Skeleton Key to the State of the Union

Brian Cook

In today's Washington Post, there's yet another typically jaw-dropping story about Halliburton. The Army has decided not to withhold payments from Cheney's ex-company, despite the fact that it would be normal policy to do so and that the army's own auditors suggested it. Why did Army officials seek to waive the normally required withholding of payments? Well, according to an Army spokesman, one of the reasons was "to maintain our responsibility to the taxpayers." I LOVE it! The best reason IN FAVOR of withholding payments is put forth as a reason NOT to withhold payments. It's nice to see that everyone at the Pentagon has picked up on the "How to Deal with the Media" tutorial that Rummy once gave to Wolfowitz: "Begin with an illogical premise and proceed perfectly logically to an illogical conclusion." In other words, two plus two equals five. But the real chestnut in this article comes toward the end. I'd been left wondering just what in the hell Bush had in mind when he spoke out forcefully in his State of the Union address against "frivolous asbestos claims." (Ending these is right up there with reforming Social Security on my personal "National To Do List.") But the second-to-last sentence in this piece provided me the much sought-after moment of clarity: "KBR and several other Halliburton subsidiaries are emerging from bankruptcy proceedings related to asbestos litigation." Now granted, it's not quite like tracking down an obscure allusion in, say, Ulysses, but decoding the Bush administration's rhetoric is not entirely without its own small pleasures.

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Brian Cook was an editor at In These Times from 2003 to 2009. He now works on the editorial staff of Playboy magazine.
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