Hypocrisy now!

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 Vice President
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
hypocrisy?

When Dick Cheney was CEO of the oilfield supply firm Halliburton, the
company did $23.8 million in business with Saddam Hussein, the evildoer
"prepared to share his weapons of mass destruction with terrorists."
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 exports of
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 business with
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, Halliburton
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. They acted
through foreign subsidiaries or associated companies in France, Belgium,
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 supplier.
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 journalists have
trouble with). Thus the administration was able to dismiss the new
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 severance package
despite the fact that the single biggest deal of his five-year career there,
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 the nation's
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 several brutal
dictatorships, including the despicable government of Burma (Myanmar). The
company also played questionable roles in Algeria, Angola, Bosnia, Croatia,
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 Brown &
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 are involved
in similar dealings. Former CIA director John Deutsch is on the board of
Schlumberger, the second largest oil services firm after Halliburton, which
is also doing business with Iraq through subsidiaries.

Americans have long been aware that corporate money has consistently
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 domestic deals.

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 such example,
including gross violations of human rights and environmental abuses.

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 anything for
longer than 10 minutes, but hearing Cheney denounce Saddam is truly "Give us
a break" time.

© 2002 Creators Syndicate