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Pentagon Using Our Tax Dollars For Human Trafficking

(519 Obama-dumping days until 2012 election-Hugh's Obama's Scandals List)

There is a shocking article this week in The New Yorker entitled “The Invisible Army” by Sarah Stillman.

Ms. Stillman begins by writing of two women in Fiji, Vinnie Tuiaga and Lydia Qeraniu, who are looking for work in 2007. They get recruited by a local firm called Meridian Services Agency which promises them both jobs in Dubai. You know Dubai. You have seen pictures of that opulent, exciting city I am sure.

But once they get to Dubai, according to Ms. Stillman, they are informed they are actually bound for jobs on U.S. military bases in Iraq. They unwittingly have been dragooned into what Stillman calls the Pentagon’s “invisible army.”

According to Ms. Stillman there are over 70,000 of such workers, called “third-country nationals” or TCN’s, in both Iraq and Afghanistan. They are workers primarily from South Asia and Africa who end up living in barbed-wire compounds on U.S. bases, employed by “fly-by-night” contractors and subcontractors.

Most of them are forced to endure harsh living and working conditions, sometimes robbed of rightful compensation, sexually abused, inadequately housed and fed. Stillman claims there have been food riots involving thousands in some of the Pentagon “subcontractor camps”. Factor in the not small detail that they are living in war zones, which alone is traumatizing and dangerous. And for how many who were desperate for work was this omitted from the original job description, as in the case of the two Fiji women?

Stillman reports that not every third-country national makes it home safely. Since 2001 there have been over 2,000 contractor deaths and more than 51,000 injuries of these workers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The losses of private-contractors are on a par for the first time with the U.S. troops in both war zones.

So these “indentured servants” are part of the Iraq and Afghanistan Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) whereby the Pentagon gives lucrative grants to subcontractors who provide “more than seventy thousand cooks, cleaners, construction workers, fast-food clerks, electricians and beauticians from the world’s poorest countries” to give the troops “a sense of home.”

Stillman explains that most of us American taxpayers unhappily know about the expanding private-security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan and have heard about the cronyistic extortions of money for them and their extrajudicial misbehaviors including murders and rapes (e.g. Xe f/k/a Blackwater). But those security contractors account for only 16% of the over-all contracting force. The “invisible army” vast majority Stillman declares, more than 60% in Iraq, is made up of these abused hired workers from South Asia and Africa.

So how has this happened that we, the American taxpayers, are financing such inhumane sub-contracting operations?


The process of outsourcing begins at major government entities, notably the Pentagon, which awarded its most recent prime logistics contract (worth as much as fifteen billion dollars a year) to three U.S.-based private military behemoths: K.B.R. (the former Halliburton subsidiary), DynCorp International, and Fluor. These “prime venders” then shop out the bulk of their contracts to hundreds of global subcontractors, many based in Middle Eastern countries that are on the U.S. State Department’s human-trafficking noncompliance list. Finally, these firms call upon thousands of Third World “manpower agencies”—small recruiting operations like Meridian Services.

In other words, our tax dollars are going to human trafficking. Some of those billions of dollars that the U.S. Congress hands over without question to the Pentagon every time it asks.

The U.S. "military industrial security complex" just keeps sociopathically steam-rolling onward. And we and our representatives in Washington keep enabling the profound, ever-expanding evil.

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Submitted by libbyliberal on

the massiveness of this operation. and if they are going to cut the military budget I wonder who will suffer? So we are recycling soldiers over and over and we are dragooning desperate third world workers to risk their lives and be abused as the corporate contracting VENDORS like the insurance and pharma companies and banks in this country take MIGHTY HELPINGS of the transactions to get services performed. What is wrong with this picture?

Submitted by JuliaWilliams on

I read, and reread, and digest your posts, then I get really motivated to keep protesting and writing, running and trying to keep up with you! :-)

Submitted by libbyliberal on

I am a "second waver". Something like this deserves to be talked about!!! Sarah Stillman did an awesome job assembling the facts and perspective on this massive horror. I was aware of it to a degree but did not assume the corporate war profiteering sociopaths were as down and dirty as they undoubtedly are and we are still flooding Halliburton et al. with tax payer dollars (Cheney may not be in the front of the picture, but the cronyism prevails), and then you get the human traffic from countries that do human trafficking which makes us human traffickers. Is American exceptionalism gonna gloss over that, too? Why not.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

reminds me of that sixteen tons song, "I owe my soul to the company store." From your link:

Bonded labor is a relic of history that should have long ago been eliminated from South Asia, but greed, corruption, and government ineffectiveness allow this caustic mode of exploitation to persist well into modern tines. In order to ensure basic human rights, guarantee untainted global supply chains, and protect international security, the forces that promote bonded labor must be tackled immediately.