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Halliburton's Nigerian Bribery -- The Admission
by Doug Ireland
November 10, 2004
First Published in Direland

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The Associated Press yesterday, under the headline, "Halliburton acknowledges bribes may have been paid," reported that "Various investigations into an alleged $180 million bribery scandal in Nigeria involving a Halliburton Co. subsidiary and other companies have indicated that payments may have been made to Nigerian officials...the Houston-based oil services conglomerate said in a quarterly filing Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission."

As the first U.S. journalist to have exposed this scandal, in a December 29, 2003 article for The Nation, "Will the French Indict Dick Cheney?", I admit to a certain schadenfreude at Halliburton's grudging admission of those "payments" (a nicely delicate obfuscation of crass bribery). Although I kept hammering away at this scandal in a series of articles (see, for example, my June 18, 2004 piece in The Nation, "Dick Cheney and the $5 Million Man"), this scandal never got more than a few discrete lines in the business pages of our corporate-coddling daily newspapers during the election campaign, despite the fact that the final contract for the Nigerian natural gas refinery was signed on Dick Cheney's watch as head of Halliburton. The one exception: a long September 29 Wall Street Journal front-pager, "A Search for Bribes to a Dictator," an admirable recapping of the story thus far that confirmed the details I'd previously provided and added some more. But even the WSJ's Page One story didn't get the rest of the national dailies to follow suit; John Edwards, in his televised debate with Cheney days after the WSJ piece, made only a small reference to "investigations" of Halliburton, which was so oblique that if one did not already know about the Nigeria-Halliburton scandal one wouldn't have understood what he was talking about. Edwards' faux populism was always only rhetorical--his deeds never matched his words, and he blew a chance to score a body blow against Cheney.

In the wake of Halliburton's admission, finally some of the Big Boys of the press are daring to take the questions arising from it seriously. In today's Washington Post, Dana Millbank devotes his White House Notebook to considering "Halliburton: the Second-Term Curse?" Millbank, after referring to the new Halliburton admission as a "political bomb,"  is less than forthright when he seems to lament that "there are several investigations and simmering controversies that were held off until after the election -- and that could present trouble for the president as they resurface. " Well, who exactly helped "hold off" any publicity for the scandal, even after the Securities and Exchange Commission opened a formal investigation into it? Why, the Washington Post, and the other great American dailies, who gave that SEC investigation only a few buried paragraphs.

Will our national newspapers now turn their full spotlight and investigative energy on the Halliburton-Nigeria scandal as it gets closer and closer to the re-elected Vice President? Perhaps--but I wouldn't hold your breath.

Doug Ireland, a longtime radical journalist and media critic, runs the blog DIRELAND, where this article first appeared on Nov. 9, 2004. 

Other Articles by Doug Ireland

* Homo Hate: Kerry Loses to Rove’s Anti-Gay Hysteria
* The Last Debate (Thankfully!)
* The Bush-Kerry Face-Off in Miami
* The Democrats Capitulate to the Supply-Siders
* Teaching Torture: Congress Quietly Keeps School of the Americas Alive
* Condom Wars
* The Cheney Connection: Tracing the Halliburton Money Trail to Nigeria
* How the US and France Let the Smuggling Prince Get Away to Help the War on Terror
* Spain Flips Off W.
* Raw Prejudice: The Politics of Gay Marriage
* Ralph's Dark Side: Mr. Nader and the Newmanites
* A Prayer for Reverend Al: Let Him Buy His Soul Back from the Republicans
* Wisconsin's Warning Signs
* The Campaign Doctor: Can Bob Shrum Beat Karl Rove?
* The Two John Kerrys: Will We Get the Populist or the Lord of Special Interests?
* Howard's End
* A Populist Make-Over: Meet John Edwards, the Corporate Man
* Iowa's Lessons
* Nader and the Newmanites
* The Next War
* Will the French Indict Cheney