August 20, 2000
The Bush Family 'Oiligarchy'
Part Four: At the Candidate's Ear
By Sam Parry
Many of George W. Bush’s senior foreign policy advisers also have close ties to the oil industry.
Condoleeza Rice, George W.’s chief foreign policy aide and leading candidate to serve as his national security adviser, has been a director of Chevron Corp. since 1991. Rice is currently in charge of public policy for Chevron’s board of directors, which has used her expertise in Russian issues to help Chevron navigate its way to investments in the Caspian Sea oil fields.
In 1993, Rice was granted a rare honor when Chevron named an oil tanker after her.
Lawrence Eagleburger, a seasoned Bush counselor who held top State Department posts under George W.’s father, is a director of Halliburton Corp., the world’s largest oil field services company.
When looking for a running mate, George W. also turned to Halliburton. He asked Dick Cheney, Halliburton’s chairman and chief executive, first to vet other candidates and later to take the job. With Cheney at Halliburton’s helm for the past five years, the Dallas-based company grew into a global juggernaut, now with two-thirds of its business overseas. It has business in nearly 130 countries, counts about 700 wholly and partly owned subsidiaries, employs more than 100,000 workers worldwide, and boasts a 1999 income of $15 billion. [AP, July 26, 2000]
Halliburton's global network of investments includes projects in politically volatile areas, some with savage human rights records. Other countries, where Halliburton has subsidiaries, have come under criticism for bank secrecy.
The nations where Halliburton does business include oil-producers such as Nigeria, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Libya, Angola and Russia. The company’s roster of subsidiaries also lists companies in offshore banking havens, such as the Cayman Islands, Barbados, Panama, Cyprus and Vanuatu. [Halliburton’s annual report, March 2000]
While the political Cheney might have worried about the nature of U.S. business ties to some of these countries, Cheney the oilman apparently sees nothing wrong with lucrative investments in these places, even though Iran and Libya remain on the State Department’s list of terrorist states.
As politician-Cheney promotes the need for a missile defense system in the U.S. for fear that “rogue” states might develop missiles powerful enough to threaten American cities, oilman-Cheney has negotiated Halliburton investments in some of those very countries and has criticized the use of economic sanctions as a tool of U.S. foreign policy.
During Cheney’s tenure, Halliburton built up operations in Nigeria despite the country’s pattern of human rights violations. Halliburton’s subsidiaries signed contracts with Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron, two companies that have been at loggerheads with Nigerian indigenous groups in the Niger Delta.
In April 2000, Brown & Root Energy Services, a business unit of Halliburton, was selected by Shell Petroleum Development Co. of Nigeria to work on the development of an offshore oil and gas facility, the first of its kind for Shell. The deal, valued at $300 million, has been questioned by those who have worked to hold Shell accountable for its pollution and notorious human rights record in Ogoniland in the Niger Delta.
Shell has been involved in oil exploration and export in Nigeria for more than 40 years, much of it in the fertile lands belonging to the Ogoni people in the Niger Delta. During this period, Shell’s activities led to repeated environmental calamities, caused by oil spills, noxious gas flares, cleared forests, despoiled farmland and pipeline blowouts.
Shell’s operations and the money they generated for the military government of Sani Abacha earned Shell free rein in its operations. Gen. Abacha’s government used force to crush popular protests against the oil industry throughout the Niger Delta.
Just five years ago, in November 1995, the year Cheney joined Halliburton, renowned writer and environmental advocate Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight of his colleagues were hanged by the Abacha government for their efforts to prevent Shell from continuing to poison the environment of the Niger Delta.
It is estimated that more than 2,000 people have been murdered for their involvement in protests against Shell’s activities in the Delta. Most of those murdered were Ogoni who had rallied behind Saro-Wiwa in the early 1990s.
In 1999, Gen. Abacha died under mysterious circumstances that have yet to be fully clarified. An interim government gave way to a popularly elected administration headed by former Nigerian Gen. Obasanjo. The transition to democracy in Nigeria has led to renewed hope that tensions in the Niger Delta will ease. Still, inequality and poverty are rampant.
In recent weeks, desperate Nigerians caused deadly explosions when they tapped pipelines to siphon oil for sale in the open market. These explosions, while they can’t be blamed directly on the oil companies, are caused by the crushing poverty faced by many Nigerians, especially in the Niger Delta. Halliburton and its business allies have turned a blind eye to this inequality created in part by the exploitation of the area's oil.
In July 1997, an incident occurred in the Niger Delta that should have set off alarms in Halliburton executive suites. A youth by the name of Gidikumo Sule was killed by the Mobile Police, notorious for their brutal tactics. Sule was among dozens protesting Chevron in a dispute involving a Chevron contractor. That contractor was Halliburton.
The versions of the story vary, but what is known is that a group of youths trying to send a message to Chevron stopped a barge owned by Halliburton, blocking access to a Chevron facility. The youths were apparently protesting the fact that Chevron had failed to hire any local workers for a project.
Mobile Police units were sent in to break up the protests and in the ensuing confrontation, the police fired at the youths killing Sule. [See The Price of Oil, Human Rights Watch, http://www.hrw.org/hrw/reports/1999/nigeria/Nigew991-08.htm .] After the incident, Halliburton, which owned the barge at the center of the controversy, increased its business dealings in the area.