Welcome Aboard the Iraq Gravy Train

Congratulations to all the winners of tickets to take part in the greatest rebuilding show on earth

TERRY JONES Sunday April 13, 2003 The Observer

Well the war has been a huge success, and I guess it’s time for congratulations all round. And wow! It’s hard to know where to begin.

First, I’d like to congratulate Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) and the Bechtel Corporation, which are the construction companies most likely to benefit from the reconstruction of Iraq. Contracts in the region of $1 billion should soon coming your way, chaps. Well done! And what with the US dropping 15,000 precision-guided munitions, 7,500 unguided bombs and 750 cruise missiles on Iraq so far and with more to come, there’s going to be a lot of reconstruction. It looks like it could be a bonanza year.

Of course, we all know that KBR is the construction side of Halliburton, and it has been doing big business with the military ever since the Second World War. Most recently, it got the plum job of constructing the prison compound for terrorists suspects at Guantanamo Bay. Could be a whole lot more deluxe chicken coops coming your way in the next few months, guys. Stick it to ’em.

I’d also like to add congratulations to Dick Cheney, who was chief executive of Halliburton from 1995 to 2000, and who currently receives a cheque for $1 million a year from his old company. I guess he may find there’s a little surprise bonus in there this year. Well done, Dick.

Congratulations, too, to former Secretary of State, George Schultz. He’s not only on the board of Bechtel, he’s also chairman of the advisory board of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a group with close ties to the White House committed to reconstructing the Iraqi economy through war. You’re doing a grand job, George, and I’m sure material benefits will be coming your way, as sure as the Devil lives in Texas.

Oh, before I forget, a big round of appreciation for Jack Sheehan, a retired general who sits on the Defence Policy Board which advises the Pentagon. He’s a senior vice president at Bechtel and one of the many members of the Defence Policy Board with links to companies that make money out of defence contracts. When I say ‘make money’ I’m not joking. Their companies have benefited to the tune of $76bn just in the last year. Talk about a gravy train. Well, Jack, you and your colleagues can certainly look forward to a warm and joyous Christmas this year.

It;s been estimated that rebuilding Iraq could cost anything from $25bn to $100bn and the great thing is that the Iraqis will be paying for it themselves out of their future oil revenues. What’s more, President Bush will be able to say, with a straight face, that they’re using the money from Iraqi oil to benefit the Iraqi people. ‘We’re going to use the assets of the people of Iraq, especially their oil assets, to benefit their people,’ said Secretary of State Colin Powell, and he looked really sincere. Yessir.

It’s so neat it makes you want to run out and buy shares in Fluor. As one of the world’s biggest procurement and construction companies, it recently hired Kenneth J. Oscar, who, as acting assistant secretary of the army, took care of the Pentagon’s $35bn-a-year procurement budget. So there could also be some nice extra business coming its way soon. Bully for them.

But every celebration has its serious side, and I should like to convey my condolences to all those who have suffered so grievously in this war. Particularly American Airlines, Qantas and Air Canada, and all other travel companies which have seen their customers dwindle, as fear of terrorist reprisals for what the US and Britain have done in Iraq begins to bite.

My condolences also to all those British companies which have been disappointed in their bid to share in the bonanza that all this wonderful high-tech military firepower has created. I know it must be frustrating and disheartening for many of you, especially in the medical field, knowing there are all those severed limbs, all that burnt flesh, all those smashed skulls, broken bones, punctured spleens, ripped faces and mangled children just crying out for your products.

You could be making a fortune out of the drugs, serums and surgical hardware, and yet you have to stand on the sidelines and watch as US drug companies make a killing.

Well, Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian President, has some words of comfort for us all. As he recently pointed out, this adventure by Bush and Blair will have created such hatred throughout the Arab world, that 100 new bin Ladens will have been created.

So all of us here in Britain, as well as in America, shouldn’t lose heart. Once the Arab world starts to take its revenge, there should be enough reconstruction to do at home to keep business thriving for some years to come.

TERRY JONES was a member of Monty Python.

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