Jewish World Review Jan. 12, 2004 / 18 Teves, 5764

Jack Kelly

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Consumer Reports

Halliburton double standards | Web logger John Cole noted a fascinating difference between the news accounts accusing Halliburton of overcharging on a contract to deliver oil in Iraq, and the accounts of Halliburton's subsequent exoneration.

Here's the AP's Matt Kelley on the original charge: "A Pentagon audit has found Vice President Dick Cheney's former company may have overcharged the Army by $1.09 a gallon for nearly 57 million gallons of gasoline delivered to citizens in Iraq, senior defense officials say."

Here's Reuters News Service: "A Pentagon audit of Halliburton, the oil services firm once run by Vice President Dick Cheney, has found evidence the company may have overcharged for fuel it brought into Iraq from Kuwait, military sources said on Thursday.

And now the AP on Halliburton's exoneration: "The Army apparently has sided with Halliburton in a dispute over the company's charges for fuel in Iraq."

And here's Reuters again: "The U.S. Army said on Tuesday it had granted Halliburton a special waiver to bring fuel into Iraq under a no bid deal with a Kuwaiti supplier despite a draft Pentagon audit that found evidence of overcharging for fuel."

When Halliburton was exonerated, Cheney - prominently featured in the accusation stories - apparently was back in his bunker at an undisclosed location.

There is no Halliburton scandal. But Democrats and their allies in the news media think that if they blow enough smoke, people will think there must be a fire somewhere.

They imply Halliburton has been getting government contracts it does not deserve because of the influence of Cheney. They imply further that Cheney has been putting the interests of his former firm ahead of the interests of the United States.

This is absurd. Cheney's only possible motivation for doing so would be greed. But if greed were Cheney's primary motivation, why would he give up a job that paid him nearly $1 million a year in salary - and much more than that in annual bonuses and stock options - for a job that pays less than $200,000 a year?

Cheney served in Congress for 12 years, and as secretary of defense for 4 years before becoming Halliburton's ceo, and did so without a hint of scandal. Unless there is powerful evidence to the contrary, we should assume that Cheney's primary motivation for public service is public service, even if we disagree with his views.

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There is not a shred of evidence to indicate Cheney has intervened to obtain contracts for his former firm, or that the contracting officers in the Department of Defense - who are career civil servants - have been awarding contracts in response to political pressure. The smear of Cheney is also a smear of them.

Nor is there evidence to indicate Halliburton is undeserving of the contracts it has won, has performed poorly on them, or profited excessively from them.

Halliburton's Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) subsidiary has decades of experience in major construction projects in the Middle East. It is thus ostensibly better qualified for rebuilding Iraq than, say, the Marin County Marijuana Growers Association.

The Army said KBR got the Iraqi oilfield contract because it was the ONLY firm that possessed the skills, resources and security clearances necessary to do the job.

The great growth in KBR's government work took place during the Clinton administration. By the end of Clinton's second term, one of every seven Pentagon dollars passed through KBR, according to Dan Baum in the New York Times magazine. Those harping about Halliburton now saw nothing untoward about Halliburton then.

Those in high dudgeon about Halliburton also had little to say when former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin sought favors for Enron, a client of his firm. (Bush turned him down.) But then, Rubin is a Democrat.

It's not so much that there is a double standard. When the truth clashes with their political ambitions, the fever swamp Left has no standards at all.

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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

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