Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Yes for Ecuador! Or, Confessions of a Fired Chevron Contractor

My experiences convinced me that corporations like Chevron act like cults. There’s the isolation: believers do not mix with nonbelievers; isolation ensures believers do not doubt or question the corporate mission or the corporation’s role in their lives.

TruthoutFriday October 14, 2011

A resounding cheer for the US appeals court that ruled on September 19, 2011, that Chevron cannot escape an $18 billion fine on behalf of Amazonian residents for the corporation’s massive pollution of the rain forest.

Needless to say, Chevron will appeal the decision; it has been doing so for 18 years. If it manages to crawl out from under this fine, it will not be for lack of effort by activists who keep the spotlight on Chevron for this and other practices that damage the environment and the communities that depend on it.

I was a Chevron subcontractor during George W. Bush’s second term, and there were many mornings I’d honk and wave to friends as I drove to work while they protested corporate polices at the gates of Chevron’s headquarters in San Ramon, California.

My first day on the job coincided with Bush’s re-election. It was impossible to miss the expressions of corporate jubilation in the hallways, break rooms and offices that day; someone wrote “WAR” and drew a smiley face on the whiteboard in my office, too.

Over two years, I successfully implemented a global web site located in a building east of Chevron headquarters. My job performance was good enough that, on completion of that project, I was offered another in corporate headquarters – one floor below then-CEO David O’Reilly, where I rubbed elbows with Chevron’s corporate publicists and marketing mavens.

One of my first responsibilities was to put a “lighter, brighter face” on the public web site Chevron devotes to explaining its side of the Ecuador story. My foreboding about my new role was matched by that then-dark and dreary site, which was branded with Texaco’s black and red palette. Moreover, it was populated with self-serving legal rhetoric about why Chevron was blameless in the horrors that oil spills and lax environmental controls visited upon Ecuador’s forests and on its people.

It was difficult to pretend to enjoy my work or that I had much in common with my colleagues. As a lifelong social justice activist, I was aware of corporate malfeasance around the globe, and I was not good at keeping my emotions hidden. Moreover, my only son was serving in the US Army – to my mind, the element used to project US might in foreign lands and safeguard oil fields for corporations like Chevron. (Eventually, my son was honorably discharged after serving one tour of duty in Afghanistan and two in Iraq.)

I was fired within three months. Had I been a true believer, I’d have fired someone with my attitude, too. For example, meeting with the marketing team in 2006 about Chevron’s strategy to beat Proposition 87 – the Clean Alternative Energy Act – I quipped that Chevron should create a marketing campaign to promote a new gas standard: instead of miles to the gallon, I suggested, the standard should use number of dead Iraqis to the gallon. (Chevron contributed over $34 million to “No on 87” – and won: that Clean Alternative Energy Act failed.)

Please read the entire Op Ed here

October 14, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors | , , , , , | Leave a comment

KBR’s Foreign Contractors at Guantanamo Spared Controversial Anti-Malarial Drug Given to Detainees

by: Jeffrey Kaye and Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t | Investigative Report March 3, 2011

The Defense Department has claimed it took the unprecedented step of forcing all “war on terror” detainees sent to Guantanamo in 2002 to take a high dosage of a controversial anti-malarial drug known to have severe side effects because the government was concerned the disease could be reintroduced into Cuba by detainees arriving from malaria-endemic countries Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But hundreds of contractors who were hired by Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), at the time a subsidiary of Halliburton, the oil services firm formerly headed by Dick Cheney, from malaria-endemic countries such as the Philippines and India and tasked with building Guantanamo’s Camp Delta facility in early 2002 did not receive the same type of medical treatment, calling into question the Pentagon’s rationale of mass presumptive treatment of detainees with the drug mefloquine, a Truthout investigation has found.

Numerous peer-reviewed journal articles and public health experts have linked mefloquine, also known by its brand name, Lariam, with severe side effects, including vertigo, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, anxiety, panic attacks, confusion, hallucinations, bizarre dreams, sores and homicidal and suicidal thoughts.

Indeed, a 2002 study reported that upwards of 80 to over 90 percent of all healthy volunteers administered treatment doses of mefloquine suffered either vertigo or nausea. According to the study by Austrian researchers, “Participants suffering from severe (grade 3) vertigo (73 percent) required bed rest and specific medication for 1 to 4 days.”

Last December, Truthout published an investigative report that, for the first time, revealed details of a previously secret government policy that called for all detainees sent to Guantanamo to be given 1,250 milligrams – the treatment dosage – of mefloquine, regardless if they had malaria or not.

March 3, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Halliburton, KBR, Safety and Security Issues | , , , , | Leave a comment

Beyond WikiLeaks: The Privatization of War

by: Jose L. Gomez del Prado, UN Working Group on Mercenaries, t r u t h o u t | Report

The United Nation Human Rights Council, under the Universal Periodic Review, started in Geneva on November 5, 2010 to review the human rights record of the United States. The following is an edited version of the presentation given by Jose L. Gomez del Prado in Geneva on November 3, 2010 at a parallel meeting at the UN Palais des Nations on that occasion.

Private military and security companies (PMSC) are the modern reincarnation of a long lineage of private providers of physical force: corsairs, privateers and mercenaries. Mercenaries, which had practically disappeared during the 19th and 20th centuries, reappeared in the 1960s during the decolonization period, operating mainly in Africa and Asia. Under the United Nations, a convention was adopted which outlaws and criminalizes their activities. Additionally, Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions also contains a definition of mercenary.

These non-state entities of the 21st century operate in extremely blurred situations, where the frontiers are difficult to separate. The new security industry of private companies moves large quantities of weapons and military equipment. It provides services for military operations, recruiting former military as civilians to carry out passive or defensive security.

However, these individuals cannot be considered civilians, given that they often carry and use weapons, interrogate prisoners, load bombs, drive military trucks and fulfill other essential military functions. Those who are armed can easily switch from a passive-defensive to an active-offensive role and can commit human rights violations and even destabilize governments. They cannot be considered soldiers or supporting militias under international humanitarian law, either, since they are not part of the army or in the armed forces chain of command, and often belong to a large number of different nationalities.

PMSC personnel cannot usually be considered to be mercenaries, for the definition of mercenaries as stipulated in the international conventions dealing with this issue does not generally apply to the personnel of PMSCs, which are legally operating in foreign countries under contracts of legally registered companies.

Please read the entire Report here

December 26, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues, United Nations, Wartime Contracting | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Confusion in Iraq: Troops and Contractors March Into New Era

by: Mike Ludwig, t r u t h o u t | Report

The Obama administration signaled the end of an era this week as the last combat troops left Iraq, but insurgents apparently did not get the message. A wave of attacks targeting Iraqi security operations left at least 51 dead and dozens wounded on Wednesday, just one day after the White House continued to congratulate itself for reducing the US presence to 50,000 “noncombat” troops.

Last week’s initial announcement of the withdrawal lined up with President Obama’s August 31 deadline for ending the combat mission in Iraq, but military officials moved quickly to clarify that the war is not yet over before the insurgents could beat them to the point.

“I don’t think anybody declared the end of the war as far as I know,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said last week. “There’s still fighting ahead.”

Obama is expected to choose careful words next Tuesday when he addresses troops and the nation at Fort Bliss in Texas. The speech, followed by a prime-time Oval Office address, will take credit for shifting the US role in Iraq away from engaging in open combat and toward assisting Iraqi forces in reining in control of the country.

Iraqi security forces are obviously incapable of preventing attacks, with the most recent attacks killing dozens of cops and two Iraqi soldiers in cities across the country. So, who will be assisting them in fighting the terrorists?

The job has fallen on 50,000 remaining troops and the civilian State Department, flanked by 7,000 private military contractors, despite recent reports that contractors – some of them notoriously trigger-happy guns for hire – are chronically mismanaged and linked to $8.7 billion in reconstruction funding is currently unaccounted for.

“After September 1st, the United States will have a different mission, one of advising and assisting Iraqi security forces, joining the Iraqis in targeted counterterrorism operations and protecting U.S. troops and civilians who remain in Iraq,” White House Press Secretary Bill Burton told the press the day before the string of deadly attacks.

This mission involves facing terrorist attacks, roadside bombs and accompanying Iraqi troops on dangerous counterterrorism missions – essentially combat, but it’s just not classified as such, according to report in the Navy Times.

Please Read the Entire Story here

August 27, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Iraq, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, State Department | , , , | Leave a comment