According to an article in Tuesdayâs Financial Times, US sub-contractors in Iraq are importing cheap labor from South Asia rather than hiring Iraqis.
One key reason, according to the article, is security and force protection.
âWe don't want to overlook Iraqis, but we want to protect ourselves," the US Army colonel who heads the Coalition Provisional Authority's procurement office told the paper. "From a force protection standpoint, Iraqis are more vulnerable to a bad guy influence."
Unfortunately, itâs not difficult to grasp the reality behind these concerns.
No getting around it: Itâs a lot more likely that an Iraqi Muslim is going to be in league with some local resistance cell than a Hindu you bring in from southern India. But this also shows the ratchet-like cycle of unfortunateness that can develop when youâre occupying an intractable country like Iraq.
As violence has spiraled in Israel over the last two decades, the Israelis have brought in more and more foreign workers to fill jobs once held by Palestinians. This of course is terrible on a symbolic level. And it also deals a crushing blow to the Palestinian economy --- which itself creates a sort of low-term terrorist blowback because it creates a fertile breeding ground for groups like Hamas.
But what exactly are the Israelis supposed to do as long as a certain percentage of Palestinians from the West Bank who come to Israel to work are actually suicide bombers?
The first signs of such a pattern seem to be cropping up in Iraq.
Needless to say, importing foreign workers into Iraq doesnât do a lot of good for the Iraqi unemployment rate, which is perilously high. And, not to put too fine a point on it, but you donât have to spend too much time in Southeast Asia, Africa or the Caribbean to know thereâs a bit of a precedent for importing South Asian workers into countries under, shall we say, foreign management.
Here are a couple uplifting grafs from the FT article â¦
"Iraqis are a security threat," says a Pakistani manager in Baghdad for the Tamimi Company, based in the Saudi city of Dammam, which is contracted to cater for 60,000 soldiers in Iraq. "We cannot depend on them."
The company, which has 12 years' experience feeding US troops in the Gulf, employs 1,800 Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis and Nepalese in its kitchens. It uses only a few dozen Iraqis for cleaning.
In the dusty backyard of the US administrators' Baghdad palace, south Asians, housed 12 to a Saudi-made temporary cabin, organise 180,000 meals a day for US troops and administrators.
A Tamimi manager says the company pays an average salary of one Saudi riyal (Dollars 3) a day and grants leave once every two years. The contracts are awarded by Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR), a subsidiary of Halliburton, which in 2001 won its second Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, or Logcap, contract to sub-contract the supply of US military provisions. The Logcap is open-ended and its Iraqi share is worth "in excess of Dollars 2bn", according to officials of the Defence Contract Management Agency in Baghdad.