Questions persist about Vice-President Cheney’s role in the ongoing investigation
and scandal swirling about the White House. His chief of staff and confidante
Lewis “Scooter” Libby has been indicted for perjury and obstruction
of justice. Let’s take a look at some personal incentives for Cheney’s
selling war to our country.
Cheney has pursued a political and corporate career to make himself
very rich and powerful. He is the personification of a war profiteer who slid
through the revolving door connecting the public and private sectors of the
defense establishment on two occasions in a career that has served his relentless
quest for power and profits.
As Defense Secretary, Mr. Cheney commissioned a study for the U.S. Department
of Defense by Brown and Root Services (now Kellogg, Brown and Root), a wholly
owned subsidiary of Halliburton. The study recommended that private firms like
Halliburton should take over logistical support programs for U.S. military operations
around the world. Just two years after he was Secretary of Defense, Cheney stepped
through the revolving door linking the Department of Defense with defense contractors
and became CEO of Halliburton. Halliburton was the principal beneficiary of
Cheney’s privatization efforts for our military’s logistical support
and Cheney was paid $44 million for five year's work with them before he slipped
back through the revolving door of war profiteering to become Vice-President
of the United States. When asked about the money he received from Halliburton,
Cheney said. "I tell you that the government had absolutely nothing to
do with it."
The Bush administration has dished out lucrative reconstruction contracts in
Iraq to favored U.S. based corporations including Halliburton and denied contracts
to many Iraqi and foreign based companies. To the conquerors go the spoils was
the message on December 11, 2003 when Bush said, “The taxpayers understand
why it makes sense for countries that risk lives to participate in the contracts
in Iraq, It's very simple. Our people risk their lives, friendly coalition folks
risk their lives, and therefore the contracting is going to reflect that.”
Bush’s statement is a stunning admission of how much corrupt corporations
control our foreign policy. Under Cheney’s leadership Halliburton out
did Enron in using offshore subsidiaries as tax shelters to hide profits to
bilk U.S. taxpayers. Halliburton also utilized off-shore subsidiaries to contract
for services and sell banned equipment to rogue states like Iran, Iraq and Libya.
This would be illegal if done directly by Halliburton.
At last count Halliburton had 58 offshore subsidiaries in Caribbean tax havens.
With Cheney at the helm Halliburton’s tax payments to the U.S. went from
$302 million in 1998 to zero in 1999, when they also received a refund of $85
million from the Internal Revenue Service.
During Cheney’s tenure as CEO from 1995 to 2000, Halliburton Products
and Services set up shop in Iran. The Halliburton subsidiary does approximately
$40 million a year worth of oil field service work for the Iranian government.
60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl visited the subsidiary in the Cayman Islands
and found that it had no office and no employees. The mailing address was a
local bank with which the subsidiary is registered. Stahl was met there by the
bank’s manager who informed her that all mail to the subsidiary is forwarded
to Halliburton headquarters in Houston. Halliburton had created the subsidiary
to allow itself to do illegal business with a rogue state and to skip out on
its taxes in the process.
With Iran’s president vowing to destroy Israel and being accused by the
Bush administration of harboring and aiding al-Qaeda operatives, Cheney’s
company is doing business with Iran through a subsidiary and dodging its tax
obligations to the U.S.
Halliburton has been more closely associated with the invasion of Iraq than
any other corporation. Before the Iraq War began, it was 19th on the U.S. Army's
list of top contractors and zoomed to number 1 in 2003. In 2003 Halliburton
made $4.2 billion from the U.S. government. Cheney stated he had , "severed
all my ties with the company, gotten rid of all my financial interest."
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) recently asserted that Cheney's stock options
which were worth $241,498 a year ago, are now valued at more than $8 million--
for an increase of 3,281% . Cheney has pledged to give the proceeds to charity.
Cheney continues to received a deferred salary from the company. He was paid
$205,298 in 2001; $162,392 in 2002; $178,437 in 2003; and $194,852 in 2004.
The Congressional Research Service has concluded that holding stock options
while in elective office does constitute a “financial interest”
whether or not the holder of the options donates the proceeds to charities,
and deferred compensation is also a financial interest.
Calling on Cheney to sever his financial ties to Halliburton, Lautenberg points
out that the company has already raked in more than $10 billion for work in
Iraq, and was handed some of the first Katrina contracts. The company has been
criticized by auditors for its handling of no-bid contacts in Iraq, and there
have been numerous allegations of over charging for services. Auditors found
the firm marked up meal prices for troops and inflated gas prices in a deal
with a Kuwaiti supplier. The company also built the American prison at Guantanamo
Bay. Lautenberg said, "It is unseemly for the Vice President to continue
to benefit from this company at the same time his Administration funnels billions
of dollars to it.”
Cheney’s war profiteering requires redress and justice.
Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and political activist in Columbia, South