profiteer: Vice President Dick Cheney.
Elected, I’ll Still Be Working for You
blood flows in Iraq, the gravy flows to Halliburton, where
Dick Cheney was chief executive
the first bombs rain down on Baghdad, thousands of employees
of Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former company,
are working alongside U.S. troops in Kuwait and Turkey under
a package deal worth close to a billion dollars. According
to U.S. Army sources, they are building tent cities and providing
logistical support for the war in Iraq, in addition to other
hot spots in the “war on terrorism.”
While recent news coverage has speculated on the postwar reconstruction
gravy train that corporations like Halliburton stand to gain
from, this latest information indicates that Halliburton is
already profiting from wartime contracts worth hundreds of
millions of dollars.
Cheney served as chief executive of Halliburton until he stepped
down to become George W. Bush’s running mate in the 2000 presidential
race. Today he still draws compensation of up to a million
dollars a year from the company, although his spokesperson
denies that the White House helped the company win the contract.
In December 2001, Kellogg, Brown and Root, a subsidiary of
Halliburton, secured a 10-year deal known as the Logistics
Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP), from the Pentagon. The
contract is a “cost-plus-award-fee, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity
service,” which basically means that the federal government
has an open-ended mandate and budget to send Brown and Root
anywhere in the world to run military operations for a profit.
Linda Theis, a public-affairs officer for the U.S. Army Field
Command in Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., confirmed that Brown
and Root also support operations in Afghanistan, Djibouti,
Georgia, Jordan and Uzbekistan. “Specific locations along
with military units, number of personnel assigned, and dates
of duration are considered classified,” she said. “The overall
anticipated cost of task orders awarded since contract award
in December 2001 is approximately $830 million.”
The current contract in Kuwait began in September 2002, when
Joyce Taylor of the U.S. Army Material Command’s Program Management
Office arrived to supervise approximately 1,800 Brown and
Root employees to set up tent cities that would provide accommodation
for tens of thousands of soldiers and officials. Army officials
working with Brown and Root say the collaboration is helping
cut costs by hiring local labor at a fraction of regular Army
can quickly purchase building materials and hire third-country
nationals to perform the work. This means a small number of
combat-service-support soldiers are needed to support this
logistic aspect of building up an area,” says Lt. Col. Rod
Cutright, the senior planner for all of Southwest Asia. During
the past few weeks, these Brown and Root employees have helped
transform Kuwait into an armed camp to support some 80,000
foreign troops, roughly the equivalent of 10 percent of Kuwait’s
Most of these troops are now living in the tent cities in
the rugged desert north of Kuwait City, poised to enter Iraq.
Some of the encampments are named after the states associated
with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001—Camp New York, Camp Virginia
and Camp Pennsylvania. The headquarters for this effort is
Camp Arifjan, where civilian and military employees have built
a gravel terrace with plastic picnic tables and chairs, surrounded
by a gymnasium in a tent, a PX and newly arrived fast-food
outlets such as Burger King, Subway and Baskin-Robbins, set
up in trailers or shipping containers. Basketball hoops and
volleyball nets are set up outside the mess.
North of Iraq, approximately 1,500 civilians are working for
Brown and Root and the United States military near the city
of Adana, about an hour’s drive inland from the Mediterranean
coast of central Turkey, where they support approximately
1,400 U.S. soldiers staffing Operation Northern Watch’s Air
Force F-15 Strike Eagles and F-16 Fighting Falcons monitoring
the no-fly zone above the 36th parallel in Iraq. The jet pilots
are catered and housed at the Incirlik military base seven
miles outside the city by a company named Vinnell, Brown and
Root (VBR), a joint venture between Brown and Root and Vinnell
corporation of Fairfax, Va., under a contract that was signed
on Oct. 1, 1988, which also includes two more minor military
sites in Turkey: Ankara and Izmir. The joint venture’s latest
contract, which started July 1, 1999, and will expire in September
2003, was initially valued at $118 million.
U.S. officials confirm that Brown and Root has been awarded
new contracts in Turkey in the last year to support the war
on terrorism, although they refused to give any details. “We
provide support services for the United States Air Force in
areas of civil engineering, motor vehicles transportation,
in the services arena here—[that] includes food service operations,
lodging, and maintenance of a golf course. We also do U.S.
customs inspection,” explained VBR site manager Alex Daniels,
who has worked at Incirlik for almost 15 years.
Cheap labor is also the primary reason for outsourcing services,
says Maj. Toni Kemper, head of public affairs at the base.
“The reason that the military goes to contracting is largely
because it’s more cost-effective in certain areas. I mean
there were a lot of studies years ago as to what services
can be provided via contractor versus military personnel.
Because when we go contract, we don’t have to pay health care
and all the other things for the employees; that’s up to the
employer.” Soon after the contract was signed, Incirlik provided
a major staging post for thousands of sorties flown against
Iraq and occupied Kuwait during the Gulf War in January 1991,
dropping more than 3,000 tons of bombs on military and civilian
Still ongoing is the first LOGCAP contract in the “war on
terrorism,” which began in June 2002, when Brown and Root
was awarded a $22 million deal to run support services at
Camp Stronghold Freedom, located at the Khanabad air base
in central Uzbekistan. Khanabad is one of the main U.S. bases
in the Afghanistan war, housing some 1,000 U.S. soldiers from
the Green Berets and the 10th Mountain Division.
In November 2002, Brown and Root began a one-year contract,
estimated at $42.5 million, to cover services for troops at
bases in both Bagram and Khandahar. Brown and Root employees
were first set to work running laundry services, showers and
mess halls and installing heaters in soldiers’ tents.
Halliburton is also one of five large U.S. corporations invited
to bid for contracts in what may turn out to be the biggest
reconstruction project since World War II. The others are
the Bechtel Group, Fluor Corp., Parsons Corp. and the Louis
Berger Group. The Iraq reconstruction plan will require contractors
to fulfill various tasks, including reopening at least half
of the “economically important roads and bridges”—about 1,500
miles of roadway—within 18 months, according to the Wall
Street Journal. The contractors will also be asked to
repair 15 percent of high-voltage electricity grid, renovate
several thousand schools and deliver 550 emergency generators
within two months. The contract is estimated to be worth up
to $900 million for the preliminary work alone. The Pentagon
has also awarded a contract to Brown and Root to control oil
fires if Saddam Hussein sets the well heads ablaze.
Iraq has oil reserves second only to those of Saudi Arabia.
This makes Brown and Root a leading candidate to win the role
of top contractor in any petroleum-field rehabilitation effort
in Iraq that industry analysts say could be as much as $1.5
billion in contracts to jump-start Iraq’s petroleum sector
following the war.
Meanwhile, Dick Cheney’s 2001 financial disclosure statement
states that Halliburton is paying him a “deferred compensation”
of up to $1 million a year following his resignation as chief
executive in 2000. At the time, Cheney opted not to receive
his severance package in a lump sum, but instead to have it
paid to him over five years, possibly for tax reasons. The
company would not say how much the payments are. The obligatory
disclosure statement filed by all top government officials
says only that they are in the range of $100,000 to $1 million.
Nor is it clear how they are calculated.
Critics say that the apparent conflict of interest is deplorable.
“The Bush-Cheney team have turned the United States into a
family business,” says Harvey Wasserman, author of The
Last Energy War (Seven Stories Press, 2000). “That’s why
we haven’t seen Cheney—he’s cutting deals with his old buddies
who gave him a multimillion-dollar golden handshake. Have
they no grace, no shame, no common sense? Why don’t they just
have Enron run America? Or have Zapata Petroleum (George W.
Bush’s failed oil-exploration venture) build a pipeline across
Army officials disagree. Maj. Bill Bigelow, public-relations
officer for the U.S. Army in Western Europe, says: “If you’re
going to ask a specific question—like, do you think it’s right
that contractors profit in wartime—I would think that they
might be better [asked] at a higher level, to people who set
the policy. We don’t set the policy, we [work] within the
framework that’s been established.
questions have been asked forever, because they go back to
the second World War when Chrysler and Ford and Chevy stopped
making cars and started making guns and tanks,” he added.
“Obviously, it’s a question that’s been around for quite some
time. But it’s true that nowadays there are very few defense
contractors, but go back 60 years to the World War II era,
almost everybody was manufacturing something that either directly
or indirectly had something to do with defense.”
Lilley and Aaron Glantz helped conduct interviews for this
article. Pratap Chatterjee is an investigative journalist
based in Berkeley, Calif. He traveled to Afghanistan and Uzbekistan
in January 2002 and to Incirlik, Turkey, in January 2003 to
research this article.
As We Say
accuses Iraq of violating Geneva Conventions—ignoring his
own lack of concern with U.S.-sanctioned POW abuse‘
intelligence agents have been torturing terrorist suspects,
or engaging in practices pretty close to torture. They have
also been handing over suspects to countries such as Egypt,
whose intelligence agencies have a reputation for brutality.”
(From The Economist, London, Jan. 11.)
You probably haven’t heard this said too many times in progressive
newspapers before and you most likely won’t hear it again
soon, so enjoy: Donald Rumsfeld is right.
When Iraqi television aired footage of five American POWs
being interrogated by Iraqi officials, it did in fact violate
the Geneva Conventions, as the visibly pissed-off secretary
of defense charged Sunday in interviews with CNN and other
is absolutely clear that POWs have to be protected against
insult and public curiosity under Article 13 of the [Third]
Geneva Convention,” Dina Dinah PoKempner, general counsel
for Human Rights Watch, told CNN. “Public humiliation isn’t
part of humane treatment.”
The footage, which also included grisly images of dead American
soldiers, aired around the world on the Arab-language Al-Jazeera
network. The footage showed a prisoner who identified herself
as Shoshana, 30, from Texas. Her eyes darted back and forth
as she was interviewed, and she held her arms tightly in her
lap as she was questioned.
At one point, the camera panned back, showing a massive white
bandage wrapped around her ankle. Her voice was very shaky.
The prisoners looked scared. One captive, who said he was
from Kansas, answered all his questions in a shaky voice,
his eyes darting back and forth between an interviewer and
another person who couldn’t be seen on camera.
Iraqi TV attempted to interview a wounded man lying down,
at one point trying to cradle his head so it would hold steady
for the camera.
The first Geneva Convention was held in 1864 to adopt a universal
code of conduct for nations at war. In 1949, the third Geneva
Convention was signed in an effort to address the many abuses
of prisoners and civilians suffered during World War II. It
included provisions to protect captured soldiers from being
used as propaganda tools.
With images of thousands of surrendering Iraqi troops being
treated decently by U.S. and British forces over the last
couple of days, it seems the Americans have, at least for
now, scored a grim PR victory. Despite claims they are not
mistreating the prisoners, the Iraqis appear thuggish.
However, the United States is in a precarious position to
be complaining about Iraqi war crimes. In the already ignored
Afghanistan campaign (which Dan Rather recently called the
“forgotten war”), the United States has a dismal human-rights
It’s alleged that in November 2001, Northern Alliance warlord,
heroin trafficker and U.S. top ally Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum
rounded up hundreds of Taliban fighters on behalf of U.S.
forces and stuffed them into cargo containers.
They were supposed to be headed for Sheberghan prison. But
hundreds never made it. They were left to asphyxiate in the
airtight containers. Before dying, many licked each other’s
sweat, bit off their fingertips or tore into their own arms
and legs—and those of others—in a desperate search for fluid.
A confidential U.N. memo leaked to Newsweek magazine
in September 2002 quoted a witness saying that 960 prisoners
had died and were buried in mass graves near Dasht-i-Laili.
Then there’s America’s most famous “enemy combatant,” Taliban
Johnny, aka John Walker Lindh. Immediately after being captured
following the brutal prison rebellion at Mazar-e-Sharif, the
frail, frightened American jihadist was interviewed by war-zone
aficionado Robert Young Pelton (who was staying at Dostum’s
compound at the time). According to an account in the New
Yorker, after asking his Special Forces buddies to wait
to “shoot him” until he was done, Pelton interrogated the
wounded Lindh under the gun of U.S. military personnel. Later,
the military stripped him naked, taped him to a gurney and
threw him in the back of a transport plane back to the U.S.
Pelton’s interview ran on CNN and was used to convict Lindh
for conspiracy to kill United States nationals and to provide
material support to a terrorist organization. He is currently
serving a 20-year sentence.
Further complicating the United States’ position on the top
of the moral high ground are allegations of ongoing mistreatment
of Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners at Camp X-Ray, in Afghanistan
and other “undisclosed” locations.
In December 2002, the Washington Post (“U.S. Decries
Abuse but Defends Interrogations”) exposed how U.S. interrogators
at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, on the Indian Ocean
island of Diego Garcia, and at other overseas sites, have
been systematically abusing Al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners
in a “brass-knuckled quest for information” to uncover future
terrorist plots. “Take-down teams,” consisting of U.S. Army
Special Forces troops, FBI and CIA agents and Northern Alliance
troops, blindfold and beat prisoners, throwing them into walls,
binding them for long periods in contorted positions and depriving
them of sleep for days at a time.
The teams then allegedly “package” some prisoners by hooding
them, duct- taping them to stretchers and then flying them
to friendly states less picky about the norms of human decency.
According to the Post article, approximately 100 prisoners
have been sent to basements in Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and
Saudi Arabia for interrogations.
There has been little outcry over these charges, because torture
as an interrogation technique has largely been embraced by
the American establishment.
When Cofer Black, then head of the CIA’s Counterterrorist
Center, told House and Senate intelligence committees in September
2002 that “there was a before 9/11, and there was an after
9/11. After 9/11 the gloves come off”—few politicians complained.
Influential Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter wrote
in a November 2002 article that, while he didn’t support legalizing
physical torture in the United States, he did suggest we consider
using “legal” forms of psychological torture at home, while
“transferring some suspects to our less squeamish allies.”
Even prominent liberals like celebrity civil-rights attorney
and death-penalty opponent Alan Dershowitz have implicitly
recognized a gray area between torture and humane treatment.
But human-rights advocates have been clear. In a letter to
President Bush, Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human
Rights Watch, wrote: “Torture is always prohibited under any
circumstances. U.S. officials who take part in torture, authorize
it, or even close their eyes to it, can be prosecuted by courts
anywhere in the world.”
Rumsfeld has insisted that Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners
have been handled humanely. He will not, however, grant them
“prisoner of war” status. The U.S. position is they are not
part of a “regular” army, and are thus not protected by the
Geneva Conventions—a distinction that allows the Pentagon
convenient wiggle room.
In January 2002, Rumsfeld stated, “They will be handled not
as prisoners of war, because they’re not, but as unlawful
combatants. Technically unlawful combatants do not have any
rights under the Geneva Convention. We have indicated that
we do plan to, for the most part, treat them in a manner that
is reasonably consistent with the Geneva Conventions, to the
extent they are appropriate.”
In other words, the law applies to us, only when we feel like
Let’s hope, for Shoshana’s sake, the Iraqis don’t share such
a flexible interpretation.
Lappé is executive editor of Guerrilla New Network TV. He
has written for The
New York Times, New York, Details and Salon, among
they were overshadowed in the local papers by reports
of the numerous arrests of the citizens who blocked
the Broadway exit ramp of I-787 later in the day, roughly
400 people peacefully filled the courtyard behind the
Capitol with antiwar chants, songs and speeches at noon
on Thursday (March 20), the day after the U.S. military’s
attempt to assassinate Iraqi President Saddam Hussein,
signaling the beginning of a new Gulf War. The rally
lasted a little more than a half-hour, and a slightly
thinned crowd chanted and engaged passersby as they
snaked through the streets of Albany before arriving
at the Leo O’Brien Federal Building for another rally.
There, speakers urged antiwar activists to keep constant
pressure on their elected officials, asking for quick
end to the U.S. military campaign. Antiwar demonstrations
have continued throughout Albany, the Capital Region
and the world since the U.S. military invasion of Iraq
last Wednesday (March 19).