Among the more amazing things to emerge from the House government oversight committee hearing on private security contracting in Iraq was the amount of money paid to Blackwater USA private forces. A memo released at the hearing shows that some of the paid militia were making as much as $1,200 per day. Compare that with what the Washington Post reports American servicepersons make risking their lives for this nation:
An unmarried sergeant given Iraq pay and relief from U.S. taxes makes about $83 to $85 a day, given time in service. A married sergeant with children makes about double that, $170 a day. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Baghdad overseeing more than 160,000 U.S. troops, makes roughly $180,000 a year, or about $493 a day. That comes out to less than half the fee charged by Blackwater for its senior manager of a 34-man security team.
Twelve hundred dollars per day comes out to $6,000 per week, or almost $300,000 per year. How in the world can that be justified by a supposedly promilitary president? I recently had dinner with a friend who works for the Veterans Affairs Department. This person told me that a 45-year-old relative who is on active duty in the Army is being sent back for a third tour in Iraq. This relative has retired military friends in their 50s who've been asked to return to service. As this person put it, the Pentagon is "digging very, very deep" to find Americans willing to serve in Iraq.
Meanwhile, Blackwater seems to have no trouble recruiting young men. It seems to me an insult to everyone on active duty that the Bush administration can let profiteers earn these huge sums while troops' families use food stamps back home. What is wrong with this picture?
By Bonnie Erbe