Democrats in Congress are taking a long look at private contractors, the second largest force in Iraq. Does outsourcing help soldiers do their jobs and save money? Does it allow for warfare without accountability? Plus, President Bush reminds the Congress that its nonbinding Iraq resolution should not curtail further funding for the war. On Reporter's Notebook, if you think Antony and Cleopatra looked like Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, think again.
FROM THIS EPISODE
With the House expected to pass a resolution opposing an increase of troops in Iraq, President Bush said today he's glad it's nonbinding. He said what he's concerned about is his upcoming request for more money. Asked if claims that Iranian weapons are being used against US troops in Iran are a pretext for war, the President called "preposterous" the allegation that his administration was fabricating the allegation. David Sanger is Chief Washington Correspondent for the New York Times.
The Army that cleaned latrines and did kitchen patrol is a thing of the past, with that kind of grunt work now performed by private contractors. But those aren't the only kind of tasks that have been outsourced by the Pentagon. The second largest force in Iraq is 100,000 private contractors, many performing jobs that soldiers used to do including that of providing security for construction projects, diplomats and visiting dignitaries. One of the largest is Blackwater USA, which has been called, "the world's most powerful mercenary army." Supporters of privatization say it will be critical to the US military for a long time to come. Critics call it "outsourcing war" behind the backs of the American people. Is it a good deal for taxpayers? Does it help soldiers do their real jobs? Is it a formula for conducting war without accountability?
Katy Helvenston-Wettengel, mother whose son was killed in Iraq
Doug Brooks, President of the International Peace Operations Association
Jeremy Scahill, Fellow at the Nation Institute
Robert Rowe, Former truck driver for KBR
Deborah Avant, Professor of Political Science at George Washington University
Antony and Cleopatra has long been regarded as one of history's most romantic couples. Shakespeare portrayed them as both powerful and seductive. Hollywood cast Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton to play the roles. Today, at the Shefton Museum, a 2000-year-old coin went on display, revealing the ugly truth. One side of the coin captures the image of Antony, one of the Roman triumvirate. The other side shows Cleopatra, the Egyptian Queen. Lindsay Allason-Jones is Director of Archeological Museums for the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne.
Lindsay Allason-Jones, Director of Archeological Museums at Newcastle University