figure had been bouncing around think tanks and Capitol Hill for
months, and on December 1 made the front page of the Washington
Post: Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq will cost the American
taxpayer between $100 and $200 billion.
of this fantastic sum as a mountain of contracts, because that is
precisely the way the gang that runs America looks at it. Citizens
see the $200 billion figure as a mind-numbing cost of war.
But Dick Cheney and George Bush represent the people who will soon
pocket much of this money. For them, war is the ideal business environment.
rest of us, normal human beings attempting to live in as civilized
a way as we can manage, find it difficult to imagine that the world
as we know it may be destroyed in a mad rush for war-generated contracts.
Bush and Cheney, on the other hand, work tirelessly to achieve that
result. They smell gold.
public is conceptually trapped by the fatal words "we,"
"our" and "us," as in, We must sacrifice
our national treasure and liberties so that Iraq will no
longer be a threat to us. Yet the national treasure isn't
going far; it will circulate from the paychecks of working people
through the federal middleman and directly into companies like Halliburton,
Dick Cheney's old lair, to which he will one day return. In losing
"our" liberties, the domestic obstacles will have been
cleared to make way for a permanent, worldwide regime of highly
profitable destruction and rebuilding - the globe as a kind of Halliburton
cash cow. And the "threat" posed by Iraq will be instantly
reinvented, elsewhere, to feed a bloody river of new markets for
the likes of Halliburton.
people in charge of Bush are different from their class predecessors,
a relatively recent mutation spawned by hyperactive capital, massive
corporate corruption and the maddening allure of global plunder.
They are pirates.
of the barrel
the oil embargo of 1973, most Americans have grown to see Big Oil
as the omnipresent, global manipulator - which is, of course, true.
However, in the shadows cast by the actual producers of energy
- the companies that invest billions in energy extraction, refining,
and distribution - there has slithered forth a class that creates
little or nothing of value, but thrive as political buccaneers.
They waylay public resources to create private fortunes. They seize
governments, to create advantage or monopoly for themselves and
was such a political enterprise. It produced nothing, earning billions
for its captains through felonious bookkeeping on a Smithsonian
scale while denying to the people of California
electricity produced by real companies. Enron bribed the government
of India to build ruinous projects that drained the nation's treasury,
and called in the U.S. State Department to enforce payment.
Ken Lay was a prince of Texas and, through George Bush and Dick
Cheney, sought to share in the looting of a world laid open to an
infinity of scams and outright pillaging. Lay fell overboard, slipping
on his own slime. Bush sailed on, to set the horizon aflame.
the corporation Dick Cheney ran between serving Bush Sr. as Secretary
of Defense and mentoring Bush Jr. as Vice President, is uniquely
adapted to permanent, global warfare. Brown and Root, now a division
of Halliburton, corrupted Lyndon Johnson at the beginning of his
Texas political career, and moved with LBJ to Vietnam, where it
built the airstrips, roads, harbors, and bases that are the infrastructure
more than Coca-Cola and McDonald's, it is Halliburton that represents
American global penetration - and threat. As the world's biggest
oilfield construction contractor, Halliburton is positioned along
the faults of global conflict, reaping billions and moving on to
the next center of petrol-fueled intrigue. Halliburton employs 85,000
people in 100 countries, a presence often indistinguishable from
that of the U.S. government, itself.
is the foreign legion of the military industrial complex. Whether
preparing for war or cleaning up afterwards, Halliburton is there.
"In September 2001 the company signed on to a $283 million
project for Russia's Defense Threat Reduction Agency to eliminate
liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missiles and their silos,"
reported the May 1 edition of the San Francisco Bay Guardian. "In
November 2001 the Philippines awarded the company a $100 million
order to convert the U.S. Navy's former ship-repair facilities in
Subic Bay into a modern commercial port facility. And in December
it won a $420 million contract from the British Army to support
a fleet of new mammoth tank transporters."
is everywhere, including places that the U.S. government claims
it does not want its citizens to go. Libya's Muhamar Ghadafi contracted
for hundreds of millions of dollars in Halliburton services.
biggest client is the U.S. Army. According to Mother Jones (May
23, 2002) Halliburton's Brown & Root division "has provided
the bulk of logistics services for the Army since 1992. Whenever
US troops venture abroad, Brown and Root builds the barracks, cooks
the food, mops the floors, transports the goods and maintains the
water systems before and after the soldiers arrive. ...Brown and
Root provides the Pentagon with a private battalion of engineers,
janitors and other support staff."
has built barracks in Zaire, Haiti, Somalia and Afghanistan. It
is working at the string of new bases that the CIA has plopped down
in the Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union since
September 11. Halliburton's Colombian operations have mushroomed
along with the U.S. role in that country's civil war. It was a prime
contractor for the U.S. base at Diego Garcia, in the middle of the
Indian Ocean, from which the U.S. projects power towards South Asia
and East Africa.
is the definition of war for profit. Its crews prepare the launching
points of war, supply and outfit war, clean up the mess of war,
and rebuild after war. They are the one-stop shop of war.
corporation made a fantastic killing in the former Yugoslavia. "From
1995 to 2000, Brown and Root billed the government for $2.2 billion
for its logistics support in Kosovo, making the services contract
the costliest in US history," according to Mother Jones. "Overall,
Brown and Root's costs amounted to nearly one-sixth of the total
spent by the military on Balkans operations."
Cheney was Halliburton CEO and largest individual shareholder when
he left to take charge of George Bush. His business is war, and
he will shape U.S. policy to achieve it. Halliburton will get a
large chunk of the $200 billion cost of maintaining the troops that
invade and occupy Iraq, and the lion's share of rebuilding the infrastructure,
afterwards. Then they will move on to the next profit-center of
manufactured crisis. Most likely, they are already there.
and its less-known sisters have perfected the mechanisms of perpetual
conflict, and seized the reins of superpower government. We are
ruled from the pirates' lair.
it is also logical that the Bush administration demands privatization
of every possible specialty in the U.S. armed forces, both civilian
and military. Hundreds of thousands, in and out of uniform, will
lose their positions so that Halliburton and other profiteers can
claim more contracts. Put bluntly, Cheney and his crowd see war
as a contractual arrangement.
conflict between Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the generals
and admirals of the Pentagon is also deeply rooted in Rumsfeld's
disdain for all things public. The men in uniform are warriors who
believe they are serving their country. Rumsfeld serves his class,
which seeks to profit by war. (In the larger scheme of things, Colin
Powell's private motivations do not matter.)
the Washington Post sent its reporters to the White House to inquire
about the costs of the impending war against Iraq, they were treated
like children asking silly questions. "A White House official,
speaking on condition of not being identified, said it would be
premature to talk about the costs of a war with Iraq because President
Bush has not decided on the use of military force," said the
Post's December 1 article.
the first go-round with Iraq, Bush Sr. got off relatively cheaply,
charging the U.S. treasury only about $7 billion for the Gulf War,
about 12% of the total cost. Germany, Japan and Kuwait picked up
much of the tab, and Saudi Arabia contributed $16.8 billion to what
was called "Operation Tin Cup." Not this time. A former
U.S. ambassador to the kingdom told the Post "the Saudi government
would find it politically impossible to pick up a substantial portion
of the costs of a new Gulf War even if it had the money, because
the Saudi public is 'now 100 percent against an attack on Iraq.'"
European and Japanese wallets aren't open, either.
U.S. taxpayers will have to shoulder virtually the entire cost.
Here's what $200 billion represents:
entire 2001 cost of what is generally called welfare, including
Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, the Welfare to Work program,
and food stamps: $38.8 billion. Plus,
federal spending on education in 1999 - 2000: $55 billion. Plus,
entire 2002 budget of the Department of Housing and Urban Development:
$30.4 billion. Plus,
entire 2000 - 2001 budget of the Department of Labor: $34. 2 billion.
value of all U.S. agricultural exports to the world in fiscal
2000: $50.9 billion.
$209.3 billion, a little bit over the projected cost of war and
occupation of one country; but then, overruns can be predicted.
Halliburton can't absorb this much business. The predator-scavenger
class must therefore reproduce itself to meet the demands of permanent
war, changing fundamentally the relationship of forces within American
business as a whole. The Cheney-Bush pirates are about to birth
a new brood of billionaire pillagers and parasites with no direct
connection to the well being of the domestic economy and those
of us who depend on it.
Business Roundtable represents the people who used to say, What's
good for General Motors is good for America. Henry Ford wrote the
old corporate rule that it serves business interests when employees
are able to afford the products they manufacture. Highways, schools,
hospitals, police forces - and yes, subsistence for the poorest
populations - are all part of the public supports that keep economies
going and the rich secure in their comfort. $200 billion for non-productive
war cuts the legs out from under these structures - and that's just
the cost of Bush's first big adventure.
Business Roundtable is worried. These are the men who sit atop a
$10 trillion domestic economy that is under assault by the
Bush-Cheney class. Last month, the Roundtable shocked the finance
capital speculators - the people who can pick up their money
and run with the Bush-Cheney crowd - by calling for payroll tax
cuts for low and middle income workers. "The CEOs of The Business
Roundtable believe that we can jumpstart economic growth if our
government takes action that helps put cash into consumers' pockets
to stimulate demand and ignite our economy," said chairman
John T. Dillon.
Motors wants to sell its cars to people with steady salaries and
acceptable credit ratings. Corporations know that the states in
which they operate are going broke, and that no business model can
be crafted as a substitute. There is among the old rich a creeping
realization that the wrecking crew is in charge. As Ohio Republican
Rep. Michael G. Oxley told Bloomberg News, "We can pass damn
near anything in the House."
that kind of talk is scaring important sectors among the rich. The
class that Bush and Cheney represent really is different. They have
allegiances to no one.
Pirates profit by chaos. The executives who sit at the Business
Roundtable fear "uncertainty" in the marketplace above
all else. The national emergency that Bush and Cheney so clearly
crave is uncharted territory, far too uncertain for comfort. In
our October 3 issue, we wrote, "no one knows what freedoms
are required to maintain a complicated market society such as ours,
but we may be forced to find out."
mass mobilization can dislodge the pirates from power. Along the
way, however, do not be surprised if unaccustomed allies appear
from unexpected places. George Bush and Dick Cheney are menaces
to society as a whole.