Let's see. Who's less
patriotic, the Dixie Chicks or Dick Cheney's long-term meal ticket, the
The Dixie Chicks were
excoriated for simply exercising their constitutional right to speak out. With
an ugly backlash and plans for a boycott growing, the group issued a humiliating
public apology for "disrespectful" anti-Bush remarks made by its lead
singer, Natalie Maines.
The Chicks learned how
dangerous it can be to criticize the chief of a grand imperial power.
Halliburton, on the other
hand, can do no wrong. Yes, it has a history of ripping off the government. And,
yes, it's made zillions doing business in countries that sponsor terrorism,
including members of the "axis of evil" that is so despised by the
But the wrath of the White
House has not come thundering down on Halliburton for consorting with the enemy.
And there's been very little public criticism. This is not some hapless singing
group we're talking about. Halliburton is a court favorite. So instead of being
punished for its misdeeds, it's been handed a huge share of the riches to be
reaped from the reconstruction of Iraq and U.S. control of Iraqi oil.
A Democratic congressman,
Henry Waxman of California, has raised pointed questions about the propriety of
rewarding Halliburton with lucrative contracts as part of the U.S. war on terror
when the company has gone out of its way to do business in three nations that
the U.S. has accused of supporting terror: Iraq, Iran and Libya.
In an April 30 letter to
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Mr. Waxman wrote:
"Since at least the
1980's, federal laws have prohibited U.S. companies from doing business in one
or more of these countries. Yet Halliburton appears to have sought to circumvent
these restrictions by setting up subsidiaries in foreign countries and
territories such as the Cayman Islands. These actions started as early as 1984;
they appear to have continued during the period between 1995 and 2000, when Vice
President Cheney headed the company; and they are apparently ongoing even today."
According to Mr. Waxman, a
subsidiary called Halliburton Products and Services opened an office in Tehran,
Iran, in February 2000, has done work on offshore drilling projects and has
asserted, "We are committed to position ourselves in a market that offers
huge growth potential."
since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, particularly from the pension funds of the
New York City Police and Fire Departments, have prompted Halliburton officials
to agree to reevaluate their operations in Iran.
The federal government has
been well aware of Halliburton's shenanigans. In his letter to Secretary
Rumsfeld, Mr. Waxman noted that "Halliburton was fined $3.8 million in 1995
for re-exporting U.S. goods through a foreign subsidiary to Libya in violation
of U.S. sanctions."
The fine was not enough to
stop the company from dancing with the devil. It still has dealings in Libya.
Now, with the U.S. takeover
of Iraq, Halliburton has hit the jackpot. It has only recently been made clear
that an "emergency" no-bid contract given in March to the Halliburton
subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root covers far more than the limited task of
fighting oil well fires. The company has been given control of the Iraqi oil
operations, including oil distribution.
there's been so little attention paid to the Halliburton contracts," said
Mr. Waxman. In addition to doing business in countries that have sponsored
terrorism, the congressman said, Halliburton has been accused of overcharging
the U.S. government for work it did in the 1990's. And last year the company
agreed to pay a $2 million settlement to ward off possible criminal charges for
"Their reward for that
terrible record," said the congressman, "was a secret no-bid contract,
potentially worth billions, to run Iraq's oil operations."
Halliburton and its
subsidiaries are virtuosos at gaming the system. It's a slithery enterprise with
its rapacious tentacles in everybody's pockets. It benefits from doing business
with the enemy, from its relationship with the U.S. military when the U.S. is at
war with the enemy, and from contracts to help rebuild the defeated enemy.
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