Corporate America Divvies Up The Post-Saddam Spoils
By Arianna Huffington
Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a winner in Iraq. Yes, I know that
the first smart bomb has yet to be dropped on Baghdad. But that's
just a formality. The war has already been won. The conquering
heroes are not generals in fatigues but CEOs in suits, and the
shock troops are not an advance guard of commandos but legions of
The Bush administration is currently in the process of doling out
over $1.5 billion in government contracts to American companies
lining up to cash in on the rebuilding of postwar Iraq. So bombs
away! The more destruction the better -- at least for the lucky
few in the rebuilding business.
The United Nations has traditionally overseen the reconstruction
of war zones like Afghanistan or Kosovo. But in keeping with its
unilateral, the-world-is-our-sandbox approach to this invasion,
the White House has decided to nail a "Made in the USA" sign on
this Iraqi fixer-upper. Postwar Iraq will be rebuilt using red,
white, and blueprints.
Talk about advance planning: Even as the people of Iraq are
girding themselves for the thousands of bombs expected to rain
down on them during the first 24 hours of the attack, the
administration is already picking and choosing who will be given
the lucrative job of cleaning up the rubble. Postwar rebuilding
is a solitary bright spot in our own carpet-bombed economy.
To further expedite matters, the war-powers-that-be invoked
"urgent circumstances" clauses that allowed them to subvert the
requisite competitive bidding process -- the free market be
damned -- and invite a select group of companies to bid on the
rebuilding projects. No British companies were included, which
has left many of them seething and meeting with government
officials in London to find out where they stand.
So just which companies were given first crack at the post-Saddam
Well, given Team Bush's track record, it will probably not fill
you with "shock and awe" to learn that the common denominator
among the chosen few is a proven willingness to make large
campaign donations to the Grand Old Party. Between them, the
bidders -- a quartet of well-connected corporate consortiums that
includes Bechtel Group, Fluor Corp., and, of course, Vice
President Cheney's old cronies at Halliburton -- have donated a
combined $2.8 million over the past two election cycles, 68
percent of which went to Republicans.
The insider track given these fat cat donors proves afresh that
splurging on a politician is one of the soundest and safest
investments you can make. Where else will a $2.8 million ante
offer you a one-in-four shot at raking in a $1.5 billion payoff?
And that $1.5 billion is just for starters. The president is
planning to give post-Saddam Iraq an extreme makeover -- a
wide-ranging overhaul that will include the transformation of the
country's educational, health-care, and banking systems -- all
funded by taxpayer dollars and administered by private U.S.
contractors. Think of it as a for-profit Marshall Plan.
"The administration's goal," reads one of the reconstruction
contracts that are up for bids, "is to provide tangible evidence
to the people of Iraq that the U.S. will support efforts to bring
the country to political security and economic prosperity."
As a first step toward Iraqi prosperity, the president's
ambitious postwar plan earmarks $100 million to ensure that
Iraq's 25,000 schools have all the supplies and support necessary
to "function at a standard level of quality" -- including books
and supplies for 4.1 million Iraqi schoolchildren.
I'm sure those schools in Oregon that are being forced to shut
down a month early due to inadequate funding, or the low-income
students in California who are suing the state in a desperate
effort to obtain adequate textbooks and qualified teachers of
their own, would love to see the same kind of "tangible evidence"
of President Bush's support.
The same goes for our flatlining public health-care system. While
more than a million poor Americans are about to lose their access
to publicly funded medical care, the president is in the market
for a corporate contractor to oversee a $100 million upgrade of
Iraq's hospitals and clinics.
And the White House has announced its intention to redesign
Iraq's financial rules and banking system after it bombs the
country halfway to oblivion. Too bad the administration keeps
watering down reforms for the financial rules and banking system
here at home.
That's another way corporate America is profiting from the
looming war. With all eyes on Iraq, few are paying attention to
how little is being done to reform and redesign our own financial
The new chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, for
instance, is getting away with an enforcement regime every bit as
limp as that of his predecessor, the supremely spineless Harvey
Last week, in his first congressional testimony since assuming
control of the watchdog agency, William Donaldson made it clear
that, despite a massive increase in the SEC's budget, we
shouldn't expect too much in the way of fundamental reform --
stressing that one of his top priorities would be boosting the
morale of the agency.
I don't know about you, but I would feel a whole lot better if
he'd made boosting the morale of a badly burned public Job No. 1.
Tossing a slew of corporate crooks in the slammer would be a good
Maybe America's beleaguered investors should band together with
this country's "left behind" schoolchildren and start stockpiling
a couple of plywood drones with overly long wingspans, some
high-strength aluminum tubes, and a few discarded canisters of
Apparently, that's the only way to get this administration's
Arianna Huffington is the author of "Pigs at the Trough: How
Corporate Greed and Political Corruption are Undermining
America." For information on the book, visit
If you have questions or comments, contact Arianna at
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