U.S. Companies Advancing on Iraq

The Profit Foretold It

As just about everyone knows by now, Dick Cheney's old firm Halliburton, through its Kellogg Brown and Root subsidiary, is the major mover and shaker in Iraq by dint of sole-source, open-ended contracts not just to rebuild the oil field infrastructure there but to sell oil inside Iraq. Remember that Bush, through an executive order, has claimed ownership of Iraqi oil for the U.S., which makes it legal for Bush to hand it to Cheney's former company to sell for Halliburton's own profit. Bechtel, the big construction outfit allied with former Reagan officials, said last week that it would not bid on rebuilding the oil infrastructure, leaving the business to Halliburton. But that doesn't mean that Bechtel or one of its international subsidiaries won't reappear as a contractor for the Iraqi oil ministry, which is run by the Americans. That leaves a handful of other American companies to skim the rest of the cream off Iraq. Here is a rundown on a few, thanks to an excellent article in the July-August issue of Dollars and Sense magazine:

• Stevedoring Services of America. The Seattle-based firm has an initial contract of $4.8 million for seaport administration at Umm Qasr, Iraq's main oil port. SSA is the world's largest terminal operator, a mover and shaker in the Pacific Maritime Administration, which runs the docks on the West Coast; it's best known for union busting. After it gave the contract to SSA, the U.S. Agency for International Development discovered that the company didn't have security clearances. Rather than revoke the deal, the government waived the requirement.

• International Resources Group. Pretty much as expected, the D.C.-based company got an initial $7.1 million deal for technical expertise in reconstructing Iraq. USAID had been talking to IRG even before the war began—which was natural enough since USAID works cheek by jowl with this company, having given it more than 200 contracts, worth millions, since 1978. The contract was sole-sourced, meaning there were no other bidders.

ABT Associates Inc. The Cambridge, Massachusetts, firm was given a contract worth anywhere from $10 million to $43.8 million for public health work in Iraq. ABT claims to offer "technical assistance to facilitate policy reforms in countries moving from command economies to market-oriented economies." Like in Kazakhstan, where it helped the government take the state-run pharmaceutical business and hand it over to private interests.

Creative Associates International Inc. This D.C.-based company got a deal running anywhere from $1 million to $62.6 million for primary and secondary education. Since the '70s, CAII has helped in what it calls "the stabilization of post-conflict environments" in many countries—including Angola, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. "In March, CAII snagged an agency grant of $6 million to produce textbooks for students in Afghanistan," Dollars and Sense reports.

Research Triangle Institute. The North Carolina firm won a contract that can run from $7.9 million to $167.9 million for local governance, whatever that means. In the past it has done things like trying to harness NASA technologies for civilian uses, or as the institute itself says, "bringing them to markets." The company's new project is called the "Iraq Sub-National Governance and Civic Institution Support Program."


Additional reporting: Phoebe St John

 
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