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Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Looters with Limos

If you miss the cold war, you probably long for the good old days when defense contractors could get away with crony capitalism because "the Soviet threat" (or do you prefer Red Menace?) justified non-market economic practices.

We had to hand out big no-bid defense contracts just to keep the giant military complex revved up all the time.

Now, of course, we merely have the "war on terror" and it's tought to identify the major opponents. Thanks to Iraq, however, the defense contractors are managing to survive and prosper.

The Looters with Limos blog hasn't had a new entry in almost two months, but I'm using the title for this post in tribute to its spirit.

More importantly, the New York Times finally seems to be on the theme with some gusto. Yesterday, the paper published Erik Eckholm's story, "White House Officials and Cheney Aide Approved Halliburton Contract in Iraq, Pentagon Says."

Basically, it turns out that the Vice President's office has been lying about some of the no-bid Halliburton contracts. He apparently did have prior knowledge of them and some highly placed political leaders did have to approve them.

Pentagon officials have spilled the beans.
In the fall of 2002, in the preparations for possible war with Iraq, the Pentagon sought and received the assent of senior Bush administration officials, including the vice president's chief of staff, before hiring the Halliburton Company to develop secret plans for restoring Iraq's oil facilities, Pentagon officials have told Congressional investigators.
Remember in the 2000 Vice Presidential debate when Cheney said "I can tell you, Joe [Lieberman], that the government had absolutely nothing to do with" his being "better off" than he was eight years ago?


First, the denials:
Appearing on the NBC News program "Meet the Press" on Sept. 14, 2003, Mr. Cheney said, "And as vice president, I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form of contracts led by the Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the federal government." He referred to the Army Corps of Engineers, which has managed oil infrastructure contracts.

Asked if he had been aware of Halliburton's noncompetitive awards, Mr. Cheney said, "I don't know any of the details of the contract because I deliberately stayed away from any information on that."

Richard A. Boucher, the State Department spokesman, said of Iraq contracting in a news conference last October: "The decisions are made by career procurement officials. There's a separation, a wall, between them and political-level questions when they're doing the contracts."
Next, the Times reporting that at least one Democrat has a spine:
In a letter faxed Sunday to Mr. Cheney and given to reporters, Representative Henry A. Waxman, the minority leader of the panel, asked him for all records of his office's communications on the oil contracts and for records of Deputies Committee meetings where the Halliburton deals had been discussed.

"These new disclosures appear to contradict your assertions that you were not informed about the Halliburton contracts," Mr. Waxman, Democrat of California, wrote. "They also seem to contradict the administration's repeated assertions that political appointees were not involved in the award of the contracts to Halliburton."
The latest revelations refer to a specific $2 Billion contract, of which Halliburton received $1.2 billion.

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