Through his muckraking documentaries, filmmaker Robert Greenwald has gone after the business practices of Wal-Mart, the curbing of civil liberties after September 11th, 2001 and the handling of the 2000 presidential election. Now, with Iraq For Sale: War Profiteers Greenwald points a finger at private contractors profiting from the war in Iraq.
The film features personal interviews with soldiers, former employees of private contractors, whistleblowers and detainees criticizing and questioning the use of taxpayer money to fund private enterprises that serve the U.S. military in the war in Iraq.
A local screening will take place at 8 p.m. Friday, October 20th, at the Venice Peace and Freedom Center, 1720 Main St., Venice. Admission is free, but reservations are required. Reservations, (310) 399-8685.
Greenwald’s film is approximately 75 minutes long, and is a series of gritty and emotional interviews with families of deceased civilian employees and former U.S. soldiers who were employed by these private contractors; former truck drivers, interrogators and translators; former Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison; and whistleblowers from the U.S. government and former employees of the private contractors.
Family members of the deceased employees talk about the pain and suffering and the loss of their family members, and the anger they feel toward the private contractors they say are responsible for the deaths.
The film was called an “organizational tool” by Rick Jacobs, chair and co-founder of Brave New Films at a recent showing of the film at the Venice Center for Peace and Justice through the Arts.
Companies whose actions in Iraq are scrutinized in the film include Halliburton and subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root, who supply services for oil, gas and construction;
Blackwater USA, who supplies a private army for hire with many former U.S. military personnel;
Titan Corporation, an information technology company providing translators and interrogators; and
CACI (California Analysis Center, Inc.), also an information technology company providing translators and interrogators, many straight from the U.S. military.
The processes by which the U.S. government selects companies contracted to do work in Iraq, including sometimes offering no-bid contracts, are also called into question in Greenwald’s film.
One whistleblower, Bunnatine Greenhouse, the former chief contracting officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers testified before the Democratic Party public committee in June 2005 about the “waste, fraud and abuse of the secret, no-bid award to Kellogg, Brown and Root/Halliburton.”
Interviewed U.S. soldiers in the film tell of being demoralized as they are ordered to train employees of the private contractors to perform what they consider soldiers’ jobs, at what is said to be triple the rate of pay of the soldiers.
In the film, the quality of the outsourced work is also criticized. Ben Carter, a former water purification specialist and former Kellogg, Brown and Root/Halliburton employee, states in the film that soldiers had to bathe in and use contaminated water because 63 of 68 water purification plants weren’t working.
Carter alleges that the soldiers were exposed to a variety of pathogens such as malaria and others from the water, and weren’t even aware of it.
Disgruntled former employees of Kellogg, Brown and Root/Halliburton tell of being sent out in truck convoys to deliver material in dangerous areas when there were no loads on the trucks, alleging that the trip had been made in order for the company to bill for its services. They describe scenes of life and death on their missions and the trauma of coming under attack unprepared.
As in most of his films, Greenwald uses Iraq For Sale: War Profiteers as a soapbox to speak out against the policies of the Bush Administration and the neo-conservative agenda.
The reaction of the audience at Venice Center for Peace with Justice and the Arts at the screening Wednesday, October 4th, of Iraq For Sale: The War Profiteers was tearful and angry, as interview after interview portrayed the safety of the U.S. soldiers as compromised by the private contractors’ quest for profits.
The film also questions the qualifications of the private contractors doing jobs that are historically done by U.S. military personnel. Military interrogator Anthony Lagournis and civilian translator Marwan Mawiri both make claims of poorly trained and unqualified private contractors.
Janis Karpinski, former U.S. Army brigadier general and commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, who was in command of three large U.S. and British-led prisons in Iraq, including Abu Ghraib, where private contractor employees were used to interrogate the prisoners, is shown in the film criticizing both the roles and the effectiveness of private contractors working with the military in Iraq.
Overall disillusionment is expressed by many interviewed in the film.
“No matter who is in office, the Republicans or the Democrats, the private contractors will always win,” said Ralph Peters, a retired lieutenant colonel.
Greenwald was not successful in getting officials from the companies to respond to the allegations in the film. Greenwald and his staff said they attempted to reach the individuals from all of the private contractors numerous times, and were ignored.
Video clips of these phone calls and the response or lack thereof, are available on the film’s Web site.
In one case Greenwald and his staff received a “cease and desist” letter, and then were finally told by all the companies that no interviews would be forthcoming.
Iraq For Sale: War Profiteers is the latest on Greenwald’s list of activist movie and TV projects, including such films as Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, Uncovered, and Outfoxed.
Information on the film, including instructions on how to host a grassroots screening of the film, is available at www.Iraqfor Sale.org