Halliburton’s Return: Oil Spill Puts Symbol Of Cronyism And Corruption Back In The News

It seems increasingly likely that when investigators determine the precise cause of the oil-rig explosion that threatens to poison huge swaths of the Gulf of Mexico, what they’ll conclude is that something went catastrophically wrong with the work done by Halliburton.

BP owns the well, and Transocean Ltd. owns the drilling rig, but Halliburton was the subcontractor in charge of sealing the bottom of the well. At two Senate hearings Tuesday, executives from Halliburton, BP and Transocean will be furiously blaming each other for the diaster.

For Halliburton, it’s just the latest in a seemingly endless series of brushes with notoriety.

During the Bush years, Halliburton was so omnipresent that its very name became synonymous with crony capitalism and the corrupt intersection between government and the military-industrial complex — particularly when oil and/or big money were involved.

The company most famously reaped huge profits by bilking the government on billion-dollar sweetheart contracts to support a war in Iraq that its former chairman, Dick Cheney, helped lead the nation into as vice president.

Under just one of the deals, as the Washington Post reported in 2006, “Halliburton had exclusive rights to provide the military with a wide range of work that included keeping soldiers around the world fed, sheltered and in communication with friends and family back home. Government audits turned up more than $1 billion in questionable costs. Whistle-blowers told how the company charged $45 per case of soda, double-billed on meals and allowed troops to bathe in contaminated water.”

There were also multiple allegations that while in Iraq, the company sanctioned sexual violence against women employees. Jamie Leigh Jones, a 20-year old Texas woman, was drugged, stripped, beaten and gang-raped by her co-workers on her fourth day in country — after which Halliburton put her under guard in a shipping container for 24 hours with no food or water and warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she’d be out of a job.

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