Gravy Train

By Chris Floyd  -
January 23, 2004.

Out of the blood and murk of Iraq, yet another sinister connection is emerging, a skein of corruption tying Dick Cheney's Halliburton, the Bush Family fortunes -- and a mysterious Kuwaiti company that peddles material for building weapons of mass destruction.

"The rule of law is dead. "
So who are these guys at Altanmia, meriting such special favor? That's the $61 million question. The official owners are members of powerful Kuwaiti business clans

Last week, Pentagon auditors called for a formal investigation of "overcharges" by Cheney's Halliburton hirelings. The well-connected corporation -- which has been the chief beneficiary of the Bush Regime's looting of the American treasury to pay for its ravaging of Iraq -- is accused of skimming $61 million in excess cream from a shady deal to import Kuwaiti gasoline into the conquered land.

To carry out this choice bit of war profiteering, Halliburton hooked up with Altanmia Marketing of Kuwait. Altanmia was given exclusive rights to ship Kuwaiti gasoline to Iraq -- "even though it had no prior experience transporting fuel," U.S. Congressional investigators report. So what is the firm's actual expertise? Investments, real estate -- and acting as "representative agents for companies trading in military and nuclear, biological and chemical equipment," The Wall Street Journal reports.

In other words, Halliburton's new partner traffics in the essential elements of WMD -- the very stuff whose spread and sale the United States is ostensibly dedicated to stopping around the world. Ostensibly. But as always with the Bushists, the rhetoric of "security" is a thin rag to cover their unquenchable thirst for state-supported brigandage.

After grabbing the gasoline subcontract -- before the bidding process was closed, naturally -- Altanmia proceeded to charge Halliburton more than twice the price that other exporters were getting for moving gasoline into Iraq. Luckily, the White House has given Halliburton a "cost-plus" contract to lord it over Iraq's energy sector. Thus, the higher Altanmia's costs, the more "plus" Halliburton gets for its coffers -- and all of it paid for by those eternal suckers, the American people. It's crony capitalism at its finest: The suckers shoulder the financial risk, the American military serves as company muscle; all Halliburton has to do is sit back and rake in the dough -- minus a few campaign contributions and "retirement packages" for their political operatives, of course.

Strangely enough, Kuwaiti energy officials had never heard of Altanmia before the Halliburton deal. They had recommended several experienced distributors -- with far cheaper rates -- to the Americans, but were told that Altanmia was the only choice, The Wall Street Journal reports. Stout yeomen down in the military contracting ranks, under the mistaken impression that they were supposed to broker an honest deal, complained of heavy pressure from American and Kuwaiti government officials to keep Altanmia on the gravy train, Congress reports. One stalwart, contracting officer Mary Robertson, tried to stem the tide, declaring in a letter to Halliburton, "I will not succumb to the political pressures ... to go against my integrity and pay a higher price for fuel than necessary."

But integrity to a Bushist is like garlic to a vampire. Robertson was ignored. Indeed, even as the overcharging scandal was breaking last month, Richard Jones, Bush's ambassador to Kuwait (and deputy to Baghdad viceroy Paul Bremer) implored Halliburton and its military overseers to make a deal with Altanmia for even more gasoline imports -- even if the company refuses to lower its extortionate rates, the WSJ reports.

So who are these guys at Altanmia, meriting such special favor? That's the $61 million question. The official owners are members of powerful Kuwaiti business clans, but Congressional investigators are probing "multiple allegations" that Kuwait's royal family -- the al-Sabahs -- has "off-the-books" connections to the firm.

It would be unusual indeed if they didn't. Like the House of Saud, the Kuwaiti royals are normally cut in for a taste of any heavy action going down in their domains. The House of Bush has similar aspirations, of course -- they too have long regarded their own country as a private fiefdom to milk for their personal enrichment. Thus it was a marriage of true minds when George Bush I first hooked up with the Al-Sabahs in the 1960s, in a business venture to exploit Kuwait's offshore oil reserves.

That long and profitable association paid off handsomely in 1991, when Bush, like any good feudal lord, sent his private army -- the U.S. military -- to fight for his royal Kuwaiti brethren in their dispute with Iraq over war debts and oil rights. Tens of thousands of people perished in that intramural squabble between Bush's Kuwaiti business partners and Bush's wayward protege, Saddam (whom Bush had favored with weapons, money, trade concessions and -- shades of Altanmia! -- "dual-use" nuclear, biological and chemical equipment, including anthrax, as the U.S. Senate reported in 1994). Perhaps a million more people died in the squabble's bloody aftermath: first in Saddam's murderous crackdown on Kurdish and Shiite rebels -- abetted by Bush, who ordered his vast army in the region not to interfere with the slaughter -- then from the vicious UN sanctions regime -- likened to genocide by not one but two of its top administrators.

But so what? The important thing is that Bush investments were protected and the groundwork laid for more lucrative adventures in the years to come -- like the sweet skim job with Altanmia, and the hundreds of other huggermugger deals now pouring through the sleazepipe from Crawford to Baghdad.

Oh, and that Pentagon "investigation" of Halliburton overcharges? Forget it. Two days after the probe request, Bush gave Cheney's boys a new $1.2 billion contract for yet more Iraqi oil "reconstruction."

Remember, always, when dealing with the Bushes: Follow the money, not the mouthing.


Questions on Halliburton-Altanmia Deal
U.S. House Committee on Government Reform, Jan. 15, 2004

Despite Probe, Halliburton Gets Contract
Associated Press, Jan. 16, 2004

Iraqgate: Confession and Coverup, May/June 1995

Columbia Journalism Review, March/April 1993

Hypertexting the Gulf War
Cross Currents, Winter 1991-92

Auditors Seek Halliburton Fuel Deal Probe
San Francisco Chronicle, Jan .16, 2004

Halliburton Gets Another Oil Contract
Miami Herald, Jan. 17, 2004

Iraqi WMD: Made in America
The Guardian, Feb. 25, 1998,

US Was a Key Supplier to Saddam
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Sept. 24, 2002

US Dual-Use Exports to Iraq
US Senate Committee on Banking,, May 25, 1994

US WMD-Related Exports to Iraq
US Senate Banking Committee, Oct. 27, 1992

Liberated Kuwait: Rape, Reprisal and Repression
San Francisco Bay Guardian, Sept. 9, 1992

Bush Family Machinations
SF Indymedia, Nov. 15, 2001

Why the Gulf War was not in the National Interest
The Atlantic Monthly, July 1991,

Anthrax for Export
The Progressive, April 1998

U.S. Sent Iraq Germs in Mid-80s
Buffalo News, Sept. 23, 2002

The Hidden History of America's War on Iraq
Synthesis/Regeneration, Winter 2003

Gulf War Crimes, May 15, 2000

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