Number 19 - December 5, 2002
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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.
Think 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.
The 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
The 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.
The 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.
Bottom of the
Since 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 their cronies.
Enron 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.
Enron's 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.
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 of war.
Far 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.
Halliburton 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."
Halliburton 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.
Its 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."
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.
Halliburton 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.
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."
Dick 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.
its less-known sisters have perfected the mechanisms of perpetual conflict,
and seized the reins of superpower government. We are ruled from the
Thus, 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.
The 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 big bill
When 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.
During 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,
So, U.S. taxpayers
will have to shoulder virtually the entire cost. Here's what $200 billion
- The 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
- all federal spending
on education in 1999 - 2000: $55 billion. Plus,
- the entire 2002
budget of the Department of Housing and Urban Development: $30.4 billion.
- the entire 2000
- 2001 budget of the Department of Labor: $34. 2 billion. Plus,
- the value of
all U.S. agricultural exports to the world in fiscal 2000: $50.9 billion.
- Total: $209.3
billion, a little bit over the projected cost of war and occupation
of one country; but then, overruns can be predicted.
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.
Menace to society
The 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.
The 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.
General 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."
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."
Only 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.