Originally published at Digital Journal
A 5-year-old video has emerged of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) accusing former vice president Dick Cheney of pushing for an invasion of Iraq because it would benefit Halliburton, where he was previously CEO.
Mother Jones reports Paul, a libertarian widely considered to be the very early frontrunner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, made his eyebrow-raising remarks during a 2009 address at Western Kentucky University.
Citing President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1961 farewell address, in which he warned about the perils of “the disastrous rise of misplaced power” of what he termed the “military-industrial complex,” Paul said “we need to be fearful of companies that get so big that they can actually be directing policy.”
“When the Iraq war started, Halliburton got a billion dollar, no-bid contract,” Paul continued. “Some of the stuff has been so shoddy and so sloppy that our soldiers are over there dying in the shower from electrocution.”
Paul then accused Cheney of using 9/11 as an excuse to start a war in Iraq for Halliburton’s benefit:
There’s a great YouTube of Dick Cheney in 1995 defending Bush Number One [and his decision not to invade Baghdad during the first Iraq war], and he goes on and on for five minutes… He says [overthrowing Saddam Hussein] would be a disaster, it would be vastly expensive, it would be civil war, we would have no exit strategy… And that’s why the first Bush didn’t go into Baghdad. Dick Cheney then goes to work for Halliburton. Makes hundreds of millions of dollars [as] their CEO. Next thing you know, he’s back in government and it’s a good idea to go into Iraq.
The day after 9/11, [CIA director] George Tenet is going in the White House and [Pentagon adviser and Cheney ally] Richard Perle is coming out of the White House… The first thing that Richard Perle says to him on the way out is, “We’ve got it, now we can go into Iraq.” And George Tenet, who supposedly knows as much intelligence as anyone in the White House, says, “Well, don’t we need to know they have some connection to 9/11?” And Perle says, “It doesn’t matter.” It became an excuse for a war they already wanted in Iraq.
Former Bush treasury secretary Paul O’Neill has accused Bush of being practically obsessed with overthrowing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein ever since he took office in early 2001.
“From the very first instance, it was about Iraq,” O’Neill told CBS 60 Minutes back in 2004. “It was about what we can do to change this regime… It was all about finding a way to do it.”
Cheney, Perle, former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other leading hawkish conservatives were members of Project for a New American Century (PNAC), a neoconservative group that unapologetically advocates for aggressive, militant US foreign policy. PNAC’s most influential publication, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” was published in 2000, a full year before 9/11, and advocates regime change in Iraq and a permanent US military presence in the Middle East.
While former Carter national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski famously noted that “democracy is inimical to imperial mobilization,” most neoconservatives yearned for a significant expansion of America’s already unrivaled power, with some leading neoconservatives even openly wishing for a calamitous event to befall the nation to awaken the proverbial sleeping giant. Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute wrote in 1999 that:
We can always get lucky. Stunning events from outside can providentially awaken the enterprise from its growing torpor, and demonstrate the need for reversal, as the devastating Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 so effectively aroused the US.
On September 11, President George W. Bush declared, “the Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today.”
After the United States invaded Iraq and destroyed much of its infrastructure, Halliburton and its subsidiaries were granted massive contracts, often without any competing bidders, to rebuild much of the nation’s oil infrastructure and provide other services. KBR, a former Halliburton subsidiary, has been awarded at least $39.5 billion in Iraq contracts by the US government, according to the Financial Times.
Halliburton, which had been teetering on the brink of bankruptcy on the eve of 9/11, saw its stock price soar from $19 on September 10, 2001 to $83 in May 2006 before settling down in the $60 range today. But Halliburton made much of its profit by overcharging the government for fuel and other contracted goods and services, including a 2005 Super Bowl party meant for US troops that never happened as planned because Halliburton employees “borrowed” the food and widescreen TV and threw themselves a bash.
KBR hired workers with little or no experience to install electrical infrastructure in US troops’ barracks in Iraq. Experienced electricians who objected were dismissed. At least 18 US troops were electrocuted to death, many while showering, as a result.
KBR also knowingly exposed US troops to the carcinogenic chemical hexavalent chromium. The company, which had received a massive no-bid contract, failed to warn troops that they were being exposed to deadly chemicals at the water plant they were guarding. At least three US troops stationed there have died of cancer, with others suffering from various other ailments. Despite its shocking actions, KBR was awarded a $2.8 billion contract for additional Iraq support work by the Obama administration in 2010.
Additionally, KBR exploited human trafficking victims for cheap labor.
When progressive Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Cheney got into an argument on the Senate floor over Halliburton’s no-bid contracts and other controversial practices, Cheney infamously spat back, “Go fuck yourself.”
And finally, back when Cheney was still CEO at Halliburton, the company profited from a $73 million deal with Saddam Hussein to rebuild Iraqi oilfields destroyed as a result of the 1991 US-led invasion of Iraq, which was largely directed by then-defense secretary Dick Cheney.