Because she's a Russia scholar, Secretary Rice will be quite familiar with Lenin's term, "useful idiot." Near the end of her decade on Chevron's board (she joined it in 1991 while a professor at Stanford University), the corporation cooked up the very responsible-sounding "The Chevron Way to a Strong Board." As chairman of the "Public Policy Committee," she should have been tuned in to the open secret of kickbacks being paid to Saddam starting in June 2000 (everyone in the industry knew, according to investigators quoted in this morning's International Herald Tribune). While she left the board to head the National Security Council seven months later, there was plenty of time to keep Chevron from buying millions of barrels of crude from Iraq and sending around $20 million to Saddam's private accounts and "pet projects" like aiding Russian whacko bigot, Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
"The Chevron Way to a Strong Board", after all, emphasized "ensuring that management and the CEO lay the company's problems out on the table," according to CEO at the time, Kenneth Derr. Sounds really thoughtful and, like most Corporate Social Responsibility blather, aimed at concrete problems. Problem is, even the top officials can be faked out or lack interest in flagging the most blatant acts of cupidity.
Chevron will pay around $25 million to settle the charges - an amount the company will recoup hundreds of times over if the Iraq oil law goes forward with Production Sharing Agreements in the legislation.
In a more just world, such a spectacular failure of "Corporate Social Responsibility" would occasion a spate of investigative reports about how other corporations (shoe, apparel, electronics, toys, etc.) are cheating workers or abusing the environment while pledging that contractors are "clean" and "green." Maybe a Democratic candidate will pick up on the issue.