instead. A group of Filipino workers attempted a mutiny when they learned of the company's real intention but was subdued by machine gun toting security personnels. According to the allegations, FKTC even confiscated the workers' passports to avert the possibility of escape from Iraq.

EPCC News

January 28, 2009



January 26, 2009

To everyone,

This is an old blog that was written as part of a series highlighting the hidden struggles of TCN (third country nationals) workers in Iraq. A great number of them are Filipinos who braved extreme conditions in the war zone in an effort to support their families back home. Companies like Halliburton International, KBR, and their subsidiaries hired thousands of workers from poor countries in an attempt to privatize the war. The stories of severe exploitation of this workers hardly ever make it to the headlines.

To revisit the series could somehow shed light to the reality that Imperialist war are designed by the perpetrators to serve one purpose and one purpose alone: To expand its capitalist market.

Our job is to make sure to relentlessly oppose not only the war but the injustices being done to the working people of the world.

In Solidarity,

Jerry Esguerra

EPCC

WORKERS OF WAR

Federal prosecutors are investigating a Kuwaiti company with heavy ties to Halliburton International, probing allegations that foreign employees were brought to work on the massive Bagdhad US Embassy project against their will and prevented from leaving war ravaged Iraq.

The United States Department of Justice launched the investigation of First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting Co. (FKTC) when former employees, mostly third world nationals charged that workers at the company were misled by recruiters. They were hired for civilian jobs in Kuwait and Dubai, only to wind up in Iraq instead.

A group of Filipino workers attempted a mutiny when they learned of the company's real intention but was subdued by machine gun toting security personnels. According to the allegations, FKTC even confiscated the workers' passports to avert the possibility of escape from Iraq.

The company boasted of having million in assets less than three years ago. In 2006, the firm has racked up hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. contracts in Iraq, pushing the company well past the billion mark.

Thanks largely to the Bush/Cheney Administration and the Democratic Congress with their unabated funding of the war (which will surge over the trillion dollar mark according to some economist) FKTC's continues growth is well guaranteed.

With 7,000 mostly under paid workers in Iraq, the company claims to be holding 0 million in construction and supply contracts directly with the US Army for military camps, plus more than 0 million under Halliburton's multibillion dollar contract to provide logistics for the occupation forces in Iraq.

They perform highly skilled task like maintaining power generating plants to more mundane chores like providing bathroom facilities and laundry services to the soldiers.

The Criwn Jewel: The US Embassy in Iraq

But the crown jewel of the FKTC's Iraq contract is the absurdly gargantuan US Embassy Construction Project.

A sizable number of U.S. contractors competing for the 2 million Embassy project were puzzled why the U.S. State Department awarded the job to FKTC. They were saying that some competing outfits possessed far greater expertise and experience in such work and that at least one award-winning company offered to do the job million to million less than what FKTC proposed.

“It's stunning what First Kuwaiti has been able to get from the State Department,” said an official of a competing company. Some contractors that vied for the Bagdhad contracts expressed similar reactions and believe that a high-level decision at the State Department was made to favor FKTC for Kuwait's support of the US Imperialist War in neighboring Iraq.

One contractor said, “It was political” , alluding to the FKTC - Halliburton connection vis-a-vis Cheney.

Political or not, what is worth noting is the complicity and hypocrisy of the Democratic Congress led by Pelosi and the Clinton/Obama camp, for not

stopping the funding of the Iraq War or at least voice opposition to ancillary projects like the Bagdhad Embassy construction, which we all know is an anchor for the Imperialist lasting presence in that part of the world.

A totally self-sustaining mini-city, the 2 million US Embassy Compound is located on a 104-acre pad by the Tigris river where U.S. and coalition authorities are shored-up. The high-tech cluster of 21 buildings reinforced to 2.5 times above specifications have walls in some area said to be 15 feet thick or more to bullet-proof American quarters from insurgent attacks. The site is touted not only as the largest, but the most secured diplomatic embassy in the world.

The 1,000 or more U.S. government officials calling the new compound home will have access to a gym, swimming pool, barber and beauty shops, a food court and a commissary. In addition to the main embassy buildings, there will be a large-scale US Marine barracks, a school, locker rooms, a warehouse, a vehicle maintenance garage, and six apartment buildings with a total of 619 one-bedroom units. Water, electricity and sewage treatment plants will all be independent from Baghdad's city utilities. The total site is two-thirds the area of the National Mall in Washington, DC.

The Other Side of the Coin

But let us look at the other side of the coin..the appalling conditions the extremely exploited third country nationals who toiled in building this monument of US Imperial aggression in Middle East had to endure. It was criminal!

Ramil Autencio and other Filipinos working for FKTC in Tikrit in late 2003 and early 2004, claimed they were overworked, served poor food, and received less salary than what was agreed to in their contracts.

Autencio, originally recruited for employment by MGM Worldwide Manpower in the Philippines, had planned to work at Crown Plaza Hotel in Kuwait for 0 a month. But to Autencio's surprise his recruitment contract was sold to FKTC when he reached Kuwait where he says he was pressured to work in Iraq against his will. That was tantamount to modern day slave trade.

“They forcibly brought me to Iraq when my contract provided that I would work in Kuwait,” he claimed. In late 2003, he and other Filipinos found themselves cooped up in FKTC housing for a month without pay and minimal food as they awaited their transfer to Iraq, he said. “They threatened to put us in prison and they took everything we had, including our passports. The police would arrest us if we went out.”

Once in Iraq, Autencio said that conditions became so bad that he and a group of 46 Filipinos decided to escape Iraq by hitching rides from Filipino truckers with the help of another Filipino serving in the US Army. Traveling by night, they reached Kuwait in three days time. Their numbers were so large that the Kuwaiti police could not stop them and they sought refuge in the Philippines Embassy, Autencio said. “The Kuwait police couldn’t do anything because we outnumbered them. We shoved them back when they asked for our papers. We were bolder because one of us had died by then.”

Ramil Autencio's allegations are being shut down by some right wing American lawmakers. The same politicians who vehemently oppose the legalization of millions of undocumented workers in this country. Decent human beings who came to the US because of Imperialist neo-liberal policies that reduced their home countries into ghettos.

You see, we are all day-laborer here. In peace time in wartime, it doesn't matter. We were hired by the Imperialist like the US and the Capitalist like FKTC to build their Empire.

Their greed has no border. American workers, Iraqi workers, Filipinos, Palestinians, Mexicans, we never stop toiling for pittance. We even build walls that imprison us...and made the guns and bombs that kill our children!



Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone with SprintSpeed

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