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Before the first cruise missile crushed the first skull of the first child killed in the first installment of George W. Bush’s crusade for world dominion, the unelected plutocrats occupying the White House were already plying their corporate cronies with fat contracts to "repair" the murderous devastation they were about to unleash on Iraq. There was, of course, no open bidding allowed in the process; just a few "selected" companies–selected for their preponderance of campaign bribes to the Bushist Party, that is – "invited" to submit their wish lists to the War Profiteer-in-Chief.
It should come as no surprise that one of the leading beneficiaries of this hugger-mugger largess is our old friend, Halliburton Corporation, the military-energy servicing conglomerate. Halliburton, headed by Vice Profiteer Dick Cheney until the Bushist coup d’etat in 2000, is already reaping billions from the Bush wars–which Cheney himself tells us "might not end in our lifetime."
Cheney is an old hand at this kind of death merchanting, of course. In the first Bush-Iraq War, Cheney, playing the role now filled by Don Rumsfeld–a squinting, smirking, lying Secretary of Defense – directed the massacre of some 100,00 Iraqis, many of whom were buried alive, or machine-gunned while retreating along the "Highway of Death," or annihilated in sneak attacks launched after a ceasefire had been called. When George I and his triumphant conquerors were unceremoniously booted out of office less than two years later by that radical fringe group so hated by the Bushists–the American people–Cheney made a soft landing at Halliburton.
There he grew rich on government contracts and taxpayer-supported credits doled out by his old pals in the military-industrial complex. He also hooked up with attractive foreign partners – like Saddam Hussein, the "worse-than-Hitler" dictator who paid Cheney $73 million to rebuild the oil fields that had been destroyed by, er, Dick Cheney. And while the Halliburton honcho became a multimillionaire many times over, some of his employees were not so lucky – Cheney ashcanned more than 10,000 workers during his boardroom reign. (At least he didn’t bury them alive.)
Old news, you say? Irrelevant to the current crisis? Surely, now that Cheney has been translated to glory as the nation’s second-highest public servant, he is beyond any taint of grubby material concerns? Au contraire, as those ever-dastardly French like to say. At this very moment, while the smoke is still rising from the rubble of Baghdad, while the bodies of the unburied dead are still rotting in the desert wastes, Dick Cheney is receiving one million dollars a year in so-called "deferred compensation" from Halliburton. That’s a million smackers from a private company that profits directly from the mass slaughter in Iraq, going into the pockets of the "public servant" who is, as the sycophantic media never tires of telling us, the power behind George W.’s throne – and a prime architect of the war.
This is money that Cheney wouldn’t get if Halliburton went down the tubes–a prospect it faced in the early days of the Regime, due to a boneheaded merger engineered by its former CEO, a guy named, er, Dick Cheney. In a deal apparently sealed during a golf game with an old crony, Cheney acquired a subsidiary, Dresser Industries–a firm associated with the Bush family for more than 70 years–which was facing billions of dollars in liability claims for its unsafe use of asbestos. Dresser’s bigwigs doubtless made out like bandits from the deal, and Cheney left the mess behind when the grateful Bushes put him on the presidential ticket, but there was serious concern that Halliburton itself would be forced into bankruptcy – unless it found massive new sources of secure funding to offset the financial "shock and awe" of the asbestos lawsuits.
Then lo and behold, after September 11, Halliburton received a multibillion-dollar, open-ended, no-bid contract to build and service U.S. military bases and operations all over the world. It also won several shorter-term contracts, such as expanding the concentration camp in Guantanamo Bay, where the Regime is holding unnamed, uncharged suspected terrorists in violation of the Geneva Convention. With this fountain of federal money pouring into its coffers – and Bushist operatives in Congress pushing legislation to restrict asbestos lawsuits–Halliburton was able to hammer out a surprisingly favorable settlement deal with the asbestos victims. The company–and Cheney’s million-dollar paychecks–were saved. Praise Allah!
Halliburton is just the tip of the slagheap, of course. Daddy Bush’s popsicle stand, the Carlyle Group – which controls a vast network of defense firms and "security" operations around the world – is also panning gold from the streams of blood pouring down the ancient tracks of Babylon. Junior Bush – who like a kept woman made his own influence-peddling fortune through services rendered to a series of sugar daddies–has conveniently gutted the national inheritance tax, swelling his own eventual bottom line when his father joins the legions of Panamanian, Iranian, Afghan, Iraqi–and American–dead he and his son have sent down to Sheol.
Never in American history has a group of government leaders profited so directly from war–never. Like their brothers-in-arms, Saddam’s Baathists, the Bushists treat their own country like a sacked town, looting the treasury for their family retainers and turning public policy to private gain. Like Saddam, they feed on fear and glorify aggression. Like Saddam, they have dishonored their nation and betrayed its people.
But the money sure is good, eh, Dick?
CHRIS FLOYD is a columnist for the Moscow Times and is a regular contributor to CounterPunch.
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