Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Privatised Interrogators in Corruption Scandal

Why am I not in the least surprised by this? Titan, Inc., one of the companies involved in supplying privately-employed interrogators at Abu Ghraibh, has been caught paying out huge bribes to the president of Benin in order to get contracts. They shelled out two wedges of a million bucks each for him, and tossed in a pair of earrings for his wife. Seriously. You wonder how much more they'd have needed to pay for the whole country. Not that I'd want Benin, personally, but owning your own sovereign state brings with it all kinds of opportunities; you get an aircraft registry, a shipping registry, a corporate registry and a top level domain for FREE, just to start with. There's always a demand for this stuff - impunity services, you might say. And you can write your own banking code. Then there's the central bank; it takes some more investment, but once it's up and running you can pull all sorts of scams like paying your bills in hyperinflated shinplasters while booking your revenues in hard currency. You can even issue your own end-user certificates for weapons shipments - there's a real profit opportunity that any state, however flyblown, can seize - and passports, even diplomatic ones. Sometimes I wonder if these people really have What It Takes to Succeed - no real ambition or creativity. Or they'd have done it.

Because they failed to take such steps, they got caught and fined $28 million. Ha. But, to the best of my knowledge, nobody at Titan has ever been punished in any way over the fact that one of their employees, John Israel, raped a little boy in Iraq and could not be prosecuted because as a private contractor, he was excluded from Iraqi justice at the time. US courts martial had no jurisdiction over him because he was a civilian, and neither did the ordinary courts, as it happened outside their territorial jurisdiction. He got away scot-free - no, my mistake - he got away with only an official reprimand on his file. He got a bad job reference - that's it! Well, nobody seems to have done anything about his employers, either. A short, easily overlooked, point in the Washington Post story on the corruption is worth remembering:
"The company said it told its largest customer, the U.S. Navy, about the plea agreement and has been negotiating a separate administrative agreement that will allow it to continue to receive contracts."
You'd think they would at least stop giving them more taxpayers' money, but then, Viktor Bout's planes are still flying to Baghdad from Sharjah and Dubai, every day.

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