Haliburton, et. al is the real threat

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Some months back the Dixie Chicks were vilified for undermining the war effort after singer Natalie Means, playing to the anti-war sympathies of her British audience, said she was ashamed the president of the United States came from her home state of Texas.

In less than 24 hours rednecks were tossing Dixie Chick CDs into bonfires and running them over with bulldozers, and spineless, pandering radio stations were banning the group’s music from the airwaves.

This week, news that politically connected Halliburton, once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, probably overcharged the government to the tune $61 million for fuel in Iraq and even more than that for cafeteria services brought a decidedly less visceral reaction from the heartland.

Email newsletter signup

There was a time in the United States – way back in the 20th century – when war profiteering was considered on a par with treason. A business could be shut down and the greedy, unpatriotic owner jailed for charging a dime too much for sugar. Apparently that’s no longer the case.

But, of course, these are different times, this is a different war. This is a war without sacrifice on the home front. There’s plenty of sacrifice on the part of the brave boys and girls who are participating in Operation Sitting Duck, as one columnist recently referred to it – dodging bullets and suicide bombers in a 130-degree hellhole so that Halliburton can line in its pockets.

Back home, instead of having scrap drives, rationing food and planting victory gardens, we’re cutting taxes for the obscenely wealthy, passing sweetheart legislation for powerful pharmaceutical companies to continue to gouge taxpayers and granting billions in tax breaks for the biggest polluters on the planet.

Who do you think harmed the U.S. war effort more – the Dixie Chicks or Halliburton? The nearly $130 million Halliburton is &uot;alleged&uot; to have bilked so far from the U.S. Taxpayers could have been used to pay the troops more, provide them with more, needed supplies, or used to buy off some other country to send troops to help out so Americans could stop dying in Iraq.

Yet, as I watched Fox News most of the evening on Thursday not once did I hear Sean Hannity say that Halliburton should be boycotted, nor did I see a single &uot;fair and balanced&uot; film clip of an anti-Halliburton rally in some backwater Tennessee town. Strange.

That Halliburton is behaving immorally, and working against the best interests of our troops is hardly surprising (in addition to overcharging, inspections of the cafeteria services Halliburton operates in Iraq found our troops often having to eat spoiled food in filthy conditions). Off the top of my head there’s Enron, the mutual fund scandal, corporations setting up phantom P.O. box headquarters overseas to avoid paying their fair share of taxes and Wal-Mart using illegal aliens to clean its stores…are you sensing a pattern? Why should we expect anything less than the most contemptible possible behavior from Halliburton, which was granted a contract without bidding? Anything less, seemingly, would be un-American.

Politicians talk a lot about &uot;values,&uot; and &uot;morality,&uot; talk I used to dismiss as mere pandering and an easy way to inflame emotions and curry favor while doing nothing to actually address the problems facing the country. But thanks to Halliburton, et. al., I’ve changed my mind. We certainly face a moral crisis in this country, but it lays more at the feet of Halliburton, Enron and their ilk than it does in Hollywood or the music industry.

The president said Friday that if the Defense Department’s audit proves Halliburton overcharged American taxpayers, he’ll expect the money to be paid back. Despite that being about as likely as the Dixie Chicks performing at the president’s next inauguration, at least it’s a start.

As for the Dixie Chicks, they were way out of line and the criticism they received was not undeserved. But at least they apologized for it. Halliburton never will.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611 or via e-mail at andy.prutsok@suffolknewsherald.com.