If you pay any attention to the yammerings of right wingers, and lord knows it’s increasingly difficult to avoid them these days, you’ve probably run across the reductionist caricature of the left/liberal who insistently screams “Halliburton” in lieu of an actual argument. It’s a nifty way of avoiding the actual argument — pretend that there is no argument, that your opponent is just incomprehensibly fixated on a single word, not unlike a toddler learning to speak.

Well, anyone who’s been paying attention — which is to say, anyone who actually reads newspapers — should know that there’s a bit more to the story.

(Halliburton’s) SEC filing Friday disclosed more trouble related to investigations by the SEC, Justice, a French magistrate and Nigerian officials into whether a consortium including Halliburton paid $180 million in bribes to Nigerian officials involving a gas plant from 1995 to 2002. Cheney ran the company from 1995 to 2000, and Halliburton bought the unit involved in the consortium in 1998.

That followed by little more than a week the last bad news about Halliburton: that the FBI expanded a probe into charges of contract irregularities by Halliburton in Iraq and Kuwait. Lawyers for a Pentagon official said the FBI requested an interview with her over her complaints that the Army gave a Halliburton unit preferential treatment when granting it a $7 billion contract to restore Iraq’s oil fields.

Halliburton also told shareholders that the Justice Department is examining whether operations in Iran by a subsidiary violated U.S. sanctions. The company received a grand jury subpoena in July and produced documents in September.

So among the spittle-flecked lefties muttering about Halliburton, we must include the FBI, the Justice Department, and the authors of Halliburton’s own SEC filing.

The Pentagon official mentioned above is, I assume, Bunnantine H. Greenhouse, who is — in addition to being a spittle-flecked leftie, obviously — the Army Corps of Engineers’ contracting director. There’s a profile of her today in the Times:

Things reached a climax as the Corps was thrust into the center of the Iraq war effort, given the task of distributing billions of dollars in reconstruction money. For the urgent repair of Iraqi oil fields, the Corps turned – too readily and too generously, Ms. Greenhouse charged in bruising internal debates last year – to the Houston-based Halliburton Company with one of the biggest single contracts of the war.

Now the Army Corps of Engineers is trying to demote Ms. Greenhouse, 60, or push her into retirement. To the surprise of no one who knows her, she is unbowed, charging in a much publicized letter of Oct. 21 that the Corps has shown a pattern of favoritism toward Halliburton that imperils “the integrity of the federal contracting program.”

— snip —

In March 2003, she saw no reason why the Corps should give the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root, without competition, a five-year, $7 billion contract to repair oil fields. If an emergency required a quick deal, it should be for only one year at most, she argued. (The contract was given for five years over her objection, but later, after a public outcry, was cut short and put to competition.)

In December, she said, she was outraged when Corps leaders went behind her back to issue a legal document approving the unusually high prices KBR had charged for fuel imports to Iraq – prices that the Pentagon’s own auditors called inflated by at least $61 million and that are now the subject of criminal inquiries.

This spring, she questioned why, after four years, an expiring Halliburton logistics contract in the Balkans had to be extended for an extra 11 months and $165 million on grounds that no other company could do the job in time.

“There is no legitimate explanation for what I witnessed,” she said last week of the succession of disputes. The Corps, she said, “was at the point of knowingly violating federal acquisition regulations in favor of Halliburton. It can’t get much worse than that.”

To the Halliburton defense that critics like Ms. Greenhouse did not understand the urgency of wartime, she replies, “Of course I care about the soldiers who are dying.”

“That $61 million could have gone for body armor for the soldiers,” she said in the interview.

So the next time someone acts as though anyone who mentions the word “Halliburton” is a tinfoil-hat conspiracy freak holed up in his basement to avoid the alien mind control rays — well, you can cross that person off your list of trustworthy commentators, because they are either lying or stupid, but in either case not to be taken seriously by rational people.