US Firms Making Money Off Iraq
"KBR is charging Iraq US$180,000 (RM684,000) for each school they renovate. They then give the project to Iraqi sub-contractors and pay them just US$20,000 (RM76,000) to do the job. So KBR netts US$160,000 (RM608,000) just like that. KBR is getting everything."
Sadly, Iraqis in general have no confidence in the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, calling them a bunch of "liars, thieves and murderers" and saying that many have skeletons in their closets.
Sunday December 7, 2003
Firms "making money" off Iraq
By SHAHANAAZ HABIB reporting from Iraq
BAGHDAD: Iraqi Fares Mohamad feels like a guest in his own country. There are so many places that he is now not allowed to go to.
"I can't go to Rasheed Hotel but the KBR (Kellogg Brown Root) people can just walk in. I can't go to the presidential palace but again the KBR people can simply walk in.
"Do they own the country now?" he asked.
Fares' resentment is typical of Iraqis who are keeping a close watch on the US company which seems to have its hands in everything in the so-called rebuilding of Iraq.
The feeling here is that KBR is making tons of money off Iraq.
The schools in Iraq, said Fares, were "okay" before the war but when the "Americans started the war," many classrooms and schools were destroyed by the bombings, fighting and looting that followed.
So he is more than angry that the contract to renovate the schools has been given to KBR.
"KBR is charging Iraq US$180,000 (RM684,000) for each school they renovate. They then give the project to Iraqi sub-contractors and pay them just US$20,000 (RM76,000) to do the job.
"So KBR netts US$160,000 (RM608,000) just like that. KBR is getting everything. You know, of course, they are connected to the higher-ups in Washington. So what do you want me to think?" he said.
Sheikh Abdul Jalil referred to the US company's involvement in Iraq as "robbery."
"If KBR is making money this way, they are actually stealing from us.
"There are many able and capable Iraqis here, so why can't the jobs be given directly to us. That is, of course, if they are sincere in wanting to help the Iraqis and Iraq, and not to rip us off," he said.
KBR is the subsidiary of US giant Halliburton Corporation.
The fact that Halliburton was run by US Vice-President Dick Cheney from 1995 to 2000 escapes no one.
"Actually, I think this more or less explains the real reason the US went to war," said a security officer who helps protect the KBR team at one of the hotels.
KBR reported revenues of US$900mil (RM 3.42bil) and an operating profit of US$34mil (RM129.2mil) for a three-month period of work in Iraq.
In March, KBR won an emergency contract to put out oil-well fires in Iraq without a bidding process.
The contract is said to be worth about US$2bil (RM7.6bil).
With an unemployment figure of 60%, there are increasing fears among many educated Iraqis of a possible economic colonisation of their country.
They point to Order 39 announced by Paul Bremer, head of the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority on Sept 19.
The old Iraqi constitution under Saddam Hussein outlaws key state assets from being privatised and foreigners from owning Iraqi firms.
But with Order 39, some 200 state companies will now be privatised.
Foreign companies can now have full ownership of Iraqi banks, factories, mines and other assets and move 100% of their profits out of Iraq.
A number of international law experts have questioned whether Order 39 is legal.
But one can expect the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council - which is drawing up the new Iraqi constitution - not to overturn Order 39 as this would upset the powers that have put its members where they are.
Sadly, Iraqis in general have no confidence in the council and call them a bunch of "liars, thieves and murderers" and say many have skeletons in their closets.
Some are even able to list the wrongdoings of each of the council members, saying this does not inspire much confidence.
Others point to council members who lived outside Iraq for years and have come back now to rebuild the country while leaving their wives and children abroad.
"This looks like they have not enough faith in the country and in what they are doing, so how do you expect me to put my trust in them?" asked one Iraqi.
Fares said members were jostling for position and personal gain and even Shi'ites themselves were so divided into three groups here - Ayatollah Sistani's group, the Sadr group and Ayatollah Hakim's group - with each trying to exert its influence over the people.
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