September 25, 2003

Not Even About Oil

Riverbend is the girl blogger supposedly from Bagdad, very well written, obviously from the wealthier side of the Iraqi spectrum. Hadn't read it in a while and what a shame, its chock full of interesting stories:

My father has a friend with a wife and 3 children who is currently working for an Italian internet company. He communicates online with his ‘boss’ who sits thousands of kilometers away, in Rome, safe and sure that there are people who need to feed their families doing the work in Baghdad. This friend, and a crew of male techies, work 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. They travel all over Baghdad, setting up networks. They travel in a beat-up SUV armed with cables, wires, pliers, network cards, installation CDs, and a Klashnikov for… you know… technical emergencies.

Each of the 20 guys who work with this company get $100/month. A hundred dollars for 260 hours a month comes to… $0.38/hour. My 16-year-old babysitter used to get more. The Italian company, like many other foreign companies, seems to think that $100 is appropriate for the present situation. One wonders the price of the original contract the Italian company got… how many countless millions are being spent so 20 guys can make $100/month to set up networks?

Plenty more stuff like this, including the infamous $50 million bridge story (in reality I believe a $5million bridge which is still far more then it would cost to get an Iraqi company to repair it). This is the story of how American taxpayer dollars are getting skimmed off by the Bushco. More like getting bulldozed off actually. Shit, this war wasn't even about oil it was just about stealing tax dollars for a few military contractors...

Here's another story, isn't this great?

The whole neighborhood knows about S. who lives exactly two streets away. He’s what is called a ‘merchant’ or ‘tajir’. He likes to call himself a ‘businessman’. For the last six years, S. has worked with the Ministry of Oil, importing spare parts for oil tankers under the surveillance and guidelines of the “Food for Oil Program”. In early March, all contracts were put ‘on hold’ in expectation of the war. Thousands of contracts with international companies were either cancelled or postponed.

S. was in a frenzy: he had a shipment of engines coming in from a certain country and they were ‘waiting on the border’. Everywhere he went, he chain-smoked one cigarette after another and talked of ‘letters of credit’, ‘comm. numbers’, and nasty truck drivers who were getting impatient.

After the war, the CPA decided that certain contracts would be approved. The contracts that had priority over the rest were the contracts that were going to get the oil pumping again. S. was lucky- his engines were going to find their way through… hopefully.

Unfortunately, every time he tried to get the go-ahead to bring in the engines, he was sent from person to person until he found himself, and his engines, tangled up in a bureaucratic mess in-between the CPA, the Ministry of Oil and the UNOPS. By the time things were somewhat sorted out, and he was communicating directly with the Ministry of Oil, he was given a ‘tip’. He was told that he shouldn’t bother doing anything if he wasn’t known to KBR. If KBR didn’t approve of him, or recommend him, he needn’t bother with anything.

For a week, the whole neighborhood was discussing the KBR. Who were they? What did they do? We all had our own speculations… E. said it was probably some sort of committee like the CPA, but in charge of the contracts or reconstruction of the oil infrastructure. I expected it was probably another company- but where was it from? Was it Russian? Was it French? It didn’t matter so long as it wasn’t Halliburton or Bechtel. It was a fresh new name or, at least, a fresh new set of initials. Well, it was ‘fresh’ for a whole half-hour until curiosity got the better of me and I looked it up on the internet.

KBR stands for Kellogg, Brown and Root, a subsidiary of…

Posted by Abe at September 25, 2003 10:35 AM