November 7, 2005

Oil for Blood

Hatched by Dafydd

NOTE: This story was developed in collabortion between Sachi and Dafydd.

Is the United Nations trying to change the subject from its own complicity -- for literally years -- in the massive theft from the Iraqi people that is the Oil for Food scandal?

According to the New York Times on Saturday, a UN-sponsored auditing board, called the "International Advisory and Monitoring Board of the Development Fund for Iraq," is recommending that the United States should "repay as much as $208 million" to Iraq for alleged overcharges by Kellog, Brown and Root (KB&R), a subsidiary of Halliburton that has come under fire before by the Democratic Party and their allies in the press and the UN.

An auditing board sponsored by the United Nations recommended yesterday that the United States repay as much as $208 million to the Iraqi government for contracting work in 2003 and 2004 assigned to Kellogg, Brown & Root, the Halliburton subsidiary.

The work was paid for with Iraqi oil proceeds, but the board said it was either carried out at inflated prices or done poorly. The board did not, however, give examples of poor work. [all emphasis here and elsewhere added]

Even the Development Fund Board isn't quite sure just how much actual money they think should be forked over:

The monitoring board, created by the United Nations specifically to oversee the Development Fund - which includes Iraqi oil revenues but also some money seized from Saddam Hussein's government - said because the audits were continuing, it was too early to say how much of the $208 million should ultimately be paid back.

In other words, it could be $208 million... or it could be zero. Or anything in between. But such irrelevant questions won't stop the UN from playing "let's you and him fight."

Let's open a tab: the UN Board recommends that the United States pay "as much as" $208,000, but doesn't actually know how much of that money is actually overcharge and how much is perfectly legimate; and they also criticized KB&R workmanship but couldn't point to any specifics. They just dropped the last charge without going through all the fuss and bother of finding actual evidence of any wrongdoing.

A spokeswoman for Halliburton, Cathy Mann, said the questions raised in the military audits, carried out in a Pentagon office called the Defense Contract Auditing Agency, had largely focused on issues of paperwork and documentation and alleged nothing about the quality of the work done by K.B.R. The monitoring board relied heavily on the Pentagon audits in drawing its conclusions.

"The auditors have raised questions about the support and the documentation rather than questioning the fact that we have incurred the costs," Ms. Mann said in an e-mail response to questions. "Therefore, it would be completely wrong to say or imply that any of these costs that were incurred at the client's direction for its benefit are 'overcharges.'"

I wonder... how much thought has the Board given to the actual costs of working in Iraq during the chaos starting right after the collapse of Saddam Hussein's government? Civilian workers had been subjected to roadside bombings, kidnappings, and even beheadings. In order to attract workers to work in such a hostile environment, KB&R would have to offer much higher salaries than other companies -- not mention enormous insurance premiums and the cost of a large number of security personnel. Since KB&R is a private company, not a government organization, they had to provide security for their own employees.

But there is no evidence the Board considered any of these explanations for the high cost. The Times says they "relied heavily on [earlier] Pentagon audits" in preparing these recommendations; but it does not quote from any of those previous audits; so we have no way of knowing whether the Board's recommendation agrees with the Pentagon's audits or contradicts them.

Why is the United Nations releasing this report, with its hearsay and inuendo, at this particular moment in time? Several reasons leap out: First, there is the continuing investigation into the UN's Oil for Food bribery scheme. With both its own investigation by Paul Volcker and the investigation by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations nipping at the heels of Secretary General Kofi Annan, his family, and cronies over the billions of dollars stolen from the Iraqi people by Saddam Hussein with the connivance of the United Nations heirarchy (who took their own bribes and kickbacks), they desperately need someone else to be the villain for a while. Since there seems no way to blame Israel for any of this, the United States is elected.

Second, for those who have always opposed the war to remove Saddam, there is the urgent task of getting more Iraqis to hate the United States and perhaps demand our immediate withdrawal, while there is still time for the Baathists to return:

The monitoring board authority extends only to making recommendations on any reimbursement. It would be up to the United States government to decide whether to make the payments, and who should make them. But Louay Bahry, a former Iraqi academic who is now at the Middle East Institute in Washington, said the board's findings would stoke suspicions on the street in Iraq, where there had always been fears that the United States invaded the country to control its oil resources.

"Something like this will be caught in the Iraqi press and be discussed by the Iraqi general public and will leave a very bad taste in the mouth of the Iraqis," Mr. Bahry said. "It will increase the hostility towards the United States."

And finally, most in the UN would much prefer to see the Democrats in charge in the United States, rather than "warmongers" like George W. Bush and the Republicans. Anything that will further that cause is always in order.

The audits may also come at a bad time for the Bush administration, since Vice President Dick Cheney's former role as chief executive of Halliburton has led to charges, uniformly dismissed by Mr. Cheney and the company, that it received preferential treatment in receiving the contracts. The early Kellogg, Brown & Root contracts in Iraq were "sole sourced," or bid noncompetitively.

"The Bush administration repeatedly gave Halliburton special treatment and allowed the company to gouge both U.S. taxpayers and the Iraqi people," Representative Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat who is the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Government Reform, said in a statement on the new audits. "The international auditors have every right to expect a full refund of Halliburton's egregious overcharges."

Speaking of "a full refund," when will the UN pay back all the money they helped loot from Iraq in the last years of Hussein's bloody rule? Perhaps after they do that, we can talk about this tendentious audit.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 7, 2005, at the time of 2:16 AM

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The following hissed in response by: RBMN

HALLIBURTON HLDG CO (NYSE) CHART, 5yr, linear, compared to the dow jones index.

The above hissed in response by: RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 7, 2005 7:35 AM

The following hissed in response by: RBMN

Re: RBMN at November 7, 2005 07:35 AM

Notice when the spike happens. It's a Katrina spike.

The above hissed in response by: RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 7, 2005 8:14 AM

The following hissed in response by: Steelhand

The odd bit missing from the UN Report, and the critics of Halliburton in general is... WHO ELSE WANTS THE JOB? If there is a bid process and no one enters the bid process where does it lead us?

There are a slender few organizations in the world that attempt to take on intimidating tasks like these. To my knowledge, no other such companies in the US offer such services.

So would we prefer the work be outsourced to a foreign company that could filter cash back to the UN? (I'm sure Kofi and the boys would LOVE that!) Or keep the control of the efforts under an organization with a proven track record of working with the US Gov't?

The above hissed in response by: Steelhand [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 7, 2005 9:00 AM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist

France has the only other company like Halliburton in the whole world, and that company doesn't come close to Halliburton...imagine what the rest are like.

Humble swamp hermits are not suppose to get this upset!!!

W has been the first World Leader to stand up to the Muslims, Arabs, Islamists since "41"...ooops, i forgot to add in the UN.

Imagine driving a gasoline tanker, in Iraq, in 2003 and 2004...heck, just imagine the cost of Insurance on that same tanker of gasoline!!!

Planet Earth needs a full-blown World Wide *WAR*!!! This fighting each battle in Mainstream Media must end. Clearly, the World's leftists don't care what happends to Americans, so why do we waste time in this war that we did not start.

The Sane World *BAFFLES* the to speak. KårmiÇømmünîs†

The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 8, 2005 3:23 PM

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