War profitteering has a long and not particularly honorable history in the US as well as elsewhere. The first American millionaires earned their money in the Revolutionary war by either privateering or selling supplies to Washington's Army. (See, e.g., Wealth and Democracy by Kevin Phillips) During the war, the Continental Congress and the 13 Colonies had contracted large debts, which having gone unpaid for a long time, lost a lot of value. Friends of Alexander Hamilton, our first Secretary of the Treasury, hired agents to scour the countryside, buying the instruments of debt for as little as ten cents on the dollar. Hamilton then managed to get the newly formed United States to assume and pay all these debts at full value. This led to a new crop of millionaires.

The taxes to pay these debts were excise taxes levied mainly on the whisky makers of Pennsylvania, which led to the first American governmental crisis, the so-called "Whisky Rebellion." The rebellion was suppressed, but the Federalist Party of Hamilton paid the price with extinction.

An acquaintenance's recent visit to Kuwait City prompted me to recall the above. His tale was of fabulous salary's to be earned there by Americans, and of military officers living in six thousand square foot homes. I know what American military officers make, and the cost of living is by no means cheap in Kuwait. If low level contract empoyees are earning $250 K per year, you can be sure that their employers are doing pretty well too. These people, recall, are not living in tents or cinder block barracks in Iraq, or routinely taking enemy fire.

More than most wars, Iraq has produced a culture of corruption and war profittering, mainly because the Bush administration not only tolerates it but actively enables it. Cheney's ties to Halliburton are near the heart of it, but far from the whole story. Recall that one of the current Republican Congress's last acts was firing the Inspector General who had uncovered a lot of corrupt dealing in Iraq.

I have not seen any evidence of direct Bush family involvement, but papa Bush's ties to both the region and the military procurement complex are well known (Bush Sr. and the bin Laden family were both players in the Carlyle group, the private equity group which then specialized in buying down at the heel defense contractors and selling them after they suddenly got lucky on some government contracts). 41 was on hand for a recent conference in Abu Dhabi at which he was apparently surprised by the hostility Junior evoked. From the Jim Krane story in The Associated Press:
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates - Former President George H.W. Bush took on Arab critics of his son Tuesday during a testy exchange at a leadership conference in the capital of this U.S. ally. "My son is an honest man," Bush told members of the audience harshly criticized the current U.S. leader's foreign policy.

The oil-rich Persian Gulf used to be safe territory for former President Bush, who brought Arab leaders together in a coalition that drove Saddam Hussein's troops from Kuwait in 1991. But gratitude for the elder Bush, who served as president from 1989-93, was overshadowed at the conference by hostility toward his son, whose invasion of Iraq and support for Israel are deeply unpopular in the region.

"We do not respect your son. We do not respect what he's doing all over the world," a woman in the audience bluntly told Bush after his speech.

Bush, 82, appeared stunned as others in the audience whooped and whistled in approval.

The honest man comment was supposed to be a joke, right? About the guy who expressed full confidence in Rumsfeld and intent to keep him till 2008 a few days before the election and said he had been planning to fire him for weeks right after?


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