move from Houston to Dubai has aroused predictable concerns about security.
Halliburton is known to be a major defense contractor, and the rulers of Dubai
are undeniably Arabs, albeit Arabs who are demonstrably among America's closest
allies. On one level, the announcement appears to have unleashed emotional Arab-bashing
based on the same reservoir of bigotry and fear that scuppered the Dubai Ports
World deal in February 2006.
On yet another level, however, the concerns appear to be misguided
regarding which Halliburton businesses will actually move to the Middle East.
Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root, or KBR, is the part of the company
that deals with military contracting, and it is Halliburton's stated intention
to spin KBR off from the parent company. If that actually occurs, it would mean
that the Halliburton operating in Dubai would be primarily in the business of
oil industry support, not Defense Department contracting. That Halliburton might
be moving to escape taxes, regulation, or potential liability issues is a more
relevant criticism, but the company does not differ substantially from other
corporate bad citizens in that regard, seeking the cheapest and most trouble-free
environment in which to conduct its business.
Halliburton has emerged as the poster child for much of what
is wrong with the Bush administration because of its links to former CEO and
current vice president of the United States Dick Cheney and because of KBR's
incompetence and overbilling on defense-related projects in Iraq and elsewhere.
KBR obtained a sweetheart $10 billion non-compete Pentagon contract for Iraq,
and reports suggest that it assiduously overbilled and underperformed on the
work it did, though it was far from unique in either regard. It has already
paid the government some compensation for overbilling, and it reportedly continues
to be the target of numerous government auditors who wonder where all the billions
of dollars went.
But Halliburton and KBR are only symptoms of a much broader
and deeper corruption that threatens more than the Pentagon's overgrown budget.
In 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, himself a former general, warned about
the threat to the American Republic from what he described as the growing "military
industrial complex." He
deserves to be quoted at length:
"This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large
arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic,
political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every state house, every
office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this
development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our
toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of
"In the councils of government, we must guard against
the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the
military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced
power exists and will persist.
"We must never let the weight of this combination endanger
our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only
an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge
industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals,
so that security and liberty may prosper together."
Eisenhower saw the development of a symbiotic relationship
between the Department of Defense and the defense contractors and politicians
that would substantially alter the very nature of the United States, turning
it from a country that went to war only reluctantly, where ploughshares could
be beaten into swords and then back into ploughshares, to a country in which
the political and social system would be in permanent thrall to a war economy
and mentality. Eisenhower clearly understood that at a certain point, the defense
contracting and the distinct economy that it fosters would gain control of the
political process and would be able to dictate how the American people work
and live. This process has come to fruition, and it has positively bloomed under
the Bush administration, which now is speaking confidently of a "long war"
that will last for generations.
But not even Eisenhower could have predicted how that military
industrial complex would eventually form strategic alliances with foreign countries,
support advocacy groups promoting perpetual war, and eventually bring about
the downfall of the foreign policy consensus that has guided the United States
since 1945. Nor would he have predicted just how the new order led by the so-called
neoconservatives, largely funded by the defense industries, would be able to
gain control of the federal government's decision-making process and lead the
United States into a series of catastrophic wars, seemingly without end.
There is nothing benign about the arms industry. Companies that make armaments
need war to be profitable. Constant war is even better, producing an unending
flow of money. President George W. Bush's 2002
National Security Strategy [.pdf] is best of all – with its embrace of a
vaguely defined preemptive war doctrine and the promise of a series of unilateral
wars. To that end, the industry lobbies politicians to increase defense spending
and supports ideologues with bellicose worldviews. Thus, the contractors who
place full-page ads in leading newspapers featuring warriors using their weapons
profit from the injury and death of American soldiers. If the national interest
actually lies in peace, harmony, and international amity, as was envisioned
by America's Founding Fathers, then the arms merchants are the enemy, however
much they wrap themselves in the flag and proclaim themselves the arsenal of
The intentions of the defense contractors are clearly demonstrated by how they
spend U.S. taxpayers' money. Few can doubt that think
tanks and advocacy groups such as the American
Enterprise Institute, the Project
for a New American Century, the Hudson
Institute, the Center
for Security Policy, the Jewish
Institute for National Security Affairs, and the National
Institute for Public Policy led the rush to war against Iraq and are eager
to do the same to Iran. Many of these think tanks receive funds from the five
leading defense contractors – Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon,
and General Dynamics. On an individual level, many well-known neoconservatives
have moved seamlessly between the contractors and the think tanks, filling their
bank accounts along the way. They include all-too-familiar names such as William
Kristol, Stephen Bryen, Richard Perle, Dov Zakheim, Robert Joseph, Douglas Feith,
Paul Wolfowitz, and Frederick Kagan. Vice President (and former Secretary of
Defense) Dick Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld have done
the revolving door one better, moving from senior government posts to senior
executive positions with the defense contractors, where they made millions of
dollars before moving back into government at the highest levels. All told,
at least 43 former employees, board members, or advisers for defense contractors
are currently serving or have recently served in policy-making positions in
the Bush administration.
And there are also the international interests of the defense contractors,
concentrated primarily in Israel. Former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy
Douglas Feith's law firm, Feith & Zell, represented Lockheed Martin and
Northrop Grumman, while Richard Perle's connection with Trireme Partners provided
business connections for U.S. and Israeli defense contractors, enriching Feith
and Perle in the process. Both Feith and Perle have worked as lobbyists for
Turkey, a major recipient of U.S.-made weapons. The multilateral relationship
involving U.S. contractors, Israel's defense industry, and former U.S. and Israeli
government officials is both incestuous and apparently frequently beyond the
rules that govern international arms sales. FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds
has recently said that unsealing the Bureau's investigative reports on Perle,
Feith, and former State Department number three Marc Grossman would reveal that
they all engaged in what she describes as treasonous activity reportedly linked
to illegal weapons sales.
The military industrial complex also sustains and feeds off the Bush administration's
so-called "global war on terror," or GWOT. Most experts on terrorism
would agree that the GWOT is largely a fiction created to simplify a multifaceted
problem and heighten fear so that the flow of taxpayer money will continue unabated.
Fighting terrorism worldwide, even where it does not exist, isn't cheap, particularly
as the increasing reliance on contractors is much more expensive per man-hour
than using full-time government employees. The $160 billion increase in the
Pentagon budget since 2001 is dedicated to counter-terrorism (this number does
not include Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been funded by separate appropriations).
Add to that at least half of the intelligence budget ($20 billion) and at least
half of the Department of Homeland Security budget ($20 billion). This means
the astonishing sum of $200 billion, which does not include Iraq and Afghanistan,
is being spent by the United States annually to deal with terrorism. No other
country attacks terrorism in such a disproportionate fashion, and many of America's
allies have successfully combated it using police and intelligence resources.
If there are 5,000 active terrorists worldwide, and there are probably less
than that, it would mean that the GWOT is costing the U.S. taxpayer $40 million
per terrorist per year, with no end in sight. That's using an elephant to squash
a fly. Considering that the fly can move a lot faster than the elephant, no
victory is likely to happen soon, apart from the odd "Mission Accomplished"
banner here and there.