At the Vice Presidential debate, John Edwards dropped what pundits are calling the “H-Bomb” on Dick Cheney–Halliburton. We speak with John Nichols of The Nation magazine and author of Dick: The Man Who Is President about Halliburton’s record while Cheney was its CEO and beyond. [includes rush transcript]
- Vice Presidential debate, October 5, 2004.
- John Nichols, of The Nation Magazine. His new book is called Dick: The Man Who is President.
AMY GOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman as we continue to look at the debate last night between Dick Cheney and John Edwards. We’ll analyze it. We’re joined by three people, Rahul Mahajan, Bob Parry, also on the line with us, his new book that just came out looks at the full — well, Bush record from Watergate to Iraq. The book is called, Secrecy and Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq. We’re joined by John Nichols, his book is, Dick: The Man Who is President. Let’s go to Gwen Ifill, the moderator of last night’s debate.
GWEN IFILL: Mr. Vice President, in June of 2000, when you were still CEO of Halliburton, you said US businesses should be allowed to do business with Iran, because, quote, “Unilateral sanctions almost never work.” After four years as Vice President now, and with Iran having been declared by your Administration as part of the axis of evil, do you still believe we should lift sanctions on Iran?
DICK CHENEY: No, I do not. At the time I was talking specifically about the question of unilateral sanctions, what happens when we impose unilateral sanctions, unless there’s a collective effort, other people move in and take advantage of the situation and you don’t have impact except to penalize American countries. We have sanctions on Iran now. We may well want to go to the UN Security Council and ask for tougher sanctions if they don’t live up to their obligations under the International Atomic Energy Agency, a non-proliferation treaty. We have dealt with Iran differently than we have Iraq, partly because Iran has not yet, has Iraq did, violated 12 years of resolutions by the UN Security Council. We’re working with the Brits and Germans and French, who have been negotiating with the Iranians. We were recently actively involved in the Board of Governors on the International Atomic Energy Agency, and there will be a follow-up meeting in November to determine whether or not Iran is living up to their commitments and obligations, and if they are not the Board of Governors will recommend sending the whole matter to the UN Security Council for the application of international sanctions, which I think would be exactly the right way to go. We’re addressing North Korea on a similar basis, working with the Chinese, the South Koreans, the Japanese and others to try to bring them around. One of the great byproducts, for example, of what we did in Iraq and Afghanistan, is that five days after we captured Saddam Hussein, Moammar Khadafy and Libya came forward and announced that he was going to surrender his nuclear materials to the United States, which he has done. This is one of the biggest sources of proliferation in the world today, in terms of the threat that was represented by that. The suppliers’ network that provided that, headed by Mr. A.Q. Khan has been shut down. We have made progress in dealing with the nuclear proliferation. We will continue to press hard on the North Koreans and the Iranians as well.
GWEN IFILL: Senator Edwards.
JOHN EDWARDS: The Vice President talks about the members or someone associated with Al Qaeda in Iraq. There are 60 countries that have members of Al Qaeda in them. How many of those countries are we going to invade? Not only that, he talks about Iran. Reality about Iran is that Iran has moved forward with their nuclear weapons program on their watch. They ceded responsibility to dealing with it to the Europeans. Now, the Vice President, as you pointed out, works — spoke out loudly for lifting the sanctions on Iran. John Kerry and I believe we need to strengthen the sanctions on Iraq, including closing the loophole that allows companies to use a subsidiary, offshore subsidiaries to do business with Iran. I mentioned Halliburton a few minutes ago in connection with the $87 billion; you raised it in this question. This is relevant because he was pushing for sanctions — lifting sanctions when he was the CEO of Halliburton. Here’s why we didn’t think Halliburton should have a no-bid contract. While he was CEO of Halliburton, they paid millions of dollars in fines for providing false information on their company. Just like Enron and Ken Lay. They did business with Libya and Iran, two sworn enemies of the United States. They’re now under investigation for having bribed foreign officials during that period of time. Not only that, they have gotten the $7.5 billion no-bid contract in Iraq, and instead of part of their money being withheld, which is the way it’s normally being done, because they’re under investigation, they have continued to get their money.
AMY GOODMAN: Senator John Edwards on Dick Cheney and Halliburton. John Nichols, your response?
JOHN NICHOLS: I thought that Edwards actually did a little bit of the work; again, I would have liked to have seen him go a lot deeper, dig into this more. One of the things that I think is particularly notable about Cheney’s activities in the 1990’s, as CEO of Halliburton, a company he took over, by the way, after reorganizing how the Pentagon distributed contracts and also privatizing a lot of what was done in the military, making Halliburton a much more successful company and then moving into its leadership. But one of the things that he did at Halliburton was advocate very strongly for sort of an open borders approach all over the world. He wanted Halliburton to be able to go into virtually any country and one of the countries where Halliburton did business during his tenure as CEO was Iraq. In fact, Halliburton’s business operations in Iraq were the subject of government investigation back in the 1990’s, very serious matters. Cheney loves to say, “Well, those contracts came to Halliburton as part of a merger.” That’s true. But the bottom line was he maintained those contracts for months, years while serving as CEO. This is the kind of stuff that really ought to be a part of the dialogue. Not because Cheney’s necessarily wrong. I think often sanctions don’t work. And you know, he may — he may actually have had a good point on some of these things, but I do think that he plays a very ugly game of suggesting that he’s the super patriot, that the second he saw any evidence of something that was untoward, a contract that had Halliburton doing business in Iraq, or doing business in Libya, or setting up hundreds of offshore operation corporations, that he would jump on it. The fact of the matter is, no, he’s the exact opposite. He’s the classic CEO, and the suggestion that he stopped being a classic CEO since entering the Vice Presidency is absurd.