Iraq, Inc.: A Profitable Occupation

October 25th, 2004 - by admin

Pratap Chatterjee / Seven Stories Press – 2004-10-25 22:18:59

In Iraq, Inc.: A Profitable Occupation, Pratap Chatterjee, managing editor of watchdog group CorpWatch, 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.

Chatterjee reveals the systemic failings of Bechtel, DynCorp, Halliburton and other war profiteers to make good to either their paymasters, the American public, or their “clients,” the Iraqi public. He describes the insidious daily instances of incompetence, waste, and Iraqi humiliation that have become both the Achilles’ heel of US occupation architects and their contractors, as well as the key recruiting tool of the Iraqi resistance.

Drawing on insights gained during his time in Washington, DC and Iraq, the author reveals the conflicting strategies of Pentagon and the State Department planners that have drawn thousands of civilians employed by these companies into a bloody no-exit scenario.

Conducting dozens of interviews with Iraqi administrators working at schools and hospitals across Iraq as well as returned exiles involved in the political reconstruction of the country, and foreign bureaucrats stationed in Iraq, Chatterjee finds a country suffering from lack of basic services and a corporate bureaucracy failing at both statecraft and basic administration. 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.

In interviews with whistleblowers as well as reporting testimony before the Government Reform Committee posted by Rep. Henry Waxman, Chatterjee finds a culture of overcharging promoted by the senior management of Halliburton to defraud the military.

Here the author 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.

Iraq, Inc. introduces us to the former soldiers and police officers lured to the conflict zone by offers of high pay from companies including Blackwater and DynCorp. Yet, as illustrated by the private contractors hired to interrogate prisoners at Abu Ghraib, recruits often lack the expertise and training required to meet basic human rights standards in occupied Iraq.

Further, the author investigates several other shadowy companies operating in Iraq and reveals the failures of the psychological warfare firm SAIC to run the Al Iraqiyah radio and television network, an American sanctioned Iraqi “free press.” Such ironies, Chatterjee suggests, are not lost on the Iraqis even as they are unknown to the American public.

In the concluding chapter, the author describes the company hired to run elections for Iraq, the most plausible American exit strategy. Yet, Chatterjee shows that this very company is importing Mormon preachers and disgraced city officials from Texas to impose an election system that ignores basic principles of democracy.

If the future of Iraq rests in these hands the author suggests, the continued American presence in Iraq will be judged a bloody failure, rather than a liberation to be celebrated with welcoming smiles and flowers. Yet, for all Iraq’s horrors, business is booming and profits are soaring for foreign contractors.

Iraq, Inc.: A Profitable Occupation
Publication date: November 15, 2004
5×7 | 192 pages | 192 pages
ISBN 1-58322-667-2

PRATAP CHATTERJEE is program director and managing editor of CorpWatch (, based in Oakland, California. He has won multiple awards for his investigative journalism on topics ranging from the California Gold Rush to the impact of the United States invasion of Afghanistan, including four Project Censored awards. His articles have appeared in the Financial Times, the New Republic, the Guardian (UK), and the Independent (UK), among others.

Chatterjee has traveled to the Middle East and Central Asia region repeatedly to report on the conflicts, focusing his attention especially on the multinational companies working in the region.

Following the defeat of Saddam Hussein in Iraq in April 2003, the author made two extensive investigative trips to Iraq in December 2003 and in April 2004 to investigate the successes and failure of the first year of the American occupation.

His work in Iraq has resulted in numerous interviews on the BBC World Service as well as Fox TV Business News, TV Asahi, and Australia’s ABC News.

Reporters from dozens of mainstream publications turned to him regularly for research material ranging from the New York Times Magazine, the Observer and Guardian newspapers in London, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek, Business Week, Forbes and Fortune magazines, the Newshour with Jim Leher and 60 Minutes.

Previously Pratap Chatterjee was global environment editor for Inter Press Service, based in Washington, DC, where he reported on the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. His investigative writing on companies like Enron and Halliburton, published on CorpWatch, led the field by several years.

More Praise for Iraq, Inc.

• “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 muckracking, 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.”
Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!

• “This book exposes the truly tragic dimensions of the U.S. failure in Iraq, especially how the post-war reconstruction efforts have alienated the Iraqi people even as they’ve funneled billions of dollars into the pockets of well-connected US companies like Halliburton and Bechtel. If you feel you only have time to read two American writers about the disaster in Iraq, your choice is easy: Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker and Pratap Chatterjee of CorpWatch.”
David Weir co-founder of the Center for Investigative Reporting

• “Pratap Chatterjee takes us into the fast-spinning revolving door between the government officials who attacked Iraq and the corporations who have profited so handsomely from the war. A powerful combination of investigative research and on-the-ground reporting, Iraq, Inc. is essential reading for anyone who wants to know what has really gone wrong in Iraq.”
Naomi Klein, author No Logo and columnist for The Guardian, UK

• “Intuitively, observers of government and business have known for some time that shrinking armies would create room for soldiers for hire. Along comes Pratap Chatterjee with compelling evidence about the depth of private companies’ roles in a war zone, which will give us a way to measure the consequences of this changing of the guard.

The book should be of real value to every citizen who wants to understand both the economics and wealth creation of defense contractors. Iraq Inc. will introduce to you the entrepreneurs who really understand war profiteering and the price the rest of us will have to pay.”
Matt Swibel, senior reporter Forbes Magazine

CorpWatch — Holding Corporations Accountable. 1611 Telegraph Ave, Suite 702, Oakland, CA 94612 USA, Tel: 510-271-8080, Fax: 510-271-8083