Halliburton keeps sinking deeper and deeper into the goo of crass political cronyism. Vice President Dick Cheney formerly was CEO of this big Pentagon contractor and continues to receive a generous Halliburton check every year. This curious connection is what raised eyebrows when Halliburton was awarded a multi-billion-dollar contract to do chores for the Pentagon in occupied IraqÃ¢â‚¬”a contract it received without the fuss of having any competing bids. Nothing amiss, cried Cheney apologists, this is how the procurement process works. No political favoritism was involved, you bothersome critics! It turns out that Halliburton was overcharging us on one of its major Iraqi choresÃ¢â‚¬”bringing gasoline into the war-ravaged country. It socked us with a $2.65-a-gallon charge on 60 million gallons of gasolineÃ¢â‚¬”nearly a buck-sixty more than experts say would be reasonable. Nothing amiss cried Cheney defenders again; this is simply the realistic price of supplying gasoline in a country thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s still a war zone. Scat, you malicious muckrakers. But the PentagonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s own energy support center pointed out that it also was delivering some gasoline to IraqÃ¢â‚¬” for only about $1.00 a gallon. The PentagonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s audit agency then asked Halliburton officials for internal documents to justify its pricing; they refused. Out of the blue, the Army Corps of Engineers, which negotiated and oversees HalliburtonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sweetheart contract, suddenly intervened to sabotage the auditorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s investigation. The Corps unilaterally issued a waiver of HalliburtonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s requirement to provide Ã¢â‚¬Å“any cost and pricing data.Ã¢â‚¬ The Corps says it issued the waiver at the request of Halliburton.
George W. has come up with a bold idea that I enthusiastically support. He wants to go to the moon and to Mars, and I see no reason not to send him there! Unfortunately, he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mean that heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d go, but that America should launch a new mission into spaceÃ¢â‚¬”along with launching multibillions of our tax dollars, too. Actually, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s already taken us to the moon in terms of deficit spending. In only three short years, he turned AmericaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s $240 billion federal surplus into a whopper of a budget deficit. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s committed future generations to spending untold billions for his never-ending world war, he rammed through a sweetheart prescription drug bill that will dole out 17 billion tax dollars a year to the drug giants, he is demanding that his multi-billion-dollar annual tax giveaway to AmericaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s richest people be made permanent, and now he wants us to buy him a Mars shot. How about a new GameBoy instead? His aides say that BushÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s proposal is about Ã¢â‚¬Å“presidential vision.Ã¢â‚¬ Yeah, and you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t need the Hubble telescope to see where heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s looking. This Mars scheme does two things to advance his real agenda: It hauls space shuttles full of tax dollars into the vaults of some of his biggest campaign contributors and it will empty our public treasury of any remaining possibility to finance things we needÃ¢â‚¬”such as good health care for everyone, true educational excellence available to every child, and a crash program to give America energy independence by developing our countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s vast alternative energy sources. George W.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“big ideaÃ¢â‚¬ isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t about vision, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s about blinding us to the true potential of our great nationÃ¢â‚¬”a potential that wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be found in the stars, but in the down-to-earth people of AmericaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s grassroots.
RUMSFELDÃ¢â‚¬â„¢S IRAQI MISSION
One reason we know that Saddam Hussein is Ã¢â‚¬Å“a bad guy,Ã¢â‚¬ as George W. so eloquently describes him, is that George himself has told us again and again that in the 1980s olÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Saddam engaged in the horror of chemical warfare against the Kurds in his own country and against the Iranians. This is inhumane, Bush noted. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why the American government needed to oust Saddam. But which government was it that had helped build up SaddamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s military and had winked at the very chemical weapons that the Bush administration now condemns? Yes, the American government, then headed by Ronald Reagan! And which American official was sent to Iraq back then to give Saddam a hug and assure him that a little poisonous gas wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get in the way of the warm, fuzzy feelings that our government had for him? Donald Rumsfeld, now the Pentagon chief who also has been wailing about how awful Saddam was to use those nasty weapons! Newly released documents from the National Security Archive show that, because of American Ã¢â‚¬Å“business interestsÃ¢â‚¬ in Iraq, the Reagan government wanted Saddam to win his ongoing war against Iran. But in 1984, when world leaders began to criticize SaddamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“almost dailyÃ¢â‚¬ use of poisonous gas against the Kurds and Iranians, under pressure, the U.S. was forced to issue a public condemnation of this use. But the declassified documents show that Rumsfeld was secretly dispatched in 1984 to tell Saddam that our condemnation was strictly about the general principle of anyone using such weapons, not specifically about his gassing of Kurds and Iranians, andÃ¢â‚¬”wink, winkÃ¢â‚¬”that our governmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s top priority was not to stop the gassing, but Ã¢â‚¬Å“preventing an Iranian victory.Ã¢â‚¬ In short, Rumsfeld told Saddam to do what he had to do and pay no mind to the U.S.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s public pronouncements about the horror of chemical warfare. TodayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s feigned outrage looks silly in light of yesterdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s complicity in the horror.
Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Thieves In High Places: TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve Stolen Our Country And ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Time To Take It Back (Viking Press).