Soldiers of Misfortune 

Critical elements of the war in Iraq have been outsourced to private contractors. John Mancini's story shows the many perils of that approach.

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So once again, Mancini is spilling his guts. No one knows what this new investigation will dig up, but if the federal government and its private partners have refused to provide medical care for civilians injured in the course of the occupation, it will be just one more in a long list of scandals. And Mancini will be at the center of it one more time.

On the other hand, Mancini thinks that for all Halliburton's sins, it's still better than the baseline incompetence he saw among the military. "Yeah, KBR steals," he said. "It steals at least 15 percent. But the military loses 25 percent. Even in KBR's stealing, they're better than a system where people make more mistakes and screw up more things."

In fact, Mancini has enough bitterness for everyone involved in the Iraq adventure, even the Democrats who took up his cause. When Mancini asked Waxman's office to help him with his problems with Procurement Services Associates, they shined him on. "For all that assistance I provided them, they turned a deaf ear to me," he recalls. "Typical politicians, you know? They were not out to make a change — they wanted to hatchet-job Cheney. I got so frustrated, I don't vote."

As he sits alone in his Arizona house, Mancini has decided that three years of labor, blood, and heat have done little more than inject poison into the world. "In 2003, when I was in Kuwait, we had some people who were with KBR, and they went up to Baghdad, and the security situation was much different," he concludes. "People welcomed you with open arms. ... I think the failure of the US government to rebuild the country, and the fraud and abuse by the army, has caused all the problems. There are no results. They've spent all this money, but the results are nothing. It's all been wasted. All they're doing is lining the pockets of American corporations."

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