Election 2016

Real Washington Corruption? Not Hillary's Latest Emails, but Bush-Cheney Ties to Iraq's Wartime Profiteers

Right-wingers upset with Bono conveniently forget about the Carlyle Group and Halliburton.

Photo Credit: David Bohrer/White House Photo Office

The latest flurry of right-wing consternation over Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while Secretary of State has crossed over into the ludicrous.

Perhaps it’s inevitable that in a year dominated by Donald Trump’s excess the Wall Street Journal’s editorial team and others would parse through the latest batch of emails obtained through federal Freedom of Information requests by longtime Clinton foes at Judicial Watch and fabricate outrage over her State Department staff’s deliberations over granting access to businessmen, pop stars and foreign leaders who previously donated to the Clinton Foundation.

Beyond the fact that in most cases Clinton's State Department staff said no—frustrating fundraisers at a foundation whose primary work was global humanitarian missions—there’s a bigger point to be made other than calling out these fake moralists when it comes to protesting the oldest game in Washington: working the channels of political access. (This week, the AP also reported that 85 of 154 foundation donors from outside government also met with Secretary Clinton, which her campaign said painted a false picture of innuendo when some of those cited included Nobel laureates and philanthropists and were a fraction of the 1,700 meetings she had.)  

Despite Judicial Watch’s finger-pointing, pop star Bono asking the Clinton Foundation for help to work with NASA to record a segment with space station astronauts they could replay while on tour is not political corruption. The State Department’s rejection of a foundation-funneled request to help a wealthy sports businessman get a visa for an international athlete whose criminal past prevented it is not political corruption. And the crown prince of Bahrain, a Gulf state military ally, seeking a meeting with Madam Secretary, funneled through all of the available channels, at the department and Clinton Foundation, is not political corruption.

Real political corruption, Washington-style, is what happened under President George W. Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney, after their invasion of Iraq. That war allowed the international investment firm that W’s father, former president George H.W. Bush, was associated with, the Carlyle Group, and the international defense and oil industry conglomerate Halliburton, where Cheney had been CEO, to wrest wartime profits and government contracts yielding billions. 

In 2004, the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity summarized the Carlyle Group’s revolving door to wartime profiteering:

“It was under the leadership of former [Reagan-Bush administration] Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci—first as a managing director, from 1989 to 1993, and as chairman from 1993 to 2003—that Carlyle grew from a small private equity to a global investment giant, and became a major player among defense contractors.

“Other former government officials who have recent or current ties to the firm include former British Prime Minister John Major and former Philippines President Fidel Ramos; former [Reagan-Bush] Office of Management and Budget director Richard Darman; former [Bill] Clinton chief of staff Thomas F. 'Mack' McLarty; former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Arthur Levitt and former Federal Communications Commission chairman William E. Kennard. Former [Bush-Cheney] Secretary of State James Baker works for the firm, as did his former boss, President George H.W. Bush, who was an adviser for the firm's Asian investment funds until he left Carlyle in 2003.”

Dan Briody, author of The Iron Triangle: Inside the Secret World of the Carlyle Group, told Democracy Now in 2003, “They epitomize the revolving door of Washington D.C. They are just a barrel full of conflicts of interest when you have the president’s father working for a defense-oriented firm while his son is waging war all over the world. And no one is saying anything about it.”

There's also Cheney and Halliburton, which received $39.5 billion in federal contracts related to the Iraq war between the invasion and 2013, according to sources cited by International Business Times. As it noted in March 2013, “The company was given $39.5 billion in Iraq-related contracts over the past decade, with many of the deals given without any bidding from competing firms, such as a $568-million contract renewal in 2010 to provide housing, meals, water and bathroom services to soldiers, a deal that led to a Justice Department lawsuit over alleged kickbacks, as reported by Bloomberg.”

Yet somehow this record of real insider dealing and profiteering reaching into the billions has been forgotten by the Hillary haters at the Wall Street Journaleditorial page, Judicial Watch and other bastions of right-wing indignation. Selective memory loss is to be expected from the usual suspects as the presidential campaign mud season gets underway. But it is still important to inject some perspective into the silly outrage being projected by these right-wingers.

A Clinton campaign spokesman, responding to the latest emails obtained by Judicial Watch, told the Post, “No matter how this group tries to mischaracterize these documents, the fact remains that Hillary Clinton never took action as Secretary of State because of donations to the Clinton Foundation.”

Yet there is a larger point to make. It was the Bush-Cheney administration’s circle of family, government colleagues and business associates who parlayed billions in wartime profits from White House ties. How convenient that the right-wingers going after Hillary Clinton seem to have forgotten that.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet. He is the author of several books on elections, most recently Democracy Betrayed: How Superdelegates, Redistricting, Party Insiders, and the Electoral College Rigged the 2016 Election (March 2018, Hot Books).


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