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August 05, 2003

So Much for the Wonders of Privatization

Why are our troops suffering in such filth and discomfort over in Iraq?

That's been an odd puzzle, since getting killed may be somewhat out of the control of the military, but you'd think delivering decent facilities for living wouldn't be such a challenge for this high-tech army.

The problem is that it's not the high-tech army taking care of those living conditions, but private industry on contract. And despite the alleged wonders of private enterprise, those companies have left soldiers in filth, heat, and garbage.

U.S. troops in Iraq suffered through months of unnecessarily poor living conditions because some civilian contractors hired by the Army for logistics support failed to show up, Army officers said.

Even mail delivery -- also managed by civilian contractors -- fell weeks behind.

"We thought we could depend on industry to perform these kinds of functions," Lt. Gen. Charles S. Mahan, the Army's logistics chief, said in an interview...As a result, soldiers lived in the mud, then the heat and dust. Back home, a group of mothers organized a drive to buy and ship air conditioners to their sons. One Army captain asked a reporter to send a box of nails and screws to repair his living quarters and latrines.

For almost a decade, the military has been shifting support jobs over to the private sector. And the result in Iraq has been a disaster for the troops. Not surprisingly, when the going gets tough, the civilian business folks take a hike.

And apparently, the chaos of cost-plus contracts with overlapping deals is a big reason the White House has no idea how much the Iraq Occupation is costing American taxpayers:

Thanks to overlapping contracts and multiple contracting offices, nobody in the Pentagon seems to know precisely how many contractors are responsible for which jobs -- or how much it all costs.

That's one reason the Bush administration can only estimate that it is spending about $4 billion a month on troops in Iraq.

But heck, at least Dick Cheney's buddies at Halliburton are making lots of money. Who cares if the soldiers have to suffer for it?

Posted by Nathan at August 5, 2003 07:00 PM