Wednesday, June 16, 2004


One of the weirder paradoxes of the modern media is that twenty-four-hour news coverage means less news. The cable stations have all the time in the world to cover things in some sort of depth, but they can only concentrate on one story at a time, and they cover that one story with absolutely no depth whatsoever. Lots and lots of heat, but precious little light.

Anywho, one scandal that has received very little coverage is the Halliburton Scandal. We should take a page from the right-wingers Book of Linguistic Strategy, and just suffix everything with “-gate.” So we’ll call this one “Cheneygate.”

So – what are the details of Cheneygate?

Halliburton, as you know, is Dick Cheney’s old company. And they were awarded a no-bid contract by the Pentagon for rebuilding Iraq – a massively profitable endeavor.

On Meet the Press on September 14th, Cheney said that he had nothing to do with the Halliburton contracts. He said he had not been informed of them and political appointees were not involved with them. But officials at the Pentagon say that Cheney’s staff was briefed at least twice by political appointees who had awarded Halliburton the contract. If the Pentagon officials are telling the truth, Cheney flatly lied.

But the real scandal is worse than that: apparently, Halliburton didn’t just get a contract, they got a cost-plus contract: they are guaranteed a certain percentage of profits. As far as I know, that is unheard of for an organization that is working for the government. And it means, in true looking-glass fashion, that the more they spend, they more they make.

So they have been intentionally wasting money like crazy.

Six whistle-blowers have told Henry Waxman – who is the ranking Democrat in the House Government Reform Committee - that Halliburton is defrauding the United States Treasury. Five out of the six worked directly for Halliburton and the sixth worked for a subsidiary. But unfortunately, the head of the Committee – Tom Davis – is a Republican, and he has refused to allow the whistleblowers to testify. It’s nice to know that the head of a Reform Committee is covering up the wrongdoing of those he is charged with investigating.

David Wilson, a convoy commander for Halliburton, and James Warren, a Halliburton truck driver, are two of the whistleblowers. They have stated that new $85,000 Halliburton trucks in Kuwait were "abandoned or torched" if they got a flat tire. They claim that they "removed all the spare tires in Kuwait," so they would have to replace the entire truck after a blowout. In addition, they said, they were instructed not to change the oil in the trucks.

James Warren and Marie de Young tell similar stories: Warren claims that after he complained about the practices to Randy Harl, the head of a Halliburton subsidiary, he was fired.

Marie deYoung, who worked in the subcontracts department of Halliburton, said the company paid for a laundry service that was so inefficient it cost $100 to wash a bag of laundry. Ms. de Young was told, she said, that she was providing too much information to Pentagon auditors, and concluded that the corporate culture was one of "intimidation and fear."

In addition, truckers have been driving empty trucks from one end of Iraq to another, simply to waste money. To add to the disgrace, these truckers lives have been at risk, since they get assaulted, attacked and shot at while driving the empty truck.

David Wilson said, "There was one time we ran 28 trucks, one trailer had one pallet (a trailer can hold as many as 26 four-foot square pallets) and the rest of them were empty." Wilson was the convoy commander on more than 100 runs. Warren said he drove empty trucks through Iraq more than a dozen times. Three other truckers have confirmed their accounts.

Look, I KNOW that the Republicans control both houses, and I KNOW that it’s hard for them to place country before party when they are the ones in power.

But what the HELL does it take to launch a serious investigation? That’s EVERYBODY’S tax money being thrown into a hole, after all. Do Republicans consider Cheney's friends to be immune from the law? Do they CARE if a private corporation helps to bankrupt the United States?

And what the hell does it take for the American media to give major coverage to a serious story?

Maybe if the heads of Halliburton had been getting blowjobs while robbing the United States treasury, it would actually be treated like a scandal.

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