By Dahr Jamail
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Wednesday 08 March 2006
Halliburton and its subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) have been
making hay in the burning Iraqi sun for years now. It is, of course, no
coincidence that the man sitting as vice president played a key role
with his influence in obtaining the lion's share of contracts in Iraq
for the company he was CEO of prior to his self-appointed position. Yet
none of this is news.
What is news, however, is that the ties that bind Cheney to Halliburton
also link him to groups with even broader interests in the Middle East,
which are causing civilians on the ground there, as well as in the US,
to pay the price.
Cheney had much more at stake than pure altruism in making sure
Halliburton/KBR obtained so many no-bid contracts in occupied Iraq.
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 Big Bush, 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 was finished with his job at the
Pentagon, he scored the job as CEO of Halliburton, which he held until
nominating himself for the position of Little Bush's running mate in
2000. Remember, it was Cheney who was given the task 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.
As if Cheney didn't already have enough conflicts of interest, it is
important to note that he assisted in founding the neo-conservative
think tank, the "Project for the New American Century (PNAC)
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
Perle and Paul Wolfowitz (all PNAC members) before becoming vice
president. JINSA, self-described as a "nonsectarian 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
Their Mission Statement adds, "The inherent instability in the region
[Middle East] caused primarily by inter-Arab rivalries and the
secular/religious split in many Muslim societies leaves the future of
the region in doubt. Israel, with its technological capabilities and
shared system of values, has a key role to play as a US ally in the
region," which happens to be quite similar to the stated goals of the
PNAC for the region, but I digress.
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."
Of course the invasion and occupation of Iraq aren't only about oil.
Remember, it was Cheney himself who, at a VFW convention in August 2002,
said "Many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons
fairly soon. Just how soon, we cannot really gauge."
Cheney then, solely in the interests of protecting the American and
Iraqi people of course, made sure the US would go into Iraq and take
care of that nuclear trouble-maker Saddam Hussein.
Just to be safe, Halliburton was paid $40 million for providing housing
and transportation for teams searching for non-existent weapons of mass
destruction in Iraq. For with each contract Halliburton is and was
awarded, Cheney's bank account grows.
The one place where there were remnants of a nuclear program in Iraq,
albeit over 20 years before the 2003 US invasion, was the Osirak Nuclear
Research Facility on the outskirts of Baghdad. US-made Israeli warplanes
bombed it back on June 7, 1981, and when I visited the place in January
2004, all I found were empty warehouses which the American military
wasn't concerned about enough to prevent from being looted.
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."
So that was the door Cheney took to bring Iraq his Halliburton.
And of course, once through that door, Halliburton promptly went to work.
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.
But that was barely the beginning.
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
to inflating invoices by $1.14 million to cover fraudulent "war risk
* 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 <http://www.halliburtonwatch
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
* 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
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
An example of this is Jim Spiri, who was hired by Halliburton/KBR in
January 2004 to work as a logistics coordinator. Sent to Camp Anaconda
in Balad, Iraq, he worked the flight line handling passenger movements,
as Spiri had 20 years of aviation experience.
"During my time there, I assisted nightly with medevac [medical
evacuations] operations and was highly respected among all military
medical folks," he told me this week. "I had a good name throughout the
But problems were immediately apparent to him.
"I witnessed much alcohol abuse, in an environment where alcohol is
strictly prohibited. I made note of this and reported it to my
superiors, who actually were the ones abusing the system. It was obvious
that the fox was guarding the hen house, so to speak."
He told me his entire flight line operation was "run in a gang-like
manner" and "the work was never done in an efficient manner." Instead,
according to Spiri, the motto was, "Do as little as possible for as much
as you can, for as long as you can."
On February 5th of this year, while working the night shift which he had
for the last two years, Spiri witnessed something that made the thought
of continuing to work for KBR intolerable.
After watching a fallen soldier loaded onto a plane without the proper
ceremony of honor, Spiri told me he "wrote an account of what I
experienced that night." After this, "It was published, and ... all hell
broke loose about 36 hours later."
Spiri was fired by KBR after writing an article
detailing the event and criticizing Halliburton's policies in Iraq.
Now he wants to shine light on how KBR operates in Iraq. "What they
don't want to let out is the type of workers they have over there, that
it's the largest gravy train operation, it's the largest welfare system
I've ever seen in my life. It's pathetic," Spiri said in a recent
interview while adding that over half the people KBR employed in Iraq
were "grossly under-qualified and highly over-paid."
His work entailed three people, but by the time he left there were 10
people on his team, most of whom "sat around listening to their iPod's
and DVD players."
Yet firing an employee for raising awareness about corruption and his
questioning of policy is minor compared to the treatment of Iraqis meted
out by the company.
When I was in Amman last May, I met Ahlam al-Hassan, a young Iraqi woman
who had worked for KBR in Diwaniyah.
Two gunshots by assailants who attacked her for collaborating with
occupation forces left her blind
and her former employers would not return her calls or requests for
For her three months of work for KBR she was paid $475, having taken the
job to support her family. "My two bosses at KBR, Mr. Jeff and Mr. Mark,
were very good and gentle with me," she explained to me in Jordan, "They
told me it wasn't dangerous to work for them." But after spending months
in hospitals for what happened to her on her way to work, "After this,
they have made no attempts to contact me."
Note that 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.
Loot Dick, Loot!
Is that clear enough?
All of this begs the question: Do you approve of your tax dollars being
used in this fashion?
If not, then what are you willing to do about it?