Slave labor building our American Embassy in Iraq - where is the outrage?
UPDATE: The above video shows Rory Mayberry testifying to Rep. Henry Waxman's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. After he spoke, the blog Washington Wire asked the following:
Did Rep. Henry Waxman, committee chairman, have any idea who Mayberry was when he asked him to testify before his oversight panel?Rep. Waxman's response is included in the same post:
Extensive police and court records from Oregon and California show that Mayberry has a string of convictions going back to the mid-1980s, including two for forgery, one for burglary and a fourth for welfare fraud. In 2004, before heading off to Iraq to work as a medic, food service manager, radio technician, and sometime mortician, Mayberry was fined $4,000 for working as an embalmer without a license and for various Oregon state infractions as a “crematory operator,” records show.
One of the issues the Committee examined at the hearing was whether the prime contractor building the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was engaged in the mistreatment of foreign laborers. Mr. Mayberry’s testimony addressed this subject. Prior to the hearing, there were several reports in the media regarding the use of forced labor to construct the U.S. Embassy. In June 2007, the Wall Street Journal published a lengthy story reporting that the Department of Justice was investigating allegations that the First Kuwaiti workers were brought to work on the U.S. Embassy against their will. According to the Wall Street Journal:Agreed.
The Department of Justice launched the probe of First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting Co. after former employees alleged that workers at the company were told they were being sent to Dubai, only to wind up in Iraq instead, people familiar with the matter said. According to the allegations, First Kuwaiti confiscated the workers’ passports, so they were unable to depart Baghdad, these people said.
The allegations of human trafficking and labor violations were also reported by NBC News and the Washington Post.
These were serious allegations and they deserved responsible oversight by Congress.
The Committee appropriately invited witnesses from a variety of different perspectives to testify about these allegations. Ambassador Patrick F. Kennedy, Director of the Office of Management Policy, Major General (Ret.) Charles E. Williams, Director of the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations, and William Moser, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisitions, were invited to present the State Department’s perspective. Howard Krongard, the State Department’s Inspector General, was invited to testify about the results of his investigation into the allegations. And Mr. Mayberry and John Owens, both of whom worked at the embassy site and had concerns about labor conditions, were invited to provide their first-hand observations.
There were multiple sources for the allegations of trafficking and adverse labor conditions beyond Mr. Mayberry. Mr. Owens gave similar testimony at the hearing. A report by the Multinational Forces-Iraq Inspector General found that the laborers working at the site reported fraudulent hiring practices, including recruiting fees that effectively made the workers indentured servants. The existence of these multiple sources does not make the allegations true, but it certainly makes them worthy of oversight.
I was not previously aware of the background and his prior criminal convictions are relevant in assessing his credibility. At the same time, his lack of any apparent motive to deceive and the existence of corroborating sources are also relevant.
Elsewhere, I read that the American Embassy in Baghdad is of "Vatican" size. If you have ever been to the Vatican, you know that means a compound the size of a small city. In fact, Vatican City is an independent state, despite being surrounded on all sides by Italy. What the hell are we doing building an Embassy that size? Are we trying to show the world how we conquered Iraq?? How will they EVER forgive us??
It should come as no surprise that the contractor, First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting, is a subsidiary of the Halliburton-owned Kellogg, Brown and Root.
The allegations that First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting were forcing people to work in Iraq against surfaced two years ago in a Chicago Tribune series called "Pipeline to Peril". According to articles in that series, other companies were using similar tactics.
This is America. This is AMERICA. We should not be allowing people to besmirch the constitutional principles of freedom that we stand for by Shanghai'ing them off to Iraq. That is morally wrong, ethically wrong, and legally wrong, by any standard.
I hope Waxman holds more than hearings on this matter. I hope he initiates some prosecutions.