Making a profit on Iraq-bound troopers

Syndicated columnist Jim Hightower has given his “Gooberhead Award” to Washington lobbyist Frank Keating. Keating is the former conservative governor of Oklahoma who tried to get an upper level job in the Bush administration, but was disqualified by ethical problems. Instead, he is seeking legislative favors for life insurance corporations.

Keating recently stood up for several insurance firms that Hightower says are involved in an insider deal to fleece young U.S. soldiers on their way to fight in Iraq. Insurance agents, often pretending to be military instructors in personal finance, have fooled these unwitting young troopers into buying what Hightower terms “rip-off life insurance policies that are unneeded and nearly worthless.”

This is an obvious, unethical act of war profiteering, but not to Keating, the industry mouthpiece. “Someone who is mature enough to fight and quite possibly die for his country,” he said, “should be freely able to decide how much and what kind of life insurance they should have.”

Keating well knows this has nothing to do with free will or free markets. It is a set up, pure and simple. The sales pitch oftentimes is a part of compulsory military “classes,” and the GIs are not told they are buying insurance. To add insult to injury, many of the insurance agents are retired military officers. These troopers, most of them between 18 and 20 years old, are trained to obey orders. They believe that retired officer is telling something they must do. They sign without asking any questions.

Despite the sleaziness of it all, Keating is still lobbying Congress to let his corporate clients continue to pick the pockets of the underpaid grunts headed for Iraq. Hightower asks: “Is this the ‘freedom’ they’re being asked to die for?


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