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Jason Leopold: As War Looms, Hypocrisy Prevails

Even As War Looms, Hypocrisy Prevails


By Jason Leopold

This is my last ditch effort to show the hypocrisy within President Bush’s administration regarding its policies toward Iraq and its President, Saddam Hussein, just as the United States and Britain prepares to invade the country.

It was only five years ago when Vice President Dick Cheney, as chief executive of the oil-field supply corporation, Halliburton Co., was engaged in secret business dealings with Saddam’s regime by selling Iraq oil production equipment and spare parts to get the Iraqi oil fields up and running, according to confidential United Nations records.

During the 2000 presidential campaign, Cheney adamantly denied such dealings. While he acknowledged that his company did business with Libya and Iran through foreign subsidiaries, Cheney said, “Iraq’s different.” He claimed that he imposed a “firm policy” prohibiting any unit of Halliburton against trading with Iraq.

"I had a firm policy that we wouldn't do anything in Iraq, even arrangements that were supposedly legal," Cheney said on the ABC-TV news program “This Week” on July 30, 2000. "We've not done any business in Iraq since U.N. sanctions were imposed on Iraq in 1990, and I had a standing policy that I wouldn't do that."

But it turns out that Cheney was lying. It’s only through the sale of Iraqi oil that Saddam would be able to afford to obtain such weapons. If Saddam was in fact building nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, which some news reports allege could be used against American and British troops, Cheney is partially responsible.

The Washington Post first reported Halliburton’s trade with Iraq in February 2000. But U.N. records obtained by The Post two years ago showed that the dealings were more extensive than originally reported and than Vice President Cheney has acknowledged.

As Secretary of Defense in the first Bush administration, Cheney helped to lead a multinational coalition against Iraq in the Persian Gulf War and to devise a comprehensive economic embargo to isolate Saddam Hussein's government. After Cheney was named chief executive of Halliburton in 1995, he promised to maintain a hard line against Baghdad.

But his stance changed when it appeared that Halliburton was headed for financial disaster in the mid-1990s.

Cheney said sanctions against countries such as Iraq were hurting corporations such as Halliburton.

"We seem to be sanction-happy as a government,” Cheney said at an energy conference in April 1996, reported in the oil industry publication Petroleum Finance Week. “The problem is that the good Lord didn't see fit to always put oil and gas resources where there are democratic governments," he observed during his conference presentation.

Sanctions make U.S. businesses "the bystander who gets hit when a train wreck occurs," Cheney told Petroleum Finance Week. “While virtually every other country sees the need for sanctions against Iraq and Saddam Hussein's regime there, Cheney sees general agreement that the measures have not been very effective despite their having most of the international community's support. An individual country's embargo, such as that of the United States against Iran, has virtually no effect since the target country simply signs a contract with a non- U.S. business,” the publication reported

“That's exactly what happened when the government told Conoco Inc. that it could not develop an oil field there," Cheney told Petroleum Finance Week. Total S.A. "simply took it over."

In 1998, Cheney oversaw Halliburton's acquisition of Dresser Industries Inc., the unit that sold oil equipment to Iraq through two subsidiaries of a joint venture with another large U.S. equipment maker, Ingersoll-Rand Co.

The Halliburton subsidiaries, Dresser-Rand and Ingersoll Dresser Pump Co., sold water and sewage treatment pumps, spare parts for oil facilities and pipeline equipment to Baghdad through French affiliates from the first half of 1997 to the summer of 2000, U.N. records show. Ingersoll Dresser Pump also signed contracts -- later blocked by the United States -- to help repair an Iraqi oil terminal that U.S.-led military forces destroyed in the Gulf War, the Post reported in a June 2001 story.

The Halliburton subsidiaries and several other American and foreign oil supply companies helped Iraq increase its crude exports from $4 billion in 1997 to nearly $18 billion in 2000. Since the program began, Iraq has exported oil worth more than $40 billion.

U.S. and European officials have argued that the increase in production also expanded Saddam’s ability to use some of that money for weapons, luxury goods and palaces. Security Council diplomats estimate that Iraq may be skimming off as much as 10 percent of the proceeds from the oil-for-food program, according to the Post.

During his tenure as chief executive of Halliburton, Cheney pushed the U.N. Security Council, after he became vice president; to end an 11-year embargo on sales of civilian goods, including oil related equipment, to Iraq. Cheney has said sanctions against countries like Iraq unfairly punish U.S. companies.

Earlier this year, Halliburton was chosen as one of the companies to rebuild Iraq’s dilapidated oil fields following a U.S. led attack on the country.

U.N. documents show that Halliburton's affiliates have had controversial, dealings with the Iraqi regime during Cheney’s tenure at the company. The Clinton administration blocked one of the deals Halliburton was trying to push through. That deal, between Halliburton subsidiary Ingersoll Dresser Pump Co. and Iraq, included agreements by the firm to sell $760,000 in spare parts, compressors and firefighting equipment to refurbish an offshore oil terminal, Khor al Amaya.

The Clinton administration blocked the sale because it was "not authorized under the oil-for-food deal," according to U.N. documents. Under the oil-for-food program, Iraq is allowed to export crude oil and the money is supposed to be used to help remove some of the hardships on Iraqi civilians affected by the U.N. sanctions.


*******

- - Jason Leopold is a freelance journalist based in California, he is currently finishing a book on the California energy crisis. He can be contacted at jasonleopold@hotmail.com.

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