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Wednesday, Nov 12, 2003, 7:38 pm

Call Me a Cynic

By Craig Aaron
In his column in yesterday's New York Times Bobo-in-Chief David Brooks dismisses Democratic criticism of the no-bid
Iraqi reconstruction contracts handed to Halliburton by the Bush
administration. Disputing a study recently released by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), Brooks writes:


The idea that a Bush political appointee can parachute down
and persuade a large group of civil servants to risk their careers by
steering business to a big donor is the stuff of fantasy novels, not
reality.


I have my own minor quibbles with some of the conclusions in the CPI
report, but Brooks, in spite of himself, neatly
encapsulates why these deals don't pass the smell test. In the very next
paragraph, he writes:


The real story is that the Halliburton subsidiary, Kellogg,
Brown & Root, won an open competition to provide the service support for
overseas troops. This contract is called the Logcap, and is awarded
every few years. KBR won the competition in 1992. It lost to DynCorp in
1997, and it won again in 2001.


Let's see. KBR won the contract in 1992, when Dick Cheney was serving
as defense secretary under Bush pere. In 1995, Halliburton/KBR hired
Dick Cheney as its chairman and CEO. In 1997, during the Clinton
administration, KBR lost the contract. But in 2001 ? soon after George
W. Bush and Dick Cheney took office ? KBR, somehow, won the "open
competition" for the contract again. Then, since they were already "in
place" before the war, KBR was awarded a $2 billion, no-bid contract to
repair Iraq's oil industry and provide logistical support.



What could possibly seem suspicious about that?

Craig Aaron is senior program director of the national media reform group Free Press and a former managing editor of In These Times.

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