The Spoils of War:
The Bush Wars

By Michelle Mairesse

     Weeks before the Bush administration let slip the dogs of war in Iraq, grubbing for the spoils of war had already begun in Washington.

     The evidence appeared in a leaked 99-page document from the US Agency for International Development. Usually, USAID posts contracts on the Internet for open bidding, but this plan, "The Vision of Post Conflict Iraq," went secretly to only five American companies who were invited to submit bids for the largest reconstruction effort since the end of World War II. The fortunate five were: Bechtel Group Incorporated, Fluor Corporation, Halliburton Company, Louis Berger Group Incorporated, and Parsons Corporation.

    The very-well-connected favored five who got the nod from USAID were deeply entrenched in government, and their political contributions totaled among them $52.8 million, 68% to Republicans.

  • Fluor contributed more than $483,000. Fluor's vice president of strategy and government services served as the acting assistant secretary of the Army, where he directed its $35 billion-a-year procurement budget. We can assume he picked up a few pointers.

  • Bechtel contributed $1.3 million between 1999 and 2002. Bechtel had employed a former Defense Secretary, a former Secretary of State, and a former CIA Director. Bechtel faced allegations that it was one of the 24 companies that illegally sold weapons to Iraq during the '80s, but the Justice Department yawned.

  • Kellogg, Brown & Root and parent company Halliburton, headed by Dick Cheney, gave more than $709,000 to our unbribable politicians, presumably as a token of affection. Halliburton contributed $17,677 to Bush's presidential campaign. Halliburton paid Cheney $1 million a year in deferred fees (part of his $20 million retirement bonus), but Cheney insisted that he had no conflict of interest when he became Vice President, refusing to release minutes from his meetings with energy company executives, including those from Enron. Although the Securities and Exchange Commission conducted an ongoing investigation of Halliburton's shady dealings, and there were allegations of questionable dealings with Iran (like Bechtel's with Iraq), the firm remains on the USAID's contractors list.

    USAID offered $900 million in government agency contracts for reconstruction of Iraqi roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, power grids, water systems and civic services in "Post Conflict Iraq."

     Some Americans murmured that we could use some of those services here at home, where we endure pot-holed roads, tottering bridges, overcrowded schools and hospitals, inefficient power grids, polluted water systems and civic services wrecked by unregulated privatization and cronyism.

     The London Times (3/6/03) complained that the USAID document and others like it indicated that "America has been planning a war regardless of international opinion," and that only American companies would be the beneficiaries. Quite right. Bush administration chickenhawks had planned to attack Iraq since 1997.

     As for the Times' complaint about favoritism, administration spokespersons brushed aside such complaints by invoking the "urgent circumstances" clause in government procurement procedures plus the wartime requirement of Pentagon security clearance, which the five American companies had already secured.

     The Securities and Exchange Commission investigated Halliburton's shady operations and allegations of questionable dealings with Iran (like Bechtel's with Iraq), but the firm remains on the USAID's contractors list.

    The leaked USAID plan stirred up consternation in Great Britain. Although British troops were slated to share dangers with American troops in the event of war, the spoils of war appeared to be moving into the American sector. Even as the five American construction behemoths submitted their bids, British Petroleum and Shell were pressuring their government to nail down exploration rights in postwar Iraq. Control of Iraq would mean control of the world's second largest oil reserves, where of 70 proven fields, only 15 had been developed. Both British companies were on record as favoring a production-sharing contract splitting oil revenues between Iraq and the international companies that would develop the fields. In the end, they prevailed.

     Serving under General (Viceroy?) Tommy Franks, retired Lt. General Jay Garner headed the new Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance.

     Hussein Ibish (Los Angeles Times, April 4, 2003) strongly disapproved of Garner and his 23 ministries, each headed by an American with Iraqi advisors.

"Most disturbing is the role apparently planned for Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, a U.S.-created opposition group based in London with no visible presence or support in Iraq. He is extremely popular with the neoconservatives in and around the administration, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.

    "In the Middle East, however, Chalabi is also known for swindling tens of millions of dollars from a bank he headed in Jordan. In April 1992, he was sentenced in absentia to 22 years' hard labor on 31 charges of embezzlement, theft, misuse of depositor funds and speculation with the Jordanian dinar. For many months this man has been demanding that Washington appoint him prime minister of Iraq. It is cold comfort indeed to learn that he will be Garner's 'advisor' at a ministry of finance."

    [From March 2000 to September 2003, the U.S. State Department paid nearly $33 million to the Iraqi National Congress, according to a General Accounting Office report released in 2004. Subsequently, Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress was paid about $335,000 per month by the Defense Intelligence Agency until 28 May 2004. After several more adventures in Middle East countries, Chalabi defected to Iran, allegedly carrying strategic intelligence.]

     Chickenhawks boasted about setting aside petroleum profits for the Iraqi people, but the Favored Five were reportedly offered $1.5 billion by USAID, while non-profit groups (such as CARE, Save the Children, and Oxfam), the multilateral organizations that have proved their worth in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, and southern Africa, were allocated only $50 million. These do-gooder groups just don't get it. Chickenhawks have only contempt for people who work for nothing. Chickenhawks are deferential to God but worship Mammon.

     After all, Lewis Berger Group was already at work reconstructing Afghanistan, and Halliburton (through its subsidiary Brown and Root) was already on the ground in Turkey and Kuwait servicing US troops to the tune of close to a billion dollars. (Brown and Root also supported army operations in Afghanistan, Djibouti, Georgia, Jordan, and Uzbekistan.)

     After receiving open bids for smaller contracts, on March 24, USAID officially awarded Stevedoring Services of America a $4.8 million contract to reopen and operate Iran's only deep-water port at embattled Umm al Qasr. A much more lucrative contract, initially worth an estimated $600 million was scheduled to a firm capable of rebuilding bridges, roads, hospitals, and water-treatment plants. Representative Maxine Waters commented, "I think there's a serious irony in the administration letting contracts to rebuild bridges that they haven't bombed yet."

    The Bush Administration pretended that Saddam Hussein threatened the world with his stock of biological weapons. After the Bush-Cheney administration's clumsy lies were exposed, prominent figures chimed in. In 2007, Foreign Policy in Focus quoted the memoir of Alan Greenspan, former chair of the Federal Reserve. Greenspan declared that "the Iraq war is largely about oil." FpiF also quoted Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, who was to become Defense Secretary in the Bush Administration. "People say we're not fighting for oil. Of course we are. "They talk about America's national interest. What the hell do you think they're talking about? We're not there for figs."

    Bush Administration officials reassured Congress. The war would be swift and inflict few casualties; in fact, the war would pay for itself. Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz said that within the next two or three years, Iraq's oil revenues would bring in 2 to 3 billion dollars, enough to rebuild the country and establish democracy.

      The Chicago Tribune (March 20, 2003) felt betrayed by Republicans, who have always claimed to be the party of fiscal responsibility. The Tribune calculated that the tab for invading Iraq could exceed $100 billion, a sum more than the annual budget for the departments of Energy, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Interior and Justice combined, a sum that did not include the expenses of reconstruction. In a decade, the total cost could be over $600 billion.

    Sadly, that estimate was not even close. According to Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies, the war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion through fiscal year 2013. Future costs for veterans' care increases the total to $2.2 trillion, and interest on the national debt through 2053 brings the total to $3.9 trillion.

    Even more outrageous, when officials posted their cost predictions, the number of casualties were never even considered. Now, although methods for gathering statistics vary, the results are uniformly horrifying.

    Despite its inadequate assessment and coverage of George W. Bush's and Dick Cheney's great incursion, the New York Times is sadder and slightly wiser a decade after the invasion.

"Ten years after it began, the Iraq war still haunts the United States in the nearly 4,500 troops who died there, the more than 30,00 American wounded who have come home, the more than $2 trillion spent on combat operations and reconstruction, which inflated the deficit, and in the lessons learned about the limits of American leadership and power.

"It haunts Iraq too, where the total number of casualties is believed to have surpassed 100,000 but has never officially determined, and where one strongman was traded for another, albeit under a more pluralistic system with a democratic veneer." Source

    In a March 2013 CNN opinion piece, Antonia Juhasz concludes that the main goal of the Iraq War was to shrink Iraq's fully nationalized oil company and allow previously banned foreign firms to control Iraq's petroleum. She concludes that ten years after the invasion, Iraq's petroleum industry is largely privatized and utterly dominated by foreign firms. "Yes, the Iraq War was a war for oil, and it was a war with winners: Big Oil." Source

   The invasion did not establish democracy. It was not cheap or swift. Today in Iraq, there is barely a functioning alliance, much less a democracy. Before the invasion, Iraq had been the most advanced of the Arab states, with the best-educated population. Though surrounded by desert, it is blessed with water. Iraq is the keystone to southeast Asia, and, as Bush senior pointed out, sits on all that oil.

   Before the 2003 invasion, the nationally owned oil and gas industry was closed to Western companies. Since privatization was imposed, Iraq's oil industry has produced three million barrels a day and shipped out 80%. Today, the Iraqis struggle to afford basic services like water and electricity. The privatized oil and gas sectors import their workers, so by the third year of the occupation, the unemployment rate in Iraq was 60%.

    Greg Palast's excellent Armed Madhouse describes how the World Bank, in coordination with the International Monetary Fund couldn't wait to advise Iraq "to accept the free-market shock-and-awe nostrums of 'food and fuel subsidy reform to pension and payroll reform.' 'Reform' is IMF-speak for 'cut.' Cut food subsidies, cut fuel, cut pensions, cut payrolls. All in the midst of an economic depression."

   Now, in Vulture's Picnic: In pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates, and High-Finance Carnivores, Palast completes the package and ties a bow on it. "It's the old two-step. First, a country is crippled by super-state war games. Vultures race to the carcass. Step Two: The big 'donor' nations offer themselves as saviors with loans--payable in crude. The Vultures, therefore, are welcome scavengers to the oil elite, a critical part of the carnivorous food cycle of the Energy-Finance Combine, where debt collection, arm-twisting and resource confiscation go hand in hand, claw in claw."

   By this time, Americans should have learned to be leery of our government's motives. After all, the Bush administration justified invading Iraq by promising to rid the world of Saddam Hussein's non-existent biological weapons. The lie that launched the longest war in our history was designed to provoke fear.

   Citizens for Legitimate Government, a multi-partisan activist group established to expose and resist US imperialism, corpora-terrorism, and the New World Order, has a fine record for questioning our government's means, motives, and opportunities. Here is an example:

"US orders citizens to leave Yemen 06 Aug 2013. The US State Department has ordered citizens and non-emergency government staff to leave Yemen 'immediately' due to security threats. It comes after the sudden closure of 20 US embassies and consulates on Sunday. This was prompted by intercepted conversations between two senior al-Qaeda figures, including top leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, US media said."

   Really? This terrorist has been declared dead repeatedly. CLG continues:

"Al-Zawahiri is back from the dead, issuing new 'al-Qaeda' terror threats --You just can't keep a good terrorist down (or dead) for long, when the NSA's public relations department is in serious trouble!"

    Lori Price says:
"Five (or seven) years after his death, the ever-useful Ayman al-Zawahiri is baack, issuing new 'al-Qaeda' terror alerts! These new round of terror alerts issued by the Obama administration will provide cover for the next big, fat false flag which, in turn, will provide cover for the illegal surveillance activities of the NSA, CIA, FBI, and -- as we just learned -- the DEA."

   Thanks, CLG. Hmmm. Do you think there is oil in Yemen?


4/9/2017: Trump's spoils of war

9/30/2016: Oil: the spoils of war

6/16/2016: Senators keep military cost secret

12/4/2015: "Defense" corporations love war

12/4/2015: Warmongers love Mid-East wars

8/29/2014: The Iraq War Was a Smashing Success

8/30/2013 Corporations Making Money on Egyptian Militarism

6/11/2008: Exposing Pentagon and CIA Corruption

8/3/2011: Wars In 70 Countries Worldwide

2/3/2011: Egypt's Democratic Uprising Exposes the U.S. Corporate Welfare Scheme of Military 'Foreign Aid'

2/7/05: Bush Pays Halliburton for Services Never Rendered

Lawsuit decries Fluor's apartheid past

4/4/03: U.S. Fumbling Postwar Plan

4/1/03: The perception that Halliburton had too big an inside edge forced it to abstain

3/30/03: Allies Row over Rebuilding Iraq

3/28/03: UN refuses subcontractor role

3/28/03: Britain complains about Bush's favoritism scam

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