Pride … that is the word Halliburton uses in its advertising.
But if anyone looks at the facts “false pride” might be more accurate a pride that comes before the fall.
Next Wednesday, May 18th, the Halliburton corporation will have its 2005 annual general shareholder’s meeting at the Four Season’s hotel in downtown Houston Texas. The company’s Chief Executive Officer, David Lesar, will give the shareholder’s a report of the company which talks about profits, production and pride. He will talk about the large amount of profits which Halliburton and its subsidiaries have made from no-bid contracts in Iraq. He will talk about producing services that support the American military’s occupation of Iraq.
Halliburton is spending a lot of advertising dollars to tell their story of pride. They need to because there is a lot to overcome.
Lesar will not talk with pride about the company being under constant scrutiny for Enron style accounting with U.S. tax-dollars, corporate cronyism and war profiteering. He will not highlight how DOD Audits find that Halliburton has overcharged U.S. taxpayers by $212 Million!
In the days preceding May 18 and out in the streets the day of the shareholder’s meeting, an alternative meeting will be taking place as people from around the region and country will converge to demand accountability from the “poster child” of war profiteering. Not only will anti-war and economic justice activists be creating a loud spirited non-violent protest, but the voices of the unheard will be in attendance as well.
Not only activists, but former Halliburton employees who were misled about safety conditions, specific jobs and pay will be protesting. Family members of soldiers serving in Iraq, Iraq war veterans and Iraqi’s who have seen their nation devastated by war and then sold off to the highest bidder (or given away with no bids as the case may be) will also all be there.
Organizers of the week’s other events will ensure that Halliburton’s shareholders and investors will hear a different story, the story Halliburton would best like to forget. The Halliburton CEO Lesar will not describe to the shareholder’s who own the company.
According to The Financial Times, Halliburton, the largest recipient of reconstruction contracts in Iraq, has received $18 billion and seen their revenues increase 80% between 2003 and 2004. They has been accused of more fraud, waste, and corruption than any other Iraq contractor — from allegations of overcharging $108 million for fuel and $24.7 million for meals, to confirmed kickbacks worth $6.3 million. Halliburton is also the only Iraq contractor currently under criminal investigation by the Department of Justice.
Besides their unchecked war profiteering, they benefit from relationships with governmental officials, recently and most notably Vice-President Dick Cheney. Cheney from 1995 to 2000 served as CEO of Halliburton and still receives $178,000 annually in salary from them about the same as his salary as vice president!
Halliburton was supposed to rebuild Iraq’s oil production infrastructure, but after a war in which there were very few oil well fires and Halliburton still delivers gas at fraudulent prices to a country that has the second largest amount of oil in the world.
The people of Iraq must be wondering what exactly is Halliburton is doing to reconstruct their country. It can’t be improving employment opportunities for Iraqi or US workers. Halliburton and its subsidiaries operate as a non-union company in the U.S. Of roughly 530 locations, only ten sites have workers under union contract. In Iraq, in an attempt to keep Iraqi workers from organizing, Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root contracted with a Kuwaiti company to rebuild the Bargeseeya Oil Refinery in Southern Iraq. Unemployment in parts of Iraq run as high as 60-90 per cent while Halliburton imports Third World workers displacing Iraqi’s from work and contributing to their economic disenfranchisement.
Recently, former Halliburton employees and family members of employees killed in Iraq have filed a class action lawsuit for “systematically, intentionally, and fraudulently” deceiving them into taking a job in Iraq and failing to protect them. The family members are particularly angry because Halliburton sent a poorly guarded convoy of 19 truck drivers on April 9, 2004 as an apparent ‘decoy’ on the most dangerous road in Iraq. After an intense 2 hour gun battle, only 11 of the drivers arrived at their destination where they learned that the fuel they had carried was not even needed — six others were killed, one kidnapped who escaped, and one is still missing.
The goal of this next week is to bring a new spirited resistance to Halliburton’s corporate occupation in Iraq. Currently, Halliburton and their subsidiary, KBR, provide essential services to support the occupation of Iraq. They provide food services, laundry services and delivery services. They have been tasked with rebuilding Iraq’s oil infrastructure.
Furthermore, their subsidiary, KBR is contracted to build 14 permanent military bases to make the US occupation of Iraq a permanent one. Halliburton and KBR’s presence in Iraq is essential to a long term military and corporate occupation. The shareholder’s meeting is only the beginning in a long campaign to pressure Halliburton out of Iraq.
Houston activists are using a “people power” strategy of direct action and popular education to exact social, political and economic costs on Halliburton for their operations in Iraq. In the spirit of the Serbian Otpor student movement, privatization resistors in Bolivia and Filipino “People Power” which brought down dictator Ferdinand Marcos, as well as the rich tradition of America’s own social movements, Houston activists already have been using community dialogue, teach-in’s, film screenings, Halliburton counter-recruitment, humor, non-violent direct action and resolve to stop the war profiteers. In 2003, the anti-war movement used many different means to stop the invasion of Iraq. In 2004, many tried to “un-elect” the invader by supporting another pro-war candidate. The people power strategy targets key pillars of support in the occupation of Iraq and in Houston Texas, that key pillar is war profiteer Halliburton.
On April 4th 1967, Dr Martin Luther King said “We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” Consider Dr. King’s words when you look at David Lesar’s “pride” in Halliburton’s profiting from the war in Iraq. The time is now to begin that shift, the movements to stop Iraq war profiteering are underway.
SCOTT PARKIN is a community organizer in Houston, Texas. For more information about the alternative shareholder’s meeting, check out www.houstonglobalawareness.org.
Further information on Halliburton is available at: