US Indymedia Global Indymedia Publish About us
Printed from Boston IMC : http://boston.indymedia.org/
Boston.Indymedia
IVAW Winter Soldier

Winter Soldier
Testimonies
Brad Presente

Other Local News

Spare Change News
Open Media Boston
Somerville Voices
Cradle of Liberty
The Sword and Shield

Local Radio Shows

WMBR 88.1 FM
What's Left
WEDS at 8:00 pm
Local Edition
FRI (alt) at 5:30 pm

WMFO 91.5 FM
Socialist Alternative
SUN 11:00 am

WZBC 90.3 FM
Sounds of Dissent
SAT at 11:00 am
Truth and Justice Radio
SUN at 6:00 am

Create account Log in
Comment on this feature | View comments | Email this feature | Printer-friendly version
News :: Globalization : International : Labor
Picket in Front of Parsons Corporation as Part of International Day of Action Against War Profiteering in Iraq
25 Feb 2004
On Tuesday, February 24, 2004, from noon to 1:00, about twenty-five of us picketed at Parsons Corporation’s offices at 100 Summers Street in Boston’s Financial District. This was part of a international day of action against war profiteering in Iraq, Parsons being targeted because of the contract it was awarded by the Army Corps of Engineers to help rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure. The focus of the protest, organized by United for Justice with Peace (UJP), Massachusetts Peace Action and other groups, was the corrupt manner in which contracts had been given out by the Bush administration, primarily to those corporations with close ties to members of the administration. Much of the reconstruction work has been done in an incompetent manner, without the in-put of the Iraqis most affected by this process--and, to top it all off, it is being paid for with revenue from Iraq’s oil sales. The critique of those protesters I talked to was far wider than just corrupt contracting though--as one might imagine, they were critical of the Bush administration’s war-mongering, but also its neoliberalism (“free” trade policies) and the lack of democratic accountability on the part of the government and corporations, both in Iraq and in the US itself. People in the peace movement are definitely making an effort to tie the issue of ending the US occupation of Iraq to a larger attempt to change our social system.
DCP_0001.JPG
Picket in Front of Parsons Corporation as Part of International Day of Action Against War Profiteering in Iraq
by Matthew Williams

On Tuesday, February 24, 2004, from noon to 1:00, about twenty-five of us picketed at Parsons Corporation’s offices at 100 Summers Street in Boston’s Financial District. This was part of a international day of action against war profiteering in Iraq, Parsons being targeted because of the contract it was awarded by the Army Corps of Engineers to help rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure. The focus of the protest, organized by United for Justice with Peace (UJP), Massachusetts Peace Action and other groups, was the corrupt manner in which contracts had been given out by the Bush administration, primarily to those corporations with close ties to members of the administration. Much of the reconstruction work has been done in an incompetent manner, without the in-put of the Iraqis most affected by this process--and, to top it all off, it is being paid for with revenue from Iraq’s oil sales. The critique of those protesters I talked to was far wider than just corrupt contracting though--as one might imagine, they were critical of the Bush administration’s war-mongering, but also its neoliberalism (“free” trade policies) and the lack of democratic accountability on the part of the government and corporations, both in Iraq and in the US itself. People in the peace movement are definitely making an effort to tie the issue of ending the US occupation of Iraq to a larger attempt to change our social system.

Iraq today is a mess. Before the Gulf War, it had one of the highest standards of living in the Middle East. For all that he was a brutal, repressive dictator, Saddam Hussein aspired to make Iraq a great country and thus invested the country’s oil revenues heavily in public infrastructure, creating universal healthcare and education systems. Much of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure--not just schools and hospitals, but electricity-generating plants, sewage systems, water purification systems, and factories--was destroyed by indiscriminate US bombing during the first Gulf War in 1991. Because of the US and Great Britain’s machinations with the sanctions imposed on Iraq and oil-for-food program that was supposed to relieve some of the weight of the sanctions, Iraq was unable to import the spare parts that it needed to repair much of its infrastructure, leaving the country in shambles for over ten years. The latest war, in 2003, once again devastated the country. And it’s not simply the infrastructure. While just over 500 US troops have died in Iraq, the website Iraq Body Count (http://www.iraqbodycount.net/ ), basing its figures on reports in major media outlets, estimates that 8,249-10,093 Iraqis have died directly from US military actions during the war and on-going occupation.

This is the mess that corporations such as Parsons, Bechtel and Halliburton have been hired by the Bush administration to clean up. Alan Field, a member of Somerville-Medford United for Justice with Peace, noted the corrupt manner in which this work has been contracted out, without any public bidding: “We have enormously powerful corporations, that are very closely tied to this administration--Dick Cheney with his ties to Halliburton is the best known example of this--that are making decisions that affect not our lives, but affect the lives of people in Iraq in particular. Enormous money is flowing to these same corporations to do contracts in Iraq. Now, in the case of Parsons Corporation, we don’t have the same allegations against them as against Halliburton, but they’re still part of the same process where money and access is controlling government decisions.” (Cheney, now the Vice President in the Bush administration, was before that Vice President of Halliburton, a major oil company. Halliburton has been charged with price gouging in its sales of gasoline within Iraq.)

This is a process in which the people in Iraq have had no in-put, even though it is shaping their future and the money from their oil revenues (in a UN-controlled bank account as a result of the now defunct food-for-oil program) is being used to pay for much of the reconstruction work. Elizabeth Leonard, a member of UJP and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, thought the US government and corporations should not be running the reconstruction process: “They should let the people in Iraq decide who’s going to undertake the reconstruction of their country. All their local companies--give them a chance to get in there and make some money and do what they think needs to be done, where it needs to be done.” A report on the Iraq Occupation Watch website (http://www.occupationwatch.org/article.php?id=2157 ) by a delegation to Iraq consisting of US veterans and family members of soldiers currently stationed in Iraq concurred, noting that many skilled Iraqi electricians, engineers and the like are unemployed, shut out of the reconstruction process and doing nothing to put people back to work and relieve the country’s massive poverty.

Another article (http://www.occupationwatch.org/article.php?id=2672 ) by investigators from Southern Exposure, notes that Bechtel--one of the better companies in terms of accessibility to journalists and its track record of hiring Iraqi instead of outside contractors--has shown little respect for Iraqis. Bechtel was contracted to repair most of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure (sewers, electricity, schools), but has done very little. This infuriates Iraqis who were able to jerry-rig many things into working condition throughout the decade they spent under sanctions. Bechtel insists on doing things by the book, dragging out the process endlessly and needlessly. Bechtel has also refused to listen to Iraqi engineers who can tell them exactly what is wrong, instead sending in its own inspectors for months-long studies.

Mike Prokosch, of United for a Fair Economy and Dorchester People for Peace, said that the agenda of the Bush administration is far larger than simply making it possible for their cronies to make money hand over fist: “The corporate take-over of Iraq is actually the on-going occupation. Bush is scrambling very quickly to make it look as though the US occupation of Iraq is ending before the elections, but in fact is planning at least 200,000 US troops in bases in Iraq. Probably to protect corporate interests--basically, they’re planning to privatize Iraq. Iraq was mostly owned publicly before the war, at least in theory, and with the end of Saddam Hussein, theoretically everything belonged to the Iraqi people, not just oil, but factories, electricity, the whole infrastructure of the country, except for smaller enterprises. And the United States government is illegally turning all that over to foreign companies for purchase and US troops will stay there to enforce that order.” This is part of the US government’s wider agenda of promoting neoliberalism, with Bush speaking of creating a “free” trade area in the Middle East.

Prokosch also said that the US occupation forces have been actively repressing labor unionists: “The one decree of Saddam Hussein’s that the Provisional Occupation Government kept in force was an 1987 decree essentially banning unionization and that has been perpetuated by the occupation authorities, who have dispatched US troops to invade union offices, tear down posters, lead people away in handcuffs, suppress demonstrations of unemployed people in Iraq. It’s clear that the freedom Bush proclaims in going into Iraq doesn’t extend to the right to organize or to form unions to advance your own economic interests. There may be freedom for US corporations in Iraq, but not freedom for Iraqi workers who may end up working for them.”

The people I spoke to at the protest advocated US withdrawal--both military and corporate--from Iraq as rapidly as possible, with a swift transition to democracy with help from the United Nations. This may be a messy process with all the ethnic and religious tensions in Iraq, but the vast majority of the Iraqis the US military families delegation spoke with said that, while they were happy to see Hussein gone, they wanted to see the US gone too. One Sunni cleric, working on reconciliation between religious groups, told them that after over twenty years of war (the Iran-Iraq War and both Gulf Wars) and sanctions most Iraqis are tired of strife and seek peace. He also emphasized the importance of giving Iraqis control of their own destiny: “It’s a gamble, but it’s our gamble. It’s our country and we have to be responsible for our own future.”

The protest itself was relatively uneventful. The purpose was less to out pressure directly on Parsons (sort of hard to do that with only twenty-five people) than to raise public awareness. A few passers-by stopped to talk or argue and some smart-aleck kids shouted, “Bush!” and “Democracy sucks!” at us. Field and Leonard both emphasized that such awareness-raising is the first step in a much larger campaign.

For Field, this is not just a matter of democracy in Iraq, but democracy in the US as well. He put his finger on the basic structural issues that make democracy such a sham in the US: “I’m very concerned about the undue influence of money and corporations in this country and the situation in Iraq is a prime example of that, where we have money being given to people in government through political contributions, there’s lobbying that goes on of government officials, there’s a revolving door where people who go from corporations from government, go back to private corporate life, get an enormous amount of money. It’s really a closed circle of influence and decision-making.” He noted that this extends far beyond oil companies, giving as an example the new rules that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued, permitting a very small number of very large corporations to concentrate control of the mass media in their hands as never before.

Leonard spoke of the widening gap between the rich and poor in this country and the drastic cuts in social services we have seen as the government applies the neoliberal model domestically as well as in Iraq: “In a real democracy, everyone’s human rights would be validated and they would be given a chance to thrive. Instead there are so many people with less than they can possibly get along with. We’ve never had so many homeless people or people without jobs; the schools are closing and the teachers are being let off; we’re the only industrial country in the whole world that doesn’t have universal health care. I don’t think that’s democracy. When Bush talks about spreading democracy all over the Middle Eats, I think to myself, he’s got to be kidding himself.”

////

To get involved in organizing against the occupation, contact United for Justice with Peace: http://www.justicewithpeace.org

To get more information on the issues, see the following websites: Iraq Occupation Watch (http://www.occupationwatch.org/ ), US Labor Against the War (http://www.uslaboragainstwar.org/ ), ZNet Iraq Watch (http://www.zmag.org/CrisesCurEvts/Iraq/IraqCrisis.htm ) and the Middle East Information and Research Project (MERIP) (http://www.merip.org/ ).
See also:
http://www.justicewithpeace.org
http://www.occupationwatch.org/

This work licensed under a
Creative Commons license.
Add a quick comment
Title
Your name Your email

Comment

Text Format
Anti-spam Enter the following number into the box:
To add more detailed comments, or to upload files, see the full comment form.

Comments

depression
03 Jun 2006
Greetings!..
ynhmc zmwutc
08 Jun 2006
scwkxm pdcbm hqmejr wfxbhyp ovdux uzbyrsa djoulwnt
dnaswr syxn
08 Jun 2006
awlfuis abqrwlngm lnqp gkvpahil lbcpyeih qlfnxck dpkiqateg
dnaswr syxn
08 Jun 2006
awlfuis abqrwlngm lnqp gkvpahil lbcpyeih qlfnxck dpkiqateg
ynhmc zmwutc
08 Jun 2006
scwkxm pdcbm hqmejr wfxbhyp ovdux uzbyrsa djoulwnt