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Hurricane Halliburton | The Nation

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John Nichols

John Nichols

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Hurricane Halliburton

Having finished the search for a luxury vacation home on the eastern shore of Maryland – which preoccupied him during the critical initial days of what is being called the worst natural disaster in American history – Vice President Dick Cheney jetted south late last week to inspect the damage.

With the wheels rolling for the purchase of his own $2.9 million home on the east coast, the Cheney was more or less ready to commiserate with the folks who had lost their homes on the Gulf Coast. Unfortunately, not all of the locals were prepared to thank the vice president for finally showing up.

Cheney was greeted in Gulfport, Mississippi, by a survivor of the disaster who – recalling the veep's blunt salutation for Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy during a visit to Capitol Hill last year – repeatedly shouted: "Go f--- yourself, Mr Cheney."

After Secret Service agents dragged the local man away, Cheney was asked by a reporter: "Are you getting a lot of that Mr. Vice President?"

Cheney answered: "First time I've heard it."

If Cheney had actually interacted with anyone on the ground, however, he would have heard a lot more. But the vice presidential visit was merely the latest in a series of photo opportunities by administration aides who are scrambling to undo the damage done by their plodding and disengaged responseto a catastrophe that was made much worse by initial federal neglect and incompetence.

Gulf Coast coast residents may be in shock. But they haven't lost their sense of outrage. As Cheney posed for the cameras, Gulfport resident Lynn Lofton approached reporters and told them: "I think the media opportunity right here is a complete waste of time and taxpayer money. They should have been here last week."

In fact, Cheney arrived just in time to, as he put it, "make certain that we're doing everything that needs to be done."

The former CEO of Halliburton needn't have worried. As has been the case since the Bush-Cheney administration took office: When trouble hits, Halliburton hits it big.

The firm that has collectedjbv more than $10 billion in Iraq-war related revenues is just

One of the first corporations to be awarded a reconstruction assignment after the hurricane hit was Halliburton's KBR (Kellogg Brown & Root) subsidiary, which has been tapped to repair damaged naval facilities in Louisiana and Mississippi.

KBR, which according to the able watchdogs at HalliburtonWatch.org has an ongoing $500 million contract with the Navy, will be in thick of the reconstruction process. And don't doubt that there may be more work coming KBR's way.

Joe Allbaugh, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has a new job. He's lobbying for the Halliburton subsidiary in Washington and elsewhere. Conveniently, Allbaugh showed up in Louisiana on the day before Cheney's visit with the purpose, in the words of a Washington Post report, of "helping his clients get business."

Even if Allbaugh drops the ball, Halliburton is well covered.

The vice president can always be counted on to "make certain that we're doing everything that needs to be done."

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John Nichols' book on Cheney, Dick: The Man Who Is President, was published by The New Press. Former White House counsel John Dean, the author of Worse Than Watergate, says, "This page-turner closes the case: Cheney is our de facto president." Arianna Huffington, the author of Fanatics and Fools, calls Dick, "The first full portrait of The Most Powerful Number Two in History, a scary and appalling picture. Cheney is revealed as the poster child for crony capitalism (think Halliburton's no bid, cost-plus Iraq contracts) and crony democracy (think Scalia and duck-hunting)."

Dick: The Man Who Is President is available from independent bookstores nationwide and at www.amazon.com*****************************************************************

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