Mistrial in war related corruption case proves there is more to it
By Ray Hanania — A jury in Rock Island, Illinois said they were deadlocked on the Bush Administration’s prosecution of a former middle-level sub-contractor for Halliburton that the federal government has targeted for more than three years. The jury was split evenly over charges that Jeff Mazon, a manager for Kellogg, Brown & Root, (KBR), a construction and engineering company that had received a contract from the U.S. Army Sustainment Command at the Rock Island Arsenal to provide services to troops in the Middle East, had accepted a bribe to increase the contract for a Kuwaiti contractors. U.S. District Court Judge Joe B. McDade, who muzzled the trial by refusing to allow Mazon’s defense team to address the larger issues of the Iraq War and the widespread contract corruption involving politically connected Halliburton, the parent company of KBR, had no choice but to declare a mistrial. But what are the real issues behind why the jurors could not convict Mazon, who the Bush Administration has targeted for more than three years in a politically-motivated campaign that cost taxpayers millions of dollars?Clearly, for the public at least, Mazon was not viewed as the real problem when it comes to the ongoing abuse of war related contracts in Iraq and Kuwait.
Mazon was always small potatoes. The Bush Administration’s prosecutors always carefully focused their prosecutions against individuals, avoiding allowing the bigger issue of Halliburton’s inherent abuses, and the abuses of their politically connected sub-contractors, like KBR, to surface in the trial.
That’s the real reason why, in my opinion, Judge McDade ordered that the Mazon defense team not try to turn the trial into an indictment of the corrupt, scandal-plagued Iraq War where the history of contract abuses under Halliburton’s watch has been endless.
If these war contract abuse cases are really that important – and there are dozens that have been prosecuted over the past several years – why did the government put the case on trial in Rock Island, Illinois where the glare of the national media is so dim? Although the local news media is very competent, they do not cover the federal criminal issues related to the Iraq War and Halliburton as often as does the national media.
The Bush Administration’s PR machine has been repeating over and over again that they took the case to the obscure northern Illinois federal courtroom because that’s where the contract was originally issued.
Wow. If that logic were genuine, then the military would be prosecuting all of their criminal cases in regional courts rather than with their own specific laws and on their military bases.
But we know better.
For the Bush Administration, this is about politics, not corruption. It is about Bush being able to tell the public that he is doing something about the ongoing corruption that goes far beyond the weak evidence against Mazon, without having to raise suspicions that maybe the real problem isn’t one middle manager who oversaw one contract, but rather the culture of corruption that infested the entire Iraq War contract system controlled by Halliburton, which was run by Vice President Dick Cheney.
Cheney was the architect of the Iraq War. He had direct control over Halliburton. And before one year even passed when he stepped down from Halliburton as its CEO, he was already drafting plans to invade Iraq and make Halliburton the lead contractor in a scheme to topple Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship and replace it with his own.
The strategy to prosecute these cases outside of the national limelight would have worked, had the Bush Administration been able to hoodwink the public into believing that the prosecutions are on the up-and-up.
Very few newspapers even bothered to cover the trial in Rock Island. Even the Associated Press lifted reporting from the two local news organizations that did excellent reporting on the case, the Quad-City Times Newspaper and the Quad Cities Online and Argus Newspapers.
But now that the prosecution has stumbled, and half of the jury members have said the government’s case was inadequate, the media is all over the story. More than 300 newspapers have picked up on the news just in the first 10 hours since the jury came back and handed the federal prosecutors their shameful blow.
Now, to save face, and with the media focused on the case, the prosecuting team, led by a Washington D.C. based prosecutor – another anomaly considering the government insisted that the case need not be prosecuted in the nation’s capitol – has indicated they will seek to retry Mazon, who happens to be from the Southwest Suburbs of Chicago.
Why? The government spent three years building this case and apparently all the evidence they had was worthless. They have persecuted Mazon’s alleged conspirator, Ali Hijazi, a contractor in Kuwait who was also “indicted,” and they have slandered him by describing him as a “fugitive.”
Hijazi is a free man in Kuwait. And the government of Kuwait, which is a strong ally of the United States, has ruled that there is no evidence to prove any of the U.S. government’s claims against Hijazi. Yet the Feds, who have no authority to take Hijazi into custody, have refused to lift the indictment.
Now they want to save face and retry the case? Is it worth the millions of dollars that will be spent to re-prosecute? I don’t think so.
However, if the government wants to set the Mazon case aside and instead open a wider investigation into the contract abuses that all come back to Cheney’s company, Halliburton, I would say let’s do it!
That is where the real focus belongs and where the Bush administration just doesn’t want to go.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, author and radio talk show host based in Chicago. He can be reached at
Categories: Middle East Topics