It’s déjà vu all over again

Posted on June 20th, 2008 in Books,Economy,Entertainment,Environment,Politics by Robert Miller

In Alan Greenspan’s memoirs, published last year, he stung the Bush White House with his phrase “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.” He repeated this comment many times and in doing so presented the counter view to all the reasons that Bush and Cheney had used to hype us into the war. But the new oil contracts that will be given to Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Exxon Mobil and Total have confirmed that Greenspan was right all along. Even if you believe that Saddam Hussein had WMDs, you surely would acknowledge that Bush and Cheney would never have invaded Iraq if the country didn’t have oil and lots of it. You might recall that Rumsfeld was content to let the entire country be raped and pillaged, including Iraq’s precious museums, while he insured that the Oil Ministry was immediately surrounded and heavily guarded (one of Iraq’s precious museums is now under blacktop for a US military base). It was about the only thing that the invasionary force targeted for protection.

Four decades after Saddam Hussein nationalized Iraq’s oil supply and kicked out the oil giants that had taken control of Iraq’s oil after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of WW I, the same group will be returning. As Yogi Berra said, "It’s déjà vu all over again." And, their presence will require protection, something that is likely to tie up US troops for many years to come. Perhaps this is the Bush/Cheney good bye present to the USA. Who said imperialism is dead? Iraq’s oil fields are believed to contain the second largest oil reserves in the Middle East. Only the Saudis have more reserves. But those oil fields have been under constraints by UN sanctions and Iraq’s infrastructure for oil production has been seriously eroded. Thus, the initial no-bid contracts will be for the southern oil fields and are primarily for improving the oil production capability. Yet, ordinarily such contracts would be given to smaller, specialized companies for this purpose. The Iraqi National Oil Company (Inoc) is too corrupt and inefficient to accomplish these improvements on their own but Iraq’s oil minister, Hussein Shahristani, claims that, with these no-bid contracts, Iraq is not surrendering sovereignty over her oil and the lifeblood of her future. After all, we have made sure that the entire country needs to be rebuilt. This contract will presumably lead to an immediate increase in oil production of about 500,000 barrels a day, adding to Iraq’s current oil production of about 2.5 million barrels/day. Although these initial contracts are only for two years, the Western recipients are assuming that this will given them leverage for future long-term contracts and profitability.

When Iraq was controlled by the Ottoman Empire, The Turkish Petroleum Company had control of its oil production. With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the close of WW I, the Iraq Petroleum Company replaced the Turkish version and in the 1920s an arrangement was formalized so that four Western companies controlled all of Iraq’s oil. Although the Germans once had part of the Iraq Petroleum Company when it was first formed by concessions from Turkey, the French displaced the Germans and Compagnie Francaise des Petroles, now Total, became one of the big four in the new oil consortium. Since the Ottoman Empire had thrown in its lot with Germany and Austria during WW I, the Paris peace agreement that settled WW I claims treated Iraq as a successor state, allowing the Western powers to assume control of the region. This cozy arrangement existed more or less intact until Saddam Hussein nationalized the country’s oil companies in 1972; it remains as one of the few popular acts of his long, harsh rule of the country. So, at least some of the Iraq government components are insistent that Iraq sovereignty has not been surrendered and that the current contractual arrangements are essentially an open admission of their own corrupt, incompetent oil ministry (did we purposely help make it that way?).

We may never understand how all the forces that led to our invasion of Iraq interplayed to generate "Mission Accomplished." This is because they interplayed in the minds of a small group of people and only Bush and Cheney were the ones that pulled the trigger. Maybe they don’t even know. After all, the ruling elite of America, including the entire press, wanted this war. So when Bush talks to the Military he tells them about WMD and Hussein’s complicity for 9/11. But, at a cocktail party with the oil executives, "Mission Accomplished" is discussed as an economic, oil access issue, where he is surely still considered to be a hero. One issue seems inescapable: it is quite likely that Haliburton, the company that Dick Cheney steered as the CEO from1995-2000 and ran into the ground, might well have gone bankrupt if he had not fed them the many bones of no-bid contracts once the invasion was underway. They are still in Iraq, still overcharging for their work, as one of the new American companies that profits from war. Haliburton is among the new profiteers of modern warfare: their stock goes up when war is threatened. Look into our future: no small part of our economy is tied up with military-industrial production and now add Homeland security companies that are flourishing. As these sectors grow, an increasing number of American companies will be positioned to have their stocks skyrocket with the threat of war or an act of invasion. Those are powerful forces. Let’s face it, if you drain the nation’s coiffures, but enhance the profits of corporate giants, haven’t you, as a modern Republican, done a good job. Yes, thousands of young American soldiers lost their lives, but they are in the wrong class for the Bush/Cheney team to be concerned about them. "Let them have their "Body of War" movies and talk of impeachment, but we have the real power in America–we have control of the press." That is why impeachment is essential. On June 10 Dennis Kucinich read 35 articles of impeachment into the congressional record and they have now been sent to the Judiciary Committee for evaluation. Do you remember hearing about this historic event in any of the news outlets to which you regularly attune? I did not see the event even mentioned on mainstream media. It was the blogshpere that brought it to my attention. The good in America wants to produce a new economy based on greening the World, improving health, but going into emergency mode to save the planet (in case you haven’t heard, the computer models that have been running since the early 1990s that we rely on to make projections about the future of the planet have all underestimated the subsequent, measured changes that have taken place in the last 15 years. More glaciers have evaporated and the Greenland Ice pack will disappear far in advance of all model predictions. So the real question is not whether the models are right or wrong, but whether in fact, they are underestimating the rate of change that global warming will produce).

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