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.
of law is dead. "
are these guys at Altanmia, meriting such special favor?
That's the $61 million question. The official owners are
members of powerful Kuwaiti business
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
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.
IraqgateColumbia Journalism Review, March/April 1993
Top of Page.