From No.788, May 16, 2003 issue of FLAG OF UNITY newspaper

Profit-Hungry Engineering Firms under Siege / Activists Protest Exploitation of Iraq in the Name of "Iraq Reconstruction"

In response to the appeal from Say No to Emergency Bills & Follow Berkeley City Peace Action, activists visited two engineering firms in the Tokyo Metropolitan area on May 2. Acknowledging the willingness to compete to win the contract for the reconstruction project, the firms made it clear that they do not care if the Iraq war is politically correct or not.

Chiyoda Chemical Engineering Company in Yokohama has a vice president as well as a director on board from a subsidiary of Halliburton, where Vice-President Dick Cheney was former CEO. The company also worked for the world's largest oil company Exxon Mobil, which is closely related to President George Bush.

The members of Peace Action put up a photograph of a wounded Iraqi child, and appealed to the company representatives not to get associated with the US Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) and not to participate in the reconstruction project in the occupied Iraq.

Three men headed by the chief of general affairs section met the activists and told them that there is no reason for the company to decline the request of the Japanese government which decides to contribute considerable sum of fund for reconstruction of Iraq. "The people of Iraq must also be eager to rebuild their country as soon as possible," they said. The corporate members seemed a little impatient to hear the argument about how US attacks against Iraq violated international law. They said international politics is not part of their business and they would not miss a business chance if given because they have social responsibility to pay wages to their employees and keep the company going steadily.

The Peace Action side showed the Federation of Economic Organizations Charter for Good Corporate Behavior, which says, "Either domestically or internationally, a business enterprise should observe laws and rules. Business activity should be carried out with awareness of social responsibility." Pressed for the clarification of the company's position about the reconstruction project of Iraq, which seems in conflict with the Charter, the chief said, "We honor the Charter. We do not wish to act like a thief at a fire. We do business honorably." But he declined to comment on the justice of the Iraq war. He also admitted that anti-war sentiment was openly expressed by some employees while the company stood in neutral.

The chief further commented, "You must be acting in response to the chaotic situation in Iraq. But come to think of it, no Japanese Self-Defense Forces troops have been involved. It is not really a war to us, Japanese." When the activists requested him to accept the petition not to get involved with the reconstruction of Iraq, he refused, saying that it might restrict the healthy business activity of the company. At the same time, he showed a concern about the unexpected public attention by inquiring the activists if they are planning to visit more of other engineering firms. He also said, "We have received questions from mass media by telephone and we realize that our company is attracting unusually big attention from the public."


Next, the activists visited the Japanese representative of Bechtel, the US giant engineering company in Marunouchi, Tokyo.

Bechtel is the world's largest construction and engineering company, which have built a large number of industrial complexes, petroleum plants, dams, airports, seaports, etc. Especially, it has monopolized the building contracts of thermal power plants, hydraulic power plants and nuclear power plants worldwide. It has a political connection to the Reagan administration, whose Secretary of State George Shultz served as the CEO of Bechtel for several years. In association with the reconstruction of Iraq, Bechtel reportedly was awarded the contract of a total of 680 million dollars (about 81.6 billion yen) for re-establishing the infrastructure including power plants, waterways, airports, etc.

One of Japanese employees who received the activists said to them, "Although we asked for the advice from the head office by e-mail how to deal with you people, we have received no reply yet. So we cannot accept your petition." Ronald Tucker, the head of the office, appeared from his office in the back during the haggle. He quietly repeated in English, "We ask you to leave the office," adding a short comment such as "We have won the contracts based on a fair competition to help the people of Iraq. We are not a political organization. We only work as an engineering and construction company. Since our headquarters in San Francisco has a public-relations section, you should send the document to them. And I can give you their postal address." He kept refusing to make a moral or political judgment on the reconstruction of Iraq.

One of the activists said, "We need to study more about the corporate business and to expose the ugly face of the industries which are willing to make profits at the cost of human life. We will cooperate with US NGOs and active groups and do corporate campaigns in the US to make the companies take social responsibility."

Copyright FLAG of UNITY