They Died for Halliburton

The mask came off this week. George “No More Beating Around The” Bush came right out and admitted it, on camera no less. American soldiers have died in Iraq, and are still dying, said the Commander-in-Chief, so that Halliburton, Bechtel and other corporate contributors to his campaign can make money.

When it came down to money, Bush dropped all pretense. He blatantly didn’t care whether he looked like a villain or a weeping clown.

“It makes sense,” said the Selected One, for “countries that have risked lives” to “have the benefit” from the contracts to rebuild Iraq.

Countries that did not support Bush’s plan for an unprovoked, shoot-first preemptive strike on Iraq, including countries that merely asked him to hold off for 30 days before invading unilaterally, need not apply.

“Friendly coalition folks risked their lives, and therefore the contracting is going to reflect that, and that’s what the US taxpayers expect,” Bush said.

(No, Mr. President. What US taxpayers expect is a legitimately elected government, a president with some integrity and intelligence, a congress with some courage, clean air to breath and water to drink, a functioning economy, a foreign policy that doesn’t make us cringe when we think about it ….)

The naked admission of the war’s profit motive is but the most recent example of a new trend in Washington: officials coming right out and admitting the obvious. Recently Pentagon advisor Richard Perle, for example, confessed openly that the entire invasion of Iraq was probably illegal.

Apparently no one in DC sees any need to fear repercussions. This is an administration that no longer cares what anyone thinks about what it thinks. The more it gets away with, the more it wants. If Bush had the slightest apprehension that he might not get his way, he would speak in a different tone with us.

Nevertheless, judging by the initial response to this latest policy pronouncement (it has been met with immediate and overwhelming international condemnation), the plan needs a little tweaking. With the following minor changes, we could perhaps cut the president a little slack and get behind him on this.

ONE, No American company that did business with Saddam Hussein while he was brutalizing his own people should get a contract. This clause would exclude most of the cronies of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld.

TWO, The managers and directors of any company that is found to have overcharged the American people under these contracts should go to jail. (The Pentagon says that Halliburton has already overcharged them by $61 million for gasoline.) If Ashcroft still wants to hold anybody without benefit or trial or counsel, he could start with these folks.

THREE, Since the plan is based on consideration of “those who risked their lives,” all profits beyond reasonable and necessary expenses (subject to rigorous independent auditing) should be divided among the families of coalition soldiers who lost their lives in the invasion or suffered long-lasting disabilities. Or is the president under the impression that the lives of Halliburton, Bechtel, Fluor etc. executives were at risk?

FOUR, Since Iraq is pre-eminent among “countries that have risked lives” in this conflict, an amount equal to the total value of all contracts should first be set aside for direct reparations to the families of Iraqi civilians killed or maimed by coalition forces.

FIVE, Avoiding even the appearance of impropriety should be paramount, meaning that the administration of Iraq’s natural resources should be turned over at once to the United Nations.

I know, I know, it’s nuts. The very sight of Bush on TV these days is enough to drive us crazy. Nothing he says or does can surprise us anymore. His shamelessness knows no limit. Increasingly we simply can’t bear to look at him.

DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, just released a scorching new CD, Way Down Here.

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DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, have just released a scorching new CD, Serve Me Right to Shuffle. His essay on Tammy Wynette is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on art, music and sex, Serpents in the Garden.