Alibi V.13 No.3 • Jan 15-21, 2004 

Newscity

~ Local ~

An ideal for living. The standard American dream home is a typical beige box with various forms and styles of columns and windows slapped on, with an array of options included that do little to make one house in a row distinct from the other. Amidst the rows of standard dream homes, you might find a few pockets of the McMansion-style—the streamlined beautifully designed homes envisioned by architectural impresarios like Charles and Ray Eames and available only to the moderately wealthy.

But three students in UNM's graduate architecture program are trying to change all of that.

Jim Fox, Leslie Ford and Marcus Bushong's take on affordable, aesthetically pleasing homes for the masses starts with two old shipping containers previously used for trade between the United States and Asia. Each metal container is 40 feet long by 8 feet wide and 8 and a half feet tall, has mahogany floors and costs about $1,800 each. The group's design is built off of Habitat for Humanity's typical three-bedroom home. The completed home would cost no more than $65,000, is easy to assemble and made of recycled materials.

The Fox, Ford and Bushong design is an economic and environmentally friendly home and has won top honors at design competitions. The design, which focuses on simple, environmentally-sensitive and affordable family living, is also being showcased as part of a Smithsonian exhibition titled “Affordable Housing: Designing an American Asset.” The exhibition will run from Feb. 29 through Aug. 8 in Washington, D.C.

~ Nation ~

Iraq not exactly a model for free market competition. For all the Bush administration's talk of a “free and democratic Iraq,” politics seem to be muddying the rebuilding of a country that U.S. bombs are primarily responsible for crumbling.

President Bush announced the mission in Iraq was officially accomplished back in May. Then Saddam Hussein was captured. Still more U.S. deaths were announced last week. Which begs the question: What's next? Giving billion-dollar perks to the Bush administration's buddies, apparently.

Long before President Bush declared “Mission Accomplished” on the deck of the U.S.S. Lincoln, before Saddam and his sons were exiled from their many palaces, back when military talk about what should be done in Iraq was just beginning, another conversation was taking place. Equally disturbing, this side discussion centered on one thing: the money to be had by American companies by re-building a war-torn Iraq.

The Bush administration, moving to privatize its military, has given billions of dollars in private contracts to companies that support its agenda. What's more, these companies, including Kellogg, Brown and Root, DynCorp, ITT and MPRI, have ex-military and Defense Department officials on their payrolls and have been awarded government contracts to rebuild Iraq. The total price for these coveted contracts last year? A whopping 8 percent—or $30 billion—of the Pentagon's total 2003 budget, according to Fortune magazine.

A post-September 11 study released by the Defense Department announced that, “Only those functions that must be performed by the Defense Department should be kept by the Defense Department. Any function that can be provided by the private sector is not a core government function.” But why would the government spend such an incredible amount of money on these private contracts? Simply put, to help out friends in high places. Kellogg, Brown & Root is a subsidiary of Halliburton, the energy company formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney. Interestingly, Halliburton was awarded an infamous $3.9 million contract by Cheney when he was defense secretary during Bush Sr.'s term to study the privatization of “routine army functions.” A few years later, Cheney took over as CEO and now receives a six-figure annual pension from the company, according to news reports.

And the links don't stop there. KBR later got a 10-year contract from the government and an additional $16 million to construct a prison for Afghani “enemy combatants” in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

DynCorp last year was awarded the contract to protect Afghan President Hamid Kharzi, along with elite military units. The company has been reaping the benefits of a cozy government connection for years, in the form of a $1.2 billion contract to spray Colombian coca fields that has done nothing to staunch the flow of cocaine to the U.S by the government's own account. DynCorp shares the contract and the billion-plus reward with several other companies such as Northrop Grubman.

Most recently, the company in April received a multi-million dollar contract to build a private police force in Iraq. According to the London Observer, officers on the force will not need to speak Arabic and must be a U.S. police officer.

Friends in high places. With all President Bush's talk of making Iraq a free and democratic country (a explanation he has pinpointed as the foremost reason for risking American lives in the country now that WMD have not been found), you would think Iraqi citizens would have some say in candidates presented to them. Not exactly.

One Washington politico's new job in Baghdad may make this a little difficult. Joe Allbaugh, the man who just happened to have run President Bush's last campaign, has opened a lobbying firm called New Bridge Strategies with offices in Baghdad. His partner in the endeavor is Ed Rogers, former aide to Bush Sr. They'll be looking to help corporations get in on what is left after the no-bid contracts have all been handed out.

Compiled by Sara Hiatt. Call 346-0660 ext. 255 with news tips. E-mail your guest editorial or letter to letters@alibi.com.