excerpted from the book
The Exception to the Rulers
by Amy Goodman
In an administration that has taken a
pledge of allegiance to enrich its billionaire buddies, one crony
capitalist trumps them all: Vice President Dick Cheney.
Cheney, secretary of defense under Bush
1, spent his years in the wilderness as CEO of Halliburton, one
of the world's largest oil services and defense contractors. In
September 2003, Cheney boldly declared on Meet the Press, "I
have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind and haven't
had now for over three years .
Cheney's statement was false. Halliburton
is paying Cheney roughly $165,000 per year in deferred compensation
through 2005, not to mention his more than $400,000 in stock options.
All of which constitutes a clear financial interest, according
to the Congressional Research Service.
To Cheney, the $60 million in salary that
he drew from Halliburton between 1995 and 2000 was simply fair
compensation for his long hours at the office. When -vice presidential
candidate Joe Lieberman observed during their 2000 debate that
Cheney had done well for himself at Halliburton, Cheney replied,
"I can tell you, Joe, the government had absolutely nothing
to do with it."
Oh, really? As columnist Molly Ivins notes,
"Mr. Cheney led Halliburton into the top ranks of corporate
welfare hogs, benefiting from almost $2 billion in taxpayer-insured
loans from the U.S. Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private
Investment Corp. Mr. Cheney also specialized in getting government
contracts for the firm. During his five years as CEO, Halliburton
got $2.3 billion in contracts, compared with $1.2 billion in the
five years before he took over.
Halliburton, which made campaign contributions
of $708,770 between 1999 and 2002-95 percent went to Republicans-has
been reaping a handsome return on its investment .
Like Bush's patron, Ken Lay at Enron,
Cheney proved better at extracting public money than at accounting
for it. Under his watch, Halliburton inflated profits by $234
million over a four-year period, spawning more than a dozen lawsuits
for the "accounting irregularity. '148 That's a cheery euphemism
for lying and stealing, but if we called it that, you might be
shouting for people like Cheney to be put in jail like other thieves.
Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but I have
a problem with lying about $234 million. Remember the Whitewater
scandal? That was the one where Republicans spent $60 million
investigating a real estate scandal in which the Clintons lost
$46,000. The newspapers and right-wing pundits are still flogging
Where's the outrage when it comes to Bush's
Iraq has been Cheney's own personal piggy
bank ever since he led the Pentagon during the Persian Gulf War
in 1991. Following that war, Cheney commissioned Brown & Root,
a Halliburton subsidiary, to study military outsourcing---the
practice of paying private companies to do jobs previously done
by the military. The Pentagon subsequently chose Brown & Root
to implement its own outsourcing plan. Halliburton later hired-who
else?-Dick Cheney to run its affairs and open the spigots for
public money to flow its way.
Cheney's outsourcing brainstorm has been
a windfall for Halliburton and other private companies. It is
estimated that a third of the $4 billion monthly cost of the Iraq
occupation is going to private contractors.
Not that the vice president doesn't have
his scruples. just ask him. Following the 1991 Gulf War, Cheney
railed against those who would profit from dealing with the Iraqi
dictator. And he later told Sam Donaldson, "I had a firm
policy that I wouldn't do anything in Iraq."
Alas, that policy was about as firm as
an oil slick. Under Cheney, Halliburton "held stakes in two
firms that signed contracts to sell more than $73 million in oil
production equipment and spare parts to Iraq," The Washington
Even with its Iraqi windfall, Halliburton
nearly went bankrupt in 2001 because of its fraudulent accounting
practices-and because of Cheney's ill-advised acquisition of Dresser
Industries, which was laden with asbestos liabilities. But as
soon as Dick Cheney got hold of the government purse strings as
vice president, help was on the way. The "war on terror"
has been a cash cow for Halliburton, which quickly became the
single biggest government contractor in Iraq.
Halliburton's whopping tally: more than
$5 billion in contracts from the U.S. government during the war
on Iraq, as of January 2004.
And that's only the beginning. Halliburton
stands to make hundreds of millions of dollars in a no-bid contract
with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to rehabilitate Iraq's oil
wells. In March 2003, Halliburton was awarded a no-bid contract
to put out fires at Iraqi oil wells. Contract value: up to $7
Two years earlier, Halliburton had secured
an unprecedented ten-year deal from the Pentagon known as the
Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP)-a contract that
will send Kellogg, Brown & Root anywhere on earth to run military
operations for a profit. Value to date: about $830 million.
Halliburton's bounty has been so big that
in August 2003, even the Bechtel Group-itself no slouch at profiteering
from the war-withdrew from bidding on $1 billion worth of oil
projects in Iraq, complaining that Halliburton had an inside track."
That inside track has dramatically improved
Halliburton's fortunes. The company turned a $26 million profit
in the second quarter of 2003. This contrasts with a $498 million
loss in the same period a year earlier. From mid-2002 till mid-2003,
while the stock market sank, the value of Halliburton's shares
rose by 50 percent.
The Bush administration has ensured that
Halliburton and its ilk can plunder Iraq with impunity. In May
2003, President Bush signed an executive order that provides oil
industry companies and only oil companies-unprecedented immunity
against contractual disputes or lawsuits resulting from discrimination,
labor law abuses, environmental disasters, and human rights violations.
"In terms of legal liability,"
says Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability
Project, "the executive order cancels the concept of corporate
accountability and abandons the rule of law. It is a blank check
for corporate anarchy, potentially robbing Iraqis of both their
rights and their resources."
All this wasn't enough for the Texas oil
services behemoth. In December 2003, a Pentagon audit revealed
that Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root may have
overcharged the Army $61 million for gasoline that it was providing
in Iraq. In the same week that it was revealed that Cheney's old
company was gouging American taxpayers, President Bush announced
that no Iraqi contracts would go to France, Russia, Canada, Germany,
or any other country that opposed the invasion of Iraq-ensuring
that Bush's political contributors could continue to corner the
Defending his decision to maintain Iraq
as an exclusive preserve for U.S.-based multinational corporations,
Bush explained why the victor is entitled to the spoils of war.
"It's very 11 simple , he said. "Our people risked their
lives and therefore the contracting is going to reflect that,
and that's what the U.S. taxpayers expect."
The Cheney Index
* Cheney's 2000 income from Halliburton:
* Number of Halliburton stock options
Cheney still owns: 433,333 Size of his retirement package (not
including the stock options): $20 million
* Increase in government contracts while
Cheney led Halliburton: 91 percent
* Minimum size of "accounting irregularity"
that occurred while Cheney was CEO: $234 million
* Number of the seven official U.S. "state
sponsors of terror" that Halliburton contracted with: three
out of seven (Iran, Iraq, Libya)
* Pages of Energy Plan documents Cheney
refused to give congressional investigators: 13,500
* Amount the energy sector gave to Republican
candidates for 2000 elections: $50 million
* Number of energy corporations identified
that helped Cheney's Energy Task Force shape national energy policy:
Sources: Center for Responsive Politics,
Center for Public Integrity, Moveon.org, U.S. Department of State
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