Read the Fine Print


Well, it’s official: We really did invade Iraq to liberate Halliburton

George W. Bush contends that the world is “safer.” Because his handlers know he would commit political suicide if he admitted that he has fanned the flames of terrorism, he has never used the word “reprisal” (in all of his speeches compiled on the official White House website) to mean that we should be afraid of retaliation on our home soil because of our government’s invasion of Iraq. Terrorists will attack us, says Bush, because they are “evil.”

But like the oil that our government lusts for, the bloody truth just oozes out. And not just from pinko, lefty, unpatriotic comsymps. It’s right there in Halliburton’s official reports to the SEC about what could affect the booming business of Dick Cheney‘s firm. (It’s fair to call it his firm because the vice president is still being paid by Halliburton.)

On page 61 of the company’s 2003 annual report, filed early this year, Halliburton says that

any possible reprisals as a consequence of the war with and ongoing military action in Iraq, such as acts of terrorism in the United States or elsewhere, could materially and adversely affect us in ways we cannot predict at this time.

In other words, Halliburton publicly acknowledges that we could face terrorist attacks here in the U.S. as reprisal for our invasion of Iraq.

OK, we know this. But you won’t hear the White House say it.

Other than your fear of possible terrorist attacks in reprisal for the Iraq adventure, you’re also angry about high gasoline prices. Halliburton’s annual report makes clear that the war is responsible for that, too:

United States oil prices continued to increase due to low inventory levels as a result of Iraqi crude oil production still being below pre-war levels and higher natural gas prices adding pressure to switch to competing heating fuel oils.

Look, this shouldn’t shock anyone, despite what the public-opinion polls say. But such admissions are not at all the official line emanating from the GOP this election year.

You ask: Why believe a Halliburton financial report? Because Bush and his handlers have no qualms about what they say to the American people or even to Congress. But Halliburton is legally obligated to file accurate reports to the SEC. You ask: So what? Don’t companies lie in those reports all the time? Well, just last week, the SEC fined Halliburton $7.5 million to settle allegations that it inflated profits on its SEC reports filed in 1998 and 1999 by failing to disclose accounting changes. That’s when Cheney was the CEO. Oh yeah, the SEC also accused Halliburton with “unacceptable lapses” that, The Washington Post said, “delayed regulators’ access to information during the investigation.”

As usual with such cases, Halliburton got to pay the fine without admitting or denying it either lied or stonewalled, or did both.

The company, denying wrongdoing, is still under investigation by the SEC, the Pentagon, and civil plaintiffs for a host of other actions. Check out this June 1 CBS News story for other alleged chicanery. Or see the host of financial-disclosure statements and other Cheney documents warehoused by the Center for Public Integrity.

If you think you can take it, read Bob Scheer‘s July 2002 piece slugged “Cheney’s Grimy Trail in Business,” posted by CorpWatch. Scheer presciently noted that Halliburton was limping along until 9/11.

However, attack dawgs like Scheer aren’t the only ones nipping at Cheney’s ample behind. Not only are regulators reading Halliburton’s reports extra closely these days, but investors (the big cigars who count) are too. Halliburton is on somewhat shaky ground financially, despite huge profits from its government work in Iraq. Its Kellogg Brown & Root unit is of course attacked on all sides for allegedly bilking the military and the public for parts of its billions of dollars of work in Iraq. But KBR is also slogging through bankruptcy court with Dick Cheney’s big asbestos albatross around its neck.

Forget for just a moment those thousands and thousands of workers who have been killed or are painfully dying from inhaling asbestos. Look at it the way a bidnessman like Cheney looks at it. The Wall Street Journal noted today that “investors have so far largely shrugged off Halliburton’s potential exposure in its government contract and accounting troubles. Their focus instead has been on a more than $4 billion asbestos-litigation settlement that the company is currently wrapping up.”

Cheney saddled Halliburton with those asbestos claims when he was CEO by purchasing a company known as Dresser Industries—along with Dresser’s asbestos-litigation woes.

So, all this is a way of explaining that the U.S. invaded Iraq not only for oil but to help Halliburton get enough government work to climb out from under its asbestos-lawsuit burden. Call it the “war on error.”

(For more on the asbestos suits, look at this Reuters story from March 2002. Or check out Rand’s big report. For the bigger picture, click on the Asbestos Survivors Network.)

It’s been a great two years for Halliburton. The company’s 2003 annual report noted, “Our revenues grew nearly 30% to $16 billion, largely as a result of our increased government services work in the Middle East.”

The company’s latest filings reveal even more sacks of lucre. And despite all the investigations, probes, and pokings from regulators, investors, and critics—and despite the fact that the government is withholding millions of dollars from the KBR unit because of suspicions on its charges for feeding soldiers and pumping oil—Halliburton is counting on more work in Iraq. Its latest quarterly report to the SEC, for the period that ended June 30, noted:

“Due to our presence and performance in Iraq, we believe KBR is well-positioned to be awarded future work in the area.”

Unless there’s a reprisal.