War Profiteering: All Roads Lead to Cheney

Sun Aug 26, 2007 at 01:56:51 PM PDT

A recent article in Rolling Stone (link) added new infuriating information to a theme already advanced by Robert Greenwald’s Iraq for Sale.  The article stopped short of telling us something that Greenwald concluded: Cheney is behind most if not all of the war profiteering.  Even before Greenwald advanced this theme, Jane Mayer, who recently exposed a network of secret CIA prisons (link) had written in the New Yorker about  Cheney’s background and history and had one quote that seems to sum it all up: ‘One businessman with close ties to the Bush Administration told me, “Anything that has to do with Iraq policy, Cheney’s the man to see. He’s running it, the way that L.B.J. ran the space program.”

Part 1: An Official Denial of War Profiteering by Cheney

A few months after Mayer’s article, Time quoted from an e-mail that seemed to confirm that Cheney was indeed controlling the contracting process. (link, link)  Cheney, of course, publicly denies his involvement.  Here is what he said on Meet the Press:

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Of course not, Tim. Tim, when I was secretary of Defense, I was not involved in awarding contracts. That’s done at a far lower level. Secondly, when I ran Halliburton for five years and they were doing work for the Defense Department, which frankly they’ve been doing for 60 or 70 years, I never went near the Defense Department. I never lobbied the Defense Department on behalf of Halliburton. The only time I went back to the department during those eight years was to have my portrait hung which is a traditional service rendered for former secretaries of Defense. And since I left Halliburton to become George Bush’s vice president, I’ve severed all my ties with the company, gotten rid of all my financial interests. I have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind and haven’t had now for over three years. And as vice president, I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form of contracts led by the Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the federal government, so…
MR. RUSSERT: Why is there no bidding?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I have no idea. Go ask the Corps of Engineers. One of the things to keep in mind is that Halliburton is a unique kind of company. There are very few companies out there that have the combination of the very large engineering construction capability and significant oil field services, the first- or second-largest oil field service company in the world, and they’ve traditionally done a lot of work for the U.S. government and the U.S. military. That expertise has stood the military in good stead over the years, but it’s a great company. There are fine people working for it.
I also have a lot of confidence in the people in the Department of Defense. Nobody has produced one single shred of evidence that there’s anything wrong or inappropriate here, nothing but innuendo, and—basically they’re political cheap shots is the way I would describe it. I don’t know any of the details of the contract because I deliberately stayed away from any information on that, but Halliburton is a fine company. And as I say—and I have no reason to believe that anybody’s done anything wrong or inappropriate here.

Lie Number 1: As Defense Secretary Cheney didn’t make Contracting Decisions.

There are several statements in this quote that prove questionable.  First, there is evidence that Cheney did indeed influence contracts even when he was Secretary of Defense.  A friend of Cheney told Jane Mayer that Cheney seemed most excited about meetings with businessmen.  It is clear that, in response to a study commissioned by Cheney himself (link), Halliburton got a huge and mostly unprecedented contract at the end of Cheney’s tenure. (link)  And there are those who say, as John Nichols does here,  that the study that Cheney commissioned actually led to the privatization we see in Iraq and elsewhere today.

Lie Number 2: Cheney didn’t lobby for Defense Contracts while at Halliburton.

Secondly, the part about Cheney not going near the defense department during the time he was Halliburton president (1995-2000) is misleading at best.  It is true that Cheney spent a lot of time securing loans from non-defense government agencies and other assistance for various Halliburton projects. (link) But it is important to note that during Cheney’s tenure at Halliburton some existing defense-related contracts ballooned in scope.  For example, one Logcap contract went from $144 million in 1994 to more than $423 million in 1996, and the Balkans was the driving force. By 1999, the army was spending just under $1 billion a year on KBR’s (a subsidiary of Halliburton) work in the Balkans. (link)

Lie Number 3: AS VP, Cheney severed all ties to Halliburton.
Third, although Cheney claims to have severed all ties with Halliburton in this interview, he actually owned stock options and received other monies.  Elsewhere, Cheney has claimed that he had agreed to donate all his Halliburton profits to charity.  RawStory discussed this in October 2005 here.  In 2006, Cheney revealed that in 2005 had received another $211,465 from Halliburton. (link)  As RawStory noted, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) concluded (pdf link here) in Sept. 2003 that holding stock options while in elective office does constitute a “financial interest” regardless of whether the holder of the options will donate proceeds to charities. CRS also found that receiving deferred compensation is a financial interest.

Lie Number 4: The VP doesn’t make contract decisions.

Fourth, as for the part about having “no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form of contracts led by the Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the federal government,” there are already two references about to contradict this, one from a quote in the Jane Mayer piece (link)  and another from the Feith Memo that specifically mentions Cheney. (link, link)  I encourage you to watch Iraq for Sale to see how Robert Greenwald ties Cheney to much of the War Profiteering.

Part 2: Other Related Profiteering in Iran and Iraq by Cheney

There are other things that Cheney did which directly relate to his war profiteering activities during the current Iraq War.  First, during his tenure as Secretary of Defense under the first President Bush he pushed for sanctions against Iraq.  While at Halliburton he flouted existing sanctions to do business with both Iran and Iraq.  Though Cheney vehemently denied doing business with Iraq when cornered by Sam Donaldson (link), confidential UN records show that a subsidiary of Halliburton acquired by Cheney while he was at the helm did over $70 million in business with Iraq during Cheney’s time as president of the company. (link, link)

In May 2006, Harpers had a good discussion of Cheney’s business dealings with Iran while president of Halliburton (link).  Here is a key part of that discussion:

Vice President Dick Cheney–who has been leading the call for tough action on Iran–said that the country has been “a problem for a long time.”
Not that long, apparently. Go back to March 1996. Cheney was CEO of Halliburton, which was eagerly seeking to win energy business in Iran. The Clinton Administration had imposed sanctions on Iran a year earlier. “I think,” said Cheney, “we Americans sometimes make mistakes. There seems to be an assumption that somehow we know what’s best for everybody else and that we are going to . . . get everybody else to live the way we would like.”
Cheney argued that a unilateral approach would backfire and urged the United States to follow the lead of European countries that were seeking to expand business and trade with Iran.

It should also be mentioned here that Cheney did business with Libya, another rogue nation, during this time period.  Libya’s status has changed during the Bush administration, but Cheney did business with the country when it was still under sanction. More discussion of Cheney’s violation of sanctions while at Halliburton are available in PDF format here, in a report by Senator Frank Lautenberg.

Part 3: Fanning the Flames of War while Dividing the Spoils

There is little doubt that Dick Cheney was a central figure in the intelligence manipulation that falsely led us to war with Iraq  (link) and the outing of Valerie Plame for political purposes. (link)  There is also plenty of evidence to show that within days of taking the office, Vice-President Cheney was looking at oil maps of Iraq and Iran with industry insiders. (link, links to the actual maps and other documents from Cheney’s Energy Task Force are here) Ron Suskind described one meeting from early 2001 thusly (link):

Based on his interviews with O’Neill and several other officials at the meetings, Suskind writes that the planning envisioned peacekeeping troops, war crimes tribunals, and even divvying up Iraq’s oil wealth.
He obtained one Pentagon document, dated March 5, 2001, and entitled “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield contracts,” which includes a map of potential areas for exploration.
“It talks about contractors around the world from, you know, 30-40 countries. And which ones have what intentions,” says Suskind. “On oil in Iraq.”


Now Cheney is fanning the flames of war with another rogue country he once insisted on doing business with, Iran. (link, link, link, link, link)  Given Cheney’s observed pattern of lies about Iraq and the disastrous consequences, his questionable motives with respect to Iran should be a topic of conversation at every dinner table in America.

Given all these details, how Cheney circumvented existing US sanctions put in place as security measures (and in the case of Iraq with his participation in the process) to do business with countries he then insisted on invading, presumably as a matter of national security, his motives are at best questionable.  His involvement in the implementation of a privatization process (that he and Rumsfeld furthered by insisting on low troop levels) and his subsequent profiteering from that process should at least be the subject of a thorough investigation.  

Furthermore, Cheney’s continuous claims that 9/11 changed everything ring completely false since his plans to divide Iraqi Oil Fields were discussed at least as early as February and March 2001, seven or eight months prior to 9/11 itself.  He was a greedy SOB out to make a buck both before and after 9/11, so nothing really changed for him.  9/11 is just an excuse he uses to cover possibly criminal activity.

For the moment, there is attention being focused on the hellhole that privatization combined with corruption has created.  In the long run perhaps we can lay the biggest part of the blame for that outcome where it belongs: at the feet of Dick Cheney.  

But in the short run, I want to focus on one of the stars from the Rolling Stone piece, Congressman Chris Van Hollen.  A relative unknown compared to his predecessor Rahm Emmanuel, Van Hollen is now head of the DCCC.  Tomorrow he will be holding a fundraiser in Rochester, New York for my friend Eric Massa.  Please make a donation to Massa to let Congressman Van Hollen know you support people like him who stand up to corruption.  And Massa himself is becoming legendary for his refusal to take any corporate PAC money whatsoever, as well as standing up for progressive values across the board.  Here is Eric’s ActBlue page.


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