Tuesday, April 24, 2007

It WAS all about Oil

Despite years of protestations that we didn't invade Iraq because of oil, a claim even most Republicans I talk to don't believe, we now have nearly irrefutable evidence that it was. Today's Washington Post reports the following:
House and Senate negotiators reached agreement on language to begin bringing U.S. troops home as early as this July. The final legislation:

-- Establishes benchmarks for the government of Iraq, including measurable progress in developing Iraqi security forces, giving U.S. troops more authority to pursue Islamist extremists, establishing a program to disarm militia, pursuing Sunni-Shiite reconciliation initiatives, enacting an oil revenue-sharing law, easing the program to oust all former Baath Party members from the government, reducing sectarian violence and protecting minority rights.
Did you miss it? Let's see that again:
Establishes benchmarks for the government of Iraq, including measurable progress in ... enacting an oil revenue-sharing law....
What oil revenue-sharing law, you ask? Why the very one Mother Jones was protesting a little earlier this year:

The Iraqi oil deal set to go before the country's parliament next month could spell the end of the country as a nation state, and signals a major Bush victory in the war. The proposed law not only opens the door to the big international oil companies, but offers them lucrative contract deals, and even a place on the national oil board that will run the industry.

The Byzantine scheme for dividing up oil revenues on the basis of population is little more than a facade for the biggest rip off of resources since the British barged into Mesopotamia more than a century ago.
As Richard Behan wrote in Counterpunch:
If passed, the law will make available to Exxon/Mobil, Chevron/Texaco, BP/Amoco, and Royal Dutch/Shell about 4/5's of the stupendous petroleum reserves in Iraq. That is the wretched goal of the Bush Administration, and in his speech setting the revenue-sharing "benchmark" Mr. Bush consciously avoided any hint of it.
I've watched in my lifetime as governments, public entities, have been supplanted more and more completely by private interests.

As oil supplies dwindle around the world, energy companies are becoming more powerful than entire governments. It remains to be seen if the world will survive this horrific experiment.

The Democrats will claim victory if the bill passes because it sets deadlines for troop withdrawal. But it doesn't, really. If you read the fine print, you'll see that, as Jonathan Weisman's summary in the Washington Post puts it:
U.S. forces may remain in Iraq to protect U.S. personnel and facilities, serve in diplomatic positions, pursue al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations and train and equip Iraqi forces.
U.S. personnel and facilities will undoubtedly include our personnel at oil facilities, built by Halliburton and overseen by private industry and public and private intelligence services.

In this heartbreaking account, Ramzy Baroud sums up what he learned in London listening to Hans von Sponeck, former UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, speak:
Von Sponeck's statements were shocking as were his many statistics: Iraq was simply and shamelessly robbed blind during the US-led UN sanctions. Sadly, the robbery and mismanagement continue until this day, but this time the figures are much more staggering. [...]

As von Sponeck spoke, I reflected on my lengthy interview with Iraq's former ambassador to the United Nations, Dr Mohammad Al Duri. Being interviewed for the first time by English speaking media since claiming his post at the UN, Duri revealed to me in early 2001, in equally shocking details, what sanctions had done to his country and people. He claimed that the UN was part of the problem. Led by two countries, the US and Britain, the UN oil-for-food programme and the "humanitarian" mission it established in Iraq contributed to, and continues to do so, reducing Iraqis to beggars, robbing the country blind and mismanaging funds, whereas the large bulk is fuelling UN-related missions and operations, with needy Iraqi families receiving next to nothing.

He spoke of the manipulation of Iraq's wealth for political purposes and alleged that the UN was a tool in the hands of the United States government, aimed at encouraging widespread popular [dis]satisfaction with Saddam Hussein's government before the country was dragged off to war. [...T]here were "deliberate efforts to make life uncomfortable (for the Iraqis) through the oil-for-food programme".

All efforts to modernise Iraq's oil industry were blocked, said von Sponeck, at the behest of "two governments that blocked all sorts of items" which could have made that possible: the United States and Britain, coincidently the same two countries that invaded and currently occupy Iraq. The logic in all this is clear: the "preemptive" war on Iraq was factored into the sanctions from its early days.[...]

The robbery in Iraq hardly discontinued after the "liberation". To the contrary, it intensified beyond belief. The US Government Accountability Office uncovered awesome discrepancies in the US military administration's handling of the money: uncountable billions went missing, hundreds of contractors fully compensated but the work was never accounted for, layers upon layers of shady companies, contractors and sub-contractors (of which Halliburton and its subsidiary firm Kellogg, Brown & Root is just a mere illustration), in partnership with the new rulers of Iraq are stealing the wealth of the once prosperous nation, leaving it in shambles.

And now, the Iraqis are facing enormous pressure to approve the Iraqi oil and gas law. The draft bill, according to Iraqi MP Nur Al Din Al Hayyali, would give "50 per cent of the Iraqi people's oil wealth to foreign investing oil firms". The nationalisation of the country's oil industry of 1972 is being reversed. The robbery that began in the early 1990s continues unabated. Shameful as it is, Iraq's new rulers are stealing from the poor and giving the spoils to the rich.
I just saw the film "Shooter" last night which, surprisingly, had a Cheney look alike, and deals with the horrible blood sacrifices offered on the altar of Big Oil. I'm always heartened to see Hollywood put up money for such politically charged stories, even when couched as action-thrillers. And as with V for Vendetta, the movie makers admit that the system is so broken that no courtoom justice is possible. That's a really strong point, not to be lost. People who massacre people in other countries for oil are never held accountable.

Who is to blame? What part does that face in the mirror share? By not holding our leaders accountable, we have Iraqi blood on our hands.

Starting today, we may have a way out. Congressman Dennis Kucinich has just introduced articles of impeachment (as House Resolution 333) against the real architect of this horror, the original war criminal, Dick Cheney. That makes sense. Go after Bush only if and when Cheney is taken down. To remove Bush first would only make the situation far worse.

We can do something. We can pick up the phone and call our Representatives' offices and ask them to sign on to a real impeachment effort. Win or lose, there comes a time when people have to take a stand. That time is and has been upon us for some time. Will we heed the call?

To find your representative's contact information, go to www.house.gov and follow the instructions there.


Anonymous ewastud said...

I have been aware for some time of the little-known oil legislation the US government has been pressing the Iraqi legislature to pass. Naturally, I am opposed to this pressure, too. In fact I have read a convincing argument that the legislation is a violation of international law because of the US coercion involved to force it upon the Iraqi people after its invasion and conquest.

However, once the US troops leave, the gov't will no longer be any physical leverage over the Iraqi gov't or people, and the means for the US gov't to punish the Iraqi people/gov't will be severely constrained -- probably less leverage even than it had against Vietnam after our withdrawal from that country. (We all recall how horribly the US losing that war turned out for us all, right!)

In my opinion, the political dynamics of a US withdrawal will lead to nationalistic Iraqis repudiating the oil agreement and voiding it. The present Iraqi government under US tutelage is unstable and will fall as soon as the US leaves.

Whatever more stable government emerges from the initial chaos, you can safely assume it will be nationalistic-minded, and they will have international law on their side. The US can only extract oil wealth or control Iraqi oil resources as long only so long as our troops are there. That is why Big Oil/BushCo are so obstinately resistant to withdrawal.

The Iraq War is a half trillion dollar and 3,300 GI lives subsidy to Big Oil by the American people.

12:26 AM  
Blogger Real History Lisa said...

Thanks, Ewastud (and I'd sure like to know the story behind that moniker!)

I don't see our troops ever leaving, in full. The oil revenue sharing agreement includes provisions for our companies helping build the infrastructure, and then the troops will be asked to stay to guard that infrastructure.

I agree that we've created a new "Iran," in Iraq, where fundamentalism and nationalism will be more of a threat to us than Saddam ever was.

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Ewastud said...

As a former teacher who was of French heritage and an officer during WWII in Europe pointed out to me, the passage of time tends to give governments legitimacy, perhaps more than they really deserve sometimes. However, once a long-established (even if very bad) government is overthrown, it is very difficult to re-establish legitimate government again. Every group or faction in the country will be vying against each other for power, and even the democratic mechanisms (such as elections) for re-establishing legitimate government tend to favor one group or another and are not necessarily neutral.

From what I understand from knowledgeable obervors like Juan Cole, the present Iraqi government has little legitimacy in the eyes of Iraqis and has passed almost no real legislation. It seems unlikely they will pass this US oil-friendly legislation any time soon either. It is essentially non-functioning.

However, once the leverage of American military occupation is gone, I don't see much that the US government or Big Oil can do to enforce the oil policies American-based oil companies want. The US government can threaten economic sanctions or even a return of US or mercenary troops, but the political support of the US electorate will have been lost and it will have no power or influence with other countries to carry out its threats any more. It will be much like when the US withdrew from Vietnam. We threatened and actually imposed economic sanctions against that country for decades, but their government managed to survive any way, and could find other allies for help besides the US.

Iraq can find many other non-US or British oil companies to invest in their oil infrastructure, too. It will never be a problem. It is only a question of which suitor they will entertain, and that is what Big Oil in US and Britain are most concerned about. They will be back on the level playing field competing with everyone else, and driving the terms in favor of the Iraqis.

BTW, I liked your writing and research on the RFK assassination. Your conclusions based on very rigorous research interestingly turned out to be much the same as my conjectures based upon earlier reading on the subject. I had not read about the discrepancies in the Sirhan handgun evidence until your recent piece, but had deductively reasoned that the gun was probably firing blanks so as not to endanger the real assassin who was firing at Kennedy much nearer by.

Regarding the provocative moniker, it is hyperbole like much of the rest on the "internets." I tried to create a login one day using my actual name and it was already taken, and "ewastud" was the first flippant thing to enter my head as I searched for an alternative.

8:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think it was about oil. but more importantly, it was about maintaining the US dollar as the primary, reserve currency, for transactions of oil, internationally. nothing will bankrupt the US faster than international transactions in the Euro, or other currency. i'm sure many articles are available espousing this opinion.


6:19 AM  

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