The News : Iraqis protest draft oil law that will allow US to pillage the country’s wealth

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Iraqis protest draft oil law that will allow US to pillage the country’s wealth

By Kaleem Omar

Hundreds of Iraqi oil industry workers gathered in Basra on Monday to protest a draft oil law that would allow foreigners to pillage the country’s wealth. For ‘foreigners’ read large US oil companies, also known as Big Oil, with whom senior Bush administration officials have long had close ties.

The officials include President George W. Bush (who began his career in the oil business in Texas) Vice-President Dick Cheney (former CEO of Houston-based oil services giant Halliburton) and others. Chevron, a leading member of Big Oil, has even named one of its oil supertankers after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Iraq has the world’s second biggest proven oil reserves after Saudi Arabia. At 112 billion barrels, Iraq’s proven reserves are worth more than $ 8.7 trillion at the current crude oil price of $ 78 per barrel.

“If this (the new draft law) is endorsed by the (Iraqi) parliament, it would abolish sovereignty and hand over the wealth of this generation and the generations to come as a gift to the occupier,” the organizers of the protest demonstration said in a statement distributed to reporters in Basra.

The AFP news agency reported that the protestors, employees of the Oil Pipelines Company, wore black surgical masks over their faces and carried banners and black coffins with the word “freedom” written on both sides.

At issue, said the AFP report, is a clause in the draft hydrocarbon law allowing for production-sharing agreements with foreign oil companies, which many Iraqis see as a throwback to an earlier era of colonial exploitation.

“This law, in fact, destroys the achievements of the Iraqi masses and especially the Law number 80 of 1961 and the nationalization of 1973,” the statement said.

The 1961 law sharply limited foreign involvement in Iraq’s oil sector.

US officials, however, see the passing of the draft hydrocarbon law – which they claim is aimed at “equitably distributing Iraq’s oil proceeds” – as a “crucial benchmark of the country’s political process and a key component of national reconciliation”.

Skeptics, however, ask: “Equitably distributing Iraq’s oil proceeds to whom?”

“Let’s cut through the bull,” said one American Red Indian skeptic, adding: “Our government is saying, ‘If you don’t turn over your oil, we’re going to bomb you to smithereens. How I love the fostering of American democracy. Out on this reservation where I live, there’s a saying: ‘White man talk with forked tongue.’ No bigger fork than the one in Bush/Cheney tongues. Impeach! Impeach! Impeach!.”

Another American skeptic, who lives in Oregon, said, “The main reason for invading Iraq was to get hold of their oil on a permanent basis. The Bush/Cheney crime family feels like that (Iraqi oil) is theirs and nobody else’s. What right do the Iraqi people have for a future? No more right than we have. They will bomb Iran with their nukes and create nuclear winter, all to keep the oil price up for themselves…”

At a White House press conference last week, Bush repeatedly stressed the need for the Iraqi parliament to pass laws that the US has been waiting for. The new hydrocarbon law would enable US oil companies to acquire control of all undeveloped Iraqi oil fields. The oil companies would then decide how much oil revenue Iraq would receive to give to the country’s various provinces.

Said another American skeptic, “This is why we’re there; why we’re building bases; why we’ll never leave. The key is Bush needs a ‘legitimate’ (Iraqi) government to pass international law scrutiny. Malaki (occupied Iraq’s prime minister) can’t be booted out until the laws are passed.”

Said yet another American skeptic, “It has always been about the PSAs (‘production sharing’ agreements). More power to the Iraqi Petroleum Workers Unions and all of those who want sovereignty over their own oil resources! This is the only bench-mark that matters. I hope Bush & Co never get their greasy meat-hooks into that oil!!”

Another American skeptic imagined the following conversation taking place between Bush and the Iraqi people:

Bush: “Give us your oil and we’ll leave.”

The Iraqi People: “But, but, that’s all we have left, Mr Dictator! You destroyed everything else.”

Bush: “Then we’ll stay for another 50 years. How would you like that?”

Bush has repeatedly said that US forces won’t leave Iraq “until the job is done”. That “job”, say critics of the Bush administration’s policy, is to tie up Iraq into production and revenue sharing of its only asset: oil. The draft hydrocarbon law, if passed, will leave the Iraqi people with less revenue with which to rebuild their war-torn country and unify its disparate factions.

As one American critic of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy said, “I think it’s criminal to plunder another country for its assets, notwithstanding that every war fought and every invasion sanctioned since the mists of time had to do with resources and control. The trouble is that it is now the 21st century and we, as a species, seem to have learnt nothing in ten thousand years. We are still barbaric in nature, still take no notice of history, and dispose too much power in our leaders in whom the said barbarism rises, like muck, to the surface. I remain disgusted. All power to the (Iraqi) oil unions and their members. May they never give up.”

Critics say the new draft law is a form of denationalising the Iraqi oil industry. If passed, it will effectively put Iraq’s oil resources back into the hands of private oil companies and, in the words of one critic, “put the people of Iraq on an allowance for the next 30 years.”

In the words of one critic, “When you read the partitioning, percentage and duration terms of all this, it amounts to the largest mineral-rights looting in the world’s history. Never has a group of private oil companies demanded such terms and got them. When you have an occupying army invading your country, you bargain from a position of weakness and the oil companies know this. This is why they put Bush and Cheney into power in the first place.”

As if to reinforce the arguments of critics that the Bush administration has no intention of withdrawing US forces from Iraq, a story datelined Balad Air Base, Iraq, written by Charles J. Hanley and published by the Associated Press news agency on July 15, 2007 says that the US Air Force is quietly building a presence in Iraq.

Hanley writes: “Away from the headlines and debate over the ‘surge’ in US ground troops, the Air Force has quietly built up its hardware inside Iraq, sharply stepped up bombing and laid a foundation for a sustained air campaign in support of American and Iraq forces.”

Says Hanley: “Squadrons of attack planes have been added to the in-country fleet. The air reconnaissance arm has almost doubled since last year. The powerful B1-B bomber has been recalled to action over Iraq.

“The escalation worries some about an increase in ‘collateral damage,’ casualties among Iraqi civilians. Air Force generals worry about wear and tear on aging aircraft. But ground commanders clearly like what they see.”

Hanley quotes US Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch as saying approvingly of air support his 3rd Infantry Division received in a recent offensive south of Baghdad, “Night before last we had 14 strikes from B-1 bombers. Last night we had 18 strikes by B-1 bombers.”

As Hanley notes, “Statistics tell the story: Air Force and Navy aircraft dropped 437 bombs and missiles in Iraq in the first six months of 2007, a five-fold increase over the 86 used in the first half of 2006, and three times more than in the second half of 2006, according to Air Force data. In June, bombs dropped at the rate of more than five a day.

“Inside spacious air-conditioned ‘Kingpin,’ a new air traffic control centre at this huge Air Force hub 50 miles north of Baghdad, the expanded commitment can be seen on the central display screen: Small points of light represent more than 100 aircraft crisscrossing Iraqi air space at any one time.”

Earlier this year, the US Air Force sent a squadron of A-10 “Warthog” attack planes – a dozen or more aircraft – to be based at Al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq. At the same time it added a squadron of F-16C Fighting Falcons at the Balad Air Base north of Baghdad. The additions doubled to 50 or more the number of fighter-bomber jets available at US bases inside occupied Iraq.

Meanwhile, the US Navy has stationed a second aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, and the reintroduction of B1-B bombers has added a close-at-hand “platform” capable of carrying 24 tons of bombs.

What all this translates into for the people of war-ravaged Iraq is the killing of more innocent Iraqi civilians in US bombing raids and missile strikes.