“Iraq, Inc: A Profitable Occupation”


I don’t normally write commentaries about books (one exception is found in “Solutions” on my web page), but this one caught my eye.  I saw this book advertised on one of my bookmarked web sites called “CorpWatch.”  Their mission statement is as follows:


CorpWatch counters corporate-led globalization through education, network-building and activism. We work to foster democratic control over corporations by building grassroots globalization a diverse movement for human rights and dignity, labor rights and environmental justice.


            Based in the San Francisco Bay area, they began five years ago as TRAC--Transnational Resource & Action Center, but in March 2001 they changed to CorpWatch.  Among their other accomplishments, they played a role in pressuring Nike, Inc. to improve conditions at its overseas sweatshops.  They did this “by releasing a confidential independent audit that exposed the conditions at a Vietnamese sweatshop. The release of the audit garnered significant media attention, including a front-page story the New York Times.”

          Among their most recent posted articles include one entitled “Contract Meals Disaster for Iraqi Prisoners” by David Phinney, who reports that prisoners at Abu Graib were given “rotten food crawling with bugs, traces of rats and dirt” along with “rancid meats and spoilt food resulting in diarrhea and food poisoning.”

            Another report is “Dynamite in the Center of Town: Bhopal at Twenty” by Joshua Karliner, who updates conditions at the place where, he writes, This week marks twenty years since a huge invisible cloud of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas escaped from the factory and killed more than 8,000 people overnight. It injured tens if not hundreds of thousands more. Together with the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, Bhopal is one of the two worst industrial disasters in history.”  This disaster, one of the worst corporate crimes ever, was committed by Union Carbide. More than 20,000 deaths have been attributed to this disaster. “Survivors and their children continue to suffer long-term health effects ranging from cancer and tuberculosis to birth defects and chronic fevers. The impacts of the MIC gas now appear to be multigenerational.”

            Now the managing editor, Pratap Chatterjee, has put together his investigative findings into a new book, published by Seven Stories Press, called Iraq, Inc.: A Profitable Occupation. Senior reporter for Forbes Magazine Matt Swibel writes that this book “will introduce to you the entrepreneurs who really understand war profiteering and the price the rest of us will have to pay.”  Naomi Klein, author of No Logo, calls it a “powerful combination of investigative research and on-the-ground reporting.” Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! writes that "Pratap Chatterjee follows the imperative of Watergate whistleblower, Deep Throat, to ‘follow the money’ to some of the most dangerous locales, pursuing war profiteers and private military contractors to witness and report directly on their misdeeds. Chatterjee's muckraking, practiced with diligence and courage, is all-too-timely and far too rare within the ranks of the press. Iraq, Inc., is the ultimate primer of how modern U.S. invasion and occupation for profit is being waged. You won't learn any of this on the evening news."

This book “brings us the dilapidated hospitals, looted ministries, and guarded corporate enclaves that mark the plunderous road to America's liberated Iraq. Bringing together a critical mass of evidence from major media sources with an on-the-ground account of the Iraq occupation business, Chatterjee presents the most complete-to-date chronicle of the exploits of private contractors hired to reconstruct and manage Iraq.”

            Here we find such companies as Bechtel, DynCorp, Halliburton and other war profiteers taking advantage of the money to be made in Iraq and revealing the real reason we are there in the first place.  It is a classic example of what criminologists call “state-corporate crime.” The author, who spent several months in Iraq and a great deal of time in Washington interviewing people (including several whistleblowers) and reviewing Pentagon and State Department documents, found in “a haunting illustration of the rising rate of infant mortality, a doctor watches infants die for lack of electricity, not for lack of incubators; a schoolteacher leads a tour of her school that has just been repaired by Iraqi subcontractors hired by Bechtel, yet amazingly in greater disrepair that when they began. At Baghdad's Kerkh sewage treatment plant, one year after liberation of Iraq, potable water had not been restored to the city, while such provision was part of the administration's 60-day mandate upon taking the city.”

            Also, Chatterjee uses testimony before the Government Reform Committee that was posted on the web by Rep. Henry Waxman, to report “a culture of overcharging promoted by the senior management of Halliburton to defraud the military.” He also finds “both incompetence and opportunism rife by Iraq's corporate managers, reporting employees’ assertions that various company practices encourage inefficiency. Procurement supervisors, truck drivers, and foreign nationals posted in Iraq reveal the skewed logic of cost-plus contracts which reward gouging. Conversely, Chatterjee documents the subcontracting of conventional projects to cheap foreign labor-from Bangladeshis to South Africans-amidst a crisis of Iraqi unemployment. This system of subcontracting, he suggests has lead to a demonstrably shoddy system of accountability.”

            I have not yet purchased this book, and I am getting my information directly from their web site, but it is tops on my list of holiday purchases.  I may even consider using this as a text in a proposed new course on State and Corporate Crime.  Here's the information for ordering the book:

Iraq, Inc.: A Profitable Occupation
Seven Stories Press

ISBN 1-58322-667-2, $11.95

For further information:

Ria Julien | ria@sevenstories.com | 212.226.8760
Pratap Chatterjee | pratap@corpwatch.org | 510 759 8970

CorpWatch web site: http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=11583