WHEN THE CANNONS SHOOT, THERE'S BROWN & ROOT
BY DAVID H. HACKWORTH
Candidate George Bush told the voters that if they got him into the White House,
he'd get our troops out of the Balkans. He promised to use our forces for national
security rather than as punching bags and border guards for the ex-Yugoslavians.
During a recent visit to that very troubled spot, Bush did a 180 when he told
the troops at Camp Bondsteel, "There's still a lot of work to be done. ...
Our goal is to hasten the day when peace is self-sustaining, when local, democratically
elected authorities can assume full responsibility, and when NATO forces can go
Why the about-face?
Perhaps it was part of his campaign plan. After all, LBJ used a similar ploy when
he told us we weren't going to Vietnam during his bid for the top job in 1964.
Or perhaps Bush's European power pals warned him they'd rain on his defense shield
if he pulled out of Kosovo and Bosnia and didn't help defuse the ever-multiplying
cluster-bombs in Macedonia. Meaning, play the Balkan game, and we'll support Star
Or maybe the porkers at the Military-Industrial-Congressional Club pointed out
that our NATO grunts better keep the peace in the Balkans -- or say goodbye to
those billions of bucks we spend annually to defend a Europe searching for a reason
to make NATO go away.
Or did the folks at Texas-based Halliburton Corp. convince the prez that the Balkans
were good for business? Its recent financial report brags: "Revenues and
operating income at Brown & Root Services (B & R) were significantly higher
than the prior year's quarter resulting from increased activity levels supporting
the U.S. Army in the Balkans."
Vice President Dick Cheney's former company is hauling in dough by the dump truck
just like the good ol' days when good ol' boy LBJ steered the construction biz
in Vietnam to Halliburton subsidiary B & R. Now the company, which has scored
billions since we first stuck our boots into the Balkans, continues to benefit
from the 12 major bases it has built there.
Take Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo's $350-million-plus base with annual operating costs,
including redundant B & R maintenance and services, of close to $50 million:
* The air-conditioned Tactical Operations Center, with its Video Tele-Conferencing,
big screens and other high-tech gizmos, is as sexy as the Pentagon's War Room.
Price tag: a half-million dollars.
* The gyms showcase the best from the West, such as Hammer Strength equipment.
Other morale builders include: free videos and movies, Anthony's Pizza, Burger
King, free sandwich shops -- and the ever-popular cappuccino bar, the perfect
place to chill before refereeing the restless natives. Cost for these goodies:
more than a million dollars to build.
* The troops' living quarters -- six men to a hut -- have three showers per unit
and air conditioning. There's 180 of these little jewels at $107,000 a pop.
* The "top notch" two main dining facilities, at about a million to
build and maintain, are staffed by all local hires. Not only do our peacekeepers
not have to worry about dishpan hands -- which might impact their ability to direct
traffic -- from KP duty, the thousand-plus Kosovars who keep the place spick-and-span
with a vengeance also clean the troops' huts up to three times a day.
* And Bondsteel's $35 million hospital will be one of Europe's premier facilities
"B & R has been renovating everything," a sergeant there reports.
"They pulled out all the shower panels and replaced them with new ones ...
the old ones were more serviceable than ones you find in soldiers' quarters in
the U.S. All they needed, at most, was a paint job."
The longer we stay in the Balkans at four-star camps like Bondsteel, the more
dependent the locals will become and - contrary to Bush's goal -- the less likely
anything good will come from our wearing out our forces -- except for those who
have a vested interest in perpetuating NATO.
Almost 30 million Americans live below the poverty line. Maybe we should declare
most of the state of Maine, the Appalachians and East Los Angeles war zones for
openers and send B & R there. Wouldn't our tax dollars be better spent?
Http://www.hackworth.com is the address of David Hackworth's home page. Sign in
for the free weekly Defending America column at his Web site. Send mail to P.O.
Box 11179, Greenwich, CT 06831.
(c) 2001 David H. Hackworth
Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.