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Veteran observers of the klepto-plutocracy that has, lazar-like, long encrusted the American body politic were not surprised to see the hoary name of the Bechtel Group bobbing up in the swill of sweetheart deals now being doled out by the Corrupter-in-Chief for the “reconstruction” of his new fiefdom in Iraq. Decades before its comrade in cronyism, the Carlyle Group, made its meteoric, Bush-assisted ascent to global prominence, Bechtel had already perfected the dark art of milking intimate government connections for fat, risk-free contracts.
Last week, while the notorious coward George W. Bush –who walked away from his National Guard duty during the Vietnam War, a criminal act known as “desertion” when committed by lesser mortals –was basking in the man-musk of a shipload of sailors, reciting his usual lies about al Qaeda’s “alliance” with Saddam Hussein, and weasel-wording his “victory” declaration to avoid taking full legal responsibility for the consequences of the war of aggression he had unleashed, Bechtel was quietly pocketing a secret, closed-bid, open-ended Iraq contract that could give them almost $700 million in taxpayer money before the 2004 election –with the alluring prospect of untold billions to follow, Mother Jones reports.
What’s more, as the New Yorker reports, this public largess will also fill the coffers of a key Bechtel partner in Saudi Arabia –a well-connected global conglomerate that has also been a long-time financial partner of both George Bush I and George Bush II: the Bin Laden Group.
Bechtel, which has served Saudi royalty for more than 60 years, bristles with heavyweight kleptoplute connections. During the 1980s, current Bush warlord Don Rumsfeld acted as a paid shill for a Bechtel pipeline project in the Middle East, operating with the blessing of the Reagan-Bush administration’s secretary of state, George Schultz –Bechtel’s former president (and now “senior counsel” to the company). Rummy conducted a passionate two-year courtship of a certain Saddam Hussein, plying him with trinkets, blandishments and sweetmeats to win his lordly favor for a Bechtel-built line from Iraq to Jordan, according to national security archives obtained by the Institute for Policy Studies.
Rumsfeld’s strenuous attempt to lay pipe with Saddam happened to coincide with the latter’s most extensive use of poison gas in the Iran-Iraq war –gassing carried out with the exemplary assistance of U.S. military intelligence and technology provided by the Reagan-Bush administration and its “special envoy” to Baghdad: Don Rumsfeld. Meanwhile, another Reagan-Bush crony, Attorney General Ed Meese, tried to bribe the Israeli government with $700 million in secret funds to put the kibosh on their opposition to the Bechtel deal, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. This skullduggery earned Meese an investigation by a special prosecutor, but as the case lacked the key element of any serious government crime –oral sex with an intern –the probe was soon dropped.
In the end, Saddam –who first went on the CIA payroll back in the early 1960s, Reuters reports –balked at Bechtel’s billion-dollar price tag and rejected the project. Now of course, in a fitting bit of historical symmetry, the son of the CIA’s most famous director, George Bush, has handed Iraq to Bechtel on a silver platter.
This move will delight –and enrich –the Bush/Bechtel buddies in the Bin Laden Group. As oft noted in these pages, in the 1980s George W. Bush received a helping hand for his floundering oil businesses from the Saudi group’s front man, Khalid bin Mahfouz, who secretly cast bin Laden bread upon American waters to win influence with well-connected kleptoplutes –like, say, the wayward son of the former CIA director and then-current Vice President.
Today, Mahfouz is under house arrest in Saudi Arabia for allegedly financing the holy-war hijinks of the bin Ladens’ own wayward son, Osama. Or to be completely accurate, he’s accused of financing those holy-war hijinks after the Reagan-Bush CIA finally stopped financing them. But despite his confinement, Mahfouz (who is also Osama’s brother-in-law) is still a player in the kleptoplute nexus: for example, he’s currently a business partner of former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean –the very man whom George W. Bush has appointed to chair the investigation of the September 11 terrorist attacks allegedly ordered by, yes, that ex-CIA employee and former executive of the Bin Laden Group: Osama bin Laden.
The Bin Laden Group was also heavily invested in the Carlyle Group, the “private equity” firm (and major arms merchant) that, like Bechtel, specializes in the sell-off of public services and other government-insider deals. Carlyle’s best-known bagman, George Bush I, used to make ritual pilgrimages to bin Laden family headquarters in Saudi Arabia to procure their potent baksheesh. When Carlyle’s post-Sept. 11 orgy of war-profiteering began drawing unwanted attention, however, the bin Ladens cashed in their Carlyle chips and, officially, ended the partnership.
But they remain welded to Bechtel and will now reap the fruits of the latest installment of the War of the Wayward Sons –a conflict driven on both sides by ludicrous and primitive religious passions coupled with a voracious lust for power and loot. Yet although this war has now engulfed the entire planet, it is no “clash of civilizations” or grand agon of world-historical forces. As shown by the small sampling of connections above, it’s more of a dust-up in the boardroom, a falling-out at the country club, a bit of bad blood amongst a tiny clique of vicious predators threaded together in a Byzantine web of kinship, corporate ties –and complicity in generations of murderous crime.
CHRIS FLOYD is a columnist for the Moscow Times and a regular contributor to CounterPunch. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org