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Tuesday, July 20, 2004

More Cheney Background

In the course of my research into the Halliburton/Iran subpoenas, I came across this very detailed article from the New Yorker back in February of this year. It's definitely worth your while to read (as is the Robert Bryce piece from Maxim noted in my earlier post on this subject) if you want to have a good grasp on Halliburton's history and reach, current operations in Iraq, as well as Cheney's involvement in the company's affairs. Of note:

The Vice-President has not been connected directly to any of Halliburton’s current legal problems. Cheney’s spokesman said that the Vice-President “does not have knowledge of the contracting disputes beyond what has appeared in newspapers.” Yet, in a broader sense, Cheney does bear some responsibility. He has been both an architect and a beneficiary of the increasingly close relationship between the Department of Defense and an élite group of private military contractors—a relationship that has allowed companies such as Halliburton to profit enormously. As a government official and as Halliburton’s C.E.O., he has long argued that the commercial marketplace can provide better and cheaper services than a government bureaucracy. He has also been an advocate of limiting government regulation of the private sector. His vision has been fully realized: in 2002, more than a hundred and fifty billion dollars of public money was transferred from the Pentagon to private contractors....

....Under Cheney’s direction, Halliburton thrived. In 1998, the company acquired its main rival, Dresser Industries. Cheney negotiated the $7.7-billion deal, reportedly during a weekend of quail-hunting. The combined conglomerate, which retained the Halliburton name, instantly became the largest company of its kind in the world....

...The Dresser merger also raised ethical questions. The United States had concluded that Iraq, Libya, and Iran supported terrorism and had imposed strict sanctions on them. Yet during Cheney’s tenure at Halliburton the company did business in all three countries. In the case of Iraq, Halliburton legally evaded U.S. sanctions by conducting its oil-service business through foreign subsidiaries that had once been owned by Dresser. With Iran and Libya, Halliburton used its own subsidiaries. The use of foreign subsidiaries may have helped the company to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

In some ways, the Libya and Iran transactions were consistent with Cheney’s views. He had long opposed economic sanctions as a political tool, even against South Africa’s apartheid regime. During the 2000 campaign, however, Cheney said he viewed Iraq differently. “I had a firm policy that we wouldn’t do anything in Iraq, even arrangements that were supposedly legal,” he told ABC News. But, under Cheney’s watch, two foreign subsidiaries of Dresser sold millions of dollars’ worth of oil services and parts to Saddam’s regime. The transactions were not illegal, but they were politically suspect. The deals occurred under the United Nations Oil-for-Food program, at a time when Saddam Hussein chose which companies his government would work with. Corruption was rampant. It may be that it was simply Halliburton’s expertise that attracted Saddam’s regime, but a United Nations diplomat with the Oil-for-Food program has doubts. “Most American companies were blacklisted,” he said. “It’s rather surprising to find Halliburton doing business with Saddam. It would have been very much a senior-level decision, made by the regime at the top.”....

....In the spring of 2000, Cheney’s two worlds—commerce and politics— merged. Halliburton allowed its C.E.O. to serve simultaneously as the head of George W. Bush’s Vice-Presidential search committee. At the time, Bush said that his main criterion for a running mate was “somebody who’s not going to hurt you.” Cheney demanded reams of documents from the candidates he considered. In the end, he picked himself—a move that his longtime friend Stuart Spencer recently described, with admiration, as “the most Machiavellian fucking thing I’ve ever seen.”

One man who was especially pleased by Cheney’s candidacy was Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi dissident who was the leading proponent of overthrowing Saddam Hussein. Cheney had come to know Chalabi through conservative circles in Washington. “I think he is good for us,” Chalabi told a U.P.I. reporter in June, 2000.

Another theme I picked up on from this New Yorker story was that, historically, many of Cheney's biggest deals and negotiations have come during, or as a result of, fishing and hunting expeditions. Why does that sound so familiar?

Anyway, it's a great story. Go read.

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