It’s a safe bet that Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) ranks high as a pain-in-the-backside of George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and the rest of the oily crew at the White House.
Waxman, ranking minority member of the Committee on Government Reform, has transformed the cramped minority office in the basement of the House Rayburn Building into a virtual factory churning out reports exposing Bush and his crony ties to corporate America. All these reports are available on Waxman’s internet website (www.house.gov/waxman/).
Actually, Waxman and his staff honed their muckraking skills with exposés of the links between Bush-Cheney and Enron in fleecing energy ratepayers and their own workers as the Houston energy trader came crashing down. These criminal escapades cost Enron workers their jobs and pensions, and stockholders billions in investments.
But in recent weeks, the tempo of exposés has accelerated. Waxman wrote to the General Accounting Office, May 6, asking them to determine how much it cost for George W. Bush to dress up in a U.S. Navy flight suit and be jetted out to the carrier Abraham Lincoln that was circling offshore as a backdrop for his election-season “fly-boy” stunt.
Waxman released a study on May 9 revealing that Bush, Cheney and the Cabinet will rake in a cumulative $3.2 million each year, thanks to the tax bill rammed through the House by the House Republican leaders. Cheney’s annual refund would be $119,000, Rumsfeld would get as much as $604,000, and Treasury Secretary John Snow, $330,000.
But this corruption pales beside Waxman’s release of a May 2 letter from Lt. Gen. Robert B. Flowers of the Army Corps of Engineers. Flowers heads up the Pentagon office assigned to dole out no-bid contracts for the “reconstruction” of Iraq to well-connected corporations like Halliburton, of which Cheney was former CEO, Bechtel, and Fluor. All three contributed many millions of dollars to Bush-Cheney campaign coffers.
In his letter, Gen. Flowers let slip that Halliburton’s contract is not limited to putting out Iraqi oil well fires but also includes “operation” of Iraqi oilfields and “distribution” of the oil produced. Waxman estimated this juicy plum is worth a whopping $7 to $9 billion. In his reply dated May 6, Waxman pointed out that this Halliburton contract raises “significant questions about the Administration’s intentions regarding Iraqi oil.”
He reminded Gen. Flowers of White House spokesman Ari Fleischer’s declaration that “the oil fields belong to the people of Iraq, the government of Iraq, all of Iraq,” Waxman also noted that Secretary of State Colin Powell said repeatedly, “The oil of Iraq belongs to the Iraqi people.”
Said Waxman, “In light of these statements, I am puzzled as to why the Corps is actively preparing a solicitation for a long-term contract to produce and distribute Iraqi oil. That contract would clearly contradict Mr. Fleischer’s statement. … In fact, such a contract would apparently mean that Halliburton or another similar company – and not the Iraqi people – would be making the fundamental decisions on how much oil should be produced and who should produce it.”
Waxman reminded Gen. Flowers that while the administration has named an Iraqi, Thamer Abbas Ghadban, to run Iraq’s oil industry, “your May 2 letter … appears to conflict with these intentions. Your letter says that it will be the Corps – not Mr. Ghadban – that will issue a contract to operate these facilities and distribute oil.”
Waxman pointed out that Bush has appointed Phillip Carroll, a former CEO of Shell Oil, to serve as czar of Iraqi oil. The California lawmaker also cited growing “tension between Iraqi oil managers and Americans, as well as frustration among Iraqi oil workers unable to resume their jobs. Some Iraqi oil workers are apparently dissatisfied with the pace of work done by Brown & Root [a Halliburton subsidiary] and with the lack of consultation about how to rebuild and operate the country’s oil infrastructure.”
Waxman concluded, “The administration’s decision to appoint a former American oil executive [former Shell CEO Carroll] to chair an advisory board overseeing the Iraqi oil ministry may well increase the perception among some Iraqis that they are not being given full control over the resources the administration previously indicated belonged to them.”
In the buildup to the preemptive war on Iraq, Bush and other administration officials openly ridiculed those who said it would be a “war for oil.” Even though Iraq has the world’s second largest oil reserves and this is an administration infested with oil men, the corporate media dutifully pushed these “war for oil” stories to their back pages. Now the truth is coming out that the soldiers and innocent civilians died in Iraq for oil corporation profits.
Tim Wheeler is editor of the People’s Weekly World and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.