Monday, March 13, 2006

More on Cheney's War

Kellogg, Brown Root of all Evil?
Kellogg Tower, in Greenford, Middlesex.
KBR (Halliburton), linked with Vice President Dick Cheney, is America's biggest non-union construction company. Heavily involved in oil and the 'War on Terror', Halliburton has spread widely into British service contracts. The US company has hiked up costs to the taxpayer here, but thrust unpopular conditions on its UK employees after declaring losses two years ago.

Last year's profits were declared the best in the company's history however.

US Vice President Dick Cheney scored a real hit with the ladies and gentlemen of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), deliberating just how hard Palestinian children should be punished by deprival of food, schooling and health care because their parents might have voted Hamas.

It has been a trying time for the lobbyists and the vice-president. AIPAC has been trying to get over a scandal over spying on the US for Israel, which led to two FBI raids on its offices. Well, such things happen in these marriages. Cheney is riding out a 20 per cent approval rating, bad odour about his war-profiting business connections, and jeers about the risks of accompanying him on his wildlife expeditions.

Cheney isn't always such a hot shot as he was with the AIPAC lobbyists. He was in the news last month after a quail shoot when he accidentally discharged his 28-gauge shotgun in the face of his hunting companion, Judge Harry Whittington. It must have been an accident, although it took a day before the news was released.

It wasn't the first time a Cheney hunting trip made the headlines. In January 2003 he went duck shooting with Judge Antonin Scalia. Nothing wrong with either man's choice of distinguished company, except Judge Scalia was due to hear Cheney's case as to why he needn't disclose advice he'd received from the oil industry - more specifically, from Ken Lay of Enron - for the president's energy task force. Besides the creative accountancy that had concealed Enron's losses, people were curious about its deals with the Taliban, which continued after Osama Bin Laden had made his base in Afghanistan, and right up to a few weeks before the 9/11 attacks.

Conspiracy buffs were left to speculate, when the appeal court ruled in May 2003 that Cheney did not have to reveal all, and investigators could be denied access to documents. The White House-business crew were entitled to keep a few secrets. Even if it left the rest of us free to draw our own conclusions.

American journalist, Iraq specialist and blogger Dahr Jamal has been looking at Cheney's best-known ties, with the oil and engineering empire of Kellogg, Brown, Root(KBR) or Halliburton, of which he was Chief Executive Officer.

'Despite his claims of not having any financial ties to Halliburton, the fact is that in both 2001 and 2002 he earned twice as much from a deferred salary from his "old" company as when he was CEO. But that wasn't the beginning. When Cheney was US Secretary of Defense in the early 1990's under Bush Senior, Halliburton was awarded the job of studying, then implementing, the privatization of routine army functions such as cleaning and cooking meals'.

Following this study, when Cheney had finished at the Pentagon, he became CEO of Halliburton, until he was given the job of finding a running mate for Bush. 'After searching far and wide across the US, Cheney ended up generously offering his own services for the job'.

Cheney helped found the neo-conservative think tank, the "Project for the New American Century (PNAC) ," whose goal is to "promote American global leadership," which entails acquiring Iraqi oil. Complimenting this, Cheney was also part of the board of advisers to the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA),, along with John Bolton, Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz (all PNAC members) before becoming vice president.

JINSA, self-described as a "non-sectarian educational organization," does things like nominate John Bolton for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize and works to "explain the role Israel can ... play in bolstering ... the link between American defense policy and the security of Israel." We might note that Bolton like Cheney was another favourite at the AIPAC conference.

'By the end of 2002, Cheney owned at least 433,000 unexercised Halliburton stock options worth over $10 million. And that was before the invasion of Iraq, when the games really began.

'In March 2003, the month the invasion began, Halliburton was awarded a no-bid contract worth $7 billion from the Pentagon. The blatant awarding of this "reconstruction" contract to Halliburton even led Representative Henry Waxman to comment, "The administration's approach to the reconstruction of Iraq is fundamentally flawed. It's a boondoggle that's enriching private contractors."

Just to be safe, Halliburton was paid $40 million for providing housing and transport for teams searching for the non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. The one place where there were remnants of a nuclear program in Iraq, albeit from 20 years before the US invasion, was the Osirak Nuclear Research Facility on the outskirts of Baghdad. Israeli warplanes bombed it back on June 7, 1981.

When Jamal visited the place in January 2004, all he found were empty warehouses which the American military were not concerned about enough to prevent looting.

'Villagers in nearby al-Tuwetha, ignorant of radioactive waste stored in old drums, looted them in the chaos following the invasion and had been using them as water containers - thus irradiating the entire village.

'One example of what it looks like on the ground in Iraq when Halliburton fails to fulfill its contractual obligations is the life of Adel Mhomoud. The 44-year-old beekeeper in al-Tuwetha told me, "I have cancer, and I know I'm dying. My white blood cell count is 14,000, and I don't have enough red blood cells. We are all sick; our joints ache, my hips are killing me, and my blood is bad. But nobody will help us here."

'Certainly not Halliburton.

'Cheney, who received no less than five military deferments during the Vietnam War despite being a supporter of that war (Sound familiar?), had shamelessly told the veterans at the VFW, "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us."'

'Aside from the aforementioned awarding of no-bid contracts worth billions of US taxpayer dollars, as early as December 2003, the US Army found out Halliburton was overcharging the government $61 million for fuel transportation and $67 million for food services in Iraq. I remember being in Baghdad when this occurred - seeing the enormously long gas lines at petrol stations whilst knowing Halliburton, not only failing to provide Iraqis with their own petrol, was even charging the US taxpayer three dollars per gallon for fuel that local companies could have imported for under one dollar.

'Let's take a brief glance at some of the more recent Halliburton/KBR
* 27 February 2006 - US Army decides to reimburse KBR nearly all of its disputed costs on a $2.41 billion no-bid contract to deliver fuel and repair equipment in Iraq, despite Pentagon auditors identifying over $250 million in charges as "potentially" excessive.

* 17 February 2006 - KBR executive hired to fly cargo into Iraq pleads guilty to inflating invoices by $1.14 million to cover fraudulent "war risk surcharges."

* 6 February 2006 - KBR employee in Iraq, speaking on condition of anonymity, says "We pay our locals [in Iraq] $5 to $16 dollars a day and you can see where [KBR] put it down [on the military requisition] as $60 a day ." Military requisitions reveal KBR to be paying between $5-$16 per day in wages to third world laborers in Iraq whilst billing US taxpayers between $50-$80 per day.

* 30 January 2006 - Bush administration settles dispute between Pentagon and Halliburton by agreeing to pay company $199 million in disputed gasoline charges in Iraq. To date KBR has been awarded nearly $16 billion in total revenue from Iraq contracts.

* 23 January 2006 - Halliburton fails to alert American troops and civilian contractors at US base in Ramadi that their water was contaminated. Despite allegations which came from Halliburton's own water quality experts, the company denies there was a contamination problem.

* 27 December 2005 - KBR, linked to human trafficking-related concerns via its work in Iraq (such as forced prostitution and labor), Halliburton benefits from Defense Department's refusal to adopt policy barring human trafficking.

* 1 December 2005 - UPI reports KBR workers in Iraq ("third country" nationals) found to be paid as little as 50 cents an hour.

* 5 November 2005 - UN auditing board finds that US should repay Iraqi government $208 million from Iraqi oil revenue for fraudulent contracting work.

Then there is how these "policies" Halliburton is following in Iraq affect US soldiers and contractors, including its own employees. With contracts in Iraq now worth up to $18 billion, there is nothing stopping Halliburton from abusing the lack of oversight and obvious conflict of interest between their free reign and their ties to the vice president.

'On May 31, 2004, an Army Corps of Engineers email revealed that Cheney's office "coordinated" Halliburton's multi-billion dollar Iraq contract. Cheney, like most common criminals, denied having anything to do with the no-bid contract.

'More recently, on January 26th of this year, Halliburton announced that its 2005 profits were the "Best in our 86-year history," as all six of its divisions posted record results. Halliburton stock price doubled in the last year, and Dick Cheney's tax returns indicate that he earned $194,862 from his Halliburton stock in just the last year'.

Full article by Dahr Jamal :

His regular blog:

For an item on the dirty water story:


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