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By Ray Hanania — The Bush administration moved to prevent Jeff Mazon from making a defense that would most certainly shift the blame from charges he took a bribe to the more important questionable track record of his former employers, Halliburton. In a motion made to U.S. District Court Judge Joe Billy McDade earlier this month, the Bush administration asked that Mazon be denied the right to argue the most fundamental issues driving alleged corruption in the handling of war-related contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is ironic that Cheney’s company is willing to move to Dubai in the UAE, but Bush and Cheney were unwilling to allow Dubai to handle the security of American ports. It’s a great example of the hypocrisy that embraces the Bush administration’s misguided war and confirms suspicions the administration’s foreign policy are based mainly on greed.
And that’s why Mazon’s trial is so important.
The Bush administration has asked in a “Motion in Limine” made Sept. 2, 2008, that Mazon be denied the right to argue the following in this second trial:
- the defendant is being made a scapegoat by KBR, his former employer, and Halliburton Co., KBR’s former parent company, in connection with the charges against him;
- Halliburton, KBR and its executives and managers have framed the defendant or otherwise caused the government to improperly charge him;
- the government has acted in concert with Halliburton and KBR in order to improperly charge Mazon; and d) improper conduct by Halliburton and KBR in their handling of government contracts should exculpate the defendant.
The Bush administration filed this motion because Mazon sought to subpoena Halliburton’s CEO David Lesar. This motion is normally used to prohibit the submission of evidence that might hurt the defense, not the prosecution.
The government argued the issues would “confuse” the jury. But the truth is, the jury was confused by the charge. Mazon’s attorneys argued successfully that the alleged inflation of the contract Mazon controlled was in fact a simple miscalculation involving the conversion of U.S. Dollars into Kuwait Dinars.
This conversion problem has plagued many of the war related contracts. There are about 3.3 Kuwait Dinars for every dollar. When converted, the $1.6 million contract was about 5.5 Kuwait Dinars, except it was listed as $5.5 million “U.S. Dollars.”
Mazon beat the first attempt to convict him when a majority of jurors rejected the government’s argument in a trial that took place in April of this year. The jury was deadlocked.
The Bush administration will try a second time, moving the trial from Rock Island to Peoria. Apparently, the government believed Mazon’s foreign heritage – he is Ecuadorian – and his association with Arab contractors in the Middle East, would make him unsympathetic to the region’s Bible-belt constituency jury pool.
Trying Mazon in Rock Island was also an apparent attempt to take the case out of the scrutiny of the national media. It could have been tried in Washington D.C. insuring high profile media coverage.
But high profile media coverage would have refocused the issues from the weak case against Mazon to the bigger issues of Cheney, the culture of corruption that plagues Halliburton and the corruption that is the foundation of the Iraq War itself.
The Peoria trial, which begins this week, places the trial on a higher public plain. But the government had no choice after losing the first trial. The federal judge in the case, U.S. Justice Joe Billy McDade, is from Peoria and had to drive to and from Rock Island during the first trial. This second trial is convenient to McDade.
The Bush administration knows that if the second trial becomes a referendum on their failed policies in Iraq, the next jury might not deadlock. They might vote to acquit Mazon. A fair jury can conclude Mazon is being persecuted, not prosecuted, to protect Halliburton and Cheney.
Since the charges were first filed against Mazon five years ago, public attitudes about the failed war in Iraq have changed dramatically from blind support to open challenge. The public knows that Bush and Cheney, Halliburton’s former CEO, lied and misled Americans into supporting the Iraq invasion.
Why wouldn’t they also lie to protect Halliburton?
How are they protecting Halliburton? Well, if any other corporation with no national political clout had a similar track record of corruption and mismanagement and suspicions of price gouging, their contract would have been revoked within the first few convictions.
Despite 36 war related corruption convictions, Halliburton continues to enjoy a near exclusive headlock on hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan war spending.
(Ray Hanania is a Chicago-based columnist and radio talk show host. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
This post has already been read 41 times!
Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.
Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.
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, he 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. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.
Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com
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