Saturday, January 1, 2005

Trusting Your Instincts

I didn't intend to talk about myself or my family on this blog. I meant to discuss mostly history and current events, using the widest lens I could find. I planned to leave myself out of the picture. And I will do that as much as possible in the future. But this entry is going to be an exception.

Like many others, I've had a difficult time finding work since the global economy started collapsing on the morning of September 11, 2001. By the end of 2003, I was fully unemployed and spending all my time and energy sending out resumes. Nobody was biting. Nobody was nibbling. Not even a sniff.

In the spring of 2004 I finally got a nibble -- from a consulting firm whose name rang no bells with me. I was contacted by their regional human-relations man, who asked if I could join him for an "informal meeting" to discuss "potential opportunities".

My wife was ecstatic. I suppose that's a normal reaction for a woman who has small kids, a big mortgage and an unemployed husband. I was not exactly ecstatic but at least I was encouraged, and I decided to learn whatever I could about this company before I made arrangements to meet anyone. I didn't want to show up at this guy's office with no knowledge of what his company did; that would appear stupid. And I didn't want to show up at his office at all unless I felt comfortable with what the company did; that would be stupid.

So I checked out their website. And it gave me the creeps. I cannot say exactly why, but the idea of me working for this company seemed ... wrong. Very wrong. So I told my wife to cool her jets, and made an excuse about being unable to meet with the guy, even though he had been the only one to react positively to my resume in months.

That was almost a year ago. In the meantime, a few small contracts have appeared, and I've been working on and off. It hasn't been a prosperous year for me, but it hasn't been a disaster either; we're still paying the mortgage. And I had almost forgotten about the whole incident. But yesterday I was reminded of it while reading this article. It's about the top ten war profiteers of the year. And there's a familiar name on the list -- near the top! Could I have been rich? No, but I could have been complicit in mass murder for profit! Somehow I had the instinct to say "No, Thank You". And here's some of what I missed out on:

According to a March 22 report by AID’s assistant inspector general Bruce Crandlemire, "[This company's] extensive involvement in the development of the Iraq economic reform program creates the appearance of unfair competitive advantage in the contract award process."

[It] spent five months helping USAID write the job specifications and even sent some employees to Iraq to begin work before the contract was awarded, while its competitors had only a week to read the specifications and submit their own bids after final revisions were made.

Apparently they are not only professional war-profiteers, but they're even on the 'inside track', so to speak.

Today I am thankful for my instinctive reaction, and for the fact that I had enough confidence to trust it. My family's financial situation is far from secure, but at least my soul is intact. I have no blood on my hands, and no war-profits in my bank account.

Some other souls are not so fortunate, although their bank accounts are much better-stocked. Consider, for example, the case of Mr. and Mrs. R. James Woolsey, whose story is documented here. It's quite a piece. This is my favorite paragraph:

James [Woolsey] should be awarded a plaque for being the #1 Iraq War Monger, and it should say: "What could be more sickening than a war-hungry non-combatant? A war-hungry non-combatant reaping profit from the blood of slaughtered women, children and men of Iraq." (Bill Berkowitz).

To paraphrase a famous line from a long-gone era:

I know not what course others may take, but as for me, I'd rather starve to death!

I'll leave you with another bit of Max Webster, brilliant stuff by Pye Dubois:

Lip Service

second hand telegram
lip service legal love
second hand out of town telegram
lip service legal love

so you're the lawyer's wife
how's life on lakeshore road?
furs and boats caviar and moats
and your fat kitten is teasing your aunt in the hall
with the liver hors d'oeuvres she gives her guests when on call

ahhhhh you should be down under
pushin' up wheat for the hungry

big revolutions in my black book
written down in our teens
i gave them to krushchev
i lent them to lennon

second hand out of town telegram
lip service legal love
lip service second hand out of town
lip service love

so you're the canker banker
hours nine to five on fantasies of gold
vets cheques cigars nassau
and your harness horse is cold cash
'cause the drugs you use work fast
burned off and out before the race track urine test

ahhhhh you should be down under
pushin' up wheat for the hungry

written down in our teens
i mailed them to kennedy
i typed them for tito

only your right hand knows you're left handed
only your right hand knows you're left handed
only your right hand knows you're left handed