Saddam’s Buddies Get Contract To Rebuild Iraq

US CONSTRUCTION giant Bechtel has just landed the biggest contract – £433 million – to help ‘rebuild’ post-war Iraq. They will repair infrastructure on power generation, water and sewerage systems and get airports operational after the bombings.

The Bechtel Corporation is also half of the Tube Lines consortium that runs three underground lines in London. A London tubeworker says Bechtel are a scandalous choice for rebuilding Iraq.

THE SUCCESSFUL contracting companies are all closely linked to the US Republican party right wing. Bechtel alone has handed over almost $770,000 to the Republicans since 1999.

Prominent Republicans such as Caspar Weinberger sat on its board. George Schulz went straight from being Bechtel’s Chief Executive Officer to being Reagan’s Secretary of State.

When current US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited Baghdad twice in the 80s, he was keen to do business with Saddam Hussein – they dined together and were the best of friends.

His second visit occurred on the same day that a UN team confirmed that Iraq had gassed Iranian troops.

Rumsfeld’s main business in Iraq was advancing Bechtel’s interests. According to the New York Times (14 April), Rumsfeld put forward Schulz’s plan for Bechtel to build an oil pipeline from Iraq through to Aqaba in Jordan.

Saddam was afraid that this pipeline could be open to attack from Israel. For two years US State Department officials, pipeline agents and Bechtel worked round the clock to allay Saddam’s fears.

A pipeline agent brought Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres on board by promising a secret slush fund of profits from the project for the ruling Labour Party.

Alas for them, it all came to nothing. Two years after Rumsfeld broached the plan, Saddam got a better offer from Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Iraq said that Bechtel had doubled the construction costs.

Business as usual

THIS FAILURE did not end the ‘constructive’ relations between the two countries. Bechtel signed contracts in 1988 with Saddam to build a huge dual-use chemical plant near Baghdad. This was after Iraq had gassed thousands of Kurds at Halabja. It didn’t bother them in the slightest.

In his book The death lobby: How the West armed Iraq, Kenneth Timmerman exposes how Bechtel built a massive £1 billion complex for Iraq’s Ministry of Industry. This was to produce mustard gas precursors and chemicals for fuel-air explosives and rocket propellants.

Construction only stopped after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. In 1991 Democrat congressman Henry Gonzalez told the House of Representatives: “Of course Bechtel was there. This was just one example of the largest corporations doing extensive business (with Iraq) and what in? Chemical products.”

Iraq named Bechtel as one of its corporate suppliers of chemical weapons technology in its UN declaration last year. It’s a scandal that this company is now getting special favours to profit from Iraq’s destruction.

Thousands have died in the war. The US and Britain have heaped yet another layer of misery on the people of Iraq while Bechtel’s profits keep rolling in.