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Iraq war corruption cases go beyond simple “fraud”
By Ray Hanania — This week, a suburban Chicago man who once held a management position at a company that sub-contracted war-related services in Iraq through Halliburton, will finally face trial on charges of corruption. Halliburton and the sub-contractor, Kellogg Brown & Root Inc., (KBR), have seen a string of their managers and employees convicted on corruption charges over the past five years since the war began. But the judge overseeing the case has ruled the defendants will not be permitted to debate the Iraq War during the trial, fueling suspicions the Bush administration is manipulating the cases to protect its political and financial interests.
Nearly all of the cases have been prosecuted at low-profile regional courtrooms, with the latest case, that of former KBR manager Jeff Mazon of Country Club Hills in suburban Chicago, finally coming to trial after a delay of more than three years.
Clearly, cases prosecuted in Washington DC would attract more national coverage. But all of the cases have been prosecuted in suburban Illinois municipalities far from Chicago and by lesser-profile prosecutors.
War-related corruption has become a major public debate since the war, especially in the wake of the lies told by Bush, Vice President Cheney and other administration officials in order to sell the war to the public. Bush needs to show the public that his administration is prosecuting abuses, but he doesn’t want the prosecutions to disrupt the administration’s ties to Halliburton.
Houston-based Halliburton was formerly managed by Cheney, whom many believe will benefit from the billions it received in no-bid war-related contracts when he retires from office.
Now, the judge in the case, U.S. District Court Judge Joe B. McDade, instructed Mazon’s attorneys during pre-trial hearings this week, “I’m not going to let this case go beyond what it is. It’s a fraud case.”
If the Mazon case and the dozens of others that have been prosecuted were merely “fraud cases,” they would have been handled far differently, showcased on a higher political plain. Prosecutors would have also opened the door to the broader concerns facing Americans: How is it that one company with ties to the Bush administration, Halliburton, cornered the market on nearly all of the Iraq war contracts; and, why isn’t Halliburton or sub-contractors like KBR being scrutinized more closely and openly for what appears to be not individual cases of corruption but systematic corruption involving the parent companies?
In other words, why isn’t Halliburton being held accountable? Because the fraud cases have nothing to do with the corruption of the war in Iraq and the lies told by the Bush-Cheney administration? Or, because Bush and Cheney are seeking to prevent the corruption cases from undermining Halliburton’s credibility further?
The war in Iraq is precisely the focus of all of these fraud cases. The war itself was a fraud. The fraud didn’t start with low level managers negotiating contracts, but rather with the process in which Halliburton was placed in charge of the contracts by the Bush administration.
Ironically, individuals from KBR and Halliburton have been tapped as prosecuting witnesses, yet none of the companies have been held accountable.
McDade approved a government motion prohibiting Mazon’s attorneys from arguing that the mazon is being made a scapegoat by Halliburton and KBR.
Mazon’s attorneys charge their client was framed by KBR, another scapegoat to redirect attention from the company. Did the Bush administration work in concert with KBR and Halliburton to orchestrate the charges against Mazon?
These and other questions won’t be answered because of the judge’s decision and other hurdles being placed on Mazon’s defense.
And, before Mazon’s defense team can call a KBR or Halliburton officer to discuss the case, prosecutors are demanding that Mazon’s attorneys prove that those individuals will be able to prove they have “something relevant” to offer first.
Until Judge McDade allows Mazon and others to fully defend themselves by broadening the trial to not only include the Bush administration’s Iraq War but also to explore possible conspiracies between Halliburton and KBR and the Bush administration, the corruption will not end and justice will not be served.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, author and Chicago radio talk show host. He can be reached at www.hanania.com.)
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Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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