More and more revelations about contract abuse by Halliburton come out regularly. Just last week Rep. Henry Waxman issued a report that found Halliburton overcharging in Iraq now totaled more than $200 million, see: http://www.democrats.reform.house.gov/ . Activists in Houston are working with national groups, including Democracy Rising, to highlight corporate contract abuse by Halliburton when they hold their shareholders meeting this May 18. In the interview below with DemocracyRising’s Kevin Zeese, Scott Parkin, a Community Organizer for Houston Global Awareness describes their plans and how it fits into the overall goals of the organization.
Zeese: What organization are you with? What organizations are you working with on this project?
Parkin: I am a community organizer with Houston Global Awareness, a local anti-empire global justice group in Houston, Texas. Over the past year, we have worked extensively with Global Exchange and Code Pink on the Halliburton campaign. We have also worked with a number of local peace groups such as the Houston Peace and Justice Center, Mama's Brigade and different anti-authoritarian groups in town. We also recently connected with the Austin spokes council who does similar work in Austin.
Zeese: Is Houston Global Awareness only organized for the Halliburton meeting or is it ongoing?
Parkin: No, we originally came together in the summer of 2001 to organize for the September 2001 IMF/World Bank meetings (which were cancelled after 9/11). Since then, we have organized film screenings, teach-ins, rallies, activist skill shares and various protests and non-violent direct actions around the issues of global justice and empire. In February 2003, we began picketing and raising awareness about hometown war profiteer Halliburton and their subsidiary KBR which intensified at their 2004 annual shareholder's meeting and beyond.
Zeese: What is the goal of the project?
Parkin: The goal of this project is to put economic, social and political pressure on Halliburton so that they withdraw from Iraq. Currently, they are contracted to build 14 permanent bases in Iraq, support the occupation with essential services such as food preparation, laundry and fuel delivery and help reconstruct the oil economy for multi-national oil companies. We see their presence in Iraq as essential to the war and occupation and ending it will seriously hinder the Bush Administration's efforts at exploitation and conquest in Iraq.
Zeese: What is happening for the Halliburton shareholders meeting?
Parkin: At the Halliburton shareholder's meeting, we are screening films on recent developments in Iraq, informing folks about Halliburton's involvement in Iraq with a teach-in and using a large spirited demonstration and non-violent direct action to put pressure on Halliburton. (See schedule at end of interview.) Inside the Halliburton shareholder's meeting, CEO David Lesar will be informing the shareholder's about their efforts in 2004 to profit from war and corporate cronyism.
Zeese: What can people do to help?
Parkin: Folks can come to Houston and join the mobilization. If they are unable to make it Houston, they can organize anti-war profiteer actions and events in their towns to demonstrate to the power-brokers that people power still exists in this country and it will end the war and occupation of Iraq.
Zeese: What would be the key points you want readers to take away with them concerning Halliburton and its role in the Iraq War and occupation?
Parkin: Halliburton is making a killing off the devastation in Iraq, they are actually the “poster child” for war profiteering. They are essential to the war efforts as no other American company could replace the services they provide.
Halliburton has been accused of more fraud, waste, and corruption than any other Iraq contractor -- from allegations of overcharging $61 million for fuel and $24.7 million for meals, to confirmed kickbacks worth $6.3 million. Halliburton is also the only Iraq contractor currently under investigation by the Department of Justice.
Recently, media stories have come out about family members of Halliburton truck drivers killed in Iraq filing wrongful death lawsuits about as they said their loved ones were misled about safety conditions, specific jobs and pay. Another Halliburton/KBR employee was gang beat and left for dead on the streets of Baghdad by eight co-workers after complaining about safety and corruption at the Baghdad airport.
Halliburton has a pattern of corruption and deceit in dealing with their employees, the American taxpayers and the Iraqi people. Furthermore, unemployment in parts of Iraq run as high as 60-90 per cent while Halliburton imports Third World workers displacing Iraqi's from work and contributing to their economic disenfranchisement.
Zeese: What will come next for the Houston Global Awareness after the Halliburton meeting?
Parkin: We are beginning a long term direct action popular education campaign against Halliburton that will go beyond the shareholder's meeting. Anti-war and global justice activists here recognize that corporate war profiteering is an important pillar of Bush's power in occupying Iraq. We will continue to make a political, social and economic climate that makes it difficult for Halliburton to continue operations in Iraq.
Current Schedule of Events for Halliburton Shareholders Meeting
Sunday, May 15 Halliburton Shareholder's activist skill shares. Times, locations TBA. A day of skillshares on Nonviolent Direct Action, Knowing your rights, People Power Strategy, Media/Storytelling, Anti-oppression and Arts Organizing.
Monday, May 16 Rice Media and Houston Indymedia to present films on Iraq and Fallujah.
Tuesday, May 17 Teach-in on Halliburton featuring Pratap Chatterjee of Corpwatch, Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange and Code Pink, others TBA, time and location TBA.
Wednesday, May 18 Rally, March and Protest to Stop the War Profiteers. Rally up at 1000 Crawford (Crawford & Lamar), in front of the statue of George R. Brown @ 8am and march to annual Halliburton shareholder's meeting at the Four Seasons at 1300 Lamar @ 830am.
For more information Houston Global Awareness Collective at www.houstonglobalawareness.org Halliburton Watch at http://www.halliburtonwatch.org Committee on Government Reform Minority Office http://www.democrats.reform.house.gov Links from DemocracyRising.US under “U.S. Corporations in Iraq and the Cost of the War” See interview with Jim Donahue of Halliburton Watch http://democracyrising.us/content/view/90/164/