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"I believe we as a nation are in the gravest of trouble. I believe our troubles have only just begun, and unless something is done, our troubles will come to undo this democratic experiment before too much longer." ~ William Rivers Pitt in "I Believe"

"Colonel Cathcart had courage and never hesitated to volunteer his men for any target available." -- from the novel Catch 22 by Joseph Heller; quoted by John Cory, Truthout correspondent in Saudi Arabia, in his article "Angry Fiction"


The Daily Show examines Bush's power to legalize torture

All the President's Lies, an investigative report by MSNBC's Olbermann

Humor: New UN Program Just What Doctor Ordered (Blue Flame) -- Don't let anyone tell you that it isn't expensive to invade another country. The US budgeted upwards of $70 billion for Iraq. Other countries like Britain and Australia also budgeted large amounts to cover the costs of their participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Under the current approach, there is no hope of the invading country ever recovering any of the money spent. Now, in a new variation on a theme, there are plans afoot to set up a payment schedule to cover the costs of invading a foreign land. Modeled on the 'pay per view' TV system, this new system will see the UN pay countries to invade other countries so long as the UN approves of the invasion or at least doesn't disapprove or stays silent on the matter. -- Find the complete article at WitWorld's Blue Flame Humor Center

Also at Blue Flame:

December 29, 2004 -- The contract to restore Iraq's oil infrastructure emonstrates a struggle between price controls and the uncertainties of war, with price controls frequently losing. -- The NY Times

Name That War

November 29, 2003 -- A drum roll, please: It's time to announce the results of the Name That War Contest.

In a column 10 days ago about Iraq, I expressed frustration at the absence of a good name for our war there. So I offered prizes (Iraqi 250-dinar notes with Saddam's picture) and invited readers to send in entries.

Then I fled to Guatemala and El Salvador, and when I returned to the office this week, there were 4,000 entries from all over the world.

Hundreds of people offered "Bush's Folly," "Burning Bush," "Bush League War," "Bubba's War," "Shrub's War," "Operation Quicksand" or "The Crawford Conflict." Then there were zillions of "Iraqmire," "Iraqgate" and "Iraqnam."

Lois from New Zealand suggested "Operation Bushwhack Iraq." Avie Hern of California offered "Bushkrieg."

Some people suggested that instead of Operation Iraqi Freedom, this is "Operation Iraqi Liberation." I thought they were hawks until I recognized the acronym: OIL. Also on the petroleum front, Peter Wilson of Pennsylvania offered "Mother of Oil Wars."

Some names were interesting but a bit long. For example, Charles Hayes of New York offered these options: "Bremer Takes a Baath," "I Waged Two Wars Against Saddam and All I Got Was His Headache" and "Visit Scenic Saddam and Gomorrah."

Imaginative, but try to fit those into a headline. Or this from Pat Malach of Oregon: "Operation Gee Whiz, This Liberation Thing Seemed a Lot Easier When We Were Drawing It Up Back at the Think Tank."

But some entries were so concise they sounded as if they could have graced a Robert Ludlum thriller: "The Iraq Pre-emption," "The Bush Incursion," "Bush's Botch" and "The Big Uneasy."

The last is, of course, a play on the movie "The Big Easy." There were lots of other pop culture references (my assistant, Christina Lem, had to translate some for me; I speak foreign languages but have never been fluent in pop). A Minnesota astronomer who evidently likes Britney Spears offered: "Operation Oops, We Did It Again." And movie buffs urged "Operation Kick the Dog," "The Empire Strikes Out," "Apocalypse Right Now," "Mission Implausible: A Job Well Spun" and "Trek 2: Wrath of Neo-Khan."

Scholarly readers argued that the distinctive quality of this war was America's claim that it has the right to invade other countries if they are developing weapons of mass destruction and may threaten us John Parry of North Carolina suggested "Pre-emptive War I," leaving room for us to continue the series if we move on to Tehran and Pyongyang.

On the model of the War of Jenkins' Ear, one reader suggested "The War of Bush's Flight Suit." Harold Kramer of Massachusetts singlehandedly came up with "Rummy's Retreat," "Cheney's Chaos," "Perle's Predicament," "Powell's Problem" and "Rice's Regret."

Others came up with "King George's New Colony," "The War of the Roves" and "The War That Cried Wolfowitz."

Donn Blodgett of Vermont urged "Coup d'États Unis," and Linda Kolker of Georgia recommended "The Charge of the Right Brigade."

Honorable mention in this contest goes to "Operation Unscramble Eggs," by Russell Schindler of New York; "Desert Storm und Drang," by Robert Proctor of Connecticut; "The 'Raq," by Jeff Schramm of Missouri; "A'bombin'nation," by Kent Moore of North Carolina; "Tigris by the Tail," by Paul Reeves of New Mexico; "War of Mass Deception," by Scott Dacko of New York; and "Iraq: A Hard Place," by Chris Walters of Texas.

The five winners, each of whom gets a 250-dinar note left over from my last Iraq trip, are: Brad Corsello of New York for "Dubya Dubya III"; Richard Sanders for "Rolling Blunder"; John Fell of California for "Desert Slog," Will Hutchinson of Vermont for "Mess in Potamia"; and Willard Oriol of New York for "Blood, Baath and Beyond."

More seriously, during this holiday weekend, I hope we'll think often and appreciatively of those Americans who are in Iraq right now. Humor cannot erase their fear and loneliness in the face of Washington's policy failures, or the heartbreak here in so many homes where bereaved parents, spouses and orphans are struggling in this season to remember why they should be giving thanks. --
By Nicholas D. Kristof, Op-Ed Columnist in The New York Times

What Economic Recovery?

November 30, 2003 -- Isn't it interesting that a few small percentage points here and there -- third-quarter GDP showed an annual growth rate of 8.2 percent and monthly unemployment dropped from 6.1 percent to 6 percent -- produces such euphoria about the country's economic upturn?

Before trumpeting this "boom," the Bush Administration and its crony pundits should pay attention to the real state of the economy--where nine million people are out of work, wages and salaries are stagnant or down, health care costs have increased to staggering double digit rates, retirement savings have been ravaged by the stock market crash, school budgets are taking severe hits, tuitions at public universities are soaring and personal bankruptcies are at an all-time high.

Headlines like "Bloom is on the Economy," (The New York Times, 11/8) or "Tough Times Over?" (Washington Post, 11/9) seem foolish, even mean-spirited, when families, communities and whole states are struggling to survive. Consider that in Bush's home state of Texas, according to the Houston Chronicle, 54,000 children have been dropped from the federal-state health insurance program due to budget cuts. Texas, and other states, are also cutting back on subsidies for healthcare, further increasing the number of people with no coverage -- now conservatively estimated at 43 million, with their numbers rapidly increasing. And paying for health insurance is becoming a problem for more than just people living on low or fixed-incomes, with many hospitals and neighborhood clinics saying that middle-class people are now joining the poor in seeking their care.

There are more Americans living in poverty now than there were in 1965. Over thirteen million of them are children. (The US has the worst child poverty rate of all the world's industrialized countries.) Last year alone, another 1.7 million Americans slipped below the poverty line, bringing the total to 34.6 million, one in eight of the population, and up from 31.6 million in 2000. (See "Economic Fault Lines in America's States," AFL-CIO report).

And as Trudy Lieberman reported in our pages, the ranks of the hungry are also increasing. About 31 million are now considered to be "food insecure" (they literally do not know where their next meal is coming from.) Hunger is an epidemic in Ohio where, since Bush won there in the 2000 election, the state has lost one in six manufacturing jobs. And two million of the state's 11 million people used food charities last year, an increase of more than 18 percent from 2001. ("Long Queue at Drive-In Soup Kitchen," The Guardian, Julian Borger, November 3)

Economic realities on Main Street, not Wall Street haven't stopped the White House from trumpeting "mission accomplished" when it comes to our supposed economic recovery. Nor has it stopped the Administration's hucksters at the Heritage Foundation from using faulty numbers to "prove" that the Administration's tax cuts are working.

But, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisors, the passage of the most recent round of tax cuts should have led to an economy that produces 306,000 jobs each month. That means that even in the last two months of purportedly "strong economic growth," which produced about 125,000 jobs per month, the economy has produced around 180,000 fewer jobs than the White House promised. And just to keep pace with population growth, the economy would need to produce 140,000 jobs each month.The real "bottom line," taking into account the 3.4 percent gain in population since March 2001, shows that the economy is 6.9 million jobs short of where it would be if payroll levels had remained steady. And, according to Treasury Secretary John Snow's own projection, Bush will end his term with the worst jobs record since Herbert Hoover in the Great Depression.

"The economic policies of the Bush Administration," economist Jeff Madrick , observes, "have been about as crude and destructive a cocktail of stimulants--lavish income and estate tax cuts for upper-income Americans, elimination of taxes on dividends, stepped-up military and homeland security spending--as we have ever seen. The result is short-term growth and long-term damage...the administration's policies will weaken the economy over time, fall particularly harshly on its working middle and low-income citizens, and fail to prepare the nation for a century of far more intense global competition."

"The test of our progress," President Franklin Roosevelt said some sixty-six years ago, "is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; It is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." But does this current President care that there are tens of millions in this country, many of them children, who have too little? And, if Bush does care, is it conceivable that je believes the best way to feed, clothe, educate and care for them is through tax-cuts whose main purpose is to add to the abundance of the super-rich? We may no longer be the country that Roosevelt saw as one-third "ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished," but, this Thanksgiving in America, we are perilously close.
-- by Katrina vanden Heuvel in The Nation

Rockers Unite to Oust Bush

Dollar Dissent: Tax Resisters Chip Away at Bush's War Chest

November 26, 2003 -- Top Republicans hope Congress will approve a gigantic $373 billion spending bill when lawmakers return next month, but Democrats angry over White House victories in the bill are showing no inclination to cooperate.

Congressional and Bush administration bargainers on Tuesday finished writing the measure, a sprawling package that finances 11 departments and dozens of programs from the FBI to airport improvements to foreign aid. It covers the budget year that began Oct. 1, leaving majority Republicans well short of their goal of demonstrating efficiency by finishing Congress' routine spending work promptly. (AP/ABC News)

November 24, 2003 Washington -- President Bush signed a record $401.3 billion defense bill on Monday that includes a 4.15 percent raise for troops as the Iraq occupation puts increasing strain on soldiers and their families. (Reuters)

Chilling Foresight: Practice to Deceive

Chaos in the Middle East is not the Bush hawks' nightmare scenario--it's their plan.

"Ending Saddam Hussein's regime and replacing it with something stable and democratic was always going to be a difficult task, even with the most able leadership and the broadest coalition. But doing it as the Bush administration now intends is something like going outside and giving a few good whacks to a hornets' nest because you want to get them out in the open and have it out with them once and for all. Ridding the world of Islamic terrorism by rooting out its ultimate sources--Muslim fundamentalism and the Arab world's endemic despotism, corruption, and poverty--might work. But the costs will be immense. Whether the danger is sufficient and the costs worth incurring would make for an interesting public debate. The problem is that once it's just us and the hornets, we really won't have any choice." -- Joshua Micah Marshall, a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly, April 2003. -- Excerpted from the full article at Washington Monthly

A collection of articles that support this author's contentions with US decisions and actions in the Middle East:

Bush Administration Miscalculation in Iraq Leads to Calls for Accountability

President Bush's administration has consistently miscalculated the post-war commitment required and Iraqi resistance to the point where a growing number of members of Congress who voted for the Iraq war resolution are now calling for accountability at high levels. The consistently rosy scenarios articulated by the administration about much of the war in Iraq, from the required troop strength to the length of stay ignored potential results manifesting themselves today in the form of additional funding requests beyond original estimates, extended troop deployments, and skeptical allies from whom the US is now seeking assistance to stabilize and rebuild the country.

While the administration insists that acts of violence and terrorism against American forces in Iraq are at the hands of a select few of "dead-enders, foreign terrorists and criminal gangs," some defense officials are also now claiming "it was a mistake for the administration to discount the role of ordinary Iraqis".

With the recent announcement that called-up reserves will be required to serve an extra tour of duty, senior Army officials are publicly saying that "the Army is strained and stressed." Rep. John Murtha, a member who voted for the war resolution, said, "Poor planning by Administration put American lives at risk . . .The architect of this post-war plan has to go." -- Edited from the annotated article in The Daily Mislead for September 18, 2003

Bush: No Connection Between Iraq, September 11 (AP)

Hans Blix: 'Iraq War Not Justified' (The Agence France-Presse)

Cheney Still on Halliburton's Payroll (Reuters)

Hans Blix: Iraq Destroyed WMD 10 Years Ago (Reuters)

Paths of Glory Lead to a Soldier's Doubt (Los Angeles Times/OP ED by Tim Predmore)

Iraqis' Bitterness Is Called Bigger Threat Than Terror (New York Times)

Self-criticism and Introspection in the American and British Secret Services (Le Monde)

Iraq: An Isolated Power in Inaccessible Fortresses (Le Figaro)

Why US Treads Rough Road Toward US Backing in Iraq (Christian Science Monitor)

The UN Baghdad Bomb: One Month On (Open Democracy)

A Post 9/11 Reality Check (The Village Voice) -- Reporting on the soaring costs of war, at home and abroad.

Let George Undo It (The Village Voice) -- President Bush's tent is showing some big tears -- even on the right side. "Conservatives of all stripes are screeching at the out-of-control deficit and the skyrocketing costs of Iraq. Others -- from David Keene of the American Conservative Union to Paul Weyrich, a founder of the New Right decades ago, and Lori Waters, DC director of Phyllis Schlafly's anti-abortion, anti-feminist Eagle Forum, are lined up against Bush to fight the Patriot Act. Grover Norquist, a plugged-in Republican wheeler-dealer who represents or has represented Microsoft and the NRA, is also opposing Bush on the Patriot Act. These conservatives, led by former Georgia congressman and Clinton inquisitor Bob Barr, have formed a coalition with the ACLU to save their constitutional rights. Of course, these people are not so much worried about Ashcroft as they are about what might happen to them should Hillary Clinton become president."

The following are articles that illustrate the cost of the Bush administration's decisions:

Eight US Soldiers Killed in Iraq Ambush (UK Telegraph)

The Brainteaser of Deficit Math (Alan Sloan in Truthout)

US Budget Deficit Heads Toward All-Time High (Reuters)

Federal Budget Disaster Seen, But Won't Be Heard (Los Angeles Times)

Page Contents:
  • Halliburton Contracts in Iraq: The Struggle to Manage Costs
  • Name That War
  • GOP Hopes for New Spending Bill
  • What Economic Recovery?
  • Chilling Foresight: Practice to Deceive
  • Bush Administration Miscalculation in Iraq Leads to Calls for Accountability
  • Let George Undo It
  • The Attack on Civil Liberties
  • Humor: New UN Program Just What Doctor Ordered
  • New Furor Over Halliburton
  • Contractor Killed In Iraq, Employee of Halliburton Subsidiary
  • Halliburton Makes A Killing In Iraq War
  • Cheney's Former Company Profits from Supporting Troops


Halliburton Crony Gets Top Iraq Energy Post   Houston's Robert E. McKee III, former ConocoPhillips executive, has been appointed the new senior adviser to the Iraqi Oil Ministry. He replaces Philip J. Carroll, one-time head of Shell Oil Co. who has overseen the effort to jump-start Iraq's oil sector for less than five months. Carroll is leaving to "return to private life." (Houston Chronicle)

Cheney's Former Company Profits from Supporting Troops

Bush's Saudi Connections: by Michael Steinberger in The American Prospect

White House Covers Up Climate Change Research  Confidential documents detail White House efforts to suppress research that shows the world's climate is warming.  (The Observer)

Situation Excellent, I Am Attacking: Truthout writer and editor, William Rivers Pitt, calls Ahmad Chalabi "Donald Rumsfeld's sock puppet."

Contractor Killed In Iraq, Employee of Halliburton Subsidiary

August 6, 2003 -- An American civilian delivering mail to the U.S. Army died Tuesday when his truck was blown apart by a remote control bomb North of Tikrit. He worked for Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, a Houston-based oil field-services and construction company. Halliburton is the former company of Vice President Dick Cheney, which has major contracts for reconstruction in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Company spokeswoman Wendy Hall said the worker was on a daily mail run from Baghdad International Airport to the Tikrit region when the mine was exploded. Tikrit is 120 miles N of the capital. He was with a team supporting the US Army Corps of Engineers and that two fellow workers were in the convoy but not hurt. The military and the company declined to identify the victim.

It was not immediately clear if the civilian contractor was the first to die in Iraq, but their deaths have been rare, despite their work in extremely dangerous conditions.

Oil Production Reconstruction Work

At about the same time the contractor was killed, L. Paul Bremer, the US administrator for Iraq, was landing in a Black Hawk helicopter at the nearby Baiji refinery to inspect reconstruction work. He was accompanied by acting oil minister Thamer Ghadhban.

Bremer said the coalition would move forward with plans to boost oil production to more than 2.5 million barrels a day by next summer. "The investment is in the order of $1.5 to $2 billion," he said. "We have a plan. We are on target. We think we are going to make that."

Workers complained to Bremer about safety and poor wages and he said his administration hoped to have a new salary scale ready in two months.

"We know the current system isn't fair and we'll fix that," Bremer said amid the roaring machines and heavy smell of fuel.

Cheney's former company already has garnered more than $600 million in military work related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Most of that is from work orders to support US troops - delivering mail, serving food, building infrastructure - but the company also has a contract worth more than $70 million to rebuild Iraq's oil industry.

Kellogg, Brown & Root had been doing work at the Baiji refinery and pipeline terminus about 30 miles North of Tikrit. The company's contracts potentially could earn billions more without having to compete with other companies -- raising complaints of favoritism by some in Washington. --

New Furor Over Halliburton

"Only now, over five weeks after the contract was first disclosed, are members of Congress and the public learning that Halliburton may be asked to pump and distribute Iraqi oil under the contract." ~ Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California

Back Room Deals?

Halliburton Company's emergency, no-bid contract to work on Iraq's oil wells must be fully disclosed, Waxman says, pointing to the Army's admission that the company has a far more lucrative role than originally believed. Prior descriptions said Vice President Dick Cheney's former company would fight oil fires.

The contract also lets the company operate the oil fields for a time and distribute the petroleum, Waxman said Tuesday, citing information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which awarded the contract. The Corps wrote Waxman last Friday that the contract included not only extinguishing fires but "operation of facilities and distribution of products."

A spokeswoman for Halliburton said the company's initial announcement of the contract on March 24 disclosed the larger role for its KBR subsidiary. KBR was given the right to extinguish the oil fires under an existing contingency contract. The administration has come under increasingly strident criticism abroad and at the United Nations for offering postwar contracts only to U.S. companies. Many of the questions have been raised about Halliburton, which Cheney headed from 1995 until 2000. Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy Hall pointed to the company's announcement of the contract in March, which she said revealed the extent of the work.

The release said: "KBR's initial task involves hazard and operational assessment, extinguishing oil well fires, capping oil well blowouts, as well as responding to any oil spills. Following this task, KBR will perform emergency repair, as directed, to provide for the continuity of operations of the Iraqi oil infrastructure."

Hall said KBR is assisting Iraq's oil ministry to get the oil system operating.

Waxman also has repeated the Corps' statement that the contract could be worth up to $7 billion for up to two years, but the Corps said that figure was a cap based on a worst-case scenario of oil well fires. In fact, few wells were burning during the war with Iraq and the Corps said that by early April, the company had been paid $50.3 million (for a few week's unspecified work -- Ed.).

Iraq's oil belongs to the Iraqi people? Sure it does.

"I am concerned that the administration's reluctance to provide complete information about this and other Iraqi contracts has denied Congress and the public important information," Waxman wrote Tuesday to Corps commander Lt. Gen. Robert Flowers. The lawmaker also said the Corps' proposal to replace the Halliburton contract with another long-term deal was at odds with administration statements that Iraq's oil belongs to the Iraqi people.

Carol Sanders, a spokesperson for the Corps of Engineers, said officials were reviewing Waxman's letter but had no immediate response. Allegations of a too-close-for-comfort relationship with corporate America have long dogged Cheney and other Bush administration officials, as well as insiders. On March 27, 2003, Bush's Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle stepped down after congressional Democrats raised questions about his relationship with Global Crossing, a telecom firm that had sought his assistance in winning government approval for a deal with an Asian conglomerate.

"I know nuuu-think -- nuuu-think!"

Cheney's office has said repeatedly that the vice president has no role in Halliburton's operations or its government contracts.

Cheneys spokesperson, Cathie Martin, when asked about reports that the deal with Halliburton was off on March 28, 2003, said that she "hadnt even heard" that Halliburton would not be awarded the reconstruction contract and added, "The vice president has nothing to do with these contracts."

The Guardian reported on March 12, 2003 that Halliburton is making payments of up to a million dollars annually to Cheney, as reported on his 2001 financial disclosure statement, in the form of "deferred compensation."

Are they or aren't they?

Timothy Beans, the chief acquisition officer for the U.S. Agency for International Development, said in an interview with Newsweek on March 28, 2003, that Halliburton was "not one of the two finalists to be prime contractor for the reconstruction of Iraq, though the Houston-based firm could take part as a subcontractor."

A U.N. official that talked to Newsweek then said that the Iraq reconstruction contract probably wasnt worth the bad publicity for Halliburton, which needs to maintain a favorable image, particularly in Washington and the Arab world. He said that political controversy wasn't in their corporate interests, and that Halliburton would likely prefer to quietly work as a subcontractor rather than be in the spotlight as prime contractor.

Perhaps they would have preferred that they have their cookies and eat them too -- without their hands being caught in the cookie jar. In this case, however, it seems there is no one guarding the cookie jar who is either interested in or capable of influencing an ethical consumption of said cookies -- until the 2004 election, anyway.

Edited, with commentary, from the articles at CBS News - Newsweek - On Lisa Rein's Radar - and the Guardian

Halliburton Makes A Killing In Iraq War

Vice President Dick Cheney's former company has a multi-million dollar contract servicing troops in Kuwait, according to CorpWatch. U.S. Army sources confirm that thousands of employees of Halliburton are building tent cities and providing logistical support for the war in Iraq in addition to other hot spots in the "war on terrorism," reports investigative journalist Pratap Chatterjee.

While recent news coverage has speculated on the post-war reconstruction gravy train that corporations like Halliburton stand to gain from, this latest information indicates that Halliburton is already profiting from war-time contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

This special CorpWatch series looks at how Halliburton profits from the Iraq war, now that bombs are falling on Baghdad. Other articles explore Cheney's ties to Brown and Root, a company that has been investigated for overbilling the government in its foreign and domestic operations; military contracting to the self-identified "executive mercenaries" at Vinnell Corporation; and corruption charges at Turkey's Incirlik Airbase, where Vinnell, Brown and Root contract labor.

-- Excerpted from Tom Paine's "Check it Out"

In 1998, two "leading process licensing engineering and construction (E&C) companies", M.W. Kellogg and Brown & Root Braun merged. Houston-based Brown & Root is strong in construction and is a leading provider of maintenance services, while Kellogg had one of the top technology portfolios, excelling in design and engineering. The merger resulted from the acquisition by Brown & Roots Dallas-based parent, energy services giant Halliburton, of one of its top rivals, Dresser Industries, which owned Kellogg. -- Editor

Founded in 1919, Halliburton is one of the world's largest providers of products and services to the oil and gas industries.

Halliburton has expanded through internal growth and acquisition since it was established in 1919. Major purchases include Brown & Root, an engineering and construction company, in 1962 and Dresser Industries, a major provider of integrated services and project management for the oil industry, in 1998.

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