The Guardian December 8, 2004


War profiteering

Susan Webb

"Outrageous!" That is what many are calling the war profiteering 
by US corporations who have flocked into Iraq. In particular, 
Halliburton Corp, which Vice President Dick Cheney used to head, 
has come under scrutiny over its US$10 billion Pentagon 
contracts, many obtained without competitive bidding, its fuel-
price gouging and other improper or illegal actions. Meanwhile, 
US cities and states are starved for cash.

In a new scandal, a top government inspector has reported that 
Halliburton lost millions of dollars worth of government property 
that it is being paid more millions to manage for the US 
occupation in Iraq. The missing property includes generators, 
trucks, laptops, armoured vests and helmets.

The Coalition Provisional Authority inspector general found that 
Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) "did not 
effectively manage government property", and that "its property 
records were not sufficiently accurate or available".

KBR was unable to account for one-third of the equipment it was 
supposed to manage, with a value of about US$20 million.

Associated Press reported on the audit the day after 
Thanksgiving, a "slow-news day", and few media picked up the 
story, evidently preferring to focus on holiday shoppers lining 
up at 4am at discount stores.

Pratap Chatterjee, director of CorpWatch, says the missing 
equipment is only part of a larger, "more damning" picture of 
mismanagement, incompetence, corruption and in some cases fraud 
on the part of US corporations reaping profits from Iraq. "This 
is not what we want people to be doing with our tax dollars", he 
noted dryly.

Halliburton chairman, president and CEO David Lesar received 
US$7,751,018 in total compensation in 2002. Vice President Dick 
Cheney was CEO of Halliburton for five years before running for 
the White House. Since taking office as vice president, Cheney 
has continued to receive payments from Halliburton totalling 
about US$2 million in bonuses and deferred salary, and also holds 
Halliburton stock options.

Despite numerous charges of mismanagement, overcharging, 
kickbacks and other questionable practices, Halliburton continues 
to be paid in full by the Pentagon.

In November the House Government Reform Committee, released 
internal US embassy documents indicating that KBR officers in 
Kuwait solicited bribes from those seeking subcontract work from 
the firm. Kuwait is the main supply and staging area for US 
operations in Iraq. Senior administration officials, including 
the US ambassador to Kuwait, steered a lucrative fuel contract to 
a favoured Kuwaiti subcontractor, documents showed.

FBI and Army criminal investigators are now pursuing charges made 
by Army Corps of Engineers contract officer Bunnatine Greenhouse 
that the Pentagon improperly favoured Halliburton in awarding no-
bid contracts for Iraq.

As the Pentagon continues to pour millions into the Halliburton 
trough, a new report by the Center for American Progress and the 
National Priorities Project shows that American states and cities 
are being short-changed. The report, Americans Pay High Price for 
War, shows how much tax money each state pays for the Iraq war 
and occupation, and how little it gets back for homeland security 
and "No Child Left Behind".

Ohio, for example, spent US$5.7 billion on Iraq in fiscal year 
2003. In the same period it received only US$200 million for 
homeland security, and US$659 million for "No Child Left Behind". 
Cleveland, which sent US$153 million to Washington for Iraq in 
2003, now faces a US$60 million city budget deficit, and another 
US$100 million deficit in its school budget.

More than 1000 teaching staff have been laid off. Seven percent 
of the city's firefighters have been laid off this year, along 
with 250 police officers. Among the police units eliminated are 
those for the harbour, street crimes, auto thefts, narcotics, 
youth gangs and community policing.

In a recent issue of Online Investors News, Bill Ridley crows 
that "the big dogs of the corporate world stand to clean up" by 
"carving up the spoils" from the Bush administration's Iraq 
occupation. The "big prize", he writes, is "the Iraqi oil fields 
and putting these prized assets into the hands of friendly US oil 
corporations." 

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People's Weekly World

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