Halliburton: We're going to Dubai-land!

Houston, we've got a problem. The military-industrial complex is moving to the Middle East.

Published March 12, 2007 12:00PM (EDT)

Few things get the Web's conspiracy theorists hopping more than Halliburton, the oil services and military logistics provider that boasted current Vice President Dick Cheney as its CEO from 1995-2000. So when the company announced on Sunday that it was moving its corporate headquarters to Dubai, the rumors started flying instantly.

  • Dubai has no extradition treaty with the U.S., one blogger wrote, so Halliburton's top execs will be safe should the company be found guilty of any crime.
  • It's all about the taxes and Dubai's business-friendly regulations. Some companies move to the Caymans, but Halliburton's going to Dubai-land!
  • The Democrats have taken over Congress, and Halliburton wants to get as far away as possible from Henry Waxman.

Far be it from me to rain on anyone's anti-Halliburton parade, but the company will continue to be legally registered in the U.S., so the move is not quite the equivalent of a corporate relocation to the Bahamas. This could also be a case where the explanation being proffered might actually be the true one. Halliburton is desperately trying to unload its military logistics and contracting subsidiary, KBR, and wants to focus on oil field services. And the action is mostly in the Middle East.

My own preference would be to luxuriate in the irony that a company that (at least until it gets rid of KBR) epitomizes the United States military-industrial complex better than just about anybody is proving itself to be just as rootlessly globalist as any outsourcing or offshoring specialist. But that's a cheap thrill. As How the World Works waits to see how big this story gets, I'll content myself with the fabulous explanation offered by a Texas congressman quoted in the Houston Chronicle, whose coverage of this story puts to shame the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal (and whose reporter, Brett Clanton, makes an explicit connection between the news and last year's political uproar about a Dubai company purchasing the right to operate six American ports).

Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, said the news "is not surprising."

"It would make sense," Brady said, for an oil and gas company to "go where oil and gas is," Brady said. "America these days essentially vilifies our own energy companies."

It's our fault! We didn't love Halliburton enough! Now the jilted company is seeking a warmer embrace from the friendly folks in Dubai.

Who's next?

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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