The Victor's Rights, Right or Wrong

geege geege at
Fri Apr 18 09:19:25 PDT 2003

Blair's got to be flipping out. The US has just colonized the most lucrative
piece of property in the world.  Under the umbrella of reconstruction, Iraqi
oil is a blank cheque. (sorry for mixing metaphors so early in the day.)

What horrifies me is how easily so many were manipulated into believing they
were in imminent danger from Sadam.  This administration played him.  They
threatened him relentlessly, attacked his pride, then used his false - but
defensive - bravado against him.  Now we all know what this administration
has known all along: there are no WMD's. Saddam's little saving-face game of
"maybe I do, maybe I don't" worked in Bush's favor.  (Kudos to Rumsfeld for
not over-deploying?)

And they used Blair.  Having sacrificed many of Britain's own valiant in
"the liberation," how can Blair do anything but defend their heroism - and
thus the war itself?  That Blair's allegiance with the US drew fierce
opposition and blew to smithereens a strengthening European Union was most
likely a bonus for this administration.  But i doubt any of it was a
suprise. It wasn't to me, and I'm not nearly as smart as they.

This administration is counting on the voters' legendarily short attention
spans.  By 2004 we'll be into a dramatic economic recovery - fueled, of
course, but the aforementioned blank cheque.  Bush will get back to the
business of privatizing social services and federalizing everything else. He
will manage to make Big Business love him - and reward him - at election
time ... again.

Not only can we be be manipulated, we can be bought.

Apologetically, not apoplectically,

U.S. Gives Bechtel a Major Contract in Rebuilding Iraq

WASHINGTON, April 17 — The Bush administration awarded the Bechtel Group of
San Francisco the first major contract today in a vast reconstruction plan
for Iraq that assigns no position of authority to the United Nations or

The contract, which was awarded by the United States Agency for
International Development, had set off a heated contest among some of the
nation's most politically connected construction concerns.

The award will initially pay Bechtel, a closely held San Francisco company
that posted $11.6 billion in revenue last year, $34.6 million and could go
up to $680 million over 18 months.

But those amounts could be only a fraction of what it costs to rebuild
Iraq's airports, water and electric-power systems, roads and railroads.

The reconstruction of Iraq, a task that experts have said could cost $25
billion to $100 billion, is part of a broad American-led effort to stabilize
the country and set up a new government.

The American taxpayer will pay the initial contract costs, but Iraqi oil
revenue is supposed to eventually pay for much of the reconstruction.

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein's government a week ago, the Bush
administration has effectively shut out the United Nations from any postwar
role in Iraq.

An American team led by retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner will take over the
civilian administration of Iraq until an interim Iraqi authority is in
place. The Iraqis will then work with the World Bank and the International
Monetary Fund, institutions in which the United States enjoys wide
influence, to reshape the country.

"We are in control on the ground and creating facts on the ground," said a
senior administration official who declined to be identified. "Iraq will not
be put under a U.N. flag. The U.N. is not going to be a partner. And right
now, people don't have the stomach to make a theological fight over this."
The administration also opposes the return of United Nations weapons
inspectors, senior officials said.

Debate began yesterday at the United Nations on whether to lift sanctions
against Iraq, which would end the United Nations' authority to oversee the
sale of Iraqi oil, to buy and distribute food, to inspect for weapons and to
safeguard the border with Kuwait.

European governments still hope to extract more influence for the United
Nations in shaping postwar Iraq, in part to ensure greater involvement by
countries and organizations that are reluctant to work for a military
occupation. And some European companies are still hoping for a share of the
work, perhaps as subcontractors to Bechtel.

British companies are already upset at being cut out of the most lucrative
deals to rebuild postwar Iraq, and Prime Minister Tony Blair urged Mr. Bush
at a meeting earlier this month in Northern Ireland to grant the United
Nations a wider role in reconstruction.

But Mr. Bush has held firm to having the United States play the dominant
role, suggesting in comments after the meeting with Mr. Blair in Belfast
that United Nations agencies may assist with food, medicine and other needs
and that a United Nations special representative can provide political

Administration officials said it was important to give contracts to American
corporations, essentially leapfrogging over international groups, as a way
to demonstrate to the Iraqi people that the United States is a liberator
bringing economic prosperity and democratic institutions to their nation.

"We don't see the need for a U.N. operation at all — the Iraqi interim
authority will be the equivalent of a civilian U.N. administration," said
the senior administration official.

As the administration sketches out its postwar Iraqi plans, officials say
that the World Bank eventually can act as the neutral international body
that will be the accountant for oil revenues, replacing the United Nations,
which has overseen the oil-for-food program.

This would require the creation of an Iraqi authority that is accepted by
other nations and international organizations, including the United Nations.
It would also mean lifting United Nations sanctions, as proposed by
President Bush on Wednesday, and unfreezing Iraqi assets.

Bechtel defeated a handful of other construction companies today to win the
The contract covers virtually all the major projects in Iraq, including two
international and three domestic airports, ensuring potable water is
available, reconstructing electric power plants and building roads,
railroads, schools, hospitals and irrigation systems.

An initial priority is rebuilding Iraq's only deep-water port, the harbor at
Umm Qasr, where cargo is loaded on ships that travel down a waterway in
southern Iraq to the Persian Gulf.

While administration officials say the bidding was based solely on which
companies were most qualified to do the work and on the need for an
expedited selection and security clearances, the two-month process drew
complaints from Congressional Democrats, as well as British companies, about
secrecy and the decision to restrict bidding to a handful of the largest
United States construction companies.

The finalists had come down to Bechtel, which rebuilt Kuwaiti oil fields
after the 1991 Persian Gulf war, and a bid from the Parsons Corporation, an
employee-owned company in Pasadena, Calif., which is one of Bechtel's
largest rivals and which performed extensive postwar reconstruction work in
Bosnia and Kosovo.

Parsons's bid included a major role as a subcontractor for Halliburton's
Kellogg Brown & Root subsidiary, but Halliburton never bid on the work as a
prime contractor. Other companies invited to bid included the Fluor
Corporation, the Louis Berger Group and Washington Group International.

For the Bush administration, there could be a down side to running Iraq on
United States authority. Reconstruction is estimated at $25 billion. The war
has cost more than $20 billion so far, and Pentagon officials are projecting
costs of $2 billion a month through Sept. 30. There is also the question of
being seen as an occupying power with an agenda closer to American than
Iraqi interests.

Jean Marie Guehenno, the United Nations under secretary for peacekeeping
operations, said that no matter who was in charge, "the problem is to create
a system that is seen as legitimate by Iraqis and the world."

"You have to be transparent and show you do not represent a foreign national
agenda," he said. Bush administration officials have emphasized that foreign
companies are eligible to become subcontractors for the work in Iraq.
Earlier this week, the State Department called in diplomats from Arab
countries and informed them that this construction contract would be
announced this week and encouraged them to begin preparing bids for the
subcontracting jobs.

Frances D. Cook, a former United States ambassador to Oman who represents a
consortium of Arab companies, said Bechtel would be wise to consider
awarding subcontracting work to companies from the region.

"There is both a political usefulness and cultural appropriateness to using
Arab companies from countries that helped us and want the jobs," said Ms.
Cook. "It will help our country the most and start to repair some of the
relationships in the region." A Bechtel spokesman said tonight that there
would be a "full and open competition on an international basis" for

The contract is one of several that had drawn criticism from lawmakers,
including Representatives Henry A. Waxman of California and John D. Dingell
of Michigan, the ranking Democrats on the Government Reform and Energy and
Commerce committees. The lawmakers had demanded an investigation by the
General Accounting Office into how the contracts were awarded.

Now, the G.A.O. plans an even wider investigation than what had been
requested. It will include an overall review of all matters relating to
postwar reconstruction in Iraq, said Jeff Nelligan, spokesman for the G.A.O.
"We will not be targeting any particular companies, but no company will be
off of our radar screen," Mr. Nelligan said.

Just this week, the United States Army Corps of Engineers said it would send
out for competitive bids on a new contract to fight continuing oil field
fires and rebuild Iraqi oil fields, a job initially awarded to Halliburton
in a separate contract without seeking any other bids. Halliburton is giant
Texas company that had been run by Vice President Dick Cheney until he quit
to run for vice president.

The Bush administration has denied that politics played any role in the
awarding of any contract for postwar Iraq. All decisions have been made on
the merits, administration officials say.

"The White House hasn't made any decisions to exclude countries or companies
on awarding contracts," Michael Anton, a spokesman for the National Security
Council, said today.

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