The Naked Truth

Stopping the world’s spin.

Making a Killing

Companies that operate internationally may say that peace is conducive to prosperity, that people don’t go shopping in a war zone. But, according to journalist Thomas Friedman, “McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force F-15.’s” While Iraq waits for fighter jets to make way for fast food chains, private armies police a fortified ‘green zone’ where corporations meet to seal the lucrative deals made possible because of the war. Transport, health, education and other services central to building a solid sustainable democracy are up for grabs to the highest bidder, predominantly businesses from countries who took part in the war.

NYSE

Most of the contract awarded to international companies operating within Iraq have been given on a ‘cost-plus’ basis, in its simplest form this means profits are calculated as a percentage of expenses. The more money a contractor spends on the contract, the more profit they make, leaving the contracts open to massive abuse.

The company that has profited most from the invasion of Iraq is U.S. vice president Dick Cheney’s former firm, Halliburton, now with contracts worth over $10 billion. The company is currently the subject of multiple criminal investigations into overcharging and kickbacks, much of which is related to their abuse of cost-plus contracts. Overcharging by the company has run from ordering specially embroidered towels to charging extortionate prices for petrol.

The demand for security services to protect foreign corporations operating in Iraq, and the growing trend for outsourcing of military services to private contractors, has provided a bonanza for private military companies, this has seen UK private security companies annual revenue increasefrom £200 million before the war to over £1.8 billion now. Unlike military personnel, civilian contractors are not subject to military justice. Yet one of the most controversial measures introduced by the occupying forces in Iraq was Order 17, which granted all foreign contractors immunity from Iraqi law. This is now been challenged by the Iraqi parliament following the Blackwater scandal .

Blackwater

A US government review of operations in Iraq concluded that approximately 35% of the interrogation personnel provided by private contractors were not properly trained, and that a lack of sufficient oversight resulted in contractors believing that the techniques used in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal were acceptable. While the US soldiers involved in the Abu Ghraib abuse were quickly court marshalled, civilian contractors implicated in the abuse have not yet been subject to any government prosecution.

Iraq is only the beginning of a worldwide corporate carve-up. Whether it’s diamonds in Sierra Leone, oil in Angola, copper in Papua New Guinea, gold, coltan and diamonds in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or timber in Liberia, natural resources from conflict zones are being fed into international supply chains dominated by multinational corporations. The money the corporations spend is in turn fuelling the conflicts.

Multinationals operate in conflict zones alongside enormous poverty and suffering and do very nicely from it. Issues of human rights are largely ignored.

In Colombia, BP p.l.c. operates the country’s largest oil reserves in the war-torn region of Casanare. Media reports in the 1990s highlighted BP’s involvement with Colombian military units accused of human rights violations. More recently, human rights groups from around the world have interviewed hundreds of Colombians that had been involved in protests against BP and found many too scared to leave their homes.

In Palestine, Israel’s military forces use specially armoured bulldozers made by Caterpillar to demolish Palestinian homes and to build the Separation Wall declared illegal by the International Court of Justice. Jim Owens, Caterpillar’s CEO, reckons that his firm are “doing well by ‘doing good’ all around the world”. UN Special Rapporteur Jean Zeigler has called Caterpillar to account over the role played by their machines in the violation of Palestinians’ rights.

source: Jason Brown, cerebralblackhole.com

Update

British firms have also been operating in Iraq. After courting controversy in the Nineties, Tim Spicer – whose previous company, Sandline International, was accused of breaking a United Nations embargo by selling arms to Sierra Leone – has re-emerged as a powerful player with his latest venture, Aegis Defence Services. Aegis won a $293m Pentagon contract in 2004, which has since been extended, and employs more than 1,000 contractors in the country. Another British company, Global Strategies, which calls itself a “political and security risk-management company”, employs cheaper Fijian contractors for its Iraq operations. And another firm, ArmorGroup, chaired by the former British foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, was getting half its revenues from Iraq. It carried out convoy protection at rates estimated at between $8,000 and $12,000 a day, and helped to guard polling stations during the country’s elections.

The connections between Halliburton and the Bush administration helped to generate $16 billion in contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan in the three years from the start of 2004 – nine times as much as any other company. Halliburton decided last year to spin off the division operating in Iraq. That business, KBR, has generated half its revenues there each year since the invasion, providing private security to the military and infrastructure projects and advising on the rebuilding of the country’s oil industry.

(via indepentent.co.uk)

March 17, 2008 Posted by | Profits | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Uprising in Tibet

Jonathan Kay, of the National Post writes:

I see that Tibet is a flame, with at least 100 dead in street protests. (edit – The unrest in Tibet began on March 10, 2008, the anniversary of a 1959 uprising against China’s rule of the region.)

The broad narrative here is eerily similar to another, somewhat less obscure “conflict zone”: Local activists rise up against a power they regard as a brutal colonial occupier. The occupier fights back. Blood flows in the street. The Tibetans haven’t yet started blowing themselves up in restaurants or mowing down Chinese students with machine guns. When they do, the Palestinian precedent shows, the world will solemnly pronounce them to be locked “in a cycle of violence.”

Tibet protests

The Tibetans have a far better claim to the world’s sympathy than the Palestinians. After China’s 1950 invasion, Chinese troops killed a million Tibetans — that’s about two decimal orders of magnitude above the total number of Palestinians killed by Israel over the last six decades. (Which means that, if Islamist claims of a “Holocaust” in Gaza and the West Bank are to be believed, then Tibet has suffered at least 100 holocausts. Wow — that’s a lot of Holocausts.) On top of that, there’s the massive flood of ethnic Chinese migrants, who’ve made the Tibetans a minority population within their own territories (for some odd reason, the media never refers to these folks as “settlers”); not to mention the destruction of 6,000 Tibetan monasteries (a figure that is roughly 6,000 more than the number of mosques destroyed by Israel). And on and on it goes — though you never hear about any of this in the media most days.

This coming from a pro-Israel paper of course. Alright, we support both the Palestinians and the Tibetans. Happy now? After all, whether it’s “Liberation” or “Terrorism” depends on your perspective.

Please comment.

March 17, 2008 Posted by | china | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

US: Muslim states, UN fuel anti-Semitism

There has been an upsurge in anti-Semitism over the past decade, much of it a new form whose “distinguishing feature” is criticism of Israel, according to a State Department report released over the weekend.

The 94-page report on 2007 criticizes many Muslim and Arab countries for encouraging anti-Semitism, and an entire chapter is devoted to anti-Semitism at the United Nations.

“Motives for criticizing Israel in the UN may stem from legitimate concerns over policy or from illegitimate prejudices,” the report reads. “However, regardless of the intent, disproportionate criticism of Israel as barbaric and unprincipled, and corresponding discriminatory measures adopted in the UN against Israel, have the effect of causing audiences to associate negative attributes with Jews in general, thus fueling anti-Semitism.”

The report lists forms of anti-Semitic crimes including terrorist attacks against Jews, desecration of synagogues and destruction of cemeteries. In addition, it cites anti-Semitic rhetoric, conspiracy theories, and other propaganda.

While the report notes that traditional forms of anti-Semitism continue to be found across the globe, “anti-Semitism has proven to be an adaptive phenomenon.”

The new forms often incorporate elements of traditional anti-Semitism, but “the distinguishing feature of the new anti-Semitism is criticism of Zionism or Israeli policy that – whether intentionally or unintentionally – has the effect of promoting prejudice against all Jews by demonizing Israel and Israelis and attributing Israel’s perceived faults to its Jewish character.”

While this new anti-Semitism is “common throughout the Middle East and in Muslim communities in Europe,” it is not confined to these populations, the report finds.

The document’s introduction singles out Iran and Syria for their demonization of Jews, and adds, “Venezuela’s government-sponsored mass media have become vehicles for anti-Semitic discourse, as have government news media in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.”

It names Britain, France and Germany as European countries where “anti-Semitic violence remains a significant concern,” but also lists other Western nations as experiencing recent increases, including Argentina, Australia and Canada.

The report, a follow-up on one issued in 2005, compiled data from government and NGO sources around the world.

This year’s report was dedicated to the late Rep. Tom Lantos of California, the US House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman who passed away last month. A Holocaust survivor, he co-sponsored the legislation creating the Office of the Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism, which issued the report.

“Today’s report provides evidence of a disturbing resurgence in anti-Semitism around the globe,” the new House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, Rep. Howard Berman, also of California, said in a statement issued Thursday.

“All too often, legitimate criticism of the State of Israel can veer into naked anti-Semitism characterized by vile hate speech,” Berman said. “And all too often, it goes unchallenged. When hate speech arises, we should call it what it is – and do what can be done to stop it.”

The report was welcomed by the Anti-Defamation League, whose national director, Abraham Foxman, said, “The report not only focuses attention on the problem, but sets important benchmarks and criteria for foreign governments as well as for US monitoring and diplomacy.”

“We hope that this call to action by the United States government will encourage countries to do more to monitor and combat anti-Semitism,” he said.

source: The Jerusalem Post

March 15, 2008 Posted by | Human Rights | , , , , , , | Leave a comment