Saturday, May 19, 2007

Aisle Or Window, Chicken Or Pasta?

Thank you, but I would rather have numerous convoy transports and MREs would be considered acceptable dining if the end reward was to bring the troops and the hidden military home from Iraq. For many years camp followers were just that. Followers. Now they are active participants in the debacle that we call Operation Enduring Freedom. Enduring being the operative word because freedom obviously has nothing to do with it.
Nearly 300 companies from the United States and around the world supply workers who are a shadow force in Iraq almost as large as the uniformed military. About 126,000 men and women working for contractors serve alongside about 150,000 American troops, the Pentagon has reported. Never before has the United States gone to war with so many civilians on the battlefield doing jobs — armed guards, military trainers, translators, interrogators, cooks and maintenance workers — once done only by those in uniform.
For a slightly different perspective on the outsourcing, quite a few of those jobs used to be handled by troops of color because they gave you a good chance at having a job that would pay your bills when you got out. Now they are held by civilian contractors who make quite a bit more money doing the same job and don't have to attend formation in the morning. Unfortunately for the contractors, once they are dead or injured, the very government that they were supporting treats them even worse than it treats the troops.
Many contractors in the battle zone say they lack the basic security measures afforded uniformed troops and receive benefits that not only differ from those provided to troops, but also vary by employer. Weekly pay ranges from $60 for Iraqi translators and laborers to $1,800 for truck drivers to as much as $6,000 for private security guards employed by companies like Blackwater. Medical and insurance benefits also vary widely, from excellent to minimal.

Conditions in Iraq are harsh, and many civilians who arrive there, drawn by patriotism, a sense of adventure or the lure of money, are overwhelmed by the environment. If they raise questions about the 12-hour workdays, the lack of armor plating on trucks or the periodic shelling of bases, supervisors often tell them to pack up and go home.
Why have we outsourced jobs to a private security firm for $6000 a week per person (with benefits!), when we supposedly have the best military in the world?
“By keeping the knowledge of this force hidden, it changes one’s perception and one’s evaluation of the war,” Ms. Schakowsky said. “There are almost a thousand dead and a large number of injuries. I think it masks the fact that we are privatizing the military in this country.”
If our troops don't have adequate armor or protection from IEDs or snipers, why the heck is a civilian contractor with even less protection traveling through a war zone on a daily basis to deliver ammunition? And then when they are killed or injured, we can't disavow all knowledge fast enough.
Army Lt. Col. Joseph M. Yoswa, a spokesman for the military in Iraq, said in an e-mail statement, “the responsibilities for tracking deaths, injuries, locations and any other essential requirements lie with the contractor. Unless there is something specifically stated in the contract about accounting for personnel, there is no requirement for the U.S. government to track these numbers.”
How can anyone not be surprised by this? For the last six years it has been someone else's responsibility for absolutely anything that goes wrong so why should this situation be any different?
American military casualties in Iraq have mounted to almost 3,400 dead. The new contractor statistics suggest that for every four American soldiers or marines who die in Iraq, a contractor is killed.

Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who pushed for the buildup of military forces in Iraq, said the contractor casualties were a symptom of a larger failure to send enough troops earlier to provide security throughout Iraq.

“We’re now putting these people in danger that I never thought they’d be under because we cannot secure the country,” he said.
Of course you didn't think. Nobody did. Therein lies the problem. Instead of thinking, everyone experienced a kneejerk emotional reaction and continue to be trapped in a loop of fear six years later. Meanwhile, the rest of the world shakes its collective head at our ongoing stupidity because it is pretty obvious that we need a national anger management class. We continue to make the same mistakes over and over again, might makes right is our battle cry and boy do we love to battle. As long as it's far away and doesn't affect our standard of living or anybody we know.

Ron Paul was right
when he talked about blowback but the American people, aided by an ineffectual Fourth Estate that is easily distracted by the latest floozy escapade, prefer to play the part of the injured party, never caring how many others they injure in the process because they are so sure that they are right and that everyone else is wrong.
As Americans, we believe in forgiving and forgetting, and are terrible at understanding how history affects us today. We are arrogant in not recognizing that when we benefit, someone else may suffer. That will lead to resentment and anger, and if suppressed, will boil over one day.
Before we invaded Iraq I had this patient (royalty) from Saudi Arabia who was explaining why he thought the invasion would not work and he was tossing around words like Wahhabi, Sunni, Shia and Baathists. I remember thinking, what the heck is he talking about? But then why should I be surprised since our schoolkids can't even get a passing score on our own history and we all know that nothing else has ever happened in the world except as it pertains to us. History does repeat itself, sometimes it's obvious, sometimes it's not.

Okay now that I've vented my spleen, let me get back to the birthday already in progress.

Crossposted at Big Brass Blog and If I Ran The Zoo.

1 comment:

  1. I hope you had a happy birthday.

    I don't get the outsourcing thingie: I thought outsourcing was done to SAVE money, not spend more of it. Silly effing me.

    Ah well, no need to pay the troops a living wage or teach them a skill they could use once they leave the service. Let's make sure KBR and Blackwater make their stockholders fat and happy.