By Nicole Lee, The Washington Informer Opinion/Editorial
The company Halliburton is the emblem of the military industrial complex. During the Iraq war, Halliburton gained a reputation synonymous with crooked dealing. Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s relationship to the company as its former CEO is symbolic of the misuse of the government funds for private gain and public destruction.
And the criticism was well earned. During the Iraq war, Halliburton was awarded multimillion dollar contracts to “rebuild” the country. These “no bid” contracts billed the American people for, in many cases, overpriced goods. US soldiers and private security forces, akin to Blackwater, were used to protect convoys of Halliburton goods.
Halliburton regularly employ imported labor and the laborers have reported poor pay and treatment tantamount to slavery. US soldiers reported that Halliburton even provided them inferior services. Despite their track record and universal bad publicity, it appears Halliburton, Dyncorp and other US military contractors are poised to grab up the lion share of US government contracts to rebuild Haiti.
Virtually six months after the most devastating natural disaster to hit the Western Hemisphere in the last two centuries, Haiti reconstruction remains stymied. I just returned from Haiti last week after interviewing rape victims in the make shift tent communities.
Each morning I drove through downtown Port au Prince. From what I saw, up until this point the billions of dollars earmarked for Haiti reconstruction has amounted to a group of five guys with shovels wearing USAID t-shirts shoveling the rubble of an entire three story building into a few garbage bags.
But this ridiculous scene will be replaced by an even scarier one. While the dust from the collapsed buildings still hung in the air of Port au Prince, contractors began to salivate over the eventual contracts to rebuild Haiti. If Iraq reconstruction is any indicator, we can expect a rebuilding process that has nothing to do with the welfare or interests of the Haitians people.
And despite the track record, despite the evidence awarding the Haiti’s reconstruction complex to Halliburton and its corporate cronies seems to be a fait d’complet.
Since the earthquake, Haitian small and medium size businesses have tried to insert themselves into the bidding process for reconstruction contracts. At every turn they have been met with roadblocks and outright hostility from US government officials. When a conference was held in Port au Prince regarding the rebuilding, a few Haitian small businessmen were invited.
When it came time to discuss the actual bidding process, they were told that they would not be eligible to even compete due to their inexperience. Even the forms to be vetted for US government contracts are only readily available in English.
But isn’t a Haiti rebuilt by Haitians going to be the most sustainable solution? What happened to all the talk of a Haiti for Haitians? First, Americans have taken their eye off the ball. We have been distracted while these contracts are been promised away. The Haitian people who have the most to gain or lose, feel that they have no control over this process but know that their futures are being determined without their involvement.
Halliburton has no place in Haiti. Just as Cheney turned to his allies to rebuild Iraq, why can’t the democratic President and Congress turn to their allies to rebuild Haiti? Unions, green institutions, and community based organizations, stand ready to provide trade and skill building to Haitian businesses and workers.
Why not use that expertise and create Haiti that takes care of Haitians FIRST and then exports to the rest of the world. We need to employ different tactics if we want a different outcome. Using Halliburton or other private military contractors just because they have done it before represents poor and uninspired leadership on our part. If we are to build back better in Haiti, it means involving Haitians at all levels and not just returning to wrote.
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