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The Price of Freedom in Iraq

Watchdog Group Calls for Senate Investigation of War Profiteering

Special to the Chronicle

On August 12, the New York-based World Policy Institute released a report, "New Numbers: The Price of Freedom in Iraq and Power in Washington." It raises questions about insider-dealing and potential conflicts-of-interest in the Bush administration's privatized approach to rebuilding Iraq.

"Unfortunately, when it comes to rebuilding Iraq, the Bush administration has been ethically challenged and politically tone-deaf," notes William D. Hartung, the director of the Institute's arms project and a co-author of the new report. "When the first major contract went to Dick Cheney's former firm, Halliburton, in a secret, no-bid deal; and the second major contract went from the U.S. Agency for International Development to Bechtel, a firm that USAID chief Andrew Natsios used to work for, it was painfully clear that the 'fix is in' when it comes to deciding who gets contracts for the rebuilding of Iraq."

The report goes into significant detail about how companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Alliant Techsystems, Halliburton, Bechtel, and Dyncorp have profited from the war in Iraq and the subsequent rebuilding process, and documents the personal and financial links between these firms and the Bush administration.

"The military-industrial complex is alive and well and thriving in George W. Bush's Washington," charges Hartung, who is at work on a book about war profiteering by Bush's inner circle, tentatively entitled, How Much Are You Making on the War, Daddy? (forthcoming, Nation/Thunder's Mouth books, January 2004).

President Eisenhower spoke of the dangers of "undue influence, whether sought or unsought,' exerted by the military-industrial complex. Under the Bush/Rove regime, that influence, the report shows. is clearly being sought. It cites as examples the President's use of an aircraft carrier to stage a campaign-style "Top Gun" landing to mark the "cessation of hostilities" in Iraq, and his speech the next day at United Defense, a major weapons maker that is owned by the Carlyle Group, an investment firm that keeps the President's father, George Herbert Walker Bush, on its payroll.

"If President Eisenhower were with us today, he would be suffering his own case of 'shock and awe' over the lengths this administration is willing to go to in using the military-industrial complex as a political tool to help its friends and grease the path towards its re-election," Hartung said.

After outlining the conflicts-of-interest evident in the Bush administration's prosecution of the war in Iraq and the subsequent rebuilding effort, the Institute report calls for Congressional action in a number of key areas:

Transparency and accountability: The report calls for a Senate Investigation on war profiteering comparable to the one that Harry Truman conducted at the height of US involvement in World War II, and legislation should be passed requiring all rebuilding contracts for Iraq to be subject to an open bidding process, unless the President can provide persuasive evidence of an emergency that precludes going through normal competitive processes;

Curbs on profiteering: The report calls for all contracts for the rebuilding of Iraq to be on a limited-profit basis, not the open-ended, cost-plus deals that Halliburton and other key U.S. contractors have received thus far;

Preserve Iraq's resources for the Iraqi people: Rebuilding contracts should be short-term, the report says, so as not to pre-empt the ability of a future democratic government in Iraq to make its own choices about how the country's resources should be developed;

Put the political money/favor machine on hold: To avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, the report says President Bush and all of his challengers should take a pledge that they will not accept campaign contributions from companies that have profited from the war in Iraq, or the subsequent rebuilding effort.

To obtain a copy of the full "New Numbers: The Price of Freedom in Iraq and Power in Washington" report, just click here.

The Arms Trade Resource Center was established in 1993 to engage in public education and policy advocacy aimed at promoting restraint in the international arms trade.

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This story was published on August 15, 2003.
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