Abu Ghriab and Me

November 20, 2004

You never fully appreciate just how interconnected we all are until some event on the world stage impacts your life. Take the Abu Ghraib prison scandal for example. As a program manager in the information technology field, working in Kansas, you wouldn't expect my life to be directly impacted by heinous human rights violations half way around the planet. But, as it turns out, my life was impacted by that scandal.

I work on a contract, held through a series of intermediaries, for a large government agency. This agency worked with GSA (the General Service Agency) to manage contracts and make payments against them. GSA also oversaw funds being transfered between various branches of the military and independent service providers in Iraq. Some of these funds were used to hire interrogators who abused prisoners in Abu Ghraib. When the prison scandal broke this summer the Inspector General was brought into GSA to address the problem there. The executive management layer at GSA was fired and all contracts were examined with a fine tooth comb.

The new managers were loathe to have anything to due with existing contracts, as those contracts were all suspected of carrying leprosy now. One of the problems that came to light was overspending on contacts. The existing rule of requiring a contract to be re-scoped and re-bid if any year's expense went over the budget by 25%, had been ignored. The new management is now enforcing this rule. The contract that ultimately pays for my job was projected to be more than 25% over for the base year ending in January. So "resource activities" were undertaken to bring the contract's actual expenses inline with the budgeted amounts. Friends of mine lost their jobs. My future here was put into question.

So, a bunch of over-stressed, under-trained, poorly managed soldiers; fighting an immoral war thousands of miles from home, over-reacted to their stress and abused other human beings. And the ripple effect of their actions impacted my life. We are all living on one planet, and no one country or group of people is immune to the actions of others; nor are they immune to the reactions of others to their movements. The sooner we all learn to live together rather than at odds with each other the better.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.