Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
How a Well-Connected
Texas Oil Company Revolutionized the Way America Makes War
By Pratap Chatterjee,
A Book Review By Jim
Nation Books, New York, 2009.
ccun.org, July 3, 2009
This is a book the Halliburton/KBR can live with. It airs
out their dirty laundry: the bribes, kickbacks, the inefficient work,
the near slave labour conditions of its subcontracted employees, the deaths
from insurgent attacks and electrocution, massive overcharging on its
invoices, poor record-keeping, and other serious allegations. Yet for
all that, the huge corporate profits taken in by Halliburton/KBR seem to
reduce this to the cost of doing business, a business that now extends well
into the future with the widening of the war into destabilizing Pakistan and
Halliburton’s Army is a well-written record in three
parts. The first covers the histories of Rumsfield and Cheney and
their many interlocking pathways through politics, the White House, and big
business, in particular in this case, Halliburton. The second part
generally takes a historically sequenced run through the many complaints,
allegations, and lawsuits that have accompanied Halliburton’s work through
the Middle East and elsewhere (Nigeria, Bosnia). The final section
turns more towards the people who acted as whistle-blowers and the efforts
towards investigation and punishment.
While much of the detail I
read is new information and much of it is surprising in its individual case
description, none of it overwhelmed me or made me want to call out in
protest. It somehow just seems so typically “American” that a large
company should attempt to maximize its profits at the expense of the
taxpayer by using the national government and its associated institutions to
make a lot of money.
As for the investigation and punishment,
there is obviously something lacking there, a real drive to change or
correct behaviours that benefit some people at the expense of many.
Many lawsuits have been taken or are in progress against Halliburton and
while costly in terms of what the average person thinks of as large sums of
money, they appear to be taken in stride by Halliburton as another part of
Congress does hold its investigations, but there is
nothing here to indicate that they really want to change the course of
events by taking on Halliburton and kicking them out of their huge contracts
with the Pentagon. Certainly the Pentagon will keep them on as they
could care less about the dollars spent as long as their system continues to
operate – the Pentagon has never worried about the tax-payers dollar other
than to keep it flowing through their offices to support their military
Advocacy and Context
Most of the
lawsuits and criminal investigations appear to be ‘small fry’ in relation to
the size and power of the corporation itself. Congress has not taken
on the big chiefs, the Pentagon appears pleased with the status quo, and no
individual lawsuit appears to have gone against the corporate bosses
themselves – the latter demonstrating why corporations are set up in the
first place as a means of legally obfuscating and dissimulating (obscuring
and concealing) the personnel involved…and then continuing with business as
usual as long as they can get away with it.
This is where
Chatterjee reaches his limit. He is obviously against the machinations
of Halliburton, and the book is a record of its many indiscretions.
The personal stories of individuals ‘betrayed’ by the corporation are heart
wrenching and perhaps that is the best place to leave the record. Yet
at the same time I can’t help but wonder if there would be some way the book
could serve as more of an advocate against what is happening.
I receive no sense that perhaps the war itself is wrong, or that Congress
could be doing much more to investigate and stop the incredible tax payer
rip off, or that the rules and regulations that affect corporate U.S.A. need
to be changed. Halliburton exists within a wider context of
corporate-military-political alliances. Halliburton’s Army takes a
narrow perspective, focussing on the one company and the few individuals
involved and does a good job of that. I would have liked to read more
about Chatterjee's concepts of the broader context, of the broader liaisons
with the military and politicians.
Perhaps though, a record of
Halliburton’s failings is sufficient at the moment, a record to be looked
back on in another year or two in order to see if Obama has really changed
the way the U.S. works or if, as it is becoming more apparent as time
passes, that he is just another cog in the wheels of a government that
prizes its corporate entanglements.
is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces
and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle. Miles’ work is also
presented globally through other alternative websites and news publications.