Someone else’s billion-dollar FUBAR?

Foreign Policy notes that $500 million for a new U.S. embassy in Baghdad has yielded a literal house of cards:

Someone_Elses_WarAmong the most shocking problems still present at the embassy: The walls are in danger of cracking; the “safe areas” for emergencies aren’t safe; the fire protection systems might not protect from fires; and oh, by the way, the plumbing and electrical systems don’t work.

This is only the latest piece of bad news for the lead contractor, First Kuwaiti Trading and Contracting, a firm the U.S. has used for hundreds of projects in Iraq but stands accused of shoddy work and widespread abuse of third-country workers it ships in from all over the world.

John Owens, one of the First Kuwaiti foremen on the project, quit in disgust after witnessing what he called labor trafficking and widespread worker abuse, including tricking migrant workers into going to Iraq, placing them in sub-human living conditions, and holding their passports so they couldn’t escape.

I wasn’t that surprised, when I saw that the contractor in question was First Kuwaiti — which first came to my attention, as with many of us, when I saw and wrote about Lee Wang’s Someone Else’s War. I’m glad to see ProPublica, just this summer, mention it in its report “Foreign Workers Are Casualties Twice Over.” Not all the human trafficking involves sex workers. (Click on the link to see clips, and a chance to order the DVD.

The film also mentions one American soldier who helped a group of the Filipino enslaved contractors get away. Wang told me his name, but I’ve never been able to find him. That’s true heroism, in my book.

Published by chrislombardi

Journalist, novelist, educator.

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