Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Gap Year in Hell!

Army employing students in Iraq
The Army is paying students to put their degrees on hold and join troops in Iraq as Arabic interpreters. Five students have already been sent to areas under British control and 11 more are in the final stages of preparation, the Ministry of Defence said.

Their work includes translating documents and dealing with the public.

The MoD said they wear blue jackets and helmets to distinguish them from troops but have been warned: "There's a degree of risk inherent in working in Iraq."

You wanna bet? To come over all serious, this is a creative and original idea to address a vital problem..but I can't help thinking it could turn out bad. What are you planning for your junior year abroad, Language Student? "Well, I thought I'd spend a while in a guerrilla war. Counterinsurgency tactics have always fascinated me, and I'm really looking forward to helping interrogate a few terrs.." In fact, the motivation is pretty clear - £200 a day living on the ration strength for a 6 month tour (ie 182 days) equals £36,400 raw cash. Now that's what I call a top-up fee. But - hold hard! - a private soldier in the Infantry gets £213.29 weekly as a recruit (reference). If I were one of these studes, I think I would avoid talking about money.

And guess who is behind this scheme?

"Miss Culley, of Weymouth, Dorset, said she and her female friend were approached by recruiters from Kellog, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of US multinational Halliburton, a civilian contractor working for the Ministry of Defence, at Exeter University's Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies."

That's right - Dick Cheney's cut-lunch commandos. The folk who allegedly pay their staff in Iraq in raw cash dollars and assume a percentage for fraud in the books, are being investigated for profiteering off the US Army's budget in Iraq...and are the subject of this post from Iraq Now...

"Youngster: Is the bonus in the form of a paper check? Or an automatic deposit?

Trainer: Neither. Neither method is expensive enough. We send a courier to find you in the field, and we just hand you a sack full of cash. Arthur Anderson reports that 2% of every cash dollar in a business leaves in an employee’s pocket. So we just assume the courier’s a thief, and write off 2% in theft as an expense. The expense—along with the courier’s fee-- is reimbursed by the government, of course, plus an additional 2%-7% profit margin."

Some other people Miss Culley might want to keep quiet about money towards would be the locally recruited interpreters. I've heard today that they are getting 200 a day as well - but that's 200 US dollars, or £105.17 at current exchange rates, or damn near half what the students are getting! Now there's fair.

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