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Connecting the Dots to Cheney and Halliburton
January 30, 2004
By Tom Fairlie

At this point, many Republicans are tired of hearing about how the war in Iraq is all about oil. Likewise, they file every new conspiracy theory about Halliburton under the heading of "leftist rant" or in the cabinet marked "anti-corporate-America hogwash". To Bush supporters, our efforts in the Middle East are all about some lofty humanitarian purpose and spreading Democracy to those sorely in need of it. After examining the facts, all I can say is that I hope we don't spread some of our corrupt capitalism as well.

When one considers where the Bush doctrine has taken us so far, one must consider Dick Cheney's impact on the doctrine in the first place. Unlike any other vice president in modern history, Cheney wields much greater power than is normally associated with the role. Foreign dignitaries understand this: they know that the best and perhaps only way to get their point across in Washington is to schedule a meeting with the vice president. At the start, Cheney was allowed to pick most of Bush's cabinet. After the transition was over, he continued to act as Bush's point man on budget and policy matters-making many issues like Iraq his own.

Also unlike other vice presidents in recent memory, Cheney wasn't tapped from a role in government. In fact, after President Clinton's inauguration, Dick Cheney left his role as secretary of defense and spent most of the next eight years as the chief executive officer (CEO) at Halliburton.

Historically, many politicians have qualities that lend themselves to executive management. They know how to talk to people, they know how to sell an idea, and they know what it takes to make things happen in large organizations of people with conflicting goals. In Cheney's case, he had an even better quality: he used his government job to bring billions of dollars in new business to his future employer.

This all started in 1992, when Secretary of State Cheney retained Halliburton to undertake a classified study on the feasibility of outsourcing some of the Defense Department's work. In perhaps the least shocking report of the decade, Halliburton found that it did indeed make sense for the government to farm out some of its work. This landmark study resulted in 2,700 new government contracts that were worth billions to Halliburton. Analysts who studied both wars in Iraq determined that 1 out of every 100 Americans in the first war was a paid civilian and that this ratio had increased to 1 in 10 by the second war.

This surge in new business didn't stop when Halliburton hired Cheney. On the contrary, Cheney was able to continue his connections in the government to help double the value of Halliburton's contracts over the five years he ran the company. Unfortunately, Halliburton's success was in part dependent on business with Iran, Iraq, and Libya (among others). According to Cheney, dealing with shady regimes under U.S. sanctions was necessary because "the good Lord didn't see fit to put oil and gas only where there are democratic regimes friendly to the United States."

With Cheney running the show, Halliburton was also found by the Government Accounting Office (GAO) to be overcharging the U.S. Army and was accused of questionable accounting practices by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). To add some icing on his cake, Cheney also helped Halliburton to increase its number of offshore tax havens from 9 to 44. In just one year (1998-99), Halliburton went from paying $302 million in corporate taxes at the start to getting an $85 million refund at the end.

If Cheney did any soul-searching after dealing with authoritarian dictators and avoiding taxes, it certainly didn't affect his social circle. He continued his quest for power by helping to form the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) in 1997 along with a bunch of archconservative hawks such as Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Jeb Bush (the President's brother and governor of Florida). This organization's purpose is to ensure America's global dominance through strategic use of its military.

Ironically, this type of goal was nothing new to Cheney. In 1992, he and his Under Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz worked on what would be the country's new defense policy in a post-USSR world. Wolfowitz's staff created a plan that called for a dominant American military to "establish and protect a new order" that discouraged allies from challenging our leadership and "deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role." Only public outcry kept the plan from moving forward.

In January 1998, the PNAC issued a statement to President Clinton asking him to "undertake military action" and remove Saddam Hussein from power. This tough talk occurred more than 10 months before the UN inspectors left Iraq. Let's try and put this in perspective - the CEO of a company that does a lot of work in the oil industry and with the defense department is urging the president of the U.S. to attack a sovereign nation in the absence of a direct threat when the same company would dramatically benefit from such an action. On balance, I don't think it's possible to have a greater conflict of interest than this.

Five months later, when Clinton still hadn't taken direct action, they sent a similar letter to Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott. This time, they upped the rhetoric and cited even more information about how dangerous Hussein was. Ironically, they suggested that "we should establish and maintain a strong U.S. military presence in the region, and be prepared to use that force to protect our vital interests in the Gulf - and, if necessary, to help remove Saddam from power." Suddenly, the plot thickens. Why on earth would this group petition the President of the U.S. to declare war on another country and then list regime change third in the list "if necessary"?

Once in the White House, Dick Cheney declared that "I've severed all my ties with the company, gotten rid of all my financial interest. I have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind and haven't had, now, for over three years." Funny thing that, as public records show that Cheney still receives deferred compensation from Halliburton and still owns 433,000 stock options. The Congressional Research Service believes that stock options and deferred salary "are among those benefits described [.] as 'retained ties' or 'linkages' to one's former employer."

My first question is this: if Dick Cheney is so sure that there's no conflict of interest here, then why does his White House biography fail to make any mention whatsoever of what he was doing between 1993 and 2000? If I were the CEO of a billion-dollar business, I would sure as heck put that on my resume.

My other question would be: after reading this, are Republicans still positive that this is just "anti-corporate-America hogwash"?

Tom Fairlie is a senior engineer working in the defense industry and a part-time writer.


"All in the Family," CBS News, September 21, 2003

"Cheney's Halliburton Ties Remain," CBS News, September 26, 2003

"Richard B. Cheney: Inside the Vice President's Office," The White House

"Statement of Principles," The Project for the New American Century, June 3, 1997

"Letter to President Clinton on Iraq," The Project for the New American Century, January 26, 1998

"Letter to Gingrich and Lott on Iraq," The Project for the New American Century, May 29, 1998

Lee Drutman and Charlie Cray, "Cheney, Halliburton and the Spoils of War," CorpWatch, April 4, 2003

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