Halliburton Leaving Iraq? The Plot Thickens

Yesterday we brought attention to a news clip about protests at Halliburton's annual shareholder's meeting in Houston, which included the startling news that the energy services giant and military contractor was considering leaving Iraq. Here's what the original news from the Houston Chronicle said:

Dave Lesar, Halliburton's chief executive officer, told reporters this morning that the company is considering whether to withdraw from Iraq but for now remains committed to supporting America's efforts in Iraq. He declined to comment on Washington's investigations into Halliburton's billing practices.

However, as reader MT alerts us, the story has now been re-written:

Halliburton Chief Executive Dave Lesar told reporters after the meeting -- which was closed to the media -- that the company's still evaluating a contract to rebuild southern Iraq's oil industry. That rebuilding contract, however, won't affect Halliburton's larger contract to provide meals, shelter, and other support to the troops. "We are committed to see that contract through," he said.

But that's not in line with what the Associated Press reported yesterday, a story they're still sticking with:

Dave Lesar, Halliburton's chairman and chief executive, said after the meeting that Halliburton "is still evaluating" how to separate KBR from the parent company.

As Facing South reporter Jordan Green showed when he first broke the story about Halliburton's war profiteering three years ago, KBR is the Halliburton subsidiary that landed the lucrative no-bid "LOGCAP" contract in 2001 for "logistical support" to the troops. This contract covers, in the words of Reuters, "food and laundry services, trash collection, mail delivery, and other support services." The contract has netted KBR over $7 billion so far, and they are slated to receive $1.5 billion more despite evidence of rampant abuse, fraud and cost-overruns.

So which is it: has Halliburton decided to completely pull out, and is now leaning on reporters to change the story to avoid the public relations fiasco of being viewed as a "get rich and run" mercenary? Or are they just giving up on the Iraq oil business, which due to ongoing violence hasn't turned out to be quite the profit center they had envisioned? Stay tuned.

UPDATE 5/19/05 3:08 PM: In a separate story about the Halliburton shareholders meeting, the Houston Chronicle confirms that "
the company is still evaluating a contract to rebuild southern Iraq's oil industry" and "the company also continues to examine when would be a good time to sell or spin off its subsidiary KBR." In other words, Halliburton is reconsidering both its oil contract and its logistics contract (which is carried out by KBR). Also, we should point out that Halliburton has been talking about selling off or similarly stepping back from its KBR subsidiary since last September.