Saturday, September 15, 2007

Death and Taxes and Profits

The taxpayer-funded subcontracting of the Iraq war and so-called ‘reconstruction’ is still vastly underreported and carefully hidden from scrutiny by the Pentagon and the White House, despite some relatively high-profile cases of massive fraud, over-billing, and criminal negligence—none of which have been prosecuted in the courts.

The most recognizable of these contractors are Halliburton, Bechtel, KBR, Custer-Battles and Blackwater, but through sub-contracting and sub-sub–contracting hundreds of corporations having been feeding at the Bush/Cheney trough that is Iraq—all with guaranteed profits, no accountability, no performance requirements, no legal liability or responsibility in any form and all paid for by US taxpayers.

One such contractor is Serco which until August 13th was advertising to fill the job (67 of them actually) of “Personal Effects Specialist” who “receives, inventories, sorts, cleans, photographs, packages, and ships to family members (next of kin) all personal effects belonging to military service members and others, including defense contractors, who are killed or severely injured worldwide, especially incident to military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan

Such are the exigencies of war—except that traditionally, serving Army, Navy or Air Force COs and/or XOs and their staff would take care of such matters. But this being “the first war of the 21st Century” it seems that such somber tasks are better accomplished by temporary employees working “on-site in a fast-paced operational/warehouse environment for the US Army Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Center at the Joint Personal Effects Depot (JPED)” at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland."

In ordinary life we commit the tasks that surround death in significant part to our own private contractors—to funeral directors. Part of the process also includes government entities such as the coroner and police. Whether death is a result of local circumstance or foreign war, much of the process is—by law and by choice—contracted-out.

But what struck me about this Pentagon-contracted job is that it requires the employee to process not just the personal effects of US military personnel, but also “defense contractors who are killed or severely injured worldwide, especially incident to military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

So should a contract employee be killed it isn’t the contractor/employer who pays the expenses incurred from a death in Iraq—the processing of official paperwork, the shipping of personal items---it is the US taxpayer who pays, through yet another “cost-plus” contract with the Pentagon.
So not only do these contractors profit outrageously from their live employees, they also profit from their deaths—and we pay the bill at both ends.

(hat-tip to Wonkette! for finding the ad)

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