by susan lenfestey
Boy do I know how to have fun on a Saturday night.
Just got back from a neighbor's house where, with about 10 others, I called voters in Florida, and then watched a screening of Robert Greenwald's film, Iraq for Sale. MoveOn.Org worked its wonders in putting this phone bank/rage-rouser together in living rooms and basements all over America.
First, the phone bank. We showed up with our cell phones, went over an easy script and instructions for coding responses, and then were given two pages to phone. Sounds boring, but bingo, we got to call Florida's 16th congressional district, yes, home of MAF54, aka Mark Foley.
We were calling identified Democrats, making sure the lists are "clean", that is the numbers are current, that they're voting for Dem Tim Mahoney, (and not Mark Foley who still appears on the ballot) and identifying key issues. They were given a few issues to choose from -- war in Iraq, health care and so on, but the good news is how many seemed to come up with their own issue, something along the lines of "getting rid of sleazeball Republicans".
We then called MoveOn and entered our coded results. Very slick. This sort of diligent list maintenance is what the political parties used to do, so I guess even campaign work is contracted out now. Which brings me to part two, the film.
Iraq for Sale is about the record number of private contractors being used in Iraq to provide everything from meals for the troops to water systems to guards for Abu Ghraib, how badly they do it, and the deadly and costly consequences.
On the one hand, the private contractors, truck drivers and so on, are put at more risk and given less protection. On the other, they are bound by no military code and accountable only to a profit-making company. The guards at Abu Ghraib, for instance, who were employees of Blackwater, were participants in the torture that took place there. (Past tense? Well, of course not. After all, it's legal now.) But unlike the military low-level wretches such as Lindie Englund who got sent to prison, the offending Blackwater employees simply got sent home.
Most of all it's about the astonishing amount of money that these companies like Halliburton and Blackwater and Parsons -- lately in the news for constructing buildings so badly that raw sewage drips through the ceilings -- are raking in as a result of their Iraqi ventures, even as they endanger employees and bungle their projects. And how their lobbyists on K Street see to it that the gravy train keeps slopping it on, with no-bid contracts and bloated prices. We know all this of course, but it's helpful and horrifying to see it all so clearly laid out, not unlike Bill Moyers did awhile back with the Abramoff thicket.
You can buy your own DVD and have fun Saturday nights like me by going to Iraq for Sale.
And you can call Mark Foley's district from your own cozy home by signing up with MoveOn.Org.
Do something so that we can wake up November 8 and face the world with more than another apology.