Thursday 24 April 2003
Corporate Vultures Swoop Into the Killing Fields
Iraq is going to hell. Shiites are killing Sunnis, Kurds are killing Arabs 0aand Islamists are killing secular Baathists. Baghdad, the cradle of human 0acivilization, has been left to looters and rapists. As in Beirut during the '70s, neighborhood zones are separated by checkpoints manned by armed tribesmen. 0aThe war has, however, managed to unite Iraqis in one respect: everyone loathes 0athe United States.
Some Iraqis hate us for deposing Saddam Hussein. No dictator remains in power 0awithout the tacit support of at some of his subjects. Now that we've committed 0athe cardinal sin of conquest--getting rid of the old system without thinking up 0aa new one--even those who chafed under Saddam blame us for their present 0amisery.
Others resent our Pentagon-appointed pretender, 58-year-old banker/embezzler 0aAhmed Chalabi. The State Department points out that Iraq's new puppet autocrat 0ahas zero support among Iraqis, having lived abroad since 1958. But who knows? 0aMaybe he was a really popular kid.
Thousands of Iraqis have been reduced to poverty, raped and murdered by 0arampaging goons as U.S. Marines stood around and watched. Wanna guess how long 0ait will take them to "get over it"? We watched the plunder of museums in Mosul 0aand Baghdad safe at home with our tisk-tisk dismay, but Iraqis will remain 0aoutraged by the wanton devastation we wrought through war, permitted through 0anegligence and shrugged off through arrogance. ("We didn't allow it," Rumsfeld 0ashrugged. "It happened.") Imagine foreign troops sitting idly, laughing as 0ahooligans trashed the Smithsonian, stole the gold from Fort Knox and burned down 0athe Department of the Interior.
That was us in Iraq.
But let's forget this penny ante stuff. Let the real looting begin! George W. 0aBush's bestest buddies, corporate executives at companies which donate money in 0aexchange for a few rounds of golf and a few million-dollar favors, are being 0ahanded the keys to Iraq's oil fields.
Bush's brazen Genghis Khan act seems carefully calculated to confirm our 0aworst suspicions. First he appoints retired general Jay Garner, president of a 0aGOP-connected defense contractor, SYColeman Corp., as viceroy of occupied Iraq. "The idea is we are in Iraq not as occupiers but as liberators, and here comes a 0aguy who has attachments to companies that provided the wherewithal for the 0amilitary assault on that country," marvels David Armstrong, a defense analyst at 0athe National Security News Service. A smart and/or decent president would have 0apicked a civilian for a civil administration post.
Then Bush slips a $680 million contract to the Bechtel Group, whose 0aRepublican-oriented board includes such Reagan-era GOP luminaries as secretary 0aof state George Schulz and defense secretary Caspar Weinberger (the late William 0aCasey, Reagan's CIA director, was a Bechtel executive). The deal puts the 0acompany in position to receive a big part of the $100 billion estimated total 0acost of Iraqi reconstruction. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 0aBechtel gave Republican candidates, including Bush, about $765,000 in PAC, soft 0amoney and individual campaign contributions between 1999 and 2002.
Finally, refusing to accept bids from potential competitors, Bush grants a 0atwo-year, $490 million contract for Iraqi oil field repairs to Halliburton Co., 0athe Houston-based company where Dick Cheney worked as CEO from 1995 to 2000. "It 0awill look a lot worse if Halliburton gets the USAID [Agency for International 0aDevelopment] contract, too," Bathsheba Crocker, an Iraq specialist for the 0aCenter for Strategic and International Studies, warned in March. "Then it really 0astarts looking bad." Guess what! Halliburton has since scored a piece of that $600 million USAID contract.
Are we looking bad yet?
Only Bush's most intimate friends were invited to bid for these contracts. 0aEven businesses based in Great Britain, where Tony Blair risked his political 0acareer to support Bush, have been excluded from a rigged process where only 0aU.S.-based, Republican-led, Bush-connected companies need apply.
Two senior Democratic Congressmen, Henry Waxman and John Dingell, are asking 0athe General Accounting Office to look into these sleazy kickback deals. "These 0aties between the vice president and Halliburton have raised concerns about 0awhether the company has received favorable treatment from the administration," 0atheir letter reads. Well, duh. But don't count on appropriate action--like 0aimpeachment proceedings--from the do-nothing Dems.
Bush's right-wing Gang of Four--Cheney, Rummy, Condi and Wolfy--saw Operation 0aIraqi Freedom as a chance to line their buddies' pockets, emasculate the Muslim 0aworld, place U.S. military bases in Russia's former sphere of influence and, 0aaccording to the experts, lower the price of oil by busting OPEC. "There will be 0aa substantial increase in Iraqi oil production [under U.S. occupation], and I 0awouldn't be surprised if schemes emerged to weaken, if not destroy, OPEC," says 0aJumberto Calder n, former energy minister of Venezuela. Former OPEC secretary 0ageneral Fadhil Chalabi (no relation to Ahmed) estimates that increased 0aexploration could potentially double Iraq's proven reserves, which would raise 0aproduction from 2.4 to 10 million barrels a day. Such Saudi-scale production 0awould "bring OPEC to its knees," says Chalabi. The cartel's member nations, ten 0aof 11 of them predominantly Muslim, would suffer staggering increases in poverty 0aas a result of falling oil revenues, plunging some into the political chaos that 0abreeds Islamist fundamentalism. Meanwhile, the people of Iraq, whose 0aself-flagellating Shias already make the evening news look like a rerun of 0aIran's 1979 Islamic revolution, would starve as foreign infidels raked in 0abillions thanks to the oil beneath their land.
Time to dust off the duct tape.
Ted Rall is the author of "Gas War: The Truth Behind the American 0aOccupation of Afghanistan," an analysis of the underreported Trans-Afghanistan 0aPipeline project and the real motivations behind the war on terrorism. Ordering 0ainformation is available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is 0adistributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in 0areceiving the included information for research and educational 0apurposes.)