A sordid tale of politics and profiteering, courtesy of the Bush administration and a compliant military.
The Halliburton Corporation, of which Dick Cheney was chief executive before becoming Bush’s vice president, is estimated to have provided more than 720 million meals to American service personnel, driven 400 million miles of convoy missions and made many billions of dollars for its work as the Pentagon’s principal subcontractor. This relationship was born when Cheney, as secretary of defense for George H.W. Bush, came up with a creative-accounting way to comply with a congressional mandate to trim the military budget and privatize a big chunk of the war machine. Whereas during the First Gulf War there was one civilian contractor for every 100 soldiers, writes investigative journalist Chatterjee (Iraq, Inc., 2004), the ratio is now nearly one to one. If Cheney’s maneuvering sounds a little conflict-of-interest–laden, it seems to have bothered no one in Washington until late in the prosecution of the Iraq War. Said one Pentagon whistleblower of the tainted procurement process, no-bid contracting and billions of dollars lost (and billions more earned fraudulently through various schemes), “the interest of a corporation…not the interests of American soldiers or American taxpayers, seemed to be paramount.” Chatterjee documents the malfeasance down to the penny; the book is data-rich and heavily footnoted, to the extent that it reads more like a treatise than a work of narrative journalism. Yet Chatterjee tells intriguing stories alongside the compendia of numbers, dates and names. He documents, without much commentary, some of the ironies that emerge in the Halliburton story, among them Cheney’s machinations to keep Iran open for Halliburton business while loudly putting sanctions in place—and claiming that the Iran hanky-panky was legal because it was conducted “by a foreign-owned subsidiary based in the Cayman Islands.”
A report that deserves many readers, about matters that deserve many indictments.