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GLW: Michael Moore: War Is For The Rich!

Michael Moore: War Is For The Rich!

By Rohan Pearce
Green Left Weekly

Michael Moore's blockbuster documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 isn't just an assault on the Bush regime and the “war on terror” — it indicts the corporate vultures who rushed to cash-in on the warmongers' post-9/11 crusade.

“This is an impressive crowd: the haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite; I call you my base”, George Bush quipped at an $800-a-head election fundraising dinner in October 2000, footage of which Moore included in Fahrenheit.

While for most people the world has been a worse place since the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center, for Bush's “base”, the corporate elite whose interests he represents , particularly those with a stake in the ironically named “defence” industry, 2001 will be remembered as a bumper year for war profiteering.

Already a source of corporate welfare, the “war on terror” has let the Bush regime get away with massively increasing the Pentagon's spending. The US military budget request for fiscal year 2005 is US$420.7 billion — up by $131.9 billion since 2000.

The top beneficiaries of this orgy of military spending in the name of “defeating terrorism” are corporations, such as the Carlyle Group, that have close links to the White House (and, for that matter, the alternative party of the US elite, the Democrats). Carlyle, former employers of Bush's father and, through Caterair, of Bush himself, have made a killing from the “war on terror”, as Moore's film reveals.

Fahrenheit 9/11 points out that Carlyle owns “United Defense, makers of the Bradley armoured fighting vehicle. September 11th guaranteed that United Defense was going to have a very good year. Just six weeks after 9/11, Carlyle filed to take United Defense public and in December made a one-day profit of $237 million.”

A December 8, 2003, Forbes magazine article, cited by Moore as factual backup for his claims about Carlyle's war-profiteering, noted: “By virtue of its holdings in companies like US Marine Repair and United Defense Industries, Carlyle is the equivalent of the eleventh-largest defense contractor in the nation.”

The “defence” gravy train, being fed by the ongoing need to subdue Iraq and Afghanistan, is unlikely to be derailed. Indeed, a July 29 report by the US Center for Public Integrity (CPI) revealed that “Private defense contractors have been given the authority to help prepare the president's national defense budget”.

While “regime change” in Iraq and Afghanistan was driven by the medium- and long-term interests of US imperialism, it hasn't meant that the corporate creeps haven't cashed-in — from feeding US soldiers to rebuilding the infrastructure that the invasions destroyed, there has been plenty of plunder for US corporations. According to the Windfalls of War project, run by the CPI, as of July 7, more than 150 US corporations had received contracts in Iraq or Afghanistan. These contracts are worth some $48.7 billion.

Particularly notorious are the mega-profits reaped by Kellogg, Brown & Root, the infamous subsidy of Halliburton (of which Vice-President Dick Cheney was CEO until taking up digs in the White House). KBR has nearly $326.7 million worth of contracts in Afghanistan and $4.35 billion worth in Iraq, according to the CPI.

“There's no other single area of the world today with the opportunity for business, to do business, somewhere with the opportunity that's available today in Iraq”, Gordon Bobbitt of the Kalmar RT Center explains to corporate executives at a conference on Iraqi reconstruction featured in Fahrenheit.

Youssef Sleiman, managing director of the Harris Corporation, which won a $96 million contact to run an Iraqi media network that includes operating two national television stations, two national radio stations and a national newspaper, drooled at the same conference: “Now lots of you are small businesses and you're struggling. How do we get a piece of this big action? All of you, the big guys, are going to get it and the rest of us will have subcontracting capabilities or none at all.

“USTDA [the US Trade and Development Agency] is for you. Once that oil starts flowing, and money coming, it's going to be lots of money. It's the second largest reserve of oil in the world. There's no question how much money is there.”

Despite the billions of dollars that the US government is ostensibly pouring into Iraqi reconstruction, Iraqis are yet to see much benefit. Instead, the reconstruction racket has been characterised by infrastructure repair that never happens, overpricing for (shoddy) construction and barefaced fraud.

“In its second report to Congress”, the July 30 Washington Post reported, “the inspector general's office for the [US] occupation authority that ruled Iraq until recently found significant cases of mismanagement, fraud, missing paperwork and manipulation in the awarding of contracts using millions of dollars of US and Iraq funds.”

As if Washington's budget contribution to corporate welfare wasn't enough, an August 4 Washington Post report revealed that “Halliburton Co. and other US contractors are being paid at least $1.9 billion from Iraqi funds under an arrangement set up by the US-led occupation authority [the Coalition Provisional Authority, which was formally dissolved after the June 28 `handover' of power to the Interim Government of Iraq]”. The Post reported that some 2000 contracts were awarded by the CPA — and 85% of the $2.26 billion the contracts were worth went to US firms.

A report released by watchdog group Iraq Revenue Watch in June claimed that the CPA had “launched a last-minute spending spree using Iraq's oil money shortly before” it dissolved. The CPA cleaned out all but $900 million from the $20 billion Development Fund for Iraq set up by the UN to manage Iraq's oil export revenues. Disbursements from the DFI were voted on “by the Program Review Board, whose members are drawn from American, British, and Australian military and diplomatic staff, as well as one member each from the Iraqi Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Planning”.

Despite Moore's personal backing for pro-war Democratic presidential contender John Kerry, Fahrenheit 9/11 highlights the vast gulf that divides those who have to work for a living from the corporate elite who have made billions from the “war on terror” — and that's why the warmongers hate him.

From Green Left Weekly, August 18, 2004.
Visit the Green Left Weekly home page

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