The Chicago Tribune
today raises the issue of Halliburton's egregious hiring practices. There were reports about subcontractors and brokers practices back in October, 2005 that echoed the dismal treatment of immigrant workers in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region.
The same President who said "We don't torture..." also said "we will not tolerate human trafficking." So, is anyone at the Pentagon listening? They may be paying attention, but so are the lobbyists for Halliburton.
"A proposal prohibiting defense contractor involvement in human trafficking for forced prostitution and labor was drafted by the Pentagon last summer, but five defense lobbying groups oppose key provisions and a final policy still appears to be months away, according to those involved and Defense Department records. (emphasis mine)
Below the fold: Information from today's Chicago Tribune, and more links and sources indicating that Halliburton's hiring practices definitely need Congressional Oversight.
Who's watching the store?
This isn't just a matter of presidential fiat. Both the President and the Congress made strong statements about Halliburton/KBR's hiring practices well within recent memory.
Notice the time lapse,
"Three years ago, President Bush declared that he had "zero tolerance" for trafficking in humans by the government's overseas contractors, and two years ago Congress mandated a similar policy." Chicago Tribune
three years since the President's statement and two years since the Congressional action. And, we remember that never before has the military contracted out so much of the war effort. This, in itself should be cause for constant and thorough Congressional oversight.
""The US military have never outsourced resources on this scale," says the DCMA's Colonel Damon Walsh. "If it weren't for this service support we would have needed at least 20,000 more troops." KBR officials in Baghdad declined to provide details of their employment policy in Iraq, or the size of their Asian workforce." Common Dreams
Nicolas Pelham October 14, 2003
So, we've covered this ground before, but the Chicago Tribune
reminds us today that "Middle Eastern firms working under American subcontracts in Iraq, and a chain of human brokers beneath them, engaged in the kind of abuses condemned elsewhere by the U.S. government as human trafficking. KBR, the Halliburton subsidiary, relies on more than 200 subcontractors to carry out a multibillion-dollar U.S. Army contract for privatization of military support operations
in the war zone."(emphasis mine)
Why are the lobbyists stalling the implementation of a clear policy on human trafficking?" Again, according to the Tribune article:
The lobbying groups opposing the plan say they're in favor of the idea in principle, but said they believe that implementing key portions of it overseas is unrealistic. They represent thousands of firms, including some of the industry's biggest names, such as DynCorp International and Halliburton subsidiary KBR, both of which have been linked to trafficking-related concerns." (emphasis mine)
What is unrealistic about setting a clear policy that says we do not recruit workers under false pretenses, do not refuse to pay them, do not confiscate their passports, and in general do not subject them to slave labor conditions? These problems were documented in the orginal Chicago Tribune Report, October 9, 2005 link here
If this sounds familiar, it should,
The U.S. military and KBR assume no responsibility for the recruitment, transportation or protection of foreign workers brought to the country. KBR leaves every aspect of hiring and deployment in the hands of its subcontractors. Those subcontractors often turn to job brokers dealing in menial laborers.
Even after foreign workers discover they have been lured under false pretenses, many say they have little choice but to continue into Iraq or stay longer than planned. They feel trapped because they must repay brokers' huge fees.
Some U.S. subcontractors in Iraq--and the brokers feeding them--employ practices condemned by the U.S. elsewhere, including fraud, coercion and seizure of workers' passports.
these are the same practices that came to light when KBR was given contracts for repairs and clean up in the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.
KBR in the Gulf Coast
"In the weeks after Hurricane Katrina whipped the Gulf Coast region, companies like Halliburton, Kellogg Brown & Root - a Halliburton subsidiary - and EEC Operating Services were given huge contracts by the federal government to clean up hurricane debris and start rebuilding the area. Undocumented immigrants and other economically marginalized people were lured to the region by promises of work and good pay. But it turns out that many of those workers have never been paid and have little recourse in collecting their promised checks. Some undocumented workers were even threatened with deportation when they demanded their pay."
If you want more information on this subject, and perhaps more material for letters to the editor, or communications with your Congressional Representatives and Senators there's plenty available:
More details on KBR et. al at InfoShop and
ABC News and
CorpWatch November 5, 2005
For more analysis and information on Halliburton and KBR in Iraq see Aden's Diary and
DDay's Diary and the
Center for Public Integrity Windfalls of War
I'll take the liberty here to add a link to yesterday's diary Greatbasin2 about contacting Senator John Ensign (R-NV) about the hearings he promised in regard to the Halliburton/KBR contracts that were supposed to have been held this month. The subcommittee members have even more reason than ever to conduct full, complete, and public hearings about both our contracts and our policies regarding those contracts.
Senator John Ensign 356 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510
(202)224-6244; FAX (202) 228-2193
Senator John Ensign, Lloyd George Federal Building, 333 Las Vegas, Blvd.S, Suite 8203
Las Vegas, NV 89101
(702) 388-6605 FAX (702) 388-6501 or Toll Free (877) 894-7711
Members of the Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support: McCain, Inhofe, Roberts, Sessions, Chambliss, Cornyn, Thune, Akaka, Bill Nelson, Ben Nelson, Dayton, Bayh, Clinton