Page 15


A Cheney in Austin Jana Birchu’n ongoing civil strife, Brown & Root dismissed its Somali workers. The disenchanted workers then staged a protest at the United Nations compound in Mogadishu until they were scattered by UN troops armed with batons and tear gas. Three people were reportedly injured in the melee. In 1996, in Hungary, where Brown & Root had set up shop to support American troops stationed in the former Yugoslavia, the company ran into more controversy. Shortly after American forces moved in, Hungarian officials ruled that Brown & Root was subject to the country’s value-added tax, and that company employees were subject to Hungarian income tax, just like any other private corporation. The Pentagon insisted that the company was part of the American military and therefore exempt from the tax. Ultimately, the company paid the Hungarian government $18 million in taxes for which it was reimbursed by the Pentagon. The company was also accused of sexual harassment by several female workers who claimed that Brown & Root employees had fondled and propositioned them. One of the women who complained, a 22-year-old cook named Csaba Horvath, told the Associated Press in 1996 that the Brown & Root contractors “do with us as they please.” She added that the company is “a state within a state” and that the United States military was too lax in overseeing its operations. While those complaints are difficult to prove, Cheney’s impact on Halliburton’s bottom line has been unmistakable. And the company made sure to spread some of that wealth around. Halliburton has contributed a quarter-million dollars to the Republican Party so far this election cycle. And Cheney’s company made sure it had access to decision-makers. In 1996, Halliburton was spending less than $300,000 per year on lobbyists. Last year it spent $600,000. Given Cheney and Halliburton’s success at getting federal money, it looks like that money was well spent. R.B. ton. In a 1998 speech, Cheney said the United States has “become sanctions-happy,” and that it is “very hard to find specific examples where they [sanctions] actually achieve a policy objective.” That same year, Cheney personally lobbied United States Senator Phil Gramm in an effort to get a waiver from the Iran Libya Sanctions Act, a Federal law passed overwhelmingly by Congress in 1996, which prohibits American interests from doing major busi OCTOBER 6, 2000 ness deals in those countries. Cheney sought a way around the sanctions so that Halliburton could provide oil-field goods and services to Iran’s oil industry. He tried to craft innovative approaches for Brown & Root to operate more openly in Libya. Since the mid-1980s, Gadhafi’s “rogue regime” has paid Brown & Root more than $100 million to oversee engineering work on the Great Man-Made River Project, a massive, $20 billion pipeline project that will provide water for Tripoli and other Libyan cities. To get around the United States sanctions, Halliburton transferred the engineering work to Brown & Root’s overseas offices. But it still hasn’t escaped American law enforcement. In 1995, according to The Baltimore Sun, Brown & Root was fined $3.8 million for re-exporting United States goods through a foreign subsidiary to Libya in violation of United States sanctions. Given the United States’ stand on Libya, does Brown & Root’s work there subvert American foreign policy objectives? Dirk Vande Beek, Cheney’s spokesman, refused to comment and referred the issue to Halliburton’s press office. And what about Cheney’s stand on economic sanctions, which conflicts with Bush’s belief in their effectiveness? Cheney “is going to support what Governor Bush has been saying about them,” says Vande Beek. For Cheney, his latest role is just another in a series of political makeovers: from staunch Reaganite, where economic sanctions were a primary weapon, to chief of the United States military under George Bush, where he was an enforcer of economic and military sanctions against America’s enemies, to Halliburton, where sanctions were unprofitable, to vice presidential nominee, where sanctions are once again A-okay. It’s the kind of flexibility that a businessman like Herman Brown would have appreciated. 0 Contributing writer Robert Bryce is a contributing editor at The Austin Chronicle, where a shorter version of this article originally appeared. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9