Two American civilian contractors who worked on a massive U.S. Embassy construction project in Baghdad told Congress yesterday that foreign laborers were deceptively recruited and trafficked to Iraq to toil at the site, where they experienced physical abuse and substandard working conditions.Doesn't this just make you so proud to be an American? Wait it gets better. The company that the United States hired to build the embassy, First Kuwaiti, was engaged in what amounts to slavery.
Testifying before the committee yesterday, John Owens, an American who worked for First Kuwaiti at the embassy site as a construction foreman from November 2005 to June 2006, said he found living and working conditions for the foreign laborers there "deplorable." Because of difficulty hiring Iraqis for work inside the heavily fortified Green Zone, most of the laborers were from such countries as India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Sierra Leone, the committee was told.Any wonder why our image in the world is ruined? It will take a generation to repair our image in the world. The Bush administration has done nearly irreparable harm to our place in the world.
Foreign workers lived in tightly packed trailers and had "insufficient equipment and basic needs -- stuff like shoes and gloves," Owens said.
They worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and made as little as $240 a month, he said. They were "verbally and physically abused" and had their salaries docked for petty infractions, he added.
Rory J. Mayberry, an emergency medical technician who worked briefly at the embassy site under a subcontract, testified that he was asked by First Kuwaiti managers to escort 51 Filipinos through the Kuwait airport and onto a flight to Baghdad. However, "all of our tickets said we were going to Dubai," he said, adding that a First Kuwaiti manager instructed him not to tell any of the Filipinos that they were going to Baghdad.
He said the men were basically "kidnapped by First Kuwaiti to work on the U.S. Embassy." Their passports had been confiscated, and they were driven away on buses after landing in Baghdad, then were "smuggled into the Green Zone," he said.