The Islamic Post Blog

Book Review: Halliburton’s Army by Khalida
May 21, 2009, 5:41 am
Filed under: International, May Volume I - 2009, World

On September 10, 2001, precisely one day before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told senior staff that the Pentagon was wasting $3 billion a year by not outsourcing many non-combat duties to the private sector. “At bases around the world, why do we pick up our own garbage and mop our own floors?” he asked. Soon after, this fortuitously-timed shift in the way the military wages war would bring immense profits to Texas-based military contractor Halliburton, an oil industry service company whose former CEO was former Vice President Dick Cheney. Armed with lucrative no-bid contracts, Halliburton/KBR, its affiliates, and sub-contractors would soon provide most of the infrastructure that supports the war in Iraq. But, ultimately, the company would face allegations of corruption, negligence, fraud, and corporate crime.
In the new book entitled, Halliburton’s Army: How a Well-Connected Texas Oil Company Revolutionized the Way America Makes War (Nation Books; February 9, 2009; $26.95), journalist Pratap Chatterjee conducts a highly detailed investigation into Halliburton and its former subsidiary KBR’s activities in Kuwait and Iraq, uncovering much new information about its questionable practices and extraordinary profits.
“The rewards and punishments of Cheney and Rumsfeld’s revolution in military affairs have been profound,” Chatterjee writes, “not least for the soldiers who are now supplied with hot food and showers around the clock. For the Pentagon generals, it has meant that they can do far more with far fewer soldiers….Accompanying this new industry is the potential for bribery, corruption, and fraud. Dozens of Halliburton/KBR workers and their subcontractors have already been arrested and charged, and several are already serving jail terms for stealing millions of dollars….The bulk of workers, however, will not see anything close to that, as the pay for Asian workers probably averages $1000 a month…. These men and women make up Halliburton’s Army, which employs enough people to staff one hundred battalions, a total of more than fifty thousand personnel who work for KBR under a contract that is now projected to reach $150 billion. Together with the workers who are rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure and the private security divisions of companies like Blackwater, Halliburton’s Army now outnumbers the uniformed soldiers on the ground in Iraq.”
An extensive interview with the books author, Pratap Chatterjee, was quite revealing. The following are exerpts from the original interview conducted by Mike Shea that appeared in Texas Monthly.
What first attracted you to Halliburton as a book-worthy topic? […]I realized Halliburton is about transforming the way the U.S. goes to war in the twenty-first century. Halliburton’s job is to make soldiers as comfortable as possible by doing all the dirty work—erecting tents, cooking food, cleaning toilets—so that they go to war without the hardship that previous soldiers faced. Today a soldier is more likely to put on weight than to return looking gaunt and famished.
Is this Halliburton-serviced military an improvement on the traditional model? In many ways, yes. In the book, I quote Major Tim Horton [at Camp Anaconda, in Iraq]. He points out that if the average soldier gets $100,000 worth of training, then the military has to spend another $100,000 to train every replacement soldier. “What if we spend an extra $6,000 to get them to stay and save the loss of talent?” he says. “There are some creature comforts in this Wal-Mart and McDonald’s society we live in that soldiers have come to expect. They expect to play an XBox, to keep in touch by e-mail. They expect to eat a variety of foods . . . Our soldiers need to feel and believe that we care about them, or they will leave.
How important was Dick Cheney’s tenure as CEO to Halliburton’s monopolization of the government services industry during the Bush administration? Everything and nothing. The correct short answer is that he had really very little to do with hiring the company, in my opinion, but the longer answer is that his job at Halliburton can be seen in the context of the revolving door between high-level government officials and the military oligopolies whose sole client is the Pentagon.
Your publisher calls the book “a devastating bestiary of corporate malfeasance and political cronyism.” Is that PR hyperbole or is Halliburton’s history truly that odious? Every one of Halliburton’s senior managers is ex-government, often from the very department that they are now providing outside contractor services to.
What does the future hold for Halliburton: growth or scandalous Enron-like collapse? Halliburton and KBR are now separate companies, after KBR was spun off completely in 2007. Halliburton, which became a pure energy services company, was doing phenomenally well —notably well for a company that went through bankruptcy.


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