Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Prostitutes, guns, and money

As Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower left office in 1961, yielding the presidency to John F. Kennedy, he warned the nation against the growing influence of the military-industrial complex. During that time, the United States was engaged in the Cold War against the Soviet Union and its satellite states. Within months of Ike's speech, the East Germans erected the Berlin Wall. Profits could not have been better for the defense contractors as the American military was committed to battling all aggression, real and imagined, from the communist bloc.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 had the bean counters in the defense industry shaking. Peace is not good for profits if you are in the war business. Moreover, the few conflict between 1989 and 2001 (Iraq take 1, Panama, Kosovo, Somalia, a few rockets fired into Sudan and Afghanistan) could not possibly generate the type of profits that come from a protracted Cold War, punctuated by a couple of hot wars. So what's a Vice President with ties to a major defense contractor to do? Start a protracted war, of course. Do it in oil-rich Iraq, and a president with ties to the oil industry makes money, too. How's that for a twofer?

Observation: Oil hit $102 per barrel today. That's good news for the oil industry. Kinda bites for those of us who have to drive to work.

Here's an easy question. What is worse than an industry with undue influence in the government? Answer: A corrupt industry with undue influence in the government.

Thursday the Chicago Tribune, with the aid of federal investigators, gave us an insider's view of the world of defense contractors. It seems the best way to get a prostitute or Super Bowl tickets is to be an executive of Halliburton/KBR (the same people who are facing uninvestigated allegations of gang rape). However, they are going to use people infected with a non-communicable form of Hepatitis to prepare food. Here's the actual text:

KBR retested those 550 workers at a Kuwait City clinic and found 172 positive for exposure to hepatitis A, Lang told the judge. Khan tried to suppress those findings, warning the clinic director that Tamimi would do no more business with his medical office if he "told KBR about these results," Lang said in court. The infectious virus can cause fatigue and other symptoms that arise weeks after contact.

Retesting of the 172 found that none had contagious hepatitis A, Lang said, and Khan's attorneys said in court that no soldiers caught diseases from the workers or from meals they prepared. It remains unclear if that is because the workers were treated or because they did not remain infectious after the onset of symptoms.

Still, the incident shows how even mundane meal contracts can put troops at risk. Similar disease-testing breaches cropped up at cafeterias outsourced to firms besides Tamimi, former KBR Area Supervisor Rene Robinson said in a Tribune interview.

The Tribune article is rather lengthy, but it is well worth the read. Oh, and don't bother trying to find the story on CNN, MSNBC, Fox, or even the Drudge Report. I could not find a report on any of their archives. This nugget of information came from the Drudge Retort and it was only posted today.


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