Factual Investigation of Media Criticism of the Bush Administration in Iraq and the War on Terror
Capp Culver and Steve Gerberman
Dec. 3, 2004
In the heated election year rhetoric of 2004, many claims were made by both sides to discredit the other. The whole spectrum of the Democratic Party and left leaning political advocates from John Kerry to film maker Michael Moore made numerous accusations that decisions that were made in regards to U.S. policies in Iraq and the general war on terrorism were influenced by previous business and personal relationships of the President. Specific examples that are discussed in part one of this work include the issuance of the initial sole source contracts to Halliburton subsidy Kellogg, Brown, and Root (KRB). Arguments have been made that this contract was strongly influenced by Vice President Cheney’s relationship with the corporation stemming from his time as CEO from 1995-2000. Opponents to the Bush administration claim that the process was flawed and that the war in Iraq was strictly about increasing the wealth of American oilmen by granting them access to the abundant Iraqi oilfields. Contrary to widely published media reports, military contracts with KBR range back over a decade including the Clinton/Gore years in the White House. The General Accounting Office has found that the contracts were issued within predetermined bounds of ethical government practice. Secondly, Kerry accusations of Cheney still having financial interests in Iraq have proven to be false. Part two examines whether or not Bush decisions were influenced by his supposed strong financial ties and relationship with the Saudis. Specifically examining claims that Michael Moore makes in Fahrenheit 9/11, this paper has found that strong relationships with the Saudi royals date back decades and have been very bi-partisan. A strong finding has been the ever present need of both sides to be in good standing with the Saudi government in order to insure necessary access to the world’s largest oil deposits. In addition to investigating possible policy decisions influenced by Bush only ties to the Saudis, we investigated claims that both Bush and his father had unethical ties to the Carlyle Group and their private equity ventures in defense manufacturing companies. It has been found that the Bushes were not part of the group when large investments and decisions were made that could have been deemed as a conflict of interest for the President. In general, this paper seeks to prove that decisions made by the Bush administration to invade Iraq were not based on previous relationships, or for monetary gain. In addition, a large focus is placed in order to explain the contracting policies of the military in times of war. Our findings prove that although the media has portrayed this administration to make unethical decisions, it has made decisions and issued contracts in accordance to the best information under ethical and adherent policy structures.
The political battle ground that has encompassed the United States for the last two years has created an environment where both sides searched with reckless abound to find flaws in both the characters and policies of the opposing side. President Bush and his decisions made in regards to military action, specifically pertaining to Iraq, have brought harsh criticism from the Democrats. At the center of controversy in regards to U.S. action in Iraq has been the actions of the Army and its subcontractor Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR). The left, led by Congressman Henry Waxman (Dem-CA), has focused on the relationship of the parent company of KBR, Halliburton, and its ties to the Bush Administration. Vice President Cheney was CEO of Halliburton from 1995 until taking the Vice Presidential nomination in 2000 (York). The controversy gets interesting as opposition to the Bush administration brings up that KBR was awarded a sole-source (no bid contract) in April of 2003 for a possible sum of $7 Billion to reconstruct Iraqi oil fields, provide logistical support to the armed forces and build shelters and provide food service to the troops in addition to the task of repairing the Iraqi oilfields (USACE). On the surface, Democrats want to display the point that because Cheney had such a close connection to the company, that the contracts were just given to them with no competition. But there is much more to the story than what has been reported in the media. This portion of the analysis of the effects on supposed previous contacts of the President receiving special treatment will focus of the validity of the contracts between the Army and Halliburton (along with KBR) in response to leftist criticism in order to examine the connection between Vice President Cheney and Halliburton, the contracting process itself, and the actions of KBR after they commenced on fulfilling the contracts in Iraq.
Acting on knowledge of the previous war with Iraq during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the Army Corp of Engineers along with upper level military and government officials realized the vital importance of maintaining control of the Iraqi oilfields both during and after the conflict. In the Iraqi withdraw of Kuwait following their ouster by coalition troops, Iraqi troops set fire to hundreds of Kuwaiti oil wells. The amount of oil that was lost and the months that supply was interrupted from one of the largest oil producing states proved to be quite harmful to the world markets, and even led to a recession of the U.S. economy (York) (Lowry). In response to this, the government wanted to have a contracted company on standby to be ready to respond and return Iraqi production to prewar levels as quickly as possible. During the Gulf War of 1991, one company extinguished as many as 350 oil well fires in 12 months, in 75% of the 18 month original estimates. This company was Halliburton and its subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root (Lowry).
Contrary to recent claims, the sole source contract that was awarded to KBR was not an out of the blue phenomenon. In the early 1990’s as the government started to downsize the military during the post Cold War years, the government, like most industry, decided to outsource many of the tasks that were not in the area of military expertise, which is fighting wars. Tasks such as food service, camp building, the providing of fuel, and general logistics were outsourced to the specialized companies that could handle such diverse and variable contracts (York). The Army Corp on Engineers was put in charge of carrying out the bidding process for the program that was called, Army Field Support Command Logistics Civil Augmentation Program or LOGCAP. Because of the unknown situations that arise with the U.S. military, the contracts were awarded on a costs plus basis. Contractors were guaranteed a one percent profit on work done were costs could be in the billions of dollars. The profit margin could range to an upward amount of nine percent if government audits found that well managed and successful projects were kept at a cost minimum. Stated in the original contracts is the intent of the Corps of Engineers to closely audit and monitor work that is performed under LOGCAP contracts. They quote on their website, “The Corps has a long history of specialized expertise in managing large contracts such as this one. We have established a Facility Engineering Support Team, which is essentially a district office with two construction resident offices. We have an organization that will provide contractor oversight insuring quality work is done in a timely manner, safely and at a reasonable cost (USACE).” The government has monitored the contracts quite closely, and has charged penalties in the millions of dollars to Halliburton for improper charges and other discrepancies. Due to the shear size of the work that has been performed by KBR for the government, the errors have been minuscule in scope.
In 1992, as the first Bush Administration was giving way to the Clinton Administration, KBR (at the time called Brown and Root) won the original LOGCAP contracts. The LOGCAP contracts allowed the military to have quick access to vital services that itself could no longer provide because of a smaller military. Short of a draft, there was no way in which the military could create a force large enough to handle all of the tasks that were required to operate a war. Through the contracts though, companies like KBR could raise the workforce through economic means to provide the services (York).
Under the contracts, the services listed above have been provided to U.S. troops operating in such places as Rwanda, Somalia, Haiti, and the Balkans. Halliburton won contracts with the government are not a new thing. The company provided work in Vietnam under President Lyndon Johnson and multiple operations under President Bill Clinton. It was wrote about Halliburton’s performance during the Clinton years,
“That work received favorable notices throughout the Clinton administration. For example, Vice President Al Gore's National Performance Review mentioned Halliburton's performance in its Report on Reinventing the Department of Defense, issued in September 1996. In a section titled "Outsourcing of Logistics Allows Combat Troops to Stick to Basics," Gore's reinventing-government team favorably mentioned LOGCAP, the cost-plus-award system, and Brown & Root, which the report said provided "basic life support services — food, water, sanitation, shelter, and laundry; and the full realm of logistics services — transportation, electrical, hazardous materials collection and disposal, fuel delivery, airfield and seaport operations, and road maintenance (York).”
The contracts have been renewed to the Halliburton subsidiary two times since the original contract in 1992. The only bidding process that the company lost was in 1997, when Dyncorp won the LOGCAP bid. But, the peacekeeping situation that was going on at the time in Bosnia and Kosovo proved to be a time when the military did not want to change providers of the vital services to their efforts. Brown and Root were still contracted to provide the logistical, food and construction services in that region (York). The company, now known as Kellogg, Brown and Root (after a 1998 acquisition) won the latest LOGCAP contract in 2001(USACE).
During the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003, the Army Corp of Engineers with the authority of the Task Force Restore Iraqi Oil Mission (RIO) approached KBR under the 2001 LOGCAP contract to conduct a confidential study of the costs at work it would take for the reconstruction of the Iraqi oilfields under the worse case scenario that was seen following the Gulf War when hundreds of wells were set ablaze. Under the necessity to keep war plans under wraps, a temporary sole source contract was awarded to KBR to implement its proposed plan to return Iraqi oil production to normal levels as quickly as possible (USACE). "Only KBR, the contractor that developed the complex, classified contingency plans, could commence implementing them on extremely short notice," Flowers wrote Waxman. "The timing was driven by Central Command's operational requirement to have support available in advance of possibly imminent hostilities (York).” In a letter written to the Los Angeles Times by Halliburton CEO David Lesare, he explains the following, “You will not often read is that the independent General Accounting Office has since reviewed the contract and reported that it was "properly awarded … to the only contractor [the Defense Department] had determined was in a position to provide the services within the required time frame given classified prewar planning requirements (Lesare)."The contract was an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity contract which was in effect because of the many unknown variables that could have affected the size of the contract. The costs basis for Halliburton was a guaranteed profit of 2% another 5% that could be awarded after audits found that it did a good job of keeping costs down.
A major point of attack by Con. Waxman and Democrat critics is the cap that was put on the project of $7 billion dollars. In fact, the total sum of the work done by KBR is not being paid for entirely by the U.S. taxpayers. It is stated on the Army Corp of Engineer’s website, “The funding sources for Restore Iraqi Oil include the Natural Resource Risk Remediation Fund, the Iraq Seized Assets Fund, the Development Fund for Iraq, and the Operation and Maintenance, Army Appropriation. The Natural Resource Risk Remediation Fund and O & M, A are US taxpayer sources allocated by Congress (USACE).” At the maximum pay rate of 7%, Halliburton could have made $490 million, which is a very large sum of money. But in comparison to other corporations, that return on spending, the contracts in Iraq that are awarded to KBR and other companies are not nearly as lucrative as critics would want the public to believe. By the time of the implementation of the competitive contracts for the Northern and Southern Oilfields, KBR had charged the military $2.5 billion dollars.
The USACE insists that the original sole-source contract to KBR was meant to be a bridge to competitive contracts that would be issued in due time to two companies. One contract would be for the Northern oilfields and one would be for the Southern fields. The Northern contract would be worth a maximum of $800 million and the Southern contract would be worth a maximum of $1.2 billion. The two would not overlap and work by KBR under their original contract would cease to exist once work had begun under the new contracts. In January of 2004, KBR was awarded the contract for the Southern Oilfields and Parsons Iraqi Joint Venture in conjunction with subcontractor the Worley Group of Australia was awarded the contract for re-stabilization and production of the Northern Oilfields (USACE).
Laws prevent the Corp of Engineers from making public other companies who submitted bids for the oil service contracts, but a total of six companies made submitted proposals. The selection process was administered by more than just government officials or friends of Vice President Cheney (USACE). It is stated on the USACE website, “The source selection process involved a wide range of both military and civilian experts from agencies of the Federal government. Their areas of expertise included acquisition, engineering, economists, contracting officers, auditors, lawyers, procurement analysts, and small business. This process requires the expertise of many individuals from many areas to ensure the process is comprehensive, fair, and impartial (USACE).” The lowest price was not the sole determining factor in awarding these contracts, as the decision was also based on passed performance and experience, business management and approach, and contract administration plan (USACE). After all the controversy and public outcry, the military still chose KBR as a recipient of the Southern oil contract. As the criticism still comes in from opponents of the Bush administration, Mr. Lesare states of his company’s dealings in Iraq, “These men and women — more than 30,000 of them working for our subsidiary, KBR — are risking their lives each day to provide high-quality support to U.S. troops. Tragically, 48 employees and subcontractors of KBR have been killed while working to support the troops. To me, that makes them heroes. But instead of their praises being sung, their work is under attack, and the company's contract with the government has become a target in this presidential campaign (Lesare).”
Discussing the legitimacy of the Iraq contracts with KBR, does not give the company freedom from criticism brought about by political opponents or government auditing agencies like the General Accounting Office. Once work had begun in Iraq by KBR after the initial invasion by coalition troops, the new and utterly important task of importing gasoline from countries like Kuwait and Turkey was asked to be handled by KBR (USACE). The orders that were passed on to KBR by the USACE under the LOGCAP contracts called for the company to purchase gasoline from surrounding countries on the open, competitive market and then transport it to Iraq for both military and Iraqi civil use. Even though oil production was again approaching prewar levels, there had not been enough time for the Iraqi refineries to begin to produce usable petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel and liquid petroleum gas (USACE). The costs that were passed on to the U.S. through USACE included both the costs of the gasoline and the costs of transportation which had to be allocated to local transporters who, because of a shortage of trucks and able personnel were charging quite high prices to truck in gasoline from Kuwait. The Corp reported in January 2004 that the average price for gasoline that was shipped into Iraq was $1.60 a gallon. It was been widely reported in the press that the average cost had been $2.65 per gallon. Newspapers and other media have highlighted the fact that gasoline coming in from Kuwait has been nearly a dollar higher than the gas that was imported through a pipeline from Turkey. In the Corps’ explanation of this discrepancy is that fact that due to attacks on trucks on the road from Kuwait to Baghdad that many trucks have been destroyed and multiple drivers have been mugged and their trucks have been stolen. Due to these risks, the subcontracted gasoline transporters have created a quite high risk premium in their transportation prices. This phenomenon has been out of the hands of KBR (USACE).
News reports are still circulating about a $61 million dollar overcharge for the gasoline that was imported from Kuwait. It has been announced that the FBI is beginning a probe into possible wrong doing of KBR in this task. The military temporarily suspended payments of $176 million to KBR because of discrepancies in cost of fuel and food that was delivered by the company in Iraq (CFR). These payments have since been made, and it is important to note that some senior military officials have no problems with any of KBR’s billings to the government (CFR). Many threatening reports have been published by news organizations that the Pentagon is auditing Halliburton and that its sole source contact has been cutoff. But a published statement by the Department of Defense states, “DCAA routinely conducts audits of the Restore Iraqi Oil contract as part of its regular auditing mission," a Pentagon spokesman said. "The purpose of the special audit ... is to review existing audits. It will summarize those reports for public release and determine if there are any additional sole source contracts that use ... funds that have not been audited (Rigzone)." Kellogg, Brown and Root have also routinely stated that they expected the importation of gasoline contract to end in accordance with the end of the sole source contract when the Corps of Engineers deemed fit. If there was as much wrong doing on the part of KBR, they would not have been issued another contract, for which there were six companies who submitted bids. President Bush has stated that with the completion of the audits and investigation that if KBR did in fact overcharge the military that it would be forced to repay the disputed sum.
The Cheney Connection
In discussing the legitimacy of the Army Corps of Engineers’ process of awarding and auditing contracts with which it has issued in Iraq is the need to examine the relationship if any that Vice President Dick Cheney has had with the company since he won the 2000 election. 2004 campaign ads by Senator Kerry have accused Cheney of receiving $2 million in compensation from Halliburton since he has taken office. In an effort to make Cheney look like a liar, it puts spin on his statement, “I have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind,” to portray the Vice President in a bad light. The number was in fact around $1.6 million that Cheney received as part of a year end bonus for work that was done before he resigned, and an executive deferred compensation payout. Deferred compensation is a way in which high paid executives can cut down on income tax bills by having compensation and bonuses spread out of a number of years. In this particular case, Cheney received $398,548 in years 2001-2005 which include 50% of his 1998 salary and 90% of his performance bonus for that year (Factcheck.org).
It is stated on Factcheck.org that, “Legally, Halliburton can't increase or reduce the amount of the deferred compensation no matter what Cheney does as vice president. So Cheney's deferred payments from Halliburton wouldn't increase no matter how much money the company makes, or how many government contracts it receives (Factcheck.org).” But the issue of Halliburton going bankrupt and not being able to pay the deferred payments still presented a conflict of interest. In order to alleviate this possible conflict Cheney purchased an insurance policy for $14,903 that will pay him the deferred salary even if Halliburton goes bankrupt.
Yet still another possible avenue by which Cheney could have profited from Halliburton gaining access to the large Iraqi oil contracts still existed. Companies award employees with stock options which they may purchase and redeem whenever they want within the expiration period. Theoretically, Cheney could have aided the Halliburton clause to gain the contracts in order that he could sell his stock options and make a large sum of money. He instead has allocated all of his options into a trust that he set up with his wife Lynne. Called, the “Gift Trust Agreement,” all of Cheney’s stock options from Halliburton and other companies are locked into the trust and distributed to three different charitable organizations. The trust is set up so that no one, including the Cheney’s can break the trust (Factcheck.org).
During media investigations of possible conflicts of interests, Cheney was interviewed on Meet the Press by Tim Russert in which he said,
“Cheney (Sept. 14, 2003): I've severed all my ties with the company, gotten rid of all my financial interests. I have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind and haven't had now for over three years. And as vice president, I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form of contracts led by the Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the federal government (Factcheck.org).”
Legally though, Cheney does claim to have a financial interest in the company. He claims both his insurance policy and his deferred compensation which he still receives with the federal government. In response to his arguments, Senator Frank Lautenberg published an analysis which brought up the fact that in legal terms, Cheney does have a financial interest in the firm. But, the Office of Government Ethics states in its regulations, “"The term financial interest means the potential for gain or loss to the employee . . . as a result of governmental action on the particular matter (Factcheck.org).” There is no law that states that federal officials must sever all ties with companies when they take office. Cheney could have legally held onto his stock options and did not have to take out insurance on his deferred salary. The law only states that, “And even federal officials who are covered by the law may legally own a financial interest in a company, provided they formally recuse themselves -- stand aside -- from making decisions that would have a "direct and predictable effect on that interest (factcheck.org)."
Another controversy arose when an email was published in Time magazine that was written by an Army Corps of Engineers official who said that the contracts with Halliburton had been cleared with the VP’s office. But it was never determined who wrote the email, or if that person actually had any knowledge that the VP’s office was involved. Cheney’s Chief of Staff said a few days later that he had received an email saying that Halliburton was going to receive the sole source contracts in the autumn of 2002. The email was sent after the decision had been made, which cleared the VP’s office from any controversy that could have come about from their coordination in the contracting process. The White House even reported that the memo was not even passed on to VP Cheney (Cheney).
The analysis conducted in this paper on the areas seek to find answers to the other side of issues that have been at the forefront of public scrutiny and partisan arguments. The Democrat’s have been able to get a lot of political mileage out of the Halliburton argument, both in the way in which the initial sole source contracts were issued, but the fact that Vice President Cheney was formerly the CEO of the company. The media published many stories about the $61 million dollar possible overcharge for gasoline that was imported from Kuwait to Baghdad, but did not give any explanation as to why the costs could have been so much. It is clear that if a subcontracted transporter is going to drive flammable fuel into a war zone, then he is going to charge a large risk premium in his fee. But it is also not reported that this figure makes up only 5% of the total revenue that KBR generated during its completion of the Restore Iraqi Oil contract.
Also highly reported was the issue of Cheney’s lingering financial interest in Halliburton. As illustrated above, legally he does have a financial interest in the company because he is receiving deferred compensation that cannot change, up or down. But the media never reported on the steps that Mr. Cheney took to insulate himself from having interests that could have been affected by policy decisions. The media knows that there is no story in reporting that Cheney took all the possible and necessary steps to insure that he had no improper financial relationships with Halliburton. There was also no story in reporting that the government issued a contract in a highly sensitive time period to a company who had both the expertise and experience to provide the best possible services for logistical support and oilfield repair (USACE). Criticism of the contracts have mainly come from whistleblower types, or single individuals. One example has been a lady named Sheryl Tappan, who was a proposal writer for the engineering giant Bechtel Corporation. She claimed, "The competition was rigged from the beginning" she said recently (CorpWatch). It was also reported that she said, “"Officials up and down the chain of command ignored our federal laws and regulations and the procedures that normally ensure fair play," she said during the September 10 hearing (CorpWatch).” Ms. Tappan fails to offer the information that Bechtel has received multiple contracts for reconstruction of Iraqi infrastructure including bridges, roads, and utilities (USAID). Ms. Tappan’s company, Bechtel has had no shortage of large contracts for Iraq, and it should be noted that a contract for Capital Construction was issued on April 17, 2003, which was in the earliest stages of the war effort (USAID). There can be no justification; especially with contracts issued that early that a company like Bechtel did not have a large interest to see that the military effort in Iraq was started.
“To have risked his presidency -- not mention American lives -- on the war in order to benefit Halliburton, Bush would have to be a psychopath (Lowry).” This quote by Rich Lowry exemplifies the exuberance of implicit and sometimes explicit Democratic arguments that the Bush administration went to war to fatten the bottom lines of companies like Halliburton. Contrary to popular belief, Halliburton, of its subsidiary KBR does not sell oil on the open market. Although Halliburton is a quite diversified company, its true bottom line is as an oil service company. It provides services on wells such as methods of product optimization which increase flows in both oil and natural gas wells, as well as providing new drilling technology, mature asset work over and emergency blowout capabilities (Halliburton.com). There is no justification for claiming that the war in Iraq was intended to allow Halliburton to pump all the oil in Iraq and sell it for its own profits. Since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, a fund called the Iraqi Development Fund has been the recipient of the revenues that have been generated by the sell of Iraqi oil. This fund is under the Iraqi Oil Ministry and under the control of the Provisional Iraqi Government, not the United States or Halliburton. These contracts, issued through the U.S. government by the Army Corp of Engineers, are not for the U.S. They are being paid in good part by the new provisional government in Iraq because the services are for the Iraqi people. Kellogg, Brown and Root, along with entire Halliburton Corporation have been providing oilfield services around the world for many decades with great success. The Iraqi people own and depend greatly on the oil that is under the surface of their country, and deserve the most advanced and qualified companies to be reconstructing their largest source of revenue.
Media Falsities Relating to U.S. Saudi Relations and Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11
In the movie Fahrenheit 9/11, director Michael Moore makes many false claims and cleverly leaves much information out of the relationship between the United States and the Saudi Royal Family. Moore successfully attempts to make it appear that Bush’s relations with the oil power houses to be corrupt and strictly monetary. He makes it seem like Bush and his people have only one thing on their mind, money. In fact, US Saudi relations date back to Lyndon B. Johnson. Every president since then has had deep relations with Saudi Arabia, President Clinton among these. Every country needs oil to survive. Moore makes the oil based relationship with the Saudis look like Bush and the royal family has bad intentions with their corporations. He depicts the Saudis as evil people with terrorist thoughts and not as our long time allies. It is true that Osama Bin Laden is Saudi and still has much active family in Saudi Arabia. But, as the movie states itself, Osama was the “black sheep” of the family. None of the family members have spoke with him since the terrorist attacks. They have stated that they do not condone his terrorist actions.
As stated above, U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia date back to the days of Lyndon B. Johnson. Each president since then, Republican and Democrat, has had relations with Saudi Arabia. The movie fails to mention the Gulf War that tied the United States and Saudi Arabia together even tighter. While the former President Bush was in office, Iraq invaded Kuwait and threatened to do the same to Saudi Arabia. Due to the long standing relationship we had with the Saudis, we chose to protect them against Hussein’s regime. Many U.S. soldiers were sent to the country to help in the early nineties. The table below shows the dramatic increase of US military personnel stationed in Saudi Arabia while it was being threatened by Iraqi forces.
Not many at the time objected to protecting Saudi Arabia but it is said that these actions over a decade ago is what set off extremists such as Osama Bin Laden to plan attacks on America. It was through the protection from Sadam’s attacks that the United States, especially the Bush family, was tied together so close, not corrupt business agreements as stated by Moore.
Another point that Moore makes regards the relationship between the Bush family and Prince Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador. He leaves out the fact that Prince Bandar has been affiliated with the United States presidency for decades. He has been a Washington power broker for quite some time and even Clinton relied on Bandar many times for Middle Eastern help. President Clinton arranged a deal worth $20 million with Saudi Prince Bandar to go towards a Middle Eastern Studies program associated with the University of Arkansas. Prince Bandar announced his approval of the plans just days before Clinton won the presidency. The sum of Saudi money donated to Clinton charities is eight times as large as those given to Bush charities. Moore attempts to illustrate US Saudi relations as strictly Republican. In fact, pro-Saudi feelings are bipartisan. Many officials in both parties have seen the benefits to being affiliated with Saudi Arabia.
Moore’s movie also makes a false claim when Moore interviewed Craig Unger, politician and author, with a known anti-Bush stance. When ask how much Saudi money is invested in America, Unger replies “I’ve heard figures as high as $860 billion.” Simply because Unger “heard” this figure does not make it a fact. According to the Institute for Research Middle Eastern Policy (an organization aimed to emphasize the importance of Saudi relations), the Saudis had approximately $700 billion dollars invested in various locations throughout the world. Sixty percent of that was invested in the United States, approximately $420 billion dollars. This is less than half of the amount the movie made so matter of fact. Unger also mentions a figure of $1.4 billion, which is how much Saudi money has been supposedly given to the Bush family. In fact, none of the money discussed here has gone to any member of the Bush family. The following table explains how the $1.4 billion figure was actually allocated.
Investments have been made by Saudis to companies that were once affiliated with the Bush family but never directly to any member. This wails in comparison to the amount of money the U.S. Government has given the Bush family over the last few decades. Some sources estimate several times the $1.4 figure given above.
Saudi Arabia Government
Salary, expenses, pension, post-presidency expenses to GWB
about $6-7 million as of 2004
Salary, expenses, future pension, future post-presidency expenses to GWB
$1.8 million for his first term
Payments to companies affiliated at some time with GWB (Carlyle)
far in excess of $5,000 million
Moore also repeatedly discusses the idea that the Bush family is involved with corrupt businesses such as Haliburton and The Carlyle Group. In fact, George W. Bush’s involvement in these groups were not near as complex as Moore would like his audience to believe. In a fairly recent article, Newsweek states that the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, is hardly a Bush run corporation with the sole intent of earning exorbitant amounts of money. The group actually is headed by numerous bi-partisan Washington officials. “Its founding and still managing partner is Howard Rubenstein, a former top domestic policy advisor to Jimmy Carter. Among the firm’s senior advisors is Thomas “Mack” McLarty, Bill Clinton’s former White House chief of staff, and Arthur Levitt, Clinton’s former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. One of its other managing partners is William Cannard, Clinton’s chairman of the Federal Communications Commission” (Newsweek). George W.’s father was actually a member of the Carlyle Group’s Asian-affiliate’s advisory board. Moore causes people to believe that the Bush family harbors mal intent with their involvement with the group. But, many of the controversial happenings occurred before or after George H. and George W. was affiliated with the Carlyle Group. For example, as stated before, Moore repeatedly states that Saudi Arabian interests gave $1.4 billion to firms connected to the Bush family and friends. Ninety percent of that money, $1.18 billion is from contracts that the Saudi Arabian government awarded to a U.S. defense contractor, BDM, in the early to mid-nineties for training the country’s military and National Guard. This firm was owned by the Carlyle Group but former president Bush did not join the advisory board until five months after Carlyle had already sold BDM to another firm. Moore makes many accusations that hint at corruption between the Bush family and Saudi money regarding BDM and the Carlyle Group when in fact his ideas are way over exaggerated giving them a false appearance.
George W. too had involvements with the Carlyle group, but his service on the boarded ended when he decided to run for Texas governor. This occurred a few months before the beginning of the Saudi contracts with BDM. Moore’s movie presents no evidence that the Bush administration intervened in any way to benefit the Carlyle Group. The main effect the White House had on the Carlyle Group was the cancellation of an $11 billion program for the Crusader rocket artillery system. The Crusader was manufactured by a company once owned by the Carlyle Group, named United Defense. The group owned 47% of the shares when the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld canceled the Crusader program. The effects of the Bush Administration to the Carlyle Group here was by no means beneficial to the group.
One of Moore’s big arguments in his movie was the fact that the United States evacuated many of Osama Bin Laden’s family members that were living in the United States at the time of the 9/11 terrorists attacks. Moore questions these actions and wonders why these people weren’t questioned before exiting the country. But, the 9/11 commission found that the FBI screened all of the Saudi passengers flown out. Their names were run through federal databases; thirty passengers were interviewed and asked “detailed questions”. Nobody of great interest was allowed to leave the country the days following the attacks. Further, neither the president nor the vice president had anything to do with authorizing the flights out of the US. The man that did approve these flights was Richard Clarke, the counter-terrorism czar who also worked for the Clinton administration. Clarke has testified that he did give the approval. He actually officially stated that the material in Fahrenheit 911regarding the evacuation of the Saudis a “mistake” made by Moore. Additionally, none of the Saudis were evacuated before air travel was opened to the public. They did not receive as much special attention/privileges that the movie made appear.
During filming, Moore interviewed an officer outside of the Saudi embassy and was question by US Secret Service agents. The agents stated that they were only trying to obtain information about what was going on and why Moore was filming. Moore replied that he didn’t know that Secret Service agents guarded foreign embassies. The officer replied, “Uh, not usually sir”. Moore edited this footage and placed it in his movie in attempts to give the Saudi embassy a mysterious look with special security privileges. In fact, the Secret Service Police frequently guard various foreign embassies if they request it. According to the Secret Service website, “Uniformed Division officers provide protection for the White House Complex, the Vice-President’s residence, the Main Treasury Building and Annex, and foreign diplomatic missions and embassies in the Washington, D.C. area.” The way Moore depicted the situation does not accurately portray what is happening with the secret service guarding a past terrorist target’s embassy, Saudi Arabia.
Along with these false claims, Michael Moore uses an array of editing techniques to make his points seem valid. First, many of the clips that he plays are misleading. While narrating the movie, he plays pieces of film that many times have nothing to do with what he is talking about. There is no way to tell what context the clips are in. When pieced together, it makes people appear ignorant, lazy, shady, dishonest, dumbfounded, amongst many others. For example, Moore plays many clips of Bush playing golf and claims that he is on vacation too often. He states, “In his first eight months in office before September eleventh, George W. Bush was on vacation, according to the Washington Post, forty-two percent of the time.” He causes Bush to look lazy and appear that he is not getting any work done. There is no telling when the clips were filmed and how long he was actually golfing or on vacation by viewing them. Anyone can have thirty seconds of golf footage filmed of them and made to appear lazy and nonchalant. The fact that Bush golfed eighteen holes one day does not mean that he was not working hard earlier that day or every other day that week. The viewers are lead to assume that these clips are a valid representation of the President’s overall attitude towards work. Moore claimed that during the first eight months in office President Bush was on vacation forty-two percent of the time. In fact, the Washington Post’s forty-two percent figure included weekends and time in “vacation locations” such as Camp David where Bush conducts much of his work (Kopal). Also, Moore plays a clip showing a Gore victory rally in Florida. Confetti was flying, fireworks were going off, and Gore was shown waving to an emphatic crowd celebrating a Florida win. In fact, it was held before the polls had even opened (Kopal). The clip shown here was in a totally different context and made to appear otherwise. Another example shown soon after this was Bush speaking to a group of rich people calling them his “base”. This caused his presidency to seem in trouble and that he relied on the wealth of the upper class for support. In fact it was not; Al Gore also spoke at the same charity fund-raiser of which it is a custom for all speakers to ridicule themselves in their speeches. Again, the context of the clip was made to appear much different. Some clips are edited and cut down to only show parts of what was actually said. For example, the movie shows Condoleezza Rice saying, “Oh, indeed there is a tie between Iraq and what happened on 9/11,” and the clip was cut at that point. This is what Rice actually said during this interview: “Oh, indeed there is a tie between Iraq and what happened on 9/11. It’s not that Saddam Hussein was somehow himself and his regime involved in 9/11, but, if you think about what caused 9/11, it is the rise of ideologies of hatred that lead people to drive airplanes into buildings in New York. This is a great terrorist, international terrorist network that is determined to defeat freedom. It has perverted Islam from a peaceful religion into one in which they call on it for violence. And they’re all linked. And Iraq is a central front because, if and when, and we will, we change the nature of Iraq to a place that is peaceful and democratic and prosperous in the heart of the Middle East, you will begin to change the Middle East…” So, through use of editing techniques, Condi Rice appears to clearly state that there is a direct connection with the 9/11 attacks and Iraq when in fact she makes no such claim. Her answer actually states she believes the opposite and that they are merely indirectly connected.
While in Washington, Moore claims that only one Congressman has a child in Iraq so he decided to wait outside Congress and ask members if they want to enlist their children to go to Iraq. In fact, two Congressmen have children in Iraq and John Ashcroft has a son on a naval ship in the Persian Gulf (Kopal). Any parent in their right mind would not want their child to go to war so it is a ridiculous request in the first place. Even so, Representative Mark Kennedy thought it was a good idea and offered help, but, Moore deceptively altered the footage of this exchange to make it appear that Rep. Kennedy rejected his idea and wanted no part of it. Soon after, the movie shows Representative Michael Castle ignoring Moore’s advances while attempting to interview him. The viewers are led to believe that Castle gives Moore the cold shoulder because he does not support the idea would not like his children to be enlisted but in fact, Rep. Castle has no children (Kopal).
Another technique Moore uses has to do with the music Moore plays during certain clips. The background music of a movie can always arouse certain emotions and thoughts. A fast heavy metal song may cause one to feel pumped up and the individuals on the screen appear the same way. A slower softer song may cause audience members to feel sleepy or sad. Moore uses this technique non-stop throughout the movie swaying viewers’ emotions. For example, he plays patriotic tunes while showing clips of Bush and the war in a mocking fashion. He is leading the viewer to think tat Bush is in fact not patriotic and had no regard for the good of the country.
A big help to Moore’s claims is the fact that he interviews the right people to support his ideas. If a person were to make any claim, he could easily find numerous individuals to interview that would strengthen it. If one was to state that Elvis is still alive, there are copious amounts of people out there that would fully support that claim. In Fahrenheit 911, Moore interviews a plethora of individuals adamantly against Bush and the war in Iraq. One of his longer interviews was with a woman who had lost a son in Iraq that was in the Marine Corps. A Black Hawk helicopter that he was it was attacked and shot down. Moore purposely stirs emotions in this woman and makes it extremely hard to watch without feeling very bad for her. Moore and the woman blame Bush for her son’s death and the viewers, seeing this poor woman cry, usually begin to feel the same way. A Bush supporting woman protests Moore’s interview and is made to look evil and ignorant when the crying woman tells her about her dead son. Also, every interview placed in the movie with US soldiers in Iraq and from those who protest the administration. Many soldiers are there on their own will and want to do what they can to help. Every soldier shown looks worn out and filthy, causing the audience to feel very sorry for them furthering hate towards the Bush administration. Moore also interviews two old women that already harbor dislikes towards the government. The women seem distraught over the current situation and it is hard not to sympathize for them as well. Moore interviews many underprivileged individuals. Underprivileged people are mad at any administration that is in office. Things are not going well for them so they have a right to be angry and are definitely going to act in that manner. Looking at Bush’s reelection, there are obviously people out there that think he isn’t doing such a bad job.
Moore spends much time discussing Bush’s reaction when he heard about the 9/11 attacks. At the time, Bush was at an Elementary school listening to children read. One of his people whispered in this ear to break the news and he obviously was affected emotionally. Moore wonders why the President did not jump up right away to go and try to do something. Bush could do nothing at that point. He did not want to alarm the children, everybody was confused, and people had to figure out what was going on to know if it was safe to move the President. Moore argues that sitting in that classroom for seven minutes after hearing the news while people decided on what should be done was an eternity and illustrates disregard for the country. It is ridiculous to infer that the fact that Bush did not exit right away means that he does not care for the good of the United States.
Moore also makes the pursuit of oil look extremely evil and dishonest. The attempt to find alternate oil reserves is not evil. Every country, including the United States, needs oil. Unfortunately, oil is not a renewable resource. There is a limited amount in this world and many believe that it is running out quickly. Bush did not invade Iraq for the purpose of oil. The United States already has a good relationship with Saudi Arabia, where we get most of our oil from. After the attack on Iraq, many saw an opportunity to help both Iraq and the United States economically. If Iraq’s oil reserves were properly developed, the country (Iraq) could potentially make a lot of money improving economic hardships that are being experienced currently. Of course the US would benefit as well and for this reason people believe that Bush attacked Iraq for oil.
Invading Iraq was not a terrible idea in the beginning. Iraq is a very dangerous place that needed to be controlled in attempts to save lives in the long run. The situation turned nasty when Iraqi insurgents began rebelling against the invasion. Now the situation is very bad but would be worse if we pulled our troops out now. Letting an unorganized rebellious country rebuild by itself can be very dangerous. It might have turned out that the invasion was not as good idea as once thought but Moore’s depiction of the whole situation is misleading. Moore states, “Saddam’s Iraq had never murdered a single American citizen.” In fact, Saddam funded terrorist bombers in Israel who ended up taking the lives of American citizens along with others of various nationalities (Kopal). Hussein also provided shelter for terrorist Abu Nidal, a known American killer and the bomb-builder for the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. Further, Sadam ordered assassination attempts against former President Bush and against U.S. diplomats in the Philippines. It is well known that Sadam is not well liked by Iraqis and very unpredictable. He did harbor hate against the United States and it is much better that he is no longer in power. The situation now in Iraq is a mess but was not expected. War is a terrible thing, but is a characteristic of our world that will never change. It will happen inevitably and many times it saves lives in the long run.
Moore believes he is providing the world with some sort of service with his attempts to discourage Bush support. He pretends to be on the side of the common man and be a protector and supporter of US troops. In fact, in his attempts to distribute his movie worldwide (including the Middle East) he supports the Iraqi rebels referring to them as the “Revolution”, similar to the America’s Minutemen, that will eventually be victorious over our forces. Moore stated on April 14, 2004 that “The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not ‘insurgents’ or ‘terrorists’ or ‘The Enemy’. They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow—and they will win.” His Middle East distributing crew, Front Row, has accepted terrorist assistance in doing so, “In terms of marketing the film, Front Row is getting a boost from organizations related to Hezbollah (Iranian and Syrian-supported terrorist group) which have rung up from Lebanon to ask if there is anything they can do to support the film. And although [Front Row’s Managing Director Giancarlo] Charca says he and his company feel strongly that Fahrenheit is not anti-American, but anti-Bush, ‘we can’t go against these organizations as they could strongly boycott the film in Lebanon and Syria” (Nancy Tartaglione, “Fahrenheit to be first doc released theatrically in Middle East,” ScreenDaily.com). This is not how the voice of the common man should conduct business. A patriotic man does not accept help from any terrorist organizations, especially those who have killed and kidnapped numerous Americans and continue killing Americans along with Iraqi civilians. With these actions, I question the validity of the film and believe I have presented enough information to cause others to do the same.
Ample evidence has been presented in this paper to disprove and at the very least raise significant questions to claims that Bush went to war in Iraq for oil, or to further interests of his supposed friends. The independent General Accounting Office has ruled that contract precedings for the sole source oilfield reconstruction contracts to KBR were legitimate. Contrary to Democrat accusations, it has been proven that Cheney has done everything possible to severe financial ties to Halliburton. The supposed love fest between Bush and the Saudis has proven to be a long standing tradition in the White House in order to insure necessary access to Saudi Oil. On the fourth main point, although Michael Moore claims that Bush ties to the Carlyle Group led him to go to war to further their energy interests and their large interests in the defense industry. The goal of this paper was to prove that accusations of unethical decision making by the Bush administration in regards to Iraqi oil are false. Every President has ties to people that their opposition could claim as wrong and claim evidence of wrong doing. But in the case of Halliburton, the Saudis and the Carlyle Group, there is no evidence that the U.S. went to war to further the interests of any of the accused parties.
Works Cited for Part 1
Boot, Max. “Don’t Blame Halliburton.” Los Angeles Times. Apr. 22, 2004. Posted on Council of Foreign Relations website. Cfr.com.
Defending Halliburton. Outsidethebeltway.com. Oct 12, 2004.
Factcheck.com. Kerry Ad Falsely Accuses Cheney on Halliburton. Sept. 30, 2004
Footnote Fahrenheit. “Halliburton.” http://www.newsaic.com/f911chap7-5.html
Halliburton.com. General Information.
Lesare, David. “A tough job by someone has to do it.” Los Angeles Times. Halliburton.com.
Lowry, Rich. “The Halliburton Smear.” Townhall.com. Sept 18, 2003.
Phinney, David. “Rigged from the Beginning.” Corpwatch.com. Sept 30, 2004.
Rigzone.com. Halliburton to be included in Federal Audits of Iraqi Contracts. Oct. 18, 2004.
U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. “USACE Missions--Oil Fire Suppression
and Restoration of Production.” Hq.usace.army.mil.
York, Byron. “Halliburton, The Bush/Iraq Scandal that Wasn’t.” National Review Online. Nationalreview.com. July 9, 2003
Bibliography for Part 2
Kopal, David. “Fifty-nine Deceits in Fahrenheit 911”. Independence Institute. Denver. 2003.
**Graphs from http://www.newsaic.com/f911chap3-2.html