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Profiting from the Iraq War
Posted By:peer On 7/14/2008

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By Adel Safty, Special to Gulf News
Published: July 14, 2008, 00:08
 

Recently unsealed US court records shed light on the inner world of war profiteers. According to the Chicago Tribune, the records show how bribery and kickbacks played a role in securing Iraq war contracts for serving the US military even before the war started.

Four former supervisors from Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), the defence firm that secured some of the largest contracts, a US Army officer, and five KBR executives, were among 36 people "indicted to date on Iraq war-contract crimes".

An investigation by the Boston Globe revealed that the leading American war contractor for Iraq - KBR, until recently a subsidy of Halliburton Corporation -had avoided paying hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes, by hiring workers through shell companies in the Cayman Islands. These revelations come on the wake of other revelations about those who are profiting from the Iraq war.

And it is not simply a question of greedy individuals and corporations with no loyalty, except to profits. The profits and business involvement in Iraq of nationals and corporations of the leading occupying forces are so extensive as to inextricably link the future of Iraq to the occupying powers.

The unsavoury nature of the war profiteering contaminates companies and individuals, from giant contractors like Halliburton and Kellogg Brown & Root, to the top echelons of power involving no less a powerful figure than the vice-president of the United States himself.

Halliburton reportedly had 58 offshore subsidiaries in Caribbean tax havens. When Vice-President Dick Cheney was Halliburton Chief Executive Officer before he got into politics, Halliburton's tax payments to the US government evaporated, going from $302 million in 1998 to zero in 1999.

After Cheney became vice-president, Halliburton benefited from its former association with the vice-president. It received more than $18.5 billion, including a famous no-bid $7 billion contract for oil infrastructure work in Iraq.

An Audit Agency Report on Defence Contracts concluded that Halliburton overcharged the US government by 1.4 billion dollars for its services. These services included attempts to charge the US government $45 per can of soda, $100 per laundry bag and $10,000 for the use of a five-star hotel in Kuwait.

Contrary to Cheney's claims that he has no financial associations with Halliburton, financial disclosures reportedly showed that Cheney had continued to receive a deferred salary from Halliburton up to 2004.

Cheney is not the only one to benefit from his association with defence contract corporations. According to Democracy Rising, members of the Bush family also benefited. Their association with defence contractors helped secure large government contracts even when the firm in question had no expertise relevant to the contract.

Neil Mallon Bush, the younger brother of the President George W. Bush, has been hired by Crest Investment Company as a consultant to help Crest advise other companies on securing contracts and business in Iraq.

Marvin Bush, another brother of the President, is co-founder and partner in Winston Partners, a private investment firm which is part of a larger firm called the Chatterjee Group. He benefits from federal contracts for Iraq through companies in his firm's portfolio. His company reportedly had ties to a company called Nour, which claimed expertise in military training and weapons procurement.

 

Important role

In January, 2004, Nour received a $327 million contract to equip the Iraqi armed forces and Civil Defence Corps. Nour was assisted by Iraqi businessman Ahmad Chalabi who played an important role in the fabrications that were used to justify the Iraq war. This led to a series of investigations of Nour and its dealings. Investigators found out that Nour had no prior experience in providing military equipment.

Mercenaries and adventurers benefited too. Scott Custer and Michael Battles had no capital, no experience, and no employees. They went to Iraq and quickly secured a multi-million dollar security contract for which they received a $2 million initial payment in cash.

Policy makers James Woolsey and Richard Perle served as advisers to Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld. They aggressively promoted the war while their investments benefited from large contractors like Boeing.

The list also includes some of the very Congressmen who have been holding hearings about the war.

According to FedSpending.org, 151 members of Congress had between $78.7 million and $195.5 million invested in companies that received defence contracts of at least $5 million in 2006. "As the war raged on, so did the billions of profits - and personal investments by Congress members in war contractors, which increased 5 per cent from 2004 to 2006." (The Intelligence Daily, April 29, 2008).

British companies also profited from the war. A joint investigation by the newspaper The Independent and Corporate Watch identified a total of 61 British companies as benefiting from at least £1.1b - likely more - of contracts and investments in Iraq. British companies are so deeply involved at the highest levels of Iraq's political and economic structures that Iraq will have to rely on British business "for many years to come", The Independent remarked.

The extent of war profits for Anglo-American powerful politicians, businessmen, contractors and companies will make it difficult for politicians to seriously envisage the possibility of total withdrawal from Iraq.

There are also other beneficiaries of the war. In analysing the question of who is benefiting from the war, Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration, ignored the war profiteers, the oil companies, and focused on a different beneficiary.

"Bush's -war on terror- is a hoax that serves to cover US intervention in the Middle East on behalf of 'greater Israel'," he writes. The likely reason for the US invasion of Iraq, he concludes, is "the neoconservative Bush regime's commitment to the defence of Israeli territorial expansion".


Professor Adel Safty is the author of From Camp David to the Gulf, Montreal-New York. His latest book, Leadership and Democracy is published in New York.

 http://www.gulfnews.com/opinion/columns/world/10228597.html


 




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