Moral Low Ground


Murder, Rape, Torture, Forced Labor all Part of Cheney’s Halliburton Legacy



Nigerian prosecutors have announced they will file criminal charges and an international arrest warrant for Dick Cheney in connection with a $180 million bribery scandal when he was CEO of oil services giant Halliburton. Although Cheney may never actually face justice in Nigeria, the Interpol arrest warrant assures that the former vice president may have to look over his shoulder wherever he goes for the rest of his life.

While this case—in which Cheney’s Halliburton and its former subsidiary KBR allegedly paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to secure a huge chunk of a $6 billion liquefied natural gas project—is a whopper, it still pales in comparison to some of the other international crimes that Cheney and his former company have committed in the name of business as usual.

“The good Lord didn’t see fit to put oil and gas only where there are democratically elected regimes friendly to the United States,” Cheney once explained as he defended Halliburton’s common practice of doing business with monsters and madmen around the globe. “We go where the business is,” he asserted. When the business was in Burma, governed by what is arguably the world’s most repressive military regime, Cheney’s Halliburton was part of a consortium (which included Unocal and various foreign firms like the French oil giant Total) that built a pipeline there. This, despite US sanctions against the Burmese junta that prohibit investment there.

Horrific atrocities were committed by the Burmese military as the pipeline was laid. Thousands of villagers were forced to work on the project, many more were forced to leave their homes to make way for the pipeline, and large numbers were tortured, raped and murdered by corporate security forces. Halliburton and the other companies knew all about this but did nothing except carry on with the project.

Cheney also had no problem with laying a pipeline through Turkmenistan, home of the world’s fifth largest natural gas reserves, despite the country’s then (and still) abysmal human rights record. At the time, the country was ruled by President For Life Saparmurat Niyazov, who ruled with an iron fist until his death in 2006. “Elected” by 99.9% of the country’s voters, he became one of the world’s most oppressive dictators.

Niyazov siphoned off billions of dollars in proceeds from Turkmenistan’s immense oil and natural gas wealth to construct sprawling palaces, waterfalls and over 10,000 statues of himself, many of them made of gold. His cult of personality knew no limits. Niyazov named a town and a meteor after himself; he even renamed the month of January in his name. He was known for his brutality—there were show trials reminiscent of 1930s Stalinist Russia, and the murder and torture of political dissidents was all too common. At the time of his death there were some 20,000 political prisoners behind bars.

He was also known for the bizarre. He closed all of the hospitals outside of the capital city, resulting in many deaths, while scrapping the Hippocratic oath. Doctors were forced to swear loyalty to Niyavoz instead. Among the many things forbidden by this mad dictator: gold teeth, the opera, ballet and lip-synching. His influence even permeated the spiritual lives of his subjects, as he penned a “Book of the Soul” that was not only required reading but elevated to equal stature with the Koran and the Bible. When one prominent Islamic cleric objected, Niyazov sentenced him to 23 years imprisonment.

None of this seemed to matter much to the United States or to Dick Cheney’s Halliburton. All that mattered was all that pipeline and all that gas.

In Nigeria, Halliburton, Chevron, Shell and others are responsible for an environmental and human rights disaster of breathtaking scope. Nigerian security forces executed many people who’ve spoken out against the oil companies and dealt harshly with many more. Cheney’s response to these crimes against humanity was to increase Halliburton’s operations in the region.

Halliburton and its subsidiaries have also violated US sanctions by doing business in Libya and Iran (to whom Halliburton sold nuclear technology), and Cheney and company enriched Saddam Hussein to the tune of a billion dollars by helping the Iraqi dictator illegally export oil, skirting UN sanctions. Cheney personally made millions from these dubious dealings; when he left Halliburton to run for vice president he received a retirement package worth a whopping $34 million. His allegiance was seemingly not to the United States and its stated policies, but rather to maximizing his and his company’s profits. Cheney’s Halliburton was even willing to do business with the Taliban.

Yet Dick Cheney remains a hero to millions of conservative Americans. Despite his appalling and decidedly anti-American actions, the God-Guns-and-Country folks will tell you with a straight face that Cheney is eminently more patriotic and more of an American than Barack Obama will ever be. Even when presented with the facts above, Cheney loyalists will sputteringly scramble to defend their hero.

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One Comment

  1. J DDecember 16, 2011 at 5:34 pmReply

    If you think that is bad, you ain’t heard nothing yet…how about Cheney’s part via Halliburton in crimes against humanity in the U.S. via illegal defense contracts, hiring and helping felons use mobster tactics, terrorization and torture against their ex-wives and children with the help of corrupt gov’t agencies and politicians on the dole from Halliburton and big Pharm…just for starters.

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