The Independent Newsweekly
|Today's Take: NCR's daily Web column|
|Each weekday over the course of a week, a member of the NCR staff offers a commentary on one or more topics in the news. It's our way of introducing you to some of the people carrying out the NCR mission of faith and justice based journalism.|
|February 18, 2004||
Vol. 1, No. 202
An old story
Dennis Coday, NCR staff writer
The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Halliburton Co. - the company Dick Cheney ran before he was vice president - has "agreed to withhold billing on an additional$140 million in food services for U.S. troops and other personnel in Iraq and Kuwait after the Pentagon raised concerns that it engaged in 'substantial overcharging' on millions of overseas meals."
London's The Guardian follows up that story today with an article: 'Overcharging' by Cheney's old firm becomes election issue.
The Wall quotes e-mail from Pentagon that reported that in one camp alone last July, Kellogg Brown & Root (a Halliburton subsidiary) served some 14,000 meals a day but billed for an average 42,000 meals a day. Just that camp was over billed some $16 million in a seven-month.
Halliburton says it is difficult to plan for meals in a shifting environment "Most cooks know how many people are coming to dinner when they are preparing food," said Kellogg Brown & Root 's chief executive, Randy Harl. "It's not that simple in Iraq."
I can sympathize. I used to cook suppers at a Catholic Worker House during the Reagan and George Bush I administrations. We never really knew how many people to expect.
Harl told said the firm was working with the army to predict numbers more accurately.
The Guardian says Halliburton has more than $9 billion worth of contracts in Iraq. That's more than any other company, but it certainly isn't alone.
If your office is like mine, you fax machine spews many, many unsolicited and unwanted faxes from companies you never heard of and don't want to know about. I usually don't pay attention to these - usually never see them. But on fax this last week caught my eye and I picked it up.
Emblazoned across the top is the headline: Defense Stocks Are Poised for Huge Gains! The fax came from some group called "Market Update Editorial" with the apparent aim of promoting "Growth Stock Opportunities."
The lead paragraph says, "Driven by huge increases in security spending from the war in Iraq and the ongoing fight against terrorism, defense-oriented stocks have seen huge gains and are among the hottest stocks in the market today."
The fax was touting a company that makes parts for Tomahawk and Patriot missiles and radar antennas for the navy's AEGIS battleship.
I shrugged this defense industry intrusion into my life, and went about my business.
Another fax, however soon arrived. This one came from Successful Investor Newsletter and wanted to tell me about a company that "is rapidly emerging as one of America's most respected manufacturers and distributors of precision made, low-cost ammunition. The fax wanted me to know that this company had recently received multiyear contracts with the U.S. Army and State Department. The company had also received State Department approval to ship small arms ammunition to the Dominican Republic.
The fax assured me that the company's stock is poised to go through the roof!
War profiteering. Merchants of death. It is such an old story, isn't it. Comments would be superfluous.
Dennis Coday is an NCR staff writer and coordinates the NCR Web site. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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