You are herecontent / Stink of blood money in the air - must be Deadeye
Stink of blood money in the air - must be Deadeye
By Mike Carlton, Sydney Morning Herald
The Chickenhawk-in-Chief is coming. We are to be visited next week by Deadeye Dick Cheney, the most odious individual to hold the office of US Vice-President since the criminal Spiro Agnew resigned in disgrace from the Nixon administration.
A little history to begin with: first the chicken. Asked in 1989 by The Washington Post why he had dodged the draft for the Vietnam War, Cheney notoriously replied that "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service".
Now the hawk. In recent years, his enthusiasm for military service - other people's military service, that is - has multiplied like anthrax. No man, not even George Bush, has done more to drive the American disaster in Iraq.
Cheney was the first to trumpet the delusion that the September 11, 2001 terrorist atrocity was linked to Saddam Hussein. Fixated on a punitive war in Iraq, he connived with his old buddy Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon to set up a personal intelligence network that would bypass the professional Washington spy agencies and construct the casus belli he needed. Cherry-picking the evidence, often relying on scheming Iraqi exiles with an axe to grind and money to make, Cheney vigorously pushed the fabrication that the Iraq dictator intended to attack the United States.
"We discovered … the allegation that one of the lead hijackers, Mohamed Atta, had, in fact, met with Iraqi intelligence in Prague," he announced in March 2002.
"There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us," he told the Veterans of Foreign Wars in August 2002.
And then, a month later: "We do know, with absolute certainty that [Saddam] is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon."
But not to worry, the war of shock and awe would be a cakewalk. "We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators," he assured NBC television's Meet The Press in 2003, just days before the invasion began.
All these and more of the Vice-President's lethal notions have long since been exploded. Only a week ago, a Pentagon investigation confirmed that the supposed Prague meeting between Atta and an Iraqi agent never happened.
We know all about the non-existent WMDs. Cheney's claims about Saddam's nuclear program have been comprehensively demolished. And more than 3000 of the welcome "liberators" have been killed in Iraq.
The disastrous Rumsfeld was eventually fired, but Deadeye Dick miraculously survives, more arrogant than ever. His critics, he sneers, are "dishonest and reprehensible … corrupt and shameless".
WHILE the Chickenhawk's continuing lust for conflict in the Middle East springs from mad-eyed neo-con fantasies, it has added enormously to his personal fortune.
Before becoming Vice-President, Cheney was, for five years, chairman and chief executive of Halliburton, the giant American engineering and oil services company. On his watch, this company - acting secretively through offshore corporate cut-outs - did many millions of dollars worth of oil and construction business with Iran and Iraq, in defiance of Clinton administration sanctions against those countries. The corrupt Soeharto regime in Indonesia was another favourite client.
In 1995, Halliburton quietly paid the US government a penalty of $US3.8 million for illegally selling nuclear technology to Libya, and in 2002, a subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root, had to cough up $US2 million to settle a fraud case brought by the US Justice Department. In 2003, the company forked out $US6 million in compensation for "defective accounting practices".
Cheney, on leaving Halliburton to run for vice-president, was given a golden handshake worth more than $US33.7 million. The company has since won tens of billions of dollars worth of Pentagon war contracts in Iraq from the Bush Administration, many awarded without competitive tender, and several of which are under investigation for serious fraud and overcharging.
Cheney maintains that he now has no connection with Halliburton, that his stock is held in a blind trust. But for at least two years of his vice-presidency, the company paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars in "deferred compensation", a legal though arguably smelly tax avoidance device. And Cheney has also worked his old Halliburton connections to finesse the Bush Administration's oil, energy and conservation policies in favour of big business. Estimates of his current personal fortune, including Halliburton stock, run from about $US30 million to as high as $US100 million.
This is the man who will be greeted with open arms by Howard, Downer, Nelson and Co next week. They will be welcoming a deceitful and dangerous spiv.
FOR a penetrating account of the Bush Administration's assault on democracy and honesty, I can recommend a new book, The Greatest Story Ever Sold (Penguin/Viking) by the excellent New York Times columnist Frank Rich.
And there is a scorching account of the nefarious career of Dick Cheney done for The New York Review of Books last year by the writer Joan Didion, on the net at http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19376
When I told Rich on Wednesday that Cheney was visiting Down Under, I got a pithy reply: "I hope you keep him."