Disturbingly, certain corporate insiders close to the White House are moving to reap profits from the Iraq war.
For example, Halliburton — Vice President Dick Cheney’s old firm — was given a no-bid military contract to extinguish Iraqi oil well fires and perform other services. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said the contract apparently was issued March 8, but was kept secret for two weeks. Waxman wrote a letter to the Army asking why other U.S. firms weren’t allowed to bid.
Soon afterward, five corporations whose executives donated millions to the Bush-Cheney campaign were invited to bid on rebuilding war-ravaged Iraq.
The most sensational war profits dispute forced Richard Perle to resign as chairman of a Pentagon board that sets war policies. Here’s the story:
Perle, who was assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan, is a militant “hawk” allied to the Bush family in Republican politics. Washington enemies call him “the Prince of Darkness.” In the late 1990s, while Democrat Bill Clinton still was president, Perle joined Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol and other far-right figures in an outfit called the Project for the New American Century. PNAC issued a strategic plan calling for America’s awesome military superiority to be used to impose U.S. sway over the entire planet.
After Bush was awarded the presidency, most of the PNAC members got top administration posts. Rumsfeld became defense secretary. Wolfowitz became his deputy. Perle headed the Pentagon’s war policy board. Variously, they helped draft the “Bush Doctrine,” which says the White House may unleash a pre-emptive military attack on any nation it thinks might pose a future danger to America. Perle became a top advocate of war against Iraq.
The clamor to attack the Arab nation caused The Economist of London to observe that Perle, Wolfowitz and some other Bush military planners are Jewish, which raises suspicion that they might be “more concerned with protecting Israel than they are with advancing America’s national interest.” But the British journal said such fears are rooted in America’s former anti-Semitism.
Just as the Iraq war was launched, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh revealed in The New Yorker that Perle met in France with notorious Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi to discuss “the future of Iraq” and to invite another wealthy Saudi to invest in Perle’s national security firm, Trireme Partners. Khashoggi became famous in the 1980s because he helped Oliver North and other conspirators in the Reagan White House arrange illegal arms sales to Iran and use the profits to arm Contras who attacked Nicaraguans.
Meanwhile, it came to light that Global Crossing, the bankrupt telecommunications giant, hired Perle to overcome Pentagon objections to the firm’s takeover by Asian owners. Perle was paid a $125,000 fee, plus a promise of $600,000 more if he succeeded in changing the Pentagon’s view.
It was a brazen conflict of interest for a Bush insider holding a high Pentagon post to take money to influence Pentagon policy — especially since the money came from a sleaze-tainted firm. Newspapers around America raised a protest.
Also, Perle participated in a Goldman Sachs conference call advising investors how to reap war profits. The session was titled “Implications of an Imminent War: Iraq Now, North Korea Next?”
An Idaho Mountain Express columnist sneered: “Perle is a man who obviously believes in making hay while others fight the war he promoted.” Columnist Arianna Huffington commented on the Global Crossing deal:
“Perle’s windfall is coming from the coffers of a disgraced company that was among the worst of the corporate crooks. He’s lining his pockets at the expense of the 10,000 laid-off Global employees, who collectively saw $32 million in severance pay wiped out, and the shareholders, who lost $57 billion in equity when the company declared bankruptcy.”
Amid this uproar, Perle declared that he had done nothing wrong. He called Hersh “the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist.” He threatened to sue Hersh. Finally, Perle was forced to step down as chairman of the Pentagon board — but he remains a member.
This sorry mess shows how some members of the boardroom elite who are entwined in Republican politics hope to profit from the tragedy of the Iraq war. It’s a disturbing picture.
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