Editor's Note: truthout covered the foul reality of the profit motive behind this push for war in Iraq in a recent article entitled Blood Money. Read it again carefully before perusing the article below. - wrp
US Firms Set for Postwar Contracts
Danny Penman and agencies
Tuesday 11 March 2003
The American government is on the verge of awarding construction contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild Iraq once Saddam Hussein is deposed.
Halliburton, one of the companies in the running for the deals, was headed by the US vice-president Dick Cheney between 1995 and 2000. Halliburton has already been awarded a lucrative contract, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, to resurrect the Iraqi oilfields if there is a war.
Other companies have strong ties to the US administration, including the construction giant Bechtel, the Fluor Corporation, and the Louis Berger Group, which is presently involved in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Both Bechtel and the Fluor Corporation undertake construction and project management work for the US government.
Only US companies are on the shortlist of five. The US agency for international development (USAID) defended the narrow shortlist.
A spokeswoman said: "Because of the urgent circumstances and the unique nature of this work, USAID will undertake a limited selection process that expedites the review and selection of contractors for these projects."
The spokeswoman said that it was a policy of USAID to use US companies for projects funded by the American taxpayer. Non-US companies were free, through their governments, to organise their own business, she said.
The winning company would get about $900m ( 563m) to repair Iraqi health services, ports, airports, schools and other educational institutions.
Sources at the companies said the invitation was unusual in that USAID did not ask them to set a price for defined services but rather asked them to say what they could do for $900m. However, the winning company could expect to make a profit of about $80m from the deal.
All five bidders have submitted their proposals or are preparing to do so after USAID "quietly" sent out a detailed request soliciting proposals from the likely bidders.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Iraq reconstruction plan will require contractors to fulfill various tasks, including reopening at least half of the "economically important roads and bridges" - about 1,500 miles of roadway - within 18 months.
The contractors will also be asked to repair 15% of Iraq's high-voltage electricity grid, renovate several thousand schools and deliver 550 emergency generators within two months.
Construction industry executives said the handful of firms are competing fiercely in part because they believe it could provide an inside track to postwar business opportunities. The most highly sought-after prizes are oil industry contracts.
The US government is believed to be wary of any backlash against an invasion and is preparing plans for a "hearts and minds" operation that will swing into place as soon as the country is occupied. The government is mindful of the longterm benefits of feeding hungry Iraqis, delivering clean water, and paying teachers and health workers.
"It's a sensitive topic because we still haven't gone to war," one industry executive told the Wall Street Journal. "But these companies are really in a position to win something out of this geopolitical situation."
It remains unclear whether Iraqis, Americans or an international consortium will manage the oil industry during an early post-conflict period.
Steven Schooner, a George Washington University law professor, said many billions of dollars are at stake. He estimated that $900m would barely last six months given the scope of the projects the administration has sketched out.
"The most sophisticated firms that come in first, and establish good will with the locals obviously will reap huge benefits down the road," said Mr Schooner.
"These are going to become brand names in Iraq. That's huge."
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)