As you know, President Bush enjoys repeating his promise that Iraq’s oil belongs to
the Iraqi people. What he neglects to
mention, however, is that it will be American corporations which rebuild Iraq now that the
Pentagon has blown it to pieces. As a result,
Iraq’s oil will be pumped out of the ground, converted into U.S. dollars, and then
those dollars will fly right past the Iraqi people and into the pockets of American
businessmen. Now as long as those businessmen
behave themselves, there’s probably nothing wrong with this arrangement. The money, after all, is supposed to be spent
rebuilding Iraq’s demolished infrastructure. But
how much do we really trust these corporations? Care
to guess who they are?
One is Bechtel
Group, Inc. In 1998, this California-based
conglomerate tried to privatize water utilities in parts of Bolivia, even going so far as
to force the Bolivian government to forbid Bolivians to draw water from their own local
wells. This resulted in skyrocketing water
prices in a country that was already desperately poor.
The people revolted against Bechtel, and so the Bolivian government shot
hundreds of protesters in the streets to protect itself and its corporate benefactor. Bechtel eventually withdrew from Bolivia, but now
it’s suing that nation for $25 million in lost potential profits. Bechtel is also currently facing allegations that
it sold illegal weapons to Iraq during the 1980s.
Another corporation waiting in the wings to help rebuild Iraq
is Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Dick Cheney’s old company, Halliburton. In 2000, Halliburton stock took a mysterious
plunge just two months after Cheney made a cool $18 million by selling off his holdings as
a prelude to his bid for the vice-presidency. Halliburton
is currently under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for cooking its
accounting books, Enron-style, while Mr. Cheney was its top executive. In addition, Halliburton plead guilty in 1995 to
criminal charges that some of its subsidiaries sold banned equipment to Libya that could
have been used to make weapons of mass destruction. Two
other Halliburton subsidiaries are also suspected (but have not yet been convicted) of
doing the same with Iraq.
Corporation, also on the list of potential rebuilders, has been cited by the Public
Interest Research Group as being among the Top Ten repeat offenders who continue to get
fat government contracts in spite of corporate misconduct resulting in fines, penalties,
and court settlements.
Ready for the kicker? Each one of these deadbeat corporations is
currently hiding millions of dollars of taxable income in offshore tax havens. Such tax shelters are also called “shell
companies” because they aren’t real businesses; they’re just paper entities
that give real U.S. corporations an excuse to send money out of the country where it
eludes taxation. Shell companies are commonly
set up on islands in the Caribbean, so you might say that the only thing disappearing in
the Bermuda Triangle these days is taxable income.
should be illegal, of course, but it isn’t. In
fact, the Bush administration is actually protecting the tax loopholes that allow shell
companies to exist. The only man in the Bush
administration who has shown any interest in closing the loopholes was Secretary of the
Treasury Paul O’Neill, and Bush recently fired him.
Vice-president Dick Cheney is so enamored of offshore tax havens that while
he was CEO of Halliburton that company nearly quintupled the
number of shell companies it “owned” in the Atlantic. Is it any wonder that Bush, Inc. isn’t
interested in fixing this problem?
According to Arianna Huffington,
co-founder of The Bermuda Project, offshore tax havens steal over $70 billion per year
from the federal treasury, and that is almost exactly the cost of Bush’s invasion of
Iraq. Ironic, isn’t it? The very same companies that are going to make
millions from the invasion are the ones who are not paying taxes
to the government that rewards them. In fact,
several of these companies didn’t even have to bid for the work. The Bush administration merely handed out the
contracts to its favorite tax cheats. Most of
these deals were made months before the war even started.
companies are modern versions of carpetbaggers, a term which dates back to the end of the
American Civil War when thousands of northerners moved into the war-torn south claiming
that they were going to help reconstruct it. Although
some made good on that promise, many more were just crooks looking for ways to profit from
the chaos and devastation. The crooked ones
became known as carpetbaggers because they carried off their loot in suitcases called
So how can modern companies with such
nefarious histories get awarded government contracts worth billions of dollars? They pay for them, of course.
According to the Center for Responsive
Politics, the handful of corporations bidding for reconstruction contracts gave almost $3
million in campaign contributions since the 1998 elections, most of it to Republicans. Bechtel alone gave $1.3 million in that same
period of time. Isn’t it nice to be able
to insure the election of candidates who can do you favors once they’re in office?
Right now, European leaders are crying
foul that bidding for reconstruction contracts was never opened to any companies outside
the United States. This is violation of the
rules of the World Trade Organization—not to mention good judgment. These leaders are saying that the Bush
administration is turning Iraq into a U.S. protectorate.
At the same time, even those Iraqis who are grateful for the ousting of
Saddam Hussein are already urging Americans to get out of Iraq as quickly as possible. It seems that Bush could kill two birds with one
stone by allowing several European companies to share in the reconstruction process. This would certainly reduce suspicion both in
Europe and Iraq that America is stealing Iraq’s oil.
It would also reduce the need for a large American presence in the region. But Bush, Inc. is taking a pass on this golden
opportunity. It is instead clearing a direct
path between its corporate benefactors and Iraq’s oil fields.
Let it not be forgotten that Bechtel executives tried way back in
1983 to talk Saddam Hussein into letting them build an oil pipeline through Iraq. One of the men working to broker that deal was
none other than Donald Rumsfeld, who was then a special envoy to the Middle East for the
Reagan administration. These talks occurred
during the Iran-Iraq War, at the very same time Iraq’s army was using banned chemical
weapons against Iranian troops. Rumsfeld
pretended not to notice. Hussein eventually
decided against the pipeline, much to the ire of Bechtel executives, but is there really
any doubt about that pipeline’s construction now?
And is there really any doubt that Donald Rumsfeld is still working, at
least in part, on behalf of the Bechtel Corporation?
The invasion of Iraq and the plans for
its reconstruction lay bare the absolute corruption of the Bush administration in
particular and the American political system in general.
Giant corporations have purchased the allegiance of our government and are
using its vast military power to steal resources from abroad and to create new markets for
their products and services. That is fascism,
Here’s what you can do to help.
First, direct everyone you know to this
Second, support The Bermuda Project and its efforts to get
Congress to close the tax loopholes that permit American corporations to hide taxable
Third, examine this list of leading tax cheats and
boycott those companies. Be sure to also
email the execs to let them know that you’re boycotting them and to make sure they
know why you’re boycotting them.
Fourth, write your U.S. Senators and
your representative in the House and demand that they support House Bill 737, the
Corporate Patriot Enforcement Act. (If you
don’t know how to get in touch with your elected representatives, visit our Getting Started page.) Here’s a sample letter that you can tailor to
your needs or send as is. Since this message
requests a written response from your elected representatives, we recommend that you send
it in the mail rather than by email. We have
found that few lawmakers will give written responses to email but nearly all of them will
respond to a letter if specifically asked to do so.
Dear Senator (or
I am outraged to learn
that the handful of corporations bidding for lucrative reconstruction contracts in Iraq
are all guilty of exploiting loopholes in U.S. tax laws that allow them to hide millions
of dollars of taxable income in offshore tax shelters.
No American company should be able to do this, and certainly no company that
is known to be hiding taxable income should be granted contracts to do business with the
federal government. Please write to me at
your earliest opportunity to explain how it is that such bad corporate citizens as
Bechtel, Halliburton, and Fluor can be rewarded with lucrative government contracts in
spite of their refusal to pay taxes to the government that supports them and in spite of
their long histories of despicable corporate conduct.
I am also writing today
to urge you throw your full support behind the Corporate Patriot Enforcement Act, which is
an effort to shut down offshore corporate tax havens.
The Republican leadership in Congress is currently blocking this bill from
coming up for a vote. I expect you to do
everything in your power to break this bill free and get is passed through Congress.
(Your name and address)
Fifth, write to Representatives Tom
DeLay and Dennis Hastert. They’re the
Republican leaders in the House of Representatives who are refusing to allow the Corporate
Patriot Enforcement Act to come to the floor for a vote.
Why would they do such a thing? Well,
guess which companies have been financing their election campaigns? Here’s their contact information and a sample
letter you can send them.
235 Cannon House Office Building
Representative Tom DeLay
242 Cannon House Office Building
Hastert (and DeLay),
I am deeply distressed
to learn that you are preventing the Corporate Patriot Enforcement Act from coming up for
a vote in the House of Representatives. This
bill is crucial, not only because it will bring desperately needed tax revenue into the
U.S. Treasury, but also because it will restore confidence among average Americans that
our tax system is fair and that we are not being asked to shoulder a heavy tax burden
while wealthy corporations hide income right off the Atlantic coast. I expect that you will remedy this situation
immediately by allowing the Corporate Patriot Enforcement Act to come to the floor of the
House for an open debate and a fair vote.
(Your name and address)
Sixth, help to free our political system
from the corrupting influence of corporate campaign contributions by supporting the public
financing of all American elections. Find out
how at our Clean Elections page.
to our free email newsletter.