Molly Ivins - Creators Syndicate
09.03.02 - AUSTIN, Texas --
Excuse me: I don't want to be tacky or anything,
but hasn't it occurred to anyone in Washington that sending
Dick Cheney out to champion an invasion of Iraq on the
grounds that Saddam
Hussein is a "murderous dictator" is somewhere
between bad taste and flaming
When Dick Cheney was CEO of the oilfield supply firm
company did $23.8 million in business with Saddam Hussein,
"prepared to share his weapons of mass destruction
So if Saddam is "the world's worst leader,"
how come Cheney sold him the
equipment to get his dilapidated oil fields up and running
so he to could
afford to build weapons of mass destruction?
In 1998, the United Nations passed a resolution allowing
Iraq to buy spare
parts for its oilfields, but other sanctions remained
in place, and the
United States has consistently pressured the U.N. to stop
medicine and other needed supplies on the grounds they
could have "dual
use." As the former Secretary of Defense under Bush
the Elder, Cheney was in
particularly vulnerable position on the hypocrisy of doing
Iraq. (Although in 1991, after the Gulf War, Cheney told
a group of oil
industry executives he was emphatically against trying
to topple Hussein.)
Using two subsidiaries, Dresser-Rand and Ingersoll-Dresser,
helped rebuild Saddam's war-damaged oil fields.
The combined value of these contracts for parts and
equipment was greater than that
of any other American company doing business with Iraq
-- companies including
Schlumberger, Flowserve, Fisher-Rosemount, General Electric.
through foreign subsidiaries or associated companies in
Germany, India, Switzerland, Bahrain, Egypt and the Netherlands.
In several cases, it is clear the European companies did
no more than loan
their names to American firms for the purpose of dealing
with Hussein. Iraq
then became America's second-largest Middle Eastern oil
This story was initially reported by the Financial Times
of London over two
years ago and has since been more extensively reported
in the European
press. But as we have seen with the case of Harken Energy
and many other
stories, there is a difference between a story having
been reported and
having attention being paid to it (a distinction many
trouble with). Thus the administration was able to dismiss
information on shady dealings at Harken as "old news"
because not much
attention was ever paid when the old news was new.
When Cheney left Halliburton, he received a $34 million
despite the fact that the single biggest deal of his five-year
the acquisition of Dresser Industries, turned out to be
a huge blunder since
the company came saddled with asbestos liability. (On
the campaign trail,
Cheney often claimed he had been "out in the private
sector creating jobs."
The first thing he did after the Dresser merger was lay
off 10,000 people.)
Halliburton, America's No. 1 oil-services company, is
fifth-largest military contractor and the biggest non-union
employer in the
United States. It employs more than 100,000 workers worldwide
and does over
$15 billion a year. Halliburton under Cheney dealt with
dictatorships, including the despicable government of
Burma (Myanmar). The
company also played questionable roles in Algeria, Angola,
Haiti, Somalia and Indonesia.
Halliburton also had dealings with Iran and Libya,
both on the State
Department's list of terrorist states. Halliburton's subsidiary
Root, the old Texas construction firm that does much business
with the U.S.
military, was fined $3.8 million for re-exporting goods
to Libya in
violation of U.S. sanctions.
If you want to know why the Democrats didn't jump all
over this story and
make a big deal out it, it's because -- as usual -- Democrats
in similar dealings. Former CIA director John Deutsch
is on the board of
Schlumberger, the second largest oil services firm after
is also doing business with Iraq through subsidiaries.
Americans have long been aware that corporate money
corrupted domestic policy in favor of corporate interests,
and that both
parties are in thrall to huge corporate campaign donors.
We are less
accustomed to connecting the dots when it comes to foreign
policy. But there
is no more evidence that corporations pay attention to
anything other than
profits in their foreign dealings than they do in their
Enron, as usual, provides some textbook examples of
just how indifferent to
human rights American companies can be. Halliburton's
dealings in Nigeria,
in partnership with Shell and Chevron, provide another
including gross violations of human rights and environmental
No one is ever going to argue that Saddam Hussein is
a good guy, but Dick
Cheney is not the right man to make the case against him.
I have never
understood why the Washington press corps cannot remember
longer than 10 minutes, but hearing Cheney denounce Saddam
is truly "Give us
a break" time.
© 2002 Creators Syndicate