see. Who's less patriotic, the Dixie Chicks or
Dick Cheney's long-term meal ticket, the Halliburton
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.
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.
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:
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
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."
complaints 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
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.
remarkable 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 price gouging.
"Their reward for that terrible record," said
the congressman, "was a secret no-bid contract,
potentially worth billions, to run Iraq's oil
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.
Meanwhile, the flag-waving yahoos are hyperventilating
over nonissues like the Dixie Chicks.
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