Cheney & Halliburton:
Go Where the Oil Is
by Kenny Bruno and Jim Valette
Multinational Monitor magazine, May 2001
Cheney & Halliburton: Go Where the Oil Is
by Kenny Bruno and Jim Valette
Multinational Monitor magazine, May 2001
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 nation's, replied that his new
wealth "had nothing to do with the government."
The assertion was disingenuous, as in fact Halliburton's growth
and Dick Cheney's own $37 million stock and option windfall were
directly related to profits made with the help of foreign aid
packages and military contracts. Cheney's own connections from
a long career in government clearly played a role in the company's
success. Moreover, the chuckling after this understated paean
to private sector superiority helped to obscure the fact that
Dick Cheney's 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
HALLIBURTON IN BURMA
"We don't do business in Burma, claims Halliburton spokesperson
Wendy Hall. But while the company may have no current direct investments
in | Burma, it has participated in a number of energy development
projects there, including the notorious Yadana and Yetagun pipelines.
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 pipeline's 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
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
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 that's not consistent with our principles here in
the United States," Cheney told Larry King. "But the
world's not made up only of democracies."
Halliburton's engagement in Burma predates Dick Cheney's 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 1990's, 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 pipe-laying 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 military's 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
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 m the case. )
HALLIBURTON'S GLOBAL REACH
Founded by Earl Halliburton in Texas in 1919, Halliburton
now provides a wide range of engineering services, technology
and equipment for oil and gas fields, platforms, pipelines, refineries,
highways and military operations around the world. In the Cheney
years, the company's revenues rose from $5.7 billion in 1994 to
$14.9 billion in 1999, fueled primarily by growth outside the
United States. During Cheney's tenure as CEO, Halliburton's overseas
operations went from 51 percent of revenue to 68 percent of revenue.
"You've got to go where the oil is. I don't think about
it [political volatility] very much," Cheney told the Panhandle
Producers and Royalty Owners Association annual meeting in 1998.
Halliburton is now the world's 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 Halliburton's 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. Halliburton's Kellogg, Brown & Root subsidiary brought
in all but $1 million of Halliburton's $657.5 million military
GOING WHERE THE OIL IS
Burma is not the only country in which engagement by Halliburton
has been controversial.
During Cheney's tenure, Halliburton created or continued partnerships
with some of the world's most notorious governments-in countries
such as Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Nigeria.
In order to do business with dictators and despots, Halliburton
has skirted U.S. sanctions and made considerable efforts to eliminate
those sanctions. Halliburton's pattern of doing business with
U.S. enemies and dictators started before Dick Cheney joined the
company, and may well continue after his tenure as CEO.
Halliburton's dealings in six countries -Azerbaijan, Indonesia,
Iran, Iraq, Libya and Nigeria-show that the company's willingness
to do business where human rights are not respected is a pattern
that goes beyond its involvement in Burma:
* Azerbaijan. Dick Cheney lobbied to remove Congressional
sanctions against aid to Azerbaijan, sanctions imposed because
of concerns about ethnic cleansing. Cheney said the sanctions
were the result only of groundless campaigning by the Armenian-American
lobby. In 1997, Halliburton subsidiary Brown & Root bid on
a major Caspian project from the Azerbaijan International Operating
* Indonesia. Halliburton had extensive investments and contracts
in Suharto's Indonesia. One of its contracts was canceled by the
post-Suharto government during a purging of corruptly awarded
contracts. Indonesia Corruption Watch named Kellogg Brown &
Root (Halliburton's engineering division) among 59 companies using
collusive, corruptive and nepotistic practices in deals involving
former President Suharto's family.
* Iran. Dick Cheney has lobbied against the Iran-Libya Sanctions
Act. Even with the Act in place, Halliburton has continued to
operate in Iran. It settled with the Department of Commerce in
1997, before Cheney became CEO, over allegations relating to Iran
for $15,000, without admitting any wrongdoing.
* Iraq. Dick Cheney cites multilateral sanctions against Iraq
as an example of sanctions he supports. Yet since the war, Halliburton-related
companies helped to reconstruct Iraq's oil industry. In July 2000,
the International Herald Tribune reported, "Dresser-Rand
and Ingersoll-Dresser Pump Co., joint ventures that Halliburton
has sold within the past year, have done work in Iraq on contracts
for the reconstruction of Iraq's oil industry, under the United
Nations' Oil for Food Program." A Halliburton spokesman acknowledged
to the Tribune that the Dresser subsidiaries did sell oil-pumping
equipment to Iraq via European agents.
* Libya. Before Cheney's arrival, Halliburton was deeply involved
in Libya, earning $44.7 million there in 1993. After sanctions
on Libya were imposed, earnings dropped to $12.4 million in 1994.
Halliburton continued doing business in Libya throughout Cheney's
tenure. One Member of Congress accused the company "of undermining
American foreign policy to the full extent allowed by law."
* Nigeria. Local villagers have accused Halliburton of complicity
in the shooting of a protester by Nigeria's Mobile Police Unit,
playing a similar role to Shell and Chevron in the mobilization
of this 'kill and go" unit to protect company property.
Dick Cheney has been a strong advocate for preventing or eliminating
federal laws that place limits on Halliburton's ability to do
business in these countries.
DICK CHENEY AND USA*ENGAGE
The strands of Dick Cheney's business and policy interests
come together in his support of a corporate coalition called USA*Engage.
The mission of this coalition, with some 50 active companies and
600-plus total members, is to promote business "engagement"
and prevent U.S. sanctions for human rights or other kinds of
violations. Dick Cheney's position on sanctions has been virtually
identical to that of USA*Engage, and Halliburton has been an active
member of USA*Engage and its campaigns against almost all forms
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 Cheney's 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 Ieader 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 Burma's nightmare.
Dick Cheney's pro-engagement, anti-sanctions policies have
remained consistent whether he is in government or business. These
policies might be summarized as, "what's 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
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 "Halliburton's
Destructive Engagement: How Dick Cheney and USA Engage Subvert
Democracy at Home and Abroad, " a report by EarthRights International.