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Free the Slaves staff Jacob Patton, Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick, and Peggy Callahan will be blogging here to keep track of what we know about slavery and US contractors in Iraq and how the warslavery.org campaign is going.

Sources and resources

What you need to know about US tax dollars paying for human trafficking during the Iraq war: internal memos, articles, interviews, letters, government reports testimony, and official documents.

If you have anything to add, please post it as a comment to this message.

Articles, Posts

Pipeline to Peril series Cam Simpson, The Chicago Tribune

This award winning, well researched series grips readers as it tells the stories of 12 Nepalese men who were trafficked into Iraq to work on US military bases. Simpson weaves big picture details about the system that promotes trafficking into Iraq with stories of the ultimate price paid by the Nepali men.

Iraq’s Foreign Laborers Face Exploitation, Death—Christian Miller,The Los Angeles Times

Miller also reports on the Nepali men who were duped into taking work for US contractors in Iraq and were subsequently murdered. He also interviewed people in 4 countries to understand labor brokers and how poor, desperate workers come to work for US contractors in Iraq.

US Stalls on Banning Contracts from Using Forced Labor—Cam Simpson, The Chicago Tribune

President Bush has a ‘zero tolerance’ policy on trafficking, Congress agrees but the Department of Defense has yet to ban contractors from using human trafficking victims. Five defense lobbying groups oppose parts of the proposed policy.

US Defense Contractors Push for Ability to Violate US Human Trafficking Laws

Aden Rae of Tradio21 expands on Cam Simpson’s article from the day before.

US to Probe Claims of Human Trafficking—Cam Simpson, The Chicago Tribune

The US Ambassador on Trafficking says he is working with the Department of Defense and the State Department to investigate human trafficking in Iraq. Ambassador Miller says, ”...the U.S. contractor has to take responsibility.”

Kuwaiti Company Accused of Labor Trafficking Builds US Embassy in Baghdad—David Phinney, David Phinney.com

Independent journalist David Phinney was one of the first reporters investigating this issue. His work is thorough and often refreshingly blunt. In this post, Phinney reports on workers alledgedly trafficked into Iraq by First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting. The company has not been sanctioned by the US government but rewarded with a $592 million dollar contract to build the new American embassy in

Labor Trafficking in Iraq—David Phinney, David Phinney.com

David Phinney reports that US contractor Kellogg Brown & Root (a subsidiary of Halliburton) investigated earlier media reports of labor conditions on US contracts in Iraq. KBR employees required to take Trafficking in Persons Awareness Training.

Iraq Contractors Ordered to End Abuses—Cam Simpson, The Chicago Tribune

This story follows up on internal memos [see the original memos further down on this list] from top ranking US military officials in Iraq ordering contractors to stop trafficking workers.

U.S. Tax Dollars Tied to Human Trafficking, Report Alleges—Cam Simpson, The Chicago Tribune

US government reports tax dollars paid for slavery on US military bases in Iraq

Internal Memos

Prevention of Trafficking in Persons in MNF-I

General George Casey, the top ranking US military official in Iraq orders changes in how contractors deal with workers after confirming that common practices violate
US anti-trafficking laws. (MNF-I refers to “Multi-National Force, Iraq”.) link (PDF)

Withholding of Passports, Trafficking in Persons

Colonel Robert Boyles memo ordering contractors to return passports to workers, list addition to future contracts in Iraq link (PDF)

Trafficking in Persons Awareness Training

Employees working under KBR contracts in Iraq ordered to take trafficking awareness training. link (PDF—scroll down to last page)


Links to letters Free the Slaves wrote to officials with oversight/reporting responsibilities in the US military in Iraq. FTS asked a lot of questions. Taxpayers deserve to know the answers. As of August 1, 2006 none have been forthcoming.


Deception, Risks Beset Foreign Workers in Iraq—Terri Gross of Fresh
Air/NPR interviews Chicago Tribune reporter, Cam Simpson

Audio interview based on Simpson’s Pipeline to Peril series.

Audio interview by Aden Rae of Tradio21 with Chicago Tribune reporter, Cam Simpson

Aden Rae of Tradio21 first tipped us off about the issue of trafficking in Iraq. The role that pay plays in trafficking/slavery is misunderstood in this interview.

Government Reports, Testimony, and Official Documents

The Trafficking in Persons Report for 2006

Each year the State Department investigates slavery/trafficking around the world. In this report the State Department reports that US contractors have treated workers in ways commonly associated with trafficking. Here is a quote from page 19 of the report

A recent DOD investigation…identified a number of abuses, some of them considered widespread, committed by DOD contractors or subcontractors of third country national (TCN) workers in Iraq. Some of these abuses are indicative of trafficking in persons…

Enforcing US Policies Against Trafficking in Persons: How is the US
Military Doing?

The House Armed Services Committee and the United States Helsinki Commission talk about the recent history of armed services and slavery (scroll down to the September 21, 2004 hearing).

  • Sarah Mendelson’s testimony before the committee (PDF). Mendelson is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She outlines the links between military peacekeeping missions and the trafficking of girls and women for sex. She also makes recommendations to the Defense Department to stop
  • Martina Vandenberg’s testimony before the committee (PDF).
    Vandenberg is an attorney and authored the Human Rights Watch report on forced prostitution of women and girls in post conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina. Human Rights Watch uncovered 8 cases where US personnel had purchased trafficked women and girls. One contractor got a package deal on an Uzi and a girl.

President Bush’s Directive Against Trafficking and Slavery

President Bush has declared ‘zero tolerance’ toward trafficking and modern day slavery. This is his National Security Presidential Directive on the issue.

2 comments so far

Martin Arrowsmith August 03, 2006

WOW! I was dubious at first, but going through these documents I see that this is a full indictment of our government’s inabiilty or unwillingness to stop criminal activity and human trafficking paid for by OUR TAXES. Is this what was meant by Iraqi “Freedom”?

Jacob Patton August 08, 2006

Martin, thanks for the comment.

I don’t think the US and coalition soldiers working in Iraq know about the problem of trafficking in their midst, but you’re right—how can we stand for freedom if we can’t resolutely oppose human trafficking everywhere, especially in our government’s contracts?

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