May 2001 - VOLUME 22 - NUMBER 5
T H E B U S H Y E A R S B E G I N
Cheney & Halliburton:
Go Where the Oil Is
By Kenny Bruno and Jim Valette
Probably the most entertaining exchange in the vice-presidential debate
last year occurred when Joe Lieberman, referring to the millions of dollars
Dick Cheney had made as CEO of Halliburton Co., noted that Cheney was
considerably better off than he had been eight years earlier.
Cheney, refusing to give the Clinton administration any credit for his
own prosperity, or the nations, replied that his new wealth had
nothing to do with the government.
The assertion was disingenuous, as in fact Halliburtons growth
and Dick Cheneys own $37 million stock and option windfall were
directly related to profits made with the help of foreign aid packages
and military contracts. Cheneys own connections from a long career
in government clearly played a role in the companys success. Moreover,
the chuckling after this understated paean to private sector superiority
helped to obscure the fact that Dick Cheneys Halliburton has succeeded
by partnering or engaging with governments around the world
including some of the most repressive regimes in the world
and its complicity with egregious human rights violations.
HALLIBURTON IN BURMA
Natural gas deposits, later named the Yadana field, were first discovered
offshore near Burma in the Andaman Sea in 1982. Beginning in the late
1980s, the Burmese government sought investors for a pipeline planned
from the Yadana field across Burma to Thailand. In 1991, the government
reached a preliminary agreement, formalized later, to deliver gas to the
Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT). In 1992, Total, a French oil corporation,
agreed to develop the field with Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE).
Unocal, a U.S. oil company, joined the venture in 1993. Finally, the Yadana
field consortium known as the Moattama Gas Transportation
Company was incorporated in December 1994. Its stakeholders
include Total (31.24 percent), Unocal (28.26 percent), PTT (25.5 percent)
and MOGE (15 percent).
Spie Capag of France completed the 62-kilometer onshore section of the
Yadana pipeline to Thailand in 1998. Prior to the pipelines construction,
the Burmese military forcibly relocated towns along the onshore route.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, credible evidence exists
that several villages along the route were forcibly relocated or depopulated
in the months before the production-sharing agreement was signed.
EarthRights International (ERI) has charged in a lawsuit that the Yadana
and Yetagun pipeline consortia Unocal, Total and Premier
knew of (especially from their own consultants) and benefited from the
crimes committed by the Burmese military on behalf of the projects.
An ERI investigation concluded that construction and operation of the
pipelines has involved the use of forced labor, forced relocation and
even murder, torture and rape. In addition, as the largest foreign investment
projects in Burma, the pipelines will provide revenue to prop up the regime,
perhaps for decades to come.
Halliburton failed to respond to repeated requests for comment on these
allegations and other issues raised in this article.
Shortly before the election, Dick Cheney admitted on the Larry King Live!
show that Halliburton had done contract work in Burma. Cheney defended
the project by saying that Halliburton had not broken the U.S. law imposing
sanctions on Burma, which forbids new investments in the country. You
have to operate in some very difficult places and oftentimes in countries
that are governed in a manner thats not consistent with our principles
here in the United States, Cheney told Larry King. But the
worlds not made up only of democracies.
Halliburtons engagement in Burma predates Dick Cheneys tenure
as CEO. Halliburton had an office in Rangoon as early as 1990, two years
after the military regime took power by voiding the election of the National
League for Democracy, the party of Aung San Suu Kyi. In the early 1990s,
Halliburton Energy Services joined with Alfred McAlpine (UK) to provide
pre-commissioning services to the Yadana pipeline.
In 1997, after Dick Cheney joined Halliburton, the Yadana field developers
hired European Marine Services (EMC) to lay the 365-kilometer offshore
portion of the Yadana gas pipeline. EMC is a 50-50 joint venture between
Halliburton and Saipem of Italy. From July to October 1997, EMC installed
the 360-inch diameter line using its pipelaying barges.
The route followed by Halliburton and Saipem was chosen by the Burmese
government to minimize costs, even though the onshore pipeline path would
cut through politically sensitive areas inhabited by ethnic minorities
in the Tenasserim region of Burma. Given the Burmese militarys well-documented
history of human rights violations and brutality, human rights groups
say the western companies knew or should have known that human rights
crimes would accompany Burmese troops into the onshore pipeline region.
They say there was ample evidence in the public domain that such violations
were already occurring when Halliburton chose to lay pipe for the project.
As Katie Redford, a lawyer with EarthRights International puts it, To
be involved in the Yadana pipeline is to knowingly accept brutal violations
of human rights as part of doing business.
(This was not the last time that a Halliburton company did business with
Burma. In 1998, a subsidiary of Dresser Industries called Bredero-Price
(now Bredero Shaw) manufactured the coating for the Yetagun pipeline,
the onshore portion of which runs parallel to the Yadana pipeline. Dresser
was purchased by Halliburton that same year.)
For years, ERI has worked to document an extensive pattern of forced
relocation and forced labor associated with the Yadana pipeline. Earthrights
International has used the evidence mounted to build its legal case against
the western multinationals involved. Halliburton, which only worked on
the offshore portion of the pipeline, is not a defendant in the case.
ERI believes a consistent pattern of human rights and economic rights
violations in the pipeline region are a predictable and direct result
of the investments made by western multinationals.
In August 2000, a U.S. federal district court concluded that the Yadana
pipeline consortium knew the military had a record of committing
human rights abuses; that the Project hired the military to provide security
for the project, a military that forced villagers to work and entire villages
to relocate for the benefit of the Project; that the military, while forcing
villagers to work and relocate, committed numerous acts of violence; and
that Unocal knew or should have known that the military did commit, was
committing and would continue to commit these tortious acts.
Although the judge eventually dismissed the case Doe et.
al. v. Unocal et. al. because, in his opinion, Unocal did
not control the Burmese military, which committed the abuses, the case
is being appealed. (ERI is co-counsel in the case.)
HALLIBURTONS GLOBAL REACH
Youve got to go where the oil is. I dont think about
it [political volatility] very much, Cheney told the Panhandle Producers
and Royalty Owners Association annual meeting in 1998.
Halliburton is now the worlds largest diversified energy services,
engineering, construction and maintenance company, with some 100,000 employees
and 7,000 customers in more than 120 countries.
While most of Halliburtons revenues come from contracted oil and
gas industry services, it also earns considerable income from major civil
and military projects, such as building roads and deploying infrastructure
for overseas U.S. operations. Halliburton ranked as the seventeenth leading
recipient of U.S. defense contracts in 1999. Halliburtons Kellogg,
Brown & Root subsidiary brought in all but $1 million of Halliburtons
$657.5 million military loot.
GOING WHERE THE OIL IS
Halliburtons dealings in six countries Azerbaijan,
Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Nigeria show that the companys
willingness to do business where human rights are not respected is a pattern
that goes beyond its involvement in Burma:
DICK CHENEY AND USA*ENGAGE
For example, Cheney signed an amicus brief against the Massachusetts
Burma law. Modeled on successful anti-apartheid legislation of the 1980s,
the law would have prevented Massachusetts from doing business with companies
doing business in Burma. The Massachusetts law was struck down by the
U.S. Supreme Court last June.
Similarly, Cheney has opposed sanctions against almost all the countries
that Halliburton does business in, including Iran, Libya and Azerbaijan.
The one exception is Iraq.
Now that Dick Cheney is back in government, his position on sanctions
is likely to become more influential. Secretary of State Colin Powell
has already echoed the sentiment of Cheney and USA*Engage, saying he wanted
to reduce the use of sanctions as a foreign policy tool. This would leave
Cheneys ex-colleagues back at Halliburton freer than ever to pursue
profits even where environmental and human rights norms are disregarded.
Among the sanctions USA*Engage seeks to eliminate are those against the
pariah regime of Burma, even though the leader of the democratically elected
party, Aung San Suu Kyi, has expressed her support for the sanctions.
If USA*Engage is successful, Halliburton may resume dealings with the
Burmese military dictatorship, a destructive engagement that could extend
Dick Cheneys pro-engagement, anti-sanctions policies have remained
consistent whether he is in government or business. These policies might
be summarized as, whats good for Halliburton is good for the
world, and vice versa.
It is one thing for the CEO of Halliburton to hold such a view. It is quite another for the Vice President of the United States.
Kenny Bruno is campaigns coordinator with the Washington, D.C.-based EarthRights International. Jim Valette is an investigative reporter based in Seawall, Maine. This article is based on Halliburtons Destructive Engagement: How Dick Cheney and USA*Engage Subvert Democracy at Home and Abroad, a report by EarthRights International.