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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 February, 2004, 15:01 GMT
Protestors target 'corporate invaders'
By Maggie Shiels
in San Francisco

Enlarging the fresh water treatment plant near Baghdad
Bechtel is staying, and so are other contractors
About one hundred people gathered around engineering giant Bechtel's main offices in San Francisco on Tuesday.

Some carried banners saying "US troops dying for Bechtel profits" and "As Iraqis die, Bechtel gets rich".

"Corporate invasion is not liberation!" and "Bechtel, Bechtel what do you say, how many Iraqis did you loot today?" were among the slogans chanted by the crowd.

One group of protestors were dressed in shrouds carrying dummies to symbolise the Iraqis and Americans who have lost their lives the war.

Others donned Bush masks with pins on their jackets which read "War Profiteers' Club."

And some, like James, wore pig masks.

"I am an executive of Bechtel corporation," he announced.

Nine months after the occupation, services are still in a state of total disrepair
Antonia Juhasz, International Forum on Globalisation
"I'm feeding at the trough of global death and destruction. I'm in bed with President Bush, and we have come up with a plan to perpetrate war globally for who knows how long!"

James and his cohorts proceeded to roll about in $100 bills to illustrate how companies like Bechtel, Halliburton and Lockheed Martin are cashing on the Iraq war.


Halliburton is being investigated by the Pentagon for potential overpricing of $60m for fuel taken into Iraq by a subcontractor.

Sweet Water canal dredging
More contracts are expected to be announced shortly
It is one of 3 companies that have secured the lion's share of the government's $20bn budget to fix Iraq's infrastructure.

Bechtel's slice of the pie is $3bn.

Carol Norris of anti-war pressure group Code Pink insists the Bush administration has to stop looking after its brands.

"We want to have the war profiteering stopped," she explained.

"We want to see some legislation that regulates the oversight of some of these contracts. There are people in Iraq who are very competent who could do this work.

"So why is the United States coming in and taking over these contracts?"

The International Forum on Globalisation accuses the Bush administration of putting the Iraqi economy up for sale to the highest bidder.

We're making great progress every day
Bechtel spokesman
The Forum's Antonia Juhasz believes that so far, companies like Bechtel have done little for their money.

"Bechtel isn't doing the work they were hired to do," she said.

"Nine months after the occupation, services are still in a state of total disrepair. (Bechtel) have spent the time making assessments, they've spent the time collecting US taxpayer dollars, not providing services to Iraqis."

Reconstruction progress

Peace groups claim that even the Pentagon has accused Bechtel of doing sub-standard work, leaving the Iraqi people hanging on in vain for life-sustaining public services.

But Bechtel spokesman John Marshall insists they have actually achieved quite a lot.

"Bechtel, in the short time we've been there, with the help of subcontractors, has restored the country's deep water ports so humanitarian supplies can enter the country, and has prepared over 1200 schools so a million Iraqi schoolchildren can attend schools," he said.

"It's restored the power infrastructure back up to pre-war levels and is making good progress on further work. It's a tremendous record and we're making great progress every day."

About another $5bn in construction contracts for electrical, water and other projects are expected to be announced next month.

The US government says while most will probably go to large firms experienced at working in war zones, the subcontracts will often be awarded to smaller firms both in Iraq and the United States.

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