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Halliburton: Australia's Ghost Writer? A film review (of sorts)

Given that in Australia Halliburton doesn't have the near-"household name" status it enjoys in the US, a good place to start this review would be to explain a couple of things. The name Hatherton, which appears a fair bit in this film, is undoubtedly intended to portray the US-based global corporation. Showing the company's CEO (on a website) bearing a remarkable facial similarity to former US Vice President Dick Cheney is no accident either. Cheney went from being a Defence Secretary implementing military privatisation to CEO of the company that received more than a fair share of the privatised defence work, and from there to being the proverbial "heartbeat away from being the US Commander-in-Chief". He also arranged for the Halliburton department that handled infrastructure projects worldwide to be set up in my home town of Adelaide, but that's another story. Then again, it isn't..

When local journalist Samela Harris read the blogs I was writing on Halliburton's presence here, she commented that the material might be the basis for a good "thriller." My stuff was basically an attempt to track a ripple of the international story that Ghost Writer conveys. Take the false names away and the film's surface-plot is of ex-UK PM Tony Blair being charged by the International War Tribunal for War Crimes because of his support for water torture and condoning the CIA's rendition of prisoners to and from secret "ghost camps". Meanwhile the body of the UK PM's autobiography ghost writer is washed up on a beach. If any reader of this missive hasn't worked out the movie's ending before the first half is over I'd be very surprised. Beneath the simple plot, (okay, for luck I'll avoid "spoilers") lies a background of Carlyle, Halliburton, the CIA and the Project for a New American Century (which first appeared before the English-speaking "world" on Webdiary) co-ordinating people in politics to achieve desired outcomes at a global level.

Sounds too far-fetched? Ok, let me rehash a couple of points that might reduce Ghost Writer's subtext to a local analogy. Australian Guantanamo inmate David Hicks, handed over to the US as a Taliban terrorist, came to Cuba after a rendition stopover in Egypt. A guilty plea meant that Hicks was never charged for the farcical evidence presented against him. When he was flown to Adelaide to serve the remainder of his term, jailed in a country under whose laws he'd committed no crime, he flew in what was reported to be one of the same planes that the CIA had been using to fly suspects to their hidden interrogation centres. US lawyers believe that Hicks might soon be able to ask for a Presidential pardon.

It's somehow ironic that not that long before one of Cheney's enemies (as one of the original Guantanamo prisoners Hicks was one of Cheney’s "worst of the worst") was being flown into Australia, another unlikely to ever be Dick's Facebook Friend had been thrown out. US activist Scott Parkin had trained and co-ordinated anti-Halliburton protesters in the company's hometown of Houston. The activists' antics during the company's AGM had drawn a lot of unfavourable publicity. When Parkin turned up in Australia, presenting anti-Halliburton street theatre and reiterating that Halliburton was "the poster child of war profiteering" it wasn't long before he was surrounded in a cafe by Federal police and immigration officers, thrown into solitary confinement and subsequently deported. The grounds for deportation were an adverse Australian security assessment based on classified US-fed intelligence. The bulk of that intelligence (later discovered by US journal Newsweek) was that Parkin had protested against Halliburton. One "secret file" told of him handing out peanut butter sandwiches in front of one of the company's offices as a protest of their overcharging for food services in Iraq.

Far from their infamy in the US, Halliburton had been enjoying the anonymity of pretending to be an Australian company. A wholly US-owned subsidiary, it still is mentioned in Federal Parliament as an Aussie company involved in major projects. While its global naval headquarters was based in the UK, in the care of Tony Blair, Cheney had placed his global infrastructure headquarters in Hick's hometown and prison, and in the domain of prominent Coalition of the Willing supporter, Australian Prime Minister John Howard. After the Iraq war "ended" the Adelaide-based Global VP for Infrastructure would become the head of our new naval construction precinct, mooted to become a possible southern hemispheric centre from which the US Navy could refit and replenish if Chinese control of the Pacific rendered return to home ports impractical.

While Halliburton (name-morphing into subsidiary KBR) was co-ordinating worldwide infrastructure projects from Adelaide and assisting the Coalition of the Willing to invade Iraq, our State Government's leader Premier Mike Rann was taking advice from a prominent US Homeland Security Advisor named Scott Bates. Bates, a prominent architect in the implementation of democracy into post-war Kosovo, was rumoured to be Hillary Clinton's intended successor as US President. Having first come here in 2000, when the Liberal Party were in charge, Bates visited Adelaide repeatedly, once spending half his two-week annual leave here, and admitted on ABC radio that he'd been advising Premier Rann on election campaign strategies as well as consulting with the SA Homeland Security co-ordinator. Since the week he was photographed at the local races alongside our Federal Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Defence and Immigration (and subsequent radio interview) further visits by Bates haven't been reported.

So much for my first stab at film reviewing ... I'll give away stuff I shouldn't if I go much further. Suffice it to say that after following the local scenario above I've enjoyed seeing global-level shenanigans portrayed by a simple stage play, though the story probably needed the beautiful Massachusetts scenery and Roman Polanski's sumptuous directing to enhance enough for it to remain a memorable opus. I'm glad it's received such sympathetic production treatment, as the global miasma beneath the plot's surface deserves to be recorded in a way that could be viewed comfortably fifty years from now , a warning to the future of how corporation-controlled warfare has been inflicted on our world. Anything that helps prevent a repeat of the inhumane military stupidity we've been subjected to over the last decade is something I can only admire and respect.

Actually Samela might be right, and the local aspects of such tales might indeed make a fine thriller flick. In Ghost Writer 2: Southern Hemisphere , Cheney could be dictating the script?

That's the great thing about the film's name, by the way.. it can be interpreted on several levels. The simplistic assumption is that the central character is the only one to whom the title refers. Another is that it refers to someone very high up in the political food chain.

I hope you see it.


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THE last US combat brigade has pulled out of Iraq and crossed into Kuwait, almost 7 1/2 years after the invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.


Television footage yesterday showed the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division crossing the border into Kuwait, to be followed later by the rest of the brigade.

"Yes, they did," Lieutenant Colonel Eric Bloom said, confirming US reports that the 4th Stryker Brigade had crossed into Kuwait.

The milestone troop withdrawal was also carried by al-Jazeera and US media such as The Washington Post, CNN, The Los Angeles Times and Associated Press, many of which had reporters embedded with the departing troops.

One of these days it will be acknowledged that there are actually two sides to the ledger when it comes to assessing the Iraq war. An enormous price has been paid.  The US had spent $US1 trillion in Iraq, and the conflict has resulted in the loss of more than 4400 American lives. The price for the Iraqis has been even more horrible. But the Iraqis were already paying a horrible price under the killers and thugs who ran the place before.

What price democracy? Two national elections contested by multiple parties. A free, diverse and independent media. An independent judiciary and the rule of law. The country's oil wealth actually being spent on benefiting the people. A reviving economy.  Al Quada killers are still lethal but on the run with the country a graveyard for these depraved scum and their brain bleached zombies.

Iraq has a fighting chance. If they manage to keep their country from being stolen again by psychopaths then the gains will build, and in time, while freely acknowledging and condemning the terrible mistakes of the Bush administration, history will record that life for the Iraqi people has changed for the better in a way so vast that it is impossible to calculate.

A horrible price for a glorious future, or a horrible one

Geoff: "But the Iraqis were already paying a horrible price under the killers and thugs who ran the place before."

Maybe it's the passage of time and failing memory, but I'm beginning to question whether the Iraqis were paying a horrible price before.

Certainly, political activists went into the meat mincer, but in such a society there are not many such, even in the beginning. And certainly, Saddam was merciless towards innocent inhabitants of regions that tried to secede, but historically that was normal in many countries. The Wat Tylers and Jack Straws of the South suffered unpleasant fates, but that's nothing new. In the Iraq of an earlier era some mild disobedience could see you thrown into a burning, fiery furnace.

But in such societies a salutary harshness towards rebels was arguably in the national interest.

After all, look at how many died in the aftermath of 9/11, compared with the small number who died on the day.  Isn't it the same thing, the same kind of revenge? The same lack of concern whether the innocent die, or even whether inhabitants of an innocent (of 9/11) country die? Justified in the interests of the country, this time the United States? Isn't it exactly the conduct of a very powerful Saddam Hussein?

There was no justification for a war against Iraq, even one. War, I mean. For that matter there was no need for a decade of sanctions and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children, just because Saddam wanted to recover Kuwait, the southern province of Iraq which the British had seized and given to some local chieftain. For no reason but to weaken Iraq, an exercise in colonialism.

And wasn't Saddam, in his attempt to forcibly take back Kuwait, acting in the best interests of both Iraqis and Kuwaitis? I ask.

The desire of one country for regime change in another, or the desire of one country to interfere in the internal affairs of another country, however unpleasant they may be, does not justify war.

And Geoff: "history will record that life for the Iraqi people has changed for the better in a way so vast that it is impossible to calculate."

It is possible that apolitical Iraqis had a better life in secular Iraq under Saddam Hussein, peaceful, the streets safe, no bombings, than they will have for the next 50 years.  It's too early to say what history is going to record.


And I forgot, better rights for women than they will have for the next 50 to 200 years, and far, far lower cancer rates than they will have for the next 50 thousand years.

Iraq mostly death and destruction

Geoff, a lot of lives have been sacrificed, and little has been gained.

Iraq is on a knife edge, with no government and violence on the increase.

While sectarian violence in Iraq has fallen precipitously since 2007, insurgents have ratcheted up attacks on civilians in recent weeks with the Iraqi political situation still in flux after the March parliamentary elections.

It's unclear whether the Iraqi security forces will be able to maintain control of the country with a reduced U.S. presence and while the main Iraqi parties are deadlocked over forming a new government.


Apart from the yanks stitching up all the oil deals in creation,  which is the real reason they went there in the first place, in spite of all the lies we were told.

Wiggle room

Yes, the more I think about this, the more I am intrigued.

Not because there is anything more sinister in it than most of politics, but because it exemplifies the furtive nature of modern government also.

Then there's the tampering that goes on behind the shopfront, as the state is more and more drawn into a globalised economic mechanism beyond local scrutiny and influence.

But we are still one of that charmed circle of nations that live well, so it is unlikely locals will seek to offend the decision makers.

Horror story

Hi Richard, took your advice and saw the movie on Sunday. A good story even if it is a horror story.

Remember the overthrow of Geoff Whitlam?

At first Boyce used to ignore this and then one day he discovered a telex message outlining the way the CIA had infiltrated the leadership of the Australian unions and were manipulating them to their own aims. And following that he then discovered information relating the way the CIA was planning to destabilise the Whitlam government and it was then that the scenario that this co-worker had planned in advance for this contact with the Russians that Boyce carried it

Makes one think that the CIA may have been behind the Rudd overthrow.

Who knows? But is shows how easy it would be to stack branches and play a dark hand in a modern democracy.

CIA or Sussex St.

John Pratt , I hope Gillard does not read your contribution especially this bit the CIA may have been behind the Rudd overthrow..

This could help her answer some embarrassing questions.

However it was the thugs from Sussex Street. what did it.

Who pays the thugs?

Hi Alan, sure it was the Sussex Street thugs but who pays the thugs?

Was it coincidence that the move was made just when Rudd was moving to increase taxes on mining companies?

Have a few influential sleepers in key positions and hey presto you have the power to remove a pesky PM.

A bitter reckoning

Yes, you're more alive to the possibilties, John Pratt.

But Alan Curran, no probs from lefties when it comes to acknowledging the cancer of Sussex Street. It's the classic cancer of Western politics. Po mo times, where liblab shut out the public and dissenters flee to the left or the right.

John you may be right

The notion's been running around the fringes (not from me) that the likes of Halliburton (mining equipment being their forte) funded the ad campaign. Too tricky to trace, but the suspicion is there.

I'm three quarters through Jessica Rudd's book, and there's something interesting there too... 


John Pratt,  this is the story they based the movie Falcon and the Snowman on?

A former Labor MP, Joan Coxsedge, also complained of the practice in the late eighties. Usually potential recruits would come from the pro american "grouper" section of the labor right and would get their riding orders via paid seminar junkets to America on  "scholarships".

I don't think they "did for" Rudd directly, but have no doubt they were in the shadows, causing trouble and creating tensions when it suited them.

I think they moved to a more aggressive, overt mode during the Bush years, when Schiffer was  ambassador.

go to halliburton

Richard Tonkin in good form.

Two things imediately spring to mind, firstly the news that the first post Obama election Gitmo trial is finally commencing (statute of limitations?).

Secondly, the poor effort put in by supposed demographer Bernard Salt on a development/ population issues doco - we had to find out later he was a KPMG spruiker; also something else unpaltable about KPMG (or Halliburton)  came out during the week, but can't think exactly what it involved, for the mo.

Guess what Richard.

I don't think I'll be in to town to watch the Polanski movie today, judging by what I see looking out of my kitchen window. More likely, back to bed with a hot-water bottle (for younger folk, an old fashioned warming object which is a bit like an inflatable doll, without the holes) and a good book and/ or maybe the footy later.

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