FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE

Sunday

Halliburton...again.

At this weekends anti-war rally in Washington (Yes, the nuts had yet another protest), Cindy Sheehan made a grand appearance. This poor woman just can't seem to get herself out of the public eye. What a shame. I guess it has something to do with the fact that she jumps in front of the cameras every time she hears about a publicity opportunity. But, whatever.

At this latest protest, she made the same tired argument about the war that so many before have made.

"Do you know why our countries get into these bullshit wars all of the time? It's for the corporations!

It's for the corporations like Halliburton and Exxon and Blackwater and to make them rich.

It's to line the pockets of George Bush and Dick Cheney and all the war criminals."


Yes, yes. It's all about the Evil Corporations. We've heard it all before. Not that I care about a damn thing that Sheehan has to say. But, this argument has been made time and time again. Is it true?

Saying that we go to war so that corporations can make profits is about the same as saying that we use the Death Penalty for population control. It doesn't make sense. Let me explain.

In many states, our judicial system is given the power to execute the worst criminal offenders. This punishment is not widely used, and it is reserved for the most heinous of criminals.

There is also a lengthy legal process that must take place before it can be used. Using the power of Government to take someone's life is a harsh thing. Yet, it is a necessary evil. These offenders must pay the ultimate price for their awful crimes. And, they can not be given the opportunity to escape justice.

One of the side-effects of the death penalty is indeed a lower prison population. However, as anyone with half a brain can see, this is a completely useless form of population control. If that were really the intent, we would simply lighten the restrictions we put on using the death penalty or we would apply it much more broadly. The current process is a completely inefficient and failed method of population control.

The same analogy can be drawn with war profits.

When we make the decision to go to war, a long legal process must take place. For the Iraq War, that process was increased EXPONENTIALLY. In order to gain multi-national support, we made our case before the U.N. With any other war, we have the right to defend our country with or without the approval of the U.N. However, since Bush wanted their support, he sought it.

Also, the Congress must sign off on the war. They are the only Governmental body that can do that. I know that people like Sheehan refer to it as Bush's war. But, the truth is that he relies on Congressional approval. And, in 2003, he had it. They signed off on the Iraq War (Democrats and Republicans alike).

War is an ugly thing. But, again, it is a necessary evil. We use it as a last resort. For instance, we use it after 12 failed years of diplomacy and 17 UN resolutions violated by a terrorist-harboring dictator. That was the case in Iraq.

One side-effect of war is that private companies can be awarded contracts to do work for the Government. In essence, these companies will make money off the war. But just as the Death Penalty is an inefficient method of population control, war contracts are, generally, an inefficient method for making profit.

Take for instance the Halliburton profit margins. In 2003, Halliburton's profit margin was at 2.4 percent. In 2004, that dropped to 1.4 percent. These are no where near the margins they can make with the commercial work they do around the world. These poor profit margins are probably why Halliburton wanted to sell KBR, its division that ran rebuilding operations in Iraq.

But, maybe I'm misreading the situation. What do experts have to say about Halliburton's "cushy" Iraq deals?

"[Halliburton's War Profiteering] is somewhere between highly improbable and utterly absurd...Many people are also under the impression that contractors take the government to the cleaners. In fact, government keeps a watchful eye on contractor profits - and government work has low profit margins compared with the commercial work the same companies perform. ... As for the much-maligned Halliburton, a few days ago the company disclosed, as part of its third-quarter earnings report, operating income from its Iraq contracts of $34 million on revenue of $900 million - a return on sales of 3.7 percent, hardly the stuff of plunder."



Who said this? Certainly it was one of Bush' cronies in Washington. Think again. This statement was made by Steven Kelman, Procurement Official for the Clinton Administration.

"The truth is that the conspiracy theories about the vice president's involvement in Halliburton's Iraq contracts are either unproven or flat-out wrong. And while the company's Middle East operation is the subject of scathing audits and investigations, it's hardly raking in scandalous profits. Indeed, Kellogg, Brown & Root, the part of Halliburton's business that America seemed to hate because it was raking in far too much, is the part of the business Wall Street hates because it is making far too little."


This is a statement made by Peter Elkind, a writer for Fortune magazine. In his article titled "The Truth About Halliburton," Elkind also quotes a former Halliburton executive concerning LOGCAP, the "Super Contract" that Halliburton is working on in Iraq. This former executive said the following:


"LOGCAP could be the first cost-plus contract in history that's lost money."

But, how can this be? This doesn't make any sense. Certainly, the cost-plus nature of the contract would mean that Halliburton can't lose money in Iraq.

That's not necessarily true. Although, the contract does cover Halliburton's cost for most of their essentials, it does not cover the cost of "unforeseen cost" such as extra security or higher "hazardous duty" employee payouts. In an area like Iraq, these costs are certain to sky-rocket. And, the "Super Contract" doesn't cover them.

So, what about the idea that the war is "lining the pockets of George Bush and Dick Cheney and all the war criminals?"

Well, the main argument is that, because Dick Cheney served as Halliburton's CEO, he is getting a kickback from Halliburton's war profits. John Kerry made this charge during the 2004 elections. And, he was proved wrong.

FactCheck.org did a little…well…Fact Checking (hence, the name). Here is what they found:

"A Kerry ad implies Cheney has a financial interest in Halliburton and is profiting from the company's contracts in Iraq. The fact is, Cheney doesn't gain a penny from Halliburton's contracts, and almost certainly won't lose even if Halliburton goes bankrupt.

The ad claims Cheney got $2 million from Halliburton "as vice president," which is false. Actually, nearly $1.6 million of that was paid before Cheney took office. More importantly, all of it was earned before he was a candidate, when he was the company's chief executive."


So, once again, Sheehan doesn't know what she is talking about. People like her demonize "Evil Corporations" like Halliburton, and then they whine when Halliburton moves their headquarters overseas. If Bush and Cheney really wanted to use their political positions to gain financial spoils for Halliburton, they would manipulate the tax laws to entice Halliburton to stay on US shores. Halliburton is a global company. They will go, where it makes the most financial sense.

But, sadly, they are demonized by the media and the left in this country. So, they have decided to pack up and move. I can't say that I blame them.

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