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)

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

Why the U.S. is in Afghanistan, the Hidden Agenda

The media and the Bush administration states that this is a war on terror, to capture Osama bin Laden, destroy al-Qaeda, and remove the Taliban regime. Is this the complete truth?

Bin Laden opened the way for the military might of the U.S. to be committed to make the Caspian Sea and Central Asian region safe for the U.S. led oil and gas pipelines. There is a great battle between Russia, the United States, China, Iran and the European companies, for control of the vast oil and gas resources, estimated at $4 trillion by US News and World Report. Afghanistan’s significance stems from its geographic position as a potential transit route for oil and natural gas exports from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea. This potential includes proposed U.S. led multi-billion dollar oil and gas export pipelines through Afghanistan to Pakistan and down to the Arabian Sea. The problem with existing and proposed routes, across northern Russia, or to ports on the Black Sea, or under the Caspian Sea and down to Turkey, is that they all lead to European markets. Further, the facilities are by and large under the control of Russia. Of course, the corporate-controlled U.S. media giants don’t ever report any of this.

Caspian Sea pipelines

The advantages of the Afghanistan route is that it would terminate in the Arabian Sea, which is much closer than the Persian Gulf or northern China to key Asian markets, where demand is high. The proposed pipeline would be beneficial to Central Asian countries because it would allow them to sell their oil in expanding and highly prospective Asian markets. The pipeline would benefit Afghanistan, which would receive revenues from transport tariffs. On a regional level, the pipeline would promote stability and encourage trade and economic development between South Asia and Central Asia. Finally, because of the combination of short pipeline distance and the relatively low cost of tankerage, this southern route will result in the most competitive export route to the Asian market.

The construction of this route can only begin if and when an internationally recognized government is formed in Afghanistan. The U.S. is determined to make this happen. Some have even suggested that the entrance of the U.S. into Central Asia serves as a springboard from which to prevent China from expanding its influence in the region.

Central Asia map

March 16, 2008 Posted by | war | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Little Oil Money

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), just might be the place to go. In fact, foreigners known as expats now out number the locals known as Emiratis.

Take a look at what it offers:

Palm Islands, the world’s largest artificial islands shaped like a giant palm tree. They add 520 km of beaches to Dubai City.

palm islands

Burj Al Arab, the world’s only 7 star hotel.

Dubailand will consist of 3 billion sq. ft. of theme parks, eco-tourism projects, shopping malls, restaurants and residential units that are being developed by UAE, Gulf Cooperation Council and international investors. It will include: Universal City Dubai, a 22,000,000 sq. ft. development, featuring Universal Studios Dubai as its centerpiece; Paramount Studios Theme Park; Tiger Woods Dubai, an exclusive golf community that will include the first ever Tiger Woods designed golf course; Dubai Snowdome will be 85 metres tall and 220 metres in diameter and will feature a ski dome, residential towers, hotels, a shopping mall, restaurants, coffee shops and retail outlets; and Mall of Arabia, the world’s largest shopping mall.

The Sixth Crossing, the world’s longest and tallest bridge, will be 1 mile long at 673 feet high.

And who can forget Burj Dubai, the world’s tallest building with 160 floors as of March 1, 2008.

March 14, 2008 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oil, Islam and Women

A professor at UCLA has really outdone himself. Political science professor Michael Ross has released a study concluding that women in the Middle East are not oppressed because of their Islamic religion. Nope. They are oppressed because of oil. According to Ross, the oil boom puts more men than women in the workplace and decrease women’s political representation. Because of this, oil-producing states have stronger patriarchal norms, laws and governments.

In other words, “gender inequality” has nothing to do with the peaceful, serene religion of Islam. The religion that blocks young school girls from leaving burning buildings because they aren’t wearing their headscarves is not to blame. The religion that justifies the beating of your wife is innocent. The religion that forces young girls into marriages isn’t the problem. Nope. Islam has absolutely nothing to do with it. It must be the evil wealth that is gained by being an oil producing country. In fact, this guy goes as far to say that “changes in global energy markets could ultimately influence the status of women in dozens of oil producing countries.” Reading between the lines: stop producing oil, otherwise women will continue to be marginalized.

Do you know why these fools spend their lives teaching in universities? Because they couldn’t survive in the private sector .. that’s why.

source: Boortz.com

March 14, 2008 Posted by | Middle East | , , , , , | Leave a comment