By Freedom Newspapers
Hating Halliburton is almost as popular in the United States as hating Wal-Mart. So we were surprised to see so little applause, and so much consternation in left-wing circles, when the oil services company once headed by the vice president announced it would be moving its corporate headquarters from Houston to the Persian Gulf emirate of Dubai. That’s one of the world’s key commerce and banking centers.
The furor over this bit of business news is understandable, but also misdirected.
Since the beginning of the war in Iraq, Halliburton has been paid billions of dollars by the federal government to fulfill a variety of military-services contracts in the strife-torn region.
Over the four years since the U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq, Halliburton and its military contracts — many of them given without competitive bidding — have come under attack by congressional Democrats, who hope to damage Vice President Dick Cheney through guilt by association.
The company has been scrutinized by the U. S. Department of Justice in connection with allegations of price gouging, shoddy work, mismanagement and wholesale waste by its KBR unit, which performs the contract work for the U.S. Army.
Reacting to Haliburton’s plans, Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who chairs the judiciary committee, called the impending move “an insult to the U.S. soldiers and taxpayers who paid the tab for their no-bid contracts and endured their overcharges for all these years.”
Be that as it may, the simple fact is that no matter how indignant they wish to become, members of Congress have no say in where Halliburton Chief Executive David Lesar headquarters himself. He told reporters the move is being made because the company believes “there are greater opportunities in the eastern hemisphere than the western hemisphere.”
As a free market company, Haliburton is free to make decisions solely in the best interests of its shareholders, regardless of how disgruntled, disturbed or dyspeptic members of Congress become over those decisions — one of which apparently is to spin off its controversial KBR engineering and military services unit, which has been paid about $20 billion in U.S. taxpayer dollars since the beginning of the war in Iraq.
It is, however, within the Congress’ scope to press ahead with probes into how responsibly Halliburton and its KBR unit have managed and fulfilled government contracts, and, if the worst suspicions turn out to be true, to press for legal action and move to deny the company further government work.
We suggest Congress stop worrying over where Lesar locates his desk and start getting serious about looking into how the company has performed on its government contracts and whether billions in taxpayer dollars have been wasted.