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War profiteer: Vice President Dick Cheney.

WAR REPORT

If Elected, I’ll Still Be Working for You

As blood flows in Iraq, the gravy flows to Halliburton, where Dick Cheney was chief executive

As 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 salaries.

“We 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 native-born population.

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 targets.

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 Afghanistan?”

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.

“Those 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.”

—Pratap Chatterjee

Sasha 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.

Do As We Say

Rumsfeld accuses Iraq of violating Geneva Conventions—ignoring his own lack of concern with U.S.-sanctioned POW abuse

American 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 networks.

“It 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 record.

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 it.

Let’s hope, for Shoshana’s sake, the Iraqis don’t share such a flexible interpretation.

—Anthony Lappé

Anthony Lappé is executive editor of Guerrilla New Network TV. He has written for The New York Times, New York, Details and Salon, among many others.

Joe Putrock

Marching Forward

Though 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).


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