Bush’s pals begin the looting of Iraq


Does it surprise you that the first company to sign an oil deal with Iraqi Kurds is Hunt Oil, a company with very close ties to Bush and our country’s intelligence infrastructure?

Texas’ Hunt Oil Co. and Kurdistan’s regional government said Saturday they’ve signed a production-sharing contract for petroleum exploration in northern Iraq, the first such deal since the Kurds passed their own oil and gas law in August.A Hunt subsidiary, Hunt Oil Co. of the Kurdistan Region, will begin geological survey and seismic work by the end of 2007 and hopes to drill an exploration well in 2008, the parties said in a news release.

Nope. It doesn’t surprise me, either. But I am interested in what it portends for long-term plans in Iraq.

First, some background. The Hunt family that owns Hunt Oil (it’s privately held, so we don’t get to scrutinize financial statements) is one of the big money Texas donors behind the Bush family political empire. Ray Hunt, the current chair of the company, is also on the board of Halliburton and the King Ranch, meaning he probably knows to duck when he goes quail hunting with Dick Cheney. Hunt is also on the board of trustees for Shrub’s new presidential library, which has just announced its plans for a wacky democracy institute that will give cover for more imperialism around the world. Oh, and Hunt is also on PFIAB, which means he gets to review a huge amount of intelligence information and then refuse to reveal its classification and declassification activities–not to mention weigh in on whether or not the President’s illegal intelligence activities are illegal or not.

It’s also worth noting that one of Hunt Oil Company’s planes has been spotted taking off and landing at a CIA training facility.

In short, Hunt Oil Company is as wired in as oil companies get–which is saying something.

In August, however, the Kurdish self-governing region in northern Iraq enacted its own law governing foreign oil investments. The move angered the central government in Baghdad, but the Kurds are determined to push ahead with oil exploration.

Most interestingly, this deal suggests those close to Bush believe the US will retain its ties with Kurdistan, as a distinct entity, for some time. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that recent developments in Iraq reflect a slow, but irreversible, split into three countries. If that happens, Turkey, Iran, and Syria are sure to be mightily involved in attempts to destabilize Kurdistan. But never fear, because Hunt Oil will be there, looking for oil. Among other things, I’m sure.
If I had to guess, I’d suggest this is pretty solid evidence that BushCo has grown comfortable with the idea of Iraq splitting apart.



Filed under George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Iraq

2 responses to “Bush’s pals begin the looting of Iraq

  1. Nora

    I wonder why Hannity American does
    not talk about this?
    Would it be Un-Republican?

    I think more people should insist on Hannity, Oreily and all those people that put down the democratic candidates like Hillary…To have Ray L Hunt on their show or even discuss this subject..

  2. The Hunt Oil/Halliburton Connection
    And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid

    — Dick and Lynne Cheney’s Christmas card inscription, 2003

    Long-time Southern Methodist University trustee (since 1976) Ray L. Hunt is head of the Dallas-based Hunt Oil Company, one of the largest independent oil corporations in the world. He is a Bush friend and a central figure in bringing the Bush think tank proposal to SMU (Personal communication, 2007). Hunt is the son of flamboyant Texas oil tycoon, H.L. Hunt, who was a staunch supporter of Joseph McCarthy and the John Birch Society. In 1948, Fortune magazine labeled H.L. Hunt “the richest man in the United States” (Texas State Historical Association, 2007). Ray L. Hunt, an under-the-radar power player, inherited much of the Hunt Oil fortune in 1974 when his father died. Forbes recently identified billionaire Ray Hunt as one of the richest men on the planet (Dallas Business Journal, 2007).

    Ray Hunt is a longtime financial backer of the Bush family. He raised money for the elder Bush and served as the finance chairman of the Republican National Committee for George W. Bush in 2000 (Bryce, 2005). According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Hunt and his spouse have donated more than $460,000 to Republican state campaigns, while his company and its employees contributed more than $1 million to Republican causes between 1995 and 2002 (Grimaldi, 2002). He gave $100,000 toward the 2001 Bush inaugural festivities and one of his corporations, Hunt Consolidated, gave another $250,000 toward the Bush 2005 presidential inaugural gala (Public Citizen’s Congress Watch, 2007). In addition, Hunt donated a whopping $35 million toward the Bush library/think tank to secure additional property for the project (Schutze, 2006).

    One month after 9/11, Bush honored his friend Ray Hunt with a seat on the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), and he was re-appointed in January 2006 (Bryce, 2005). According to the White House, this board operates to offer the president “objective, expert advice” on the conduct of foreign intelligence (Wolffe and Bailey, 2005b). Hunt, with international business interests, has access through PFIAB to intelligence that is unavailable to most members of Congress. This group is privy to the most current and sensitive information gathered by the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the military intelligence organizations, and several others sources (Bryce, 2005). PFIAB operates in complete secrecy. According to Salon magazine, members of this oversight board “are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act and unlike other public servants who work for the president, there is no public disclosure of the PFIAB members’ financial interests” (Bryce, 2005).

    Several experts are persuaded that Hunt’s position at PFIAB could easily benefit both Hunt Oil’s worldwide energy interests and Halliburton, which has been awarded billions of dollars worth of no-bid, cost-plus contracts in Iraq by the U.S. government (Bryce, 2005; Wolffe and Bailey, 2005). Hunt has been on Halliburton’s board of directors since 1998, when Dick Cheney was running the company and serving as an SMU trustee (1997- 2000). Interestingly, soon after Hunt joined the Halliburton board, he was placed on its compensation committee, where he helped determine Cheney’s pay package (Bryce, 2005). In fact, in 1998 Hunt’s committee decided that Cheney deserved a $3.78 million bonus (Bryce, 2005), and in 2000 he got $33.7 million award when he joined the Bush campaign (Bryce, 2000).

    Halliburton has outdone even Enron in using offshore tax shelters to avoid paying taxes. By 2005, Halliburton had 58 offshore subsidiaries in Caribbean tax havens (Turnipseed, 2005). In 1998, the year Hunt joined Cheney at Halliburton, the company paid $302 million in taxes. In 1999, with the use of offshore tax havens, Halliburton paid no taxes and even received $85 million in refunds from the IRS (Turnipseed, 2005). Halliburton also utilized its offshore companies to contract services and sell banned equipment to Iran, Iraq, and Libya — something that would have violated federal law if Halliburton had not used offshore subsidiaries (Turnipseed, 2005). New York City Controller William Thompson said that profits made by Halliburton from states that sponsor terrorism, such as Iran and Libya, is nothing short of “blood money” (Halliburtonwatch, 2007).

    Despite using tax havens and earning millions in profits from rogue states like Iran, Halliburton experienced financial distress. In late 2001, according to Fortune magazine, after a series of financial debacles and billions in asbestos-related liability claims, Halliburton stock plummeted to $8.50 a share, and Wall Street worried about the corporation’s survival (Elkind, 2005). Halliburton’s fortunes changed dramatically with the onset of the “war of choice” in Iraq. Before the war, Halliburton was 19th on the U.S. Army’s list of utilized contractors; by 2003 it was number one. The company has been awarded at least $11 billion in government contracts since Bush took office (Mayer, 2004).

    And Ray Hunt has become an even richer billionaire. In March of 2003 Halliburton stock was valued at $20.50 per share and by March of 2007 it was worth $64.12 per share (Rich, 2007). According to the Forbes list of the World’s Richest People in 2003, at the beginning of the Iraq war Ray Hunt was worth $2.3 billion (Forbes, 2003) and by 2007 his fortune had grown to $3.5 billion (Dallas Business Journal, 2007). Both Hunt and Halliburton have been winners in the Iraq war. To provide perspective, the $1.2 billion increase in riches in four years by Hunt is greater than SMU’s total endowment garnered since 1911 (SMU, 2006).

    In 2005 audits by the Pentagon, the Government Accountability Office, and other agencies found that $1.8 billion of the $11 billion in contracts to Halliburton (16.4 percent) to be either “unjustified” or “undocumented” charges to the government (Elkind, 2005). In addition, the auditors reported widespread problems with record keeping and a refusal to provide required information, as well as misleading the auditors about its efforts to seek competitive prices. According to Fortune magazine, Halliburton’s “war profiteering” also involved outrageous price-gouging for fuel and services to the troops, such as charging $100 to wash a 15-pound bag of clothes and serving out-of-date food to the troops (Elkind, 2005).

    As long-ago as September of 2004, the U.S. military called for “the immediate termination of Halliburton’s most lucrative contract with Army because of poor performance” (Halliburtonwatch, 2005). Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and President Bush ignored the request. When Fortune magazine tried to speak to Hunt about the company’s questionable practices, its phone calls were not returned (Elkind, 2005). None of these jaw-dropping scandals kept Halliburton from obtaining a new federal contract to build a maximum-security prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Ivanovich, 2005; Buncombe, 2006).

    In a separate business dealing, Hunt Oil has a major role in the development of the Camisea Natural Gas Project in an unspoiled rain forest in Peru. This project has encountered fierce opposition because of concerns that the pipeline will destroy the rainforest and the lives of the indigenous peoples in the region (Grimaldi, 2002). Amazon Watch, an environmental and human rights group, calls the Camisea Gas Project “the most damaging project in the Amazon Basin” (Amazon Watch, 2007). The (London) Independent newspaper reported that the project “will enrich some of [President Bush’s] closest corporate campaign contributors” but that it “risks the destruction of one of the world’s remaining pristine stretches of rain forest and threatens the lives of indigenous peoples” (Halliburtonwatch, 2004). Does Hunt’s position on PFIAB and the government intelligence to which he is privy give him a business advantage in dealing with this and numerous other projects? There is no way to be certain. What is clear, as journalist Robert Bryce has observed, is that “Hunt’s business operations are so vast that every bit of foreign intelligence he sees at PFIAB could potentially be of value to him and his associates” (Bryce, 2005).


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