The Fifteenth Anniversary of September 11, 2001 passed quietly in the United States. There were no attacks, moments of silence were respected and loved ones remembered. Fifteen years ago would we have expected that as a people and a nation we would have made so little progress in recovering from that horrible day?
The aftermath of September 11 was completely mishandled by the Bush administration and the situation faced by the United States and countries around the world today are a direct result of that. I know that sounds too simple but there is an old saying that goes, “It’s as plain as the nose on your face. This is one of those times. Following the attacks of September 11, countries from around the globe showed their support for the United States.
In France, a well-known newspaper, Le Monde, ran a headline reading, “We Are All Americans.” In Tehran, an entire stadium of people gathered for a soccer match observed a moment of silence, and in Turkey, flags flew at half-staff. In Beijing, tens of thousands of people visited the U.S. Embassy, leaving flowers, cards, funeral wreaths and hand-written notes of condolence on the sidewalk out front. In mosques in Bangladesh, Yemen, Pakistan, Libya and Sudan clerics’ condemned the cowardly and un-Islamic attacks.
People around the world were in solidarity with the United States. They felt our anguish. Many had seen bombs blow apart their own cities and towns over the years and knew only too well the horror of it.
Two years later that solidarity and good will had been squandered by the Bush administration; squandered with little thought to the future. It was squandered for stock options and the Bush administration has yet to answer for it or the resulting chaos it has caused around the world.
What am I referring to when I talk about stock options? I am talking about the real cause of war, greed and profiteering. Dick Cheney was Secretary of Defense from March 1989 through January of 1993. As secretary of defense, Cheney oversaw one of the largest privatization efforts in the history of the Pentagon.
In 1992, the Pentagon, then under Cheney’s direction, paid Texas-based Brown & Root Services (BRS) which is owned by, Halliburton, $3.9 million to produce a classified report detailing how private companies, like itself , could help provide logistics for American troops in potential war zones around the world. The idea being that these companies could provide services for the military at a cheaper price than the military could do it for them. I suspect many Americans today believe that the military cooks its own food, does its own laundry, and guards it own generals; it used to but that is no longer the case.
Dick Cheney convinced people that it would be more cost effective to outsource this work in much the same way other American jobs have been outsourced under what has become known as Globalization. As Secretary of Defense, Cheney oversaw one of the largest privatization efforts in the history of the Pentagon, steering millions of military dollars to civilian contractors.
In 1995 Dick Cheney then became CEO of Halliburton even though he had no previous experience in running a multinational company. As Secretary of Defense he privatizes large parts of the military giving those contracts to Halliburton and its subsidiaries and then in 1995 he is offered the position of CEO of these very same companies; coincidence perhaps.
Between 1992 and 1999, the Pentagon then paid BRS more than $1.2 billion for its work in countries around the globe including Somalia. In May of 1999, the US Army Corps of Engineers re-enlisted the company’s help in the Balkans, giving it a new five-year contract worth $731 million while Cheney was CEO.
On July 25, 2000 George W. Bush selected Dick Cheney to be his vice-president. Cheney had already informed the Board of Halliburton Co. that he would have to step down if selected as Bush’s running mate. A month prior to this Cheney had sold half of his stock in Halliburton. Again, perhaps this was mere coincidence.
Halliburton’s board of directors voted to award Cheney early retirement when he quit his job, even though he was too young to qualify under his contract. That flexibility enabled him to leave with a retirement package, including stock options, worth millions more than if he had simply resigned. Thus Cheney received roughly $34 million dollars by Halliburton as he left to become vice-president.
Some people have referred to that as a signing bonus. Of course in financial terms it’s called a payout or severance package but in keeping with what Cheney had done as Secretary of State; privatizing large segments of the military, awarding those private contracts to Halliburton and then taking over as CEO of Halliburton, it does start to look a little suspect. But why would a company pay their former CEO to become vice-president of the United States?
The attack on Afghanistan dubbed “Operation Enduring Freedom” has never been questioned by Americans, the media or other countries around the world. It was necessary and justified. It was understood that it was an act of self-defense. The training camps used by the 911 attackers and those still being trained there had to be destroyed.
That job had been completed by January of 2002. The United States and the Bush administration still shared the solidarity and the goodwill of nations around the globe; however that was about to change.
On November 27, 2001, in a report released through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), it confirms that policy makers were already looking for ways to justify invading Iraq as indicated by Rumsfeld’s first point, focus on WMD. Other reports indicate that even before 911 the Bush administration was trying to figure out just how to justify an unprovoked attack given the lack of any real evidence that Iraq was a threat to the U.S., how to win over allies that would be willing to join in the U.S. invasion and how to sell the administration’s controversial choices to the American people
The question has always been why attack Iraq? Saddam Hussein was boxed in. The United States had “No fly zones in the North and the South.” Sanctions had devastated the Iraq economy and Hussein himself knew that if he wanted to stay in power he couldn’t afford even one more military incursion anywhere. Iraq was a “Paper Tiger” and everyone knew it. It had not attacked the United States, could not be considered a threat and had nothing to do with 911. The question remains, why attack Iraq?
In an interview in 1994 and quoted in Military.com explaining why after the Gulf War, the U.S. had no choice but to keep Saddam Hussein in power Dick Cheney stated, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BEsZMvrq-I
“If we had gone to Baghdad we would have been all alone. There wouldn’t have been anybody else with us. It would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq. None of the Arab forces that were willing to fight with us in Kuwait were willing to invade Iraq. Once you got to Iraq and took it over and took down Saddam Hussein’s government, then what are you going to put in its place? That’s a very volatile part of the world. And if you take down the central government in Iraq, you could easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off. Part of it the Syrians would like to have, the west. Part of eastern Iraq the Iranians would like to claim. Fought over for eight years. In the north, you’ve got the Kurds. And if the Kurds spin loose and join with Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey. It’s a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq. The other thing is casualties. Everyone was impressed with the fact that we were able to do our job with as few casualties as we had, but for the 146 Americans killed in action and for the families it wasn’t a cheap war. And the question for the president in terms of whether or not we went on to Baghdad and took additional casualties in an effort to get Saddam Hussein was how many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth? And our judgment was not very many, and I think we got it right.”
On March 16, 2003 on Meet the Press Tim Russert asked then vice-president Cheney “Do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?” Cheney responded, “Well, I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators. I’ve talked with a lot of Iraqis in the last several months myself, had them to the White House….The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want to get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.”
Dick Cheney got it right in 1994 and was dead wrong in 2003. The scenario he painted in 1994 was the exact scenario that took place in Iraq when the United States invaded in 2003 and that scenario continues to play out today with all the pieces he mentioned; Syrians, Iranians, Turkey, the Kurds and few he didn’t see at the time such as ISIS, and various other groups now fighting there.
What happened that altered Dick Cheney’s perfect perspective, his total understanding of the situation in Iraq if it were to be invaded. What is it that often changes a man’s outlook, his beliefs, his views, and his integrity? The answer is of course money, $34 million dollars.
President George W. Bush has stated that his administration in hindsight had relied on faulty intelligence. Dick Cheney made the statement, “Simply stated, there’s no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.” However George Tenent, Director of the CIA stated, The CIA informed policymakers it had “no specific information on the types or quantities of weapons agent or stockpiles at Baghdad’s disposal.” The “massive stockpile” was just literally made up.
Prior to the invasion of Iraq in March of 2003 millions of people around the world protested the coming invasion of Iraq. The same people from the same nations around the globe who had stood by the United States, who had shown their solidarity in a time of crisis and turmoil were now protesting what they viewed as naked aggression against a country that had not attacked, threatened or had the ability to threaten the United States and who at the time was not threatening any of its neighbors; a country and a people that had known nothing but war since 1979.
Their protests fell on deaf ears. “War is a racket.” So said Smedley Butler, a decorated Marine and the only people it serves are those who profit from it. When the Iraq War was over Halliburton had made a profit of $39.9 billion dollars. Even subtracting Dick Cheney’s “thirty pieces of silver” adjusting for inflation, $34 million dollars, it’s a staggering profit.
The cost of that profit, 5000, American lives, 40,000 wounded, approximately 200,000 Iraqi lives, figures vary, a staggering cost to the American economy in lost dollars for projects at home and the loss of goodwill and solidarity from people and nations around the world and of course the peace.
Iraq has become exactly what Dick Cheney predicted it would. Pieces of it have flown off in all directions creating ISIS, the Syrian Civil War, more terrorist attacks around the world and a sense of despair, polarization, trepidation, and hatred in the United States. The byproduct of which may be a Trump presidency which might yet be the worst thing the United States sees spawned by the aftermath of September 11, 2001.