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April 18, 2006

Why We Fight

There's a part in the documentary Why We Fight in which someone—I think it's Karen Kwiatkowski—talks about war profiteering. I suspect what she says is right: it's not that these people launch wars in order to make money for Halliburton. But it is something that makes the cost-benefit ratio of wars significantly different for Dick Cheney than for normal humans. Lots of downside for regular people and little upside; little downside for Cheney and a giant-sack-full-of-cash upside. (If you're Cheney, you might even get to have Ken Adelman come over and lick your feet.)

Anyway, Jonathan Versen has calculated how much the stock of military contractors including Halliburton and Boeing has gone up since March 19, 2003. For comparison's sake, he's done the same for some standard stock indices.

The results aren't a huge surprise.

Posted at April 18, 2006 09:55 AM | TrackBack

Damn, Jon.

You want *us* to believe *you* really believe THOSE guys actually, really *thought* about the "cost-benefit ratio" of the 'project' BEFORE launching their neo-Crusade?

C'mon. 'Fess up. That's just YOUR hormones talking...

Isn't it?

Posted by: Mike at April 18, 2006 10:53 AM

Karen's right. They don't go to war because they will benefit, but because they will benefit, they see no downside. You avoid war when you see few if any benefits.

Unfortunately, when the people in charge don't hold human life more important that corporate profits, the word "benefits" takes on sinister meaning.

Posted by: spiiderweb at April 18, 2006 11:06 AM


I do think they made some sort of cost-benefit calculus. Definitely. That doesn't mean they didn't get it horribly wrong. They did, certainly for the US generally and possibly even for themselves. But they would never have done it if the requirement for launching the war was that the top 20 officials in the executive branch would have all their property confiscated as well as all income for the rest of their lives in excess of $20,000/year. Liberating Iraq wasn't THAT important.


I think the political benefits are even larger in their minds than the financial ones...though those are interconnected, of course.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at April 18, 2006 11:16 AM


Well, IF you're right, and if they really DID *think* about what they were up to (and against), AND the (forseeable) "costs" of their ("New American") 'project' WEREN'T sufficient to dissuade them (and their co-conspirators), THEN *I* think our politics AND our "constitutional system of 'checks and balances'/national security 'establishment'/'Military Industrial Complex'" is deeply and seriously 'dysfunctional'...

AND, even if that IS the case, I STILL think the (naked) 'ape' hypothesis is close to the 'heart' of THIS 'darkness'...

Posted by: Mike at April 18, 2006 12:04 PM

Thanks for the mention, Jon S. I haven't seen Why We Fight but it occurs to that while wars may not happen on behalf of Lockheed Martin and company, the shape of the war and the reconstruction is guided by financial desicions rather than geopolitical or ethical ones, at least in Bush Juniorland.

(Now with Bush sr, the geopolitical dimension got some due. And of course with pretty much any president within memory, the 3rd, ethical dimension is left behind, perhaps because war plans are made with paper maps.)

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at April 18, 2006 01:07 PM

It doesn't quite make sense to have Halliburton (HAL) in that chart. Its stock is up because of peak oil -- it's mostly an oilfield service company. Its KBR unit, while profitable, has also had high expenses during the war. The cash cow is in the oilfields. For evidence, note that shares of Schlumberger, Halliburton's main competitor, have performed similarly.

Posted by: hedgehog at April 18, 2006 01:55 PM

At first I wanted to respond with something glib to justify Haliburton's inclusion, but I'll try to ruminate a bit on what you say---

1.I don't know who is servicing the Iraqi oilfields at present, or simply being paid to look after them, but it sure isn't an indigineous co-operative.
(ok, that was semi-snarky.)

1b. to the best of my knowledge HAL is operating in Iraq both directly and via KBR, and I am frankly skeptical of any high overhead they may be incurring, not because I believe it costs little to nothing to operate in Iraq, but I greatly suspect that their overhead is being padded and their KBR divisional profit margin under-represented a la Hollywood accounting wherein a movie costs 60 or 70 million and makes "just" 125-150 million and "loses" money because secondary revenue streams aren't counted, etc.

2. Broadly speaking any company that becomes integral to the war and reconstruction effort under gov't auspices and subsequently makes out handsomely is a war profiteer, even if

2b. they don't make armaments, and

2c. their substantial profits are derived in great part from secondary economic effects of the war. Or do you think the war hasn't raised oil prices? (implicit in this arguement is that one purpose of the war was to frighten the markets and drive up the price of crude. Maybe I should have addressed that more directly in the post. One of today's 4.18.2006 headlines says that a barrel of oil hit 70 dollars a barrel today because of concern about Iran. And Junior, Cheney, and Ahmedinejad ALL have a vested interest in pricy oil. Of course it would be nice if they weren't also crazy.)

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at April 18, 2006 04:58 PM

Not only does Halliburton service oilfields, they feed the troops, build camps, build roads, and last but not least, OVERBILL AND COMMIT FRAUD with the best of them. I understand war to be an ancient form of REALESTATE TRANSFER. Your neighbor has something you want,(valuable realestate) you have a nuclear device. You airmail the nuclear device to your neighbor, your neighbor (what's left of him) inturn kindly and lawfully reciprocates by sighing the deeds (surrender) of said properity to you. It's JUST business. In some circles this is called FAIR TRADE. Of course the Halliburtons, the KBR's, the Lockheeds, the General Dymanics all do a little better on bottomline observance day. We all get to see, hear, and discuss the daily bloodletting, (Keeps us away from the Monday Night Game) and the only ones who lose are the neighbors, Moms and dads of soldiers, any one who gets in the way, and of course the one who has to PAY FOR IT ALL, THE TAXPAYER. Business as usual. You know, if the TAXPAYER just quit paying---

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 18, 2006 05:08 PM

You know, if the TAXPAYER just quit paying---

You know Mike, you keep saying that, but we spend a lot more money than we collect in taxes. I'm not sure if we just quit paying that much would change, at least, not immediately. Except we'd all wind up in jail.

Posted by: Saheli at April 18, 2006 05:28 PM

Halliburton does jails: here AND there...

Posted by: Mike at April 18, 2006 05:48 PM

Mike Meyer -

I have a question about tax resistance I'd be curious to hear your opinion of? Would you write to me at so I could ask you?

BTW, my opinion - HAL belongs there. I'd be curious to know too what sort of profits KBR made during Vietnam.

Posted by: Aaron Datesman at April 18, 2006 07:58 PM

Yeah, Yeah your right, somebody would be going to jail, History proves you right. I mean, look at the AMERICAN REVOLUTION, the British jailed everyone they could, executed a lot of them. (Patrick Henry for one)Because they would not lay down and take it, why we now have AMERICA 2006. Sure, they borrow more than what we pay, but that's why more and more of AMERICAN PROPERTY is now held by foreign interests. (Dubai ports deal is not the only thing Dubai is buying into) YOUR TAXDOLLARS just pays interest on loans YOUR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN will be paying the principle on. Just like any other loan, IF YOU DON'T MAKE THE PAYMENTS THEN THE LENDING STOPS, THE LENDERS WANT THEIR TRUST MONEY. Ask yourself, Saheli, do YOU like, desire, or see any need to purchase what YOU AND I are buying today?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 18, 2006 08:30 PM

I wonder if Cheney and his ilk talk openly among themselves about what their actual motives are when they foster a war? Do they give a passing nod to the human carnage they're going to cause? I have the idea they don't allow themselves to go there, but do they spew out the garbage about "defense" and "combatting terrorism" and so on when they're among friends who will also profit? Who can answer this?

Posted by: Mimi at April 19, 2006 05:50 AM


I guarantee that's exactly how it works. With rare exceptions they don't think at all about the people they're blowing up, and among friends they talk mostly (though not completely) like they do in public. The difference between their public and private presentations is that there are certain unfortunate truths they don't think we could handle, and thus omit. But mostly human beings can't consciously lie too much without going nuts. Their lies are gigantic and appalling but mostly unconscious.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at April 19, 2006 03:06 PM

Damn it, Jon.

YESTERDAY in THIS very same thread you were telling ME the people we're discussing here DID do "some sort of "cost-benefit calculus. Definitely." And today you're "guaranteeing" Mimi "they don't think at all about the people they're blowing up."

Unless you're looking to be counted among our (relatively rare but) ever present cohort of 'prominent' sociopaths, you CAN'T have it both ways in the SAME thread.

Make up your mind, bubba. Which is it?

Posted by: Mike at April 19, 2006 05:38 PM


You are assuming that no C/B analysis of the invasion could be conducted without factoring the (non-monetary) cost of 100,000 dead people. Except those 100,000 bodies cost nothing to the U.S. government, that (still, non-monetary) cost is borne by the Iraqi population.

The only way these "costs" can appear in a monetary fashion is in increases in the cost of oil, increases in the costs of both the war and terrorism outside Iraq. Those hidden costs are what the Democrats factor in and the Republicans don't, BTW.

Put it another way: if you choose to believe that those in power are sociopaths, then you can understand how they can conduct cost/benefit analyses without figuring dead foreigners as a "cost". Believing that, however, does not make you a sociopath, it simply means you know sociopathy when you see it.

Posted by: James Cape at April 19, 2006 06:15 PM

When caluclated by population, Iraq 26 million-Iran 74 million, Iran should cost around three times what Iraq is costing us now, maybe 18 billion per month. If we are lucky they will greet us with flowers. IF WE'RE LUCKY.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 19, 2006 06:41 PM


Thank you for explaining that so I didn't have to.

All the possible dead Iraqis were neither a cost nor a benefit to the Bush administration. They didn't care whether they died, nor did they *want* them to die. They're just irrelevant.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at April 19, 2006 06:45 PM

What about all those dead (AND wounded) Americans? Do you guys suppose those guys 'considered' them? Or were they "irrelevant" too?

And what about all those deliberate (and frightful) lies they flung around the planet in their 'effort' to convince people to cooperate with their 'costly' scheme?

Either of you fella's care to try to 'explain' THAT 'behavior' away?

Posted by: Mike at April 19, 2006 07:01 PM

I was in the Army once, long ago. I was told That I, the U.S. soldier, was the MOST EXPENDABLE thing there. My weapon was more valuable, the vehicles were more valuable, my clothes were more valuable than me. 'Cause the streets were FULL of people like me and moms were making more every day. I suppose George feels that way if he feels anything, and I'm pretty sure Deadeye damn sure does.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at April 19, 2006 09:20 PM