Lately, the waste, fraud and corruption of Halliburton has been getting a lot of attention. Yet the underlying lesson has yet to be learned.
The involvement of Halliburton and it’s infamous subsidiary KB&R in the Iraq war and it’s aftermath are generally public knowledge. We’ve know for years about their incompetence, like their attempts to provide unfiltered sewage-contaminated water to troops as drinking water. Their defense? No formal standards were set out for contractors that explicitly mandated effective water purification. They saw a corner they could cut and they cut it.
At the same time, KB&R has been selling fuel and supplies to the military at such huge markups that the military tried to sue them for fraud. Had the Administration not stepped in, they might have won that lawsuit.
Does it seem odd to anyone that a country with perhaps the most advanced military in the world would even need to outsource? It’s hardly a cost-saving measure for the military. Yet, all of the most essential tasks in post-Saddam Iraq have been contracted out, from reconstruction to security. Even intelligence gathering and interrogation are managed by civilians.
One of the factors hindering enlistment in the US military these days is the attractive salary of a contractor. Those working for KB&R get paid three to four times as much as a trained US soldier, without the hastle of boot camp training or the constraints of US military law. They get an ID badge, a plane ticket and a gun. These contractors are overpaid, undertrained, undisciplined and completely unaccountable for their actions.
With so much responsibility in the hands of such irresponsible people, is it really any surprise that reconstruction is stalled, security is a joke and the faith of Iraqis in their American liberators has evaporated?
History will look back and say that Bush was defeated by his unthinking obedience to Cheney, and Cheney was defeated by his own greed. The very company they thought would enrich them through kickbacks from no-bid government contracts has failed them at every turn. They thought they could outsource reconstruction, yet Iraqis have fewer basic services than they did under Saddam. They thought they could outsource security, and look at the result. And still Halliburton is making billions for their folly.
Bush and Cheney tried to run the country like their friends at Enron ran their business. They ran the Iraq war like a dot com. They outsourced planning, diplomacy and reconstruction and found that the companies they outsourced to are every bit as incompetent and corrupt as they are!
Which is why they can’t win. It’s like an internet startup promising a telepathic user interface. They can promise all they want, even go on expensive marketing campaigns, maybe raise some venture capitol for their vaporware. But they’ll never deliver. At the end of the day, the CEO pockets the money while the company and its shareholders spiral into bankrupcy.
Except that doesn’t work anymore. Skilling went to prison, Kenny Boy got the death penalty, Rumsfeld is facing charges for his war crimes, and similar fates await the Administration’s notorious leaders when they leave office.