HOUSTON – Protests continue here and around the country over the war profiteering of Halliburton Company and its crony capitalist practices. A recent example here was a June 21 protest that took the form of an “Un-Happy 80th Birthday Party” for Halliburton.

Halliburton’s relationship with its former chief executive, Vice President Dick Cheney, has been repeatedly questioned. The company has been the Number One financial beneficiary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. It has received $9 billion in no-bid contracts for projects that have been characterized by daily reports of misuse and abuse of the taxpayers’ money.

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the women’s group, Code Pink, told Reuters that the Cheney-Halliburton connection “is the worst example of cronyism. It sends a terrible message around the world.”

A June 16 article by Pratep Chatterjee in CorpWatch pointed out that a Halliburton subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), is the recipient of contracts that may eventually total $18 billion. There has been testimony before Congress detailing how taxpayers were billed for empty trucks driven up and down Iraq and how $85,000 vehicles were abandoned for lack of spare tires. Auditors have revealed that the company was spending $100 for a single bag of laundry on average and $10,000 per month for company employees to stay in five-star hotels.

Jim Donahue, coordinator for Halliburton Watch, a non-profit organization based in Washington, stated, “While the Bush administration failed to adequately plan for the safety of our troops – as proven by its failure to provide sufficient body armor – it made certain that Halliburton would make a killing long before the war began.”

Testimony further revealed KBR’s inept mismanagement of the simplest details of the so-called reconstruction of Iraq at U.S. taxpayers’ expense. Fifty to 100 brand new trucks were observed to be sitting unused in Kuwait. Basic parts for vehicles, such as oil and fuel filters, were not available for months on end.

Individuals testifying before Congress have expressed their disgust and disappointment over Halliburton’s lies, disorganization and wasteful spending of taxpayers’ money to pay employees that do nothing. When articles in the Wall Street Journal exposed the overcharging and fraud in Halliburton’s operations, the company hired a “Tiger Team” to audit and correct problems, according to testimony. This team has been cited for not correcting anything and continuing to use “questionable auditing and administration practices.”

The so-called Tiger Team occupied waterfront villas at a rate of $10,000 per month, per employee, at the Kempinski Hilton Hotel, while doing nothing to clean up old subcontracts. Meanwhile, U.S. soldiers were required to live in tents at a cost of $1.39 per day. Although the military requested that Halliburton employees move into the tents, they refused.

A major protest occurred in Houston on May 19 during the annual stockholders meeting held at the Four Seasons Hotel. The protesters dressed as pigs, i.e., as corporate capitalist pigs at the trough, and satirized the Halliburton corporate cronyism. They disrupted the Halliburton meeting by chanting “Halliburton, Kellogg, Brown and Root, Go to Iraq and Loot, Loot, Loot.” They greeted shareholders at the meeting with a 25-foot inflatable pig called “Hallibacon” and dropped anti-Halliburton banners all over the city, including one from a Four Seasons window.

Activists blockaded the driveway of the Four Seasons and staged a die-in at Halliburton’s world headquarters just two blocks away. According to Reuters, five people were arrested for trespassing after entering the hotel and handcuffing themselves to railings. They chanted “Your profits are bloody and your hands are too” at the shareholders.

The protest was sponsored by a wide range of peace and justice groups, including the American Friends Service Committee, the Campaign to Stop the War Profiteers, Maryknoll House, the Texas Fair Trade Coalition, and U.S. Labor Against the War.

For more information about Halliburton’s profiteering, readers can go a document on CorpWatch’s web site, www.corpwatch.org, titled “Houston, We Have A Problem – An alternative annual report on Halliburton, April 2004.”

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org.