When Kelly Dougherty was deployed to Iraq in 2003, her unit was assigned to escort truck convoys, usually from Kellogg Brown and Root Inc., then a subsidiary of the Halliburton Company. Dougherty remembers one incident when her unit was guarding a broken-down truck containing produce and a crowd of destitute Iraqis assembled and begged for food. After Halliburton told them to destroy the truck, Dougherty and other soldiers asked if they could distribute the food first, but were refused because it would be "too hectic."
"We sat there and burned produce in front of people struggling to get by, living not only under an occupation, but without jobs, without healthcare," Dougherty said.
To most people, this is wanton cruelty. However, under Halliburton's "cost-plus" contract, they made a profit by charging the cost of that truck, the produce, plus an extra percentage, to taxpayers. With Halliburton recruiting at a University of Wisconsin job fair, the Campus Antiwar Network is rallying tomorrow at noon in front of Bascom Hall. We will march to the job fair and demand Halliburton leave our campus.
At the beginning of the invasion of Iraq, Halliburton was first to reap the profits. In 2002, months before the war began, President Bush told reporters, "Of course, I haven’t made up my mind we’re going to war with Iraq." However, according to the Wall Street Journal, Halliburton met with Vice President Dick Cheney weeks later to discuss rebuilding Iraq's oil industry. In January 2004, KBR received a $1.2 billion contract to rebuild the oil industry in southern Iraq, adding to its 2001 contract to provide logistics. Like most contracts in Iraq, the deal is cost-plus, meaning KBR charges the government for any expenses, plus an additional percentage as profit. The more KBR spends, the more money it makes — regardless of its performance.
That performance has been abysmal. In January 2005, the Associated Press published internal KBR documents revealing it had served soldiers water contaminated with fecal matter. According to one document, "The level of contamination was roughly 2x the normal contamination of untreated water from the Euphrates River."
Because KBR charges for each cargo truck it deploys — instead of the amount of cargo delivered — the company makes money by regularly sending empty trucks though dangerous territory. According to Knight Ridder, KBR truckers dubbed their cargo "sailboat fuel."
KBR has been reckless with its employees' lives, and some have been killed. In April 2004, a KBR truck convoy was ambushed outside Baghdad on a road the Army knew was under insurgent control. Seven KBR drivers were killed. One of the survivors, Edward Sanchez, said, "At orientation, I was told that only one KBR/Halliburton employee had been killed in Iraq and that it was his own fault. … I was told that we would not be sent into battles or areas of known attack. Unfortunately, KBR/Halliburton broke that promise."
Halliburton's record reveals its motives are not to provide for the troops, but to guarantee greenbacks in its pocketbooks. Its drive for profits has jeopardized the health and safety of Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers.
Not only is it shameful that UW would allow such a loathsome corporation to woo its students, but it is a humiliation to the profession of engineering. Our School of Engineering teaches the National Society of Professional Engineers code of ethics: "Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public. … Avoid deceptive acts. … Conduct yourself honorably, responsibly, ethically, and lawfully." Halliburton is a malevolent doppelganger of the profession.
Bush and his corporate toadies have made clear their contempt for Iraqis and U.S. soldiers, but the war economy has also swindled students. While Bush funnels billions of dollars into obliterating Iraq, student debt is higher than ever, and we have fewer job options. According to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, two-thirds of our generation will have a lower standard of living than our parents. Although some argue that demonstrating at a student job fair will exacerbate those students' troubles, we believe our generation needs a movement to change our society's priorities. We can begin by demanding less money for Halliburton and more for education.
When Kelly Dougherty returned from Iraq in 2004, she and six other vets founded Iraq Veterans Against the War, which today has twenty chapters across the country. "Our lives were really not important when compared to corporate profit and the U.S. gaining dominance in the region," she said. Just as veterans are organizing against the war and for their rights, students also need a movement to reclaim their future. Protest with us tomorrow. Our lives are worth more than their profits.