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The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin)

War Profiteers Work Their Schemes in Iraq

Dave Zweifel

American corporations have long taken advantage of the nation's taxpayers in a time of war, and the war that our country is fighting in Iraq is no exception.

Indeed, everything from war profiteering to outright cheating were major reasons Robert M. "Fighting Bob" La Follette cited in his famous opposition to the U.S. getting mired in what morphed into World War I. Fighting Bob insisted that the only benefits to joining what had been a European fight would go to the U.S. companies that deal in military equipment and supplies. They would profit on the backs of the young American men who would be sent off to kill and be killed in a war that was Europe's business, not ours.

A few days ago the Chicago Tribune outlined just how pervasive war profiteering is some 90 years later in a war that most Americans now doubt was ever a good idea.

Thanks to recently unsealed court records, the paper detailed how kickbacks "shaped the war's largest troop support contract months before the first wave of U.S. soldiers plunged their boots in Iraqi sand."

And while fraud was lining contractors' pockets, the safety of American troops was endangered, according to the newspaper.

There have been 36 people indicted so far on Iraq war contract crimes, the Justice Department has revealed. The most recent involved four supervisors from the giant military contractor KBR, plus a highly decorated Army warrant officer who took bribes to hide the supervisors' schemes.

Some executives of KBR, a former subsidiary of the infamous Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's company, would allegedly approve inflated bids from subcontractors, some of which charged the government up to $45 per can of soda, the Trib reported.

The inflated bids were concealed by concocting phony business records, many of them at the Rock Island, Ill., arsenal where much of the military contracting takes place.

The fraud, of course, is on top of the highly profitable business that military contractors enjoy during wartime. To put it mildly, these contractors don't give the U.S. and its taxpayers discounts on military equipment, food and supplies.

War is a good time to make money and that's exactly what military contractors do.

It's no accident that corporate America is typically among the country's biggest hawks. There's gold in them thar battlefields.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times.

© 2008 Capital Newspapers

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