US: US construction bosses welcome war

THE LOOMING US-led war on Iraq is causing uncertainties for capitalist investors. However, one section of big business hopes that a post-Saddam Iraq will become a lucrative venture.

According to the Wall Street Journal the Bush administration has dangled a $900 million reconstruction contract in front of five civil engineering firms. One of these is Halliburton whose chief executive officer (CEO) from 1995 to 2000 was Dick Cheney, the current US Vice-President. The other four firms are the Bechtel Group Inc, Fluor Corp, Louis Berger Group Inc and Parsons Group. Bechtel rebuilt the Kuwaiti oil fields after the 1991 Gulf War.

Cheney and Halliburton are no strangers to controversy. Last year a US pressure group, Judicial Watch, filed a lawsuit against Cheney accusing him of defrauding shareholders when he was CEO of Halliburton.

It’s alleged that he overstated profits by $445 million during the period 1999-2001 leading to big losses by shareholders. Coincidentally, in 1996 Cheney made a promotional video for Andersen, the disgraced accountancy firm at the centre of the Enron bankruptcy.

Halliburton has also profited from George Bush’s ’war on terror’. It was awarded a $9.7 million contract to build an additional 204-cell detention camp at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for Al Qa’ida and Taliban prisoners.

Less well publicised were $73 million worth of contracts signed between Iraq and two Halliburton subsidiaries to supply oil production equipment, again when Cheney served as CEO. Initially, Cheney denied any trade deal but then said he didn’t know about the deal.

From The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, CWI in England and Wales

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March 2003