Saturday, October 20, 2007

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?

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.
Rep. Waxman's response is included in the same post:

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:

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.


Blogger Easemeister said...

You know, a 20-minute romp around the Internet on various searches with Mayberry's name was interesting. I started off watching the YouTube hearing you posted. I find this same clip on several liberal blogs and also in a few posts also by conservatives (Ollie North was one) saying Mayberry is a whistleblower gone bad with a criminal record, implying his testimony is unreliable and that he's just part of a Waxman witchhunt on the Bush Administration. Apparently Mayberry does have some skeletons in his closet, but, as Waxman's Sept. 21 statement says here in this Washington Post article:
"Based on the information I have received, the check forgery and burglary charges occurred over 20 years ago, while Mr. Mayberry was under the age of 25" [just an innocent little kid, right?], "and the probation officer’s report was written 22 years ago. Since 1993, 14 years ago, Mr. Mayberry has had no criminal convictions, with the possible exception of a motor vehicle infraction."

He scoots right over what the criminal conviction was 14 years ago, and clearly is trying to minimize the significance of Mayberry's past infractions. In the Neil King article at that same link (where Waxman's whole statement can be seen), he reports that Mayberry was fired from that company for "failure to prove" he had proper qualifications (I read that and I wonder if he did not have proper qualifications or if he just failed to prove he had them, know what I'm saying?) and that the Phillipine gov't says only 11 Phillipinos were on the flight, not 51, and all of them knew they were going to Bagdhad.

There is another statement floating out there by Rory Mayberry from June 2005 with an equally scathing testimony about his experience working with Haliburton.

So it's hard to know if Mayberry is the stand-up whistleblower he seems to be in the YouTube video or just somebody else's pawn in this volley between Democrats and Republicans. Waxman says Mayberry isn't the only one to have made accusations that should be of high concern, and I'd like to hear from a lot more whistle blowers if what Mayberry is saying is all true.

The outrage I feel is toward those Republicans who don't seem to be the least curious about such accusations, but who seem to react with a Democrats-are-bad-and-wrong-no-matter-what position regardless of the material under examination. Even my dad, a long-time conservative and loyal Republican, told me recently how mad he is at the Republican party. And I think that suggests a lot--that the most effective outrage is going to come from within the ranks.

7:37 AM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

Seeing as no one made hay of this accusation, I believe he's just telling what he saw, and that both sides have enough dirt on their hands not to make noise about this.

I found him very credible, and if he has a history as a whistleblower, it surprises me not at all that someone is digging into his past to attempt to discredit him.

7:44 AM  

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