Gold Star Families May Show "War is a Racket," Corporations Pay Taliban
In an landmark case for families of military veterans, a large group of plaintiffs , including families of fallen soldiers, have accused American corporations, including Louis Berger Group, of playing both sides in Afghanistan for profit, even funding the Taliban which uses the proceeds to kill American soldiers. The families say the corporations pay what amounts to protection money to the Taliban for allowing projects, many ultimately doomed, to continue.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of a damning Washington Post series The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War, which lambastes the US government for lying about progress in the war.
The UK Guardian reported on the Washington Post series:
"Hundreds of confidential interviews with key figures involved in prosecuting the 18-year US war in Afghanistan have revealed that the US public has been consistently misled about an unwinnable conflict."
Another major defendant in the lawsuit is Kansas City-based Black & Veatch.
In 2011 Massachusetts Congressman John Tierney, a Democrat, chaired an investigation into a system of the Pentagon paying "protection money" to the Taliban for the safe passage of NATO supply convoys through hostile territory in Afghanistan, which is most of the country. The report, produced by House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, was entitled Warlord Inc.
In that report, the "protection money" to insurgents was studied for one $2 billion contract to HNT, Host Nation Trucking. The report concluded definitively that up to 20 percent of funds for contracts to transport U.S. military supplies are knowingly and systematically paid to insurgents
In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on December 3, 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted:
"You offload a ship in Karachi and by the time whatever it is – you know, muffins for our soldiers’ breakfasts or anti-IED equipment – gets to where we’re headed, it goes through a lot of hands. And one of the major sources of funding for the Taliban is the protection money."
The amount of money turned out to be in the hundreds of millions, rivaling what the Taliban takes in from even the opium trade.
Afghanistan reconstruction experts have long lamented the reconstruction model foisted upon Afghanistan since 2002. Much better results would have been obtained, the experts say, by working with small, indigenous Afghan non-governmental organizations, or with the formerly well-regarded Afghan National Solidarity Program, a quasi-independent arm of the government.
In the early 1930s, Marine Corps General and double Medal of Honor winner Smedley Butler wrote a booklet called War is a Racket, and after his retirement proceeded to tour the country with his message that present wars were corrupt. Butler wrote:
“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism..."
Butler contended that the driving force behind most wars was the profit motive. He said in his speeches across the country:
"War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small 'inside' group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes."
CNN reports on the current lawsuit, in "Gold Star family lawsuit alleges contractors in Afghanistan funneled money to the Taliban":
"Family members of US service members who were killed or wounded in Afghanistan sued a number of prominent contractors on Friday that worked to rebuild the country post-invasion, accusing them of funneling millions of dollars in payments to the Taliban for protection that funded the group's attacks on American troops in the region."
""This case is about obtaining justice for my husband's death and the lives of so many others who were killed and injured by the terrorists in Afghanistan," August Cabrera, the widow of Lt. Col. David E. Cabrera, who was killed in a suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2011, said in a statement."
Of the defendants in the lawsuit, only Black & Veatch has commented, saying through a spokesman to CNN:
"During our work in Afghanistan, we provided support to our client, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and followed the directives of the US government agencies that we served...We are proud of our record in successfully completing a number of projects in Afghanistan that helped more than double the amount of reliable power available to the country's hospitals, schools, businesses and homes under its contract with USAID."
More than 2300 US soldiers have been killed Afghanistan, and tens of thousands of Afghan civilians. The running cost, mostly for military operations and the training of the Afghan Army, is at over $1 trillion.