Evelyn Pringle June 18, 2004
To fully understand Cheney's role in the administration's war profiteering scheme, all we have to do is follow the money and connect the dots.
While still in the first Bush administration, Cheney used his government job to bring billions of dollars in new business to his future employer.
In 1992, Cheney retained Halliburton to undertake a study on outsourcing some of the Defense Department's work. That study resulted in about 2,700 new government contracts, worth billions to Halliburton. Then after becoming CEO, he used his connections to double the value of governement contracts over the next 5 years.
However, Halliburton was also dependent on business with Iran, Iraq, and Libya. According to Cheney's now famous one-liner, dealing with regimes under US sanctions was necessary because "the good Lord didn't see fit to put oil and gas only where there are democratic regimes friendly to the United States."
Along with dealing with members of what Bush calls the Axis of Evil, Cheney helped Halliburton increase its number of offshore tax havens from 9 to 44. In just one year (1998-99), it went from paying $302 million in taxes to getting an $85 million refund.
In 1992, while still in the last Bush administration, Cheney and Wolfowitz worked on a new defense policy. The plan called for a dominant American military to "establish and protect a new order" that discouraged allies from challenging our leadership and "deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role." Only public outcry kept the plan from being implemented.
Five years later in 1997, while Halliburton was doing business with the Axis of Evil, Cheney helped form PNAC along with Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Jeb Bush. Its stated purpose was to ensure America's global dominance through strategic use of its military.
In January 1998, PNAC asked Clinton to "undertake military action" and remove Saddam from power. This happened more than 10 months before the UN inspectors left Iraq. When Clinton hadn't taken action five months later, they sent a letter to Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott, and cited even more info about how dangerous Saddam was.
They said: "we should establish and maintain a strong U.S. military presence in the region, and be prepared to use that force to protect our vital interests in the Gulf - and, if necessary, to help remove Saddam from power." The question is, why would these guys want to declare war on Iraq, and then list regime change third in the list "if necessary"? Where did they rate getting rid of WMDs on the list?
So here we have Cheney, CEO of a company deeply embedded in the oil and defense department industries, urging Clinton, Gingrich and Lott to wage war against Iraq, owner of the world's second largest oil reserve, in the absence of a direct threat, when the company he runs would benefit financially from every aspect of the war. How could there be a greater conflict of interest than this?
When Bush and Cheney moved into the White House, the war profiteering plan moved ahead in leaps and bounds. The story they tell is that Halliburton was awarded no-bid contracts because it was the best company for the job. And besides, Cheney couldn't benefit from the contract. He didn't have anything to do with Halliburton anymore. I heard Cheney tell Tim Russert on Meet the Press: "I've severed all my ties with the company, gotten rid of all my financial interest. I have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind and haven't had, now, for over three years."
Then a funny thing happened. Records started popping up in the media that showed Cheney still received deferred compensation and owned 433,000 stock options. The Congressional Research Service says stock options and deferred salary "are among those benefits described as 'retained ties' or 'linkages' to one's former employer."
And here's another thing: I need somebody to explain why, if Cheney is so sure that there's no conflict of interest involving his past employment with Halliburton, does his White House bio make no mention whatsoever of what he up to between 1993 and 2000? Big-time CEO of a billion-dollar company and he doesn't even list it on his resume? I'm sure its just an oversight, right? I guess he forgot about that thirty-some million dollar retirement package he walked away with after only five years of service to the company.
But not to worry - last fall, Cheney as much as swore that he had no involvement in awarding defense contracts to Halliburton. He must like Russert because he always explains himself to Tim when he appears on Meet the Press. Last fall he specifically told Tim that, "As vice president, I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form of contracts let by the Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the federal government."
Now, that's about the most all encompassing denial I think I've ever heard. Clear as a bell!
But lo and behold, what does this mean? According to an article in the LA Times, Cheney's declaration of ignorance and detachment from the Halliburton contract process no longer holds water.
In fact, it says, "Pentagon officials have acknowledged that a political appointee was behind the controversial decision to have Halliburton Inc. plan for the postwar recovery of Iraq's oil sector and had informed Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff before finalizing the deal, a Democratic lawmaker said Sunday. The decision, overruling the advice of an Army lawyer, eventually resulted in the awarding of a $7-billion, no-bid contract to Halliburton, which Cheney ran for five years before he was nominated for vice president."
I could hardly believe my eyes. Could America's vice-president be lying? Goodness! Who would have thought?
From day one, I have objected, often and loudly, to my tax dollars being funneled through Iraq over the bodies of our dead soldiers back into the coffers of this corrupt administration. I think it is really sad that it has taken so long, with about $200 billion wasted, and close to 1000 dead Americans, for people to finally starting seeing what some of us have known all along.