Halliburton: poised for the spoils
by Denis Doherty One of the biggest beneficiaries of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq recently is a corporation called Halliburton. While the Abrams tanks were rolling across the desert and good old Aussie "special forces" were risking their lives for "democracy", the political leaders knew what they were after. They allowed Iraqi culture, history and government infrastructure to be looted and burnt while the oil ministry was protected. Halliburton provides oil drilling, construction and military support and is ideally situated to have a triple-header of wartime spoils. Anti-globalisation activists have been active in exposing the greed of corporations such as Halliburton. The corporation is also a particularly potent target for peace activists opposed to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. In Sydney on May 1, for example, activists protested outside Halliburton's office in a prestigious building in Kent Street in Sydney's central business district. Halliburton has dubious connections with the Bush administration, particularly with Vice President Dick Cheney. No one in the US Government is concerned about conflict of interest. In fact, the opposite is true. The Bush administration is driven by the interests of the oil conglomerates, the arms corporations and the IT industry. On the administration's Defense Committee of thirty, there are at least nine members who have close ties with major arms manufacturing corporations. US Vice President Dick Cheney and Halliburton have a particularly cosy relationship. Cheney was CEO of the company prior to becoming the Vice President. He still receives a retainer and is a major shareholder with US$45 million in shares. "Not bothering to call for tenders the Pentagon has granted a Halliburton subsidiary, the delightfully named Kellogg, Brown, and Root (KBR), a US$7 billion ($11.5 billion Aust) contract to clean up Iraq's oil industry", wrote Mike Carlton in the Sydney Morning Herald (18/4/2003). "Cheney's income tax declaration reported in The New York Times reveals that he earned $162,392 in 'deferred compensation' from Halliburton last year. As President Bush said, 'These are great days in the history of freedom'", said Mr Carlton. Political influence and economic growth Halliburton began its days as a construction company, building dams. Generously donating to Lyndon Johnson's political campaigns, it gained a contract to become a major company. The company now builds oil platforms, military bases, ports, nuclear facilities, harbours and tunnels. It also provides logistics support to the military. There are no longer quartermasters in the US military — Halliburton does it all for the military. Halliburton is so large and so diverse it can train armies, arm, feed, supply and house them. Firstly by the shrewd manipulation of political influence under LBJ and now with Cheney's patronage, this huge corporation has grown rich at the expense of the misery and desperation of the poor around the world. Halliburton has over 20,000 employees in 100 countries, a resource no doubt utilised by the many branches of the US Government Halliburton is entwined with. Oil and war Wherever there is oil, there is Kellogg, Brown, and Root (Halliburton). Everywhere there is war or insurrection there is Kellogg, Brown, and Root. From Bosnia and Kosovo, to Chechnya, Rwanda, Burma, Pakistan, Laos, Vietnam, Iran, Libya, Mexico and Columbia, KBR operates. Since KBR supplies the US military with provisions, it is reasonable to assume that wherever the company sets up huge warehouse capability war will soon erupt. In Columbia, KBR has nearly one million square feet of covered space. In the ultra-crook world of big business, Halliburton has a reputation for dishonesty. The company has a dirty history, littered with shady deals and highly questionable business practices. These include: Government blank cheques: The US Army came under fire from the Government's General Accounting Office over a US$2.2 billion contract it signed with Halliburton. The army was to "frequently have simply accepted the level of services the contractor provided without questioning whether they could be provided more efficiently or less frequently at lower cost." Questionable accounting: Government agencies are investigating allegations that Halliburton artificially boosted earnings by US$234 million over four years. These were the years when Cheney was CEO of Halliburton. Business with "The Axis": Halliburton has not been affected by moves to restrict commerce with so-called "axis of evil" regimes. The company made profits out of business with Libya; Iran and Saddam Hussein, avoiding government embargoes on trade with these countries with the assistance of Dick Cheney. As Cheney once said: "The good Lord didn't see fit to put oil and gas only where there are democratic regimes friendly to the US". Off-shore subsidiaries: Under Cheney's tenure, the number of Halliburton subsidiaries in offshore tax havens rose from nine to 44. The tax paid by Halliburton went from US$302 million company taxes paid in 1998 to a US$85 million refund in 1999. (Halliburton, Dick Cheney and Wartime Spoils) Halliburton in Australia KBR's global infrastructure division, headquartered in Adelaide, has some 2500 staff based in 44 offices operating in three regions — the Americas, Europe/Africa and Asia-Pacific. The 1200 infrastructure staff based in the Asia Pacific region include engineering (civil, structural, water, mechanical, electrical, mining, process, municipal), project management and construction. KBR has links to the Australian military as well big infrastructure jobs in Australia. The company's highest profile work in Australia is the Alice Springs to Darwin railway. The railway is being built at enormous expense but experts suggest that it is not economically viable. An influential US policy document, Project for the New American Century, suggests that the US needs another base in Australia. This could possibly be an aircraft carrier base along with a marine detachment. Is the railway a precursor to a new US base in Darwin? While US corporations are getting a free ride in the reconstruction of Iraq, an operation estimated to cost as much as US$120 billion, the prospect for Australian companies is less rosy. An Australian delegation led by Trade Minister Mark Vaile and including major Australian companies such BHP and Multiplex went to the US to try to grab their share of the spoils of war. The Sydney Morning Herald (30/4/03) reported that they travelled to Houston to visit Halliburton. Halliburton is not simply a major capitalist corporation but an arm of the Bush administration's greedy larceny of the patrimony of the Iraqi people.
* * *Further Reading: Bush-Cheney Drug Empire by Michael Ruppert,
published on http://www.fromthewilderness.com Halliburton, Dick Cheney, and Wartime Spoils
by Lee Drutman and Charlie Cray, published on http://www.commondreams.org