The US military feels it should crack down on some slavery-like conditions among its subcontractors in Iraq. If you aren't allowed to leave your job is it slavery or serfdom or what exactly?
BAGHDAD — The U.S. military said Tuesday that it had issued new orders to private contractors in Iraq to crack down on violations of human trafficking laws involving laborers brought from around the world to work at American bases and other sites.
An inspection completed in late March uncovered evidence that it was widespread practice among firms providing services to the military to take away their workers' passports to keep them in place, military spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said.
The US military is bringing a small ray of Enlightenment era thinking to Iraq. As much as I admire and identify with the spirit that motivates their crackdown it seems so much like yesterday's Old Republic spirit for America rather than the proper Roman New Republic spirit sweeping our capitol. I think the US military is behind the curve on where the US Senate and White House are leading our country and the world. Keep reading for the big picture.
"Increasing expenditures in theater ... jeopardize our ability to maintain public support as the costs associated with our operations continue to rise," wrote Gen. George Casey, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, in a memo issued last summer and exclusively reported by UPI.
One of the few areas with flexibility in cost is the labor. Companies competing for KBR subcontracts routinely shop the world for the lowest-paid workers to fill positions at U.S. facilities -- cooking, cleaning and maintaining the physical infrastructure of the bases for 140,000 U.S. service members.
In some cases, workers are paid a pittance by Western standards. UPI reported in December that some food service employees from Sierra Leone were paid less than 50 cents an hour for their year-long contract. The workers were contractually prohibited from discussing the terms of their contract and their pay with outsiders but UPI obtained a copy of the employment contract.
Aren't you thrilled? This creates possiblities. I see a solution to our problems with Iraq. See if you can think of it before I tell you.
Here's a crucial hint: the problem with Iraq is the people.
Who are we fighting in Iraq? Ahmed S. Hashim attempts to answer that question in his excellent Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency in Iraq (Cornell Univ., $29.95). The result is probably the be st book to appear so far on the U.S. occupation -- a genuine insider's account arguing that the U.S. mission is failing and is likely doomed. In exploring the Iraqi insurgency, Hashim, a professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College who has done two tours advising the military in Iraq, goes a long way toward explaining why Iraq is drifting toward civil war.
"U.S. intelligence . . . is remarkable for the consistency with which it has been wrong" about the insurgency, writes Hashim, who speaks Arabic and is steeped in U.S. intelligence reports. Contrary to the official U.S. view that the insurgency is built largely around foreign jihadists and Baathist "dead-enders" keen to restore the old dictatorship, Hashim argues that the rebellion is broadly based in Iraq's Sunni Arab community and draws considerable strength from the tribal structure of Iraqi society.
Hint: Are the people a constant? Or are they a variable?
The US military needs to think more out of the box. The Marines and Army are split over what strategy to follow in Iraq.
HADITHA, Iraq — In the region around Qaim, a northwestern Iraqi town near the Syrian border, Marines are fanning out from their main base and moving into villages as part of a new strategy to root out insurgents who enter the country here.
The troops have set up 19 small base camps throughout the area and begun routinely patrolling insurgent hot spots north of the Euphrates River. The deployment follows a strategy favored by a new generation of counterinsurgency experts: disperse, mingle with the population and stay put.
But the shift comes as the Pentagon appears to be moving the overall U.S. military effort in the opposite direction across much of the country. Army units are being concentrated in "super bases" that line the spine of central Iraq, away from the urban centers where counterinsurgency operations take place.
These are two pretty well known approaches that one would expect to emerge from military minds approaching Iraq as a military problem. But I see a totally different way to approach Iraq. As my inspiration I take my hat off to Senators Martinez and Hagel for their terrible Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act (CIRA, S.2611) which could bring in 66 or 73 or more million immigrants to the United States in the next 20 years. The original unamended version of their bill could have brought in 100 to 200 million.
Well, thinking about those big numbers of immigrants points the way toward how for solve the Iraq problem: Use massive immigration of US government contractors to make the Sunnis a very small minority in the Sunni Triangle. Marginalize them. Make them the former dominant population on their own lands. This is an affordable proposition. For 50 cents an hour the cost per worker per year would be only $1000 per imported worker. Here's the beauty of that fact. Iraq is about 20% Sunni Arab (rough number and estimates vary). Well, with 26 million total that is only 5 million Sunnis (and if I'm off my a couple million it does not invalidate my conclusion). At 50 cents an hour and $1000 per worker per year we could bring in an equal number of foreigners for only $5 billion per year! That's less than we spend in a month! This solution ought to appeal to the Open Borders crowd in the US Senate.
For a few months of our operational costs in Iraq we could bring in 15 or 20 million people from really poor countries and pay them to build a replacement society in the Sunni Triangle. We could drive down local salaries so far the Sunnis would flee into Jordan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and other places in the region. This idea ought to appeal to Bush. To keep the momentum building American companies could set up factories there and employ imported labor with no minimum wage laws or need to provide government-subsidized health care. The US military would defend their investment
Some of the foreign workers could get paid to to build barriers around Sunni towns. Seeing the barriers going up lots of Sunnis would flee. The ones who stay behind would be told they could leave only get to leave if they agreed to leave Iraq.
I know what you are saying: I wish I had thought of that.
How can any supporter of the CIRA legislation in the Senate or in the White House object to this plan? We'd only be doing to Iraq what our leaders want to do to America.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2006 May 23 06:22 PM Mideast Iraq|