April 2004

Lies, damned lies and Bush politics

By David Grant Long

“These guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group I’ve ever seen – it’s scary.”
— Sen. John Kerry

“Mission Accomplished,” declared a huge banner the White House had prepared as a backdrop for President Bush’s visit to a returning aircraft carrier last spring after “major combat operations” in Iraq were wrapped up and Saddam’s pathetic military had been predictably routed.

But some of us are still wondering what the boastful banner actually meant, since one year later American soldiers are still dying there on a regular basis, “liberated” Iraqi citizens are dying in even larger numbers and most of the civilized world still doesn’t support Bush’s effort to establish a democracy in a Middle East climate that will inevitably result in a government hostile to the U.S. if true popular rule is ever established there.

But at least one major mission of the Bush administration was accomplished by the invasion of Iraq, even if not the one Fly Boy George mistakenly trumpeted to the world after Baghdad lay in smoking ruins and “Hitler” Hussein had taken a powder to his hidey holes:

Certain rich capitalist pigs got even richer and piggier, and continue to feed at a bottomless trough created through scare tactics (Here come the Terrorists!) and lies (Their weapons of mass destruction will soon be flying our way!), and funded by taxes that would be much better spent on our own neglected populace.

The corporate sponsors of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, who so generously funded their election campaign, are now realizing handsome profits on this investment, and American tax dollars will apparently be spilling forth from the GOP Horn of Plenty for years to come. (Remember, the War on Terror is eternal, without end, because Evil can never be defeated.)

So the presidential candidate who claimed to be opposed to nation-building as a tool of American foreign policy has become the president who convinced our Republican-controlled Congress to spend even more money — $87 billion just for starters — pacifying and rebuilding Iraq than is being spent on many badly needed domestic programs. (On providing national health care, for instance, or supporting our emaciated education system, or rebuilding our own crumbling infrastructure. Isn’t it good to know that ordinary folks in Iraq are getting free medical care, seeing a huge investment in their school system and having their airports, bridges and highways reconstructed?)

The chief beneficiary of this largesse has been, not surprisingly to us cynics, Halliburton, an octopus of a corporation with many subsidiaries that was headed by Cheney until he resigned in 2000 to become Bush’s second banana (or, some believe, the power behind the throne).

In fact, the vice president still gets up to $1 million a year from his former employer in “deferred compensation.” (Which goes to show that Spiro Agnew, Richard “I am not a crook” Nixon’s first vice president, was really a piker when it comes to squeezing money out of the office. Agnew just took a few envelopes full of cash from some cronies, presumably in return for influence-peddling.)

There are myriad examples of how Halliburton was (while Cheney was CEO) and is still (under his well-trained minions) screwing the American people, not to mention the American soldiers, but space allows me to list only a few. (For anyone wanting more, they’re as close as a Google search under “Halliburton-Cheney,” “Kellogg, Brown and Root/Cheney.” Or possibly under “cheating, stealing, lying corporate entities,” “unprincipled vice presidents,” or maybe “most crooked, you know, lying group I’ve ever seen,” but I haven’t actually checked.)

• A couple weeks ago the Pentagon announced that it is withholding $300 million in payments to KBR, which has been serving up the meals to our boys in Iraq and providing other necessities, because it was “overcharging” for these services, for which the company was awarded the generous contract without competitive bidding, because, you know, no other company is really prepared to provide such massive support for the foreign adventures of the military/industrial complex, so why bother.

Anyway, a Halliburton spokesperson said the company “disagreed” with the action, but that it wouldn’t affect its profits. If the Pentagon thwarts this attempted theft of $300 million, she explained, Halliburton and KBR will just withhold 15 percent of payments to their subcontractors.

Apparently, the subcontractors were supposed to get a cut of the ill-gotten loot, but now will have to get by on being paid for work actually performed. Since Indian cooks for KBR’s “meals on wheels” program reportedly are getting only $3 a day, this might be a little harder on some than others, but what the heck – that’s capitalism.

• Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman points out that, while Cheney was still CEO of Halliburton, KBR ripped off our government for a couple million in several instances, and that the company did business with terrorist states – Iraq, for instance, and Libya and Iran – while the U.S. had economic sanctions in place against them. (Just two years ago KBR paid back to the government $2 million to settle allegations of cheating the military on repairs and maintenance at Ft. Ord from 1994 to 1998. Halliburton/KBR had ended several other lawsuits about alleged fraud by paying settlements to the plaintiffs.)

• In the early ’90s, when Cheney was secretary of defense for Bush the Elder, Halliburton was hired to study and then implement the privatization of many routine Army tasks. After Bush lost the ’92 election, Cheney was hired to run the company and help accomplish this goal.

Less than a year after Bush-Cheney took office, the defense department awarded Halliburton a 10-year contract to supply such logistical support for upcoming military adventures all over the planet.

The magazine Business 2.0 explained the deal this way:

“The Pentagon’s Logistic Civil Augmentation Program pays Halliburton through what’s called a cost-plus arrangement, meaning that KBR is guaranteed to recover its expenses, plus receives a set profit, provided the contract terms are met. To date, KBR has received $860 million from the program.”

These projects included providing support services for U.S. military bases in Turkey ($118 million so far) and in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan ($65 million) and building chain-link cells in Guantanamo Bay for captured Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters ($33 million).

In his farewell address, President Dwight Eisenhower warned the American people to watch out for the military/industrial complex because it would attempt to seize power and run the country for the benefit of a few.

It’s beginning to look more and more like that mission has also been accomplished.

David Grant Long is a veteran journalist and a resident of Cortez.