September 25, 2007



My recent viewing of the film Syriana (you know - the “Hollywood liberal elite” take on the web weaved by governments and the global oil industry) provides me with some insight to better informed reading of John Nichols’ article Blackwater, Oil and the Colonial Enterprise in last week’s edition of The Nation

Before I get to that, a word about Syriana. It is a fictional account indeed, but as George Clooney said, the players made the film from the heart as opposed to a paycheck being the prime motivator. “This is not a left v. right problem,” Clooney says in the DVD bonus footage. “This is a problem that everyone of us is going to have to come to terms with.”

Washington Post neo-con columnist Charles Krauthammer criticized the film for anti-American views, saying “Osama bin Laden could not have scripted this film with more conviction.” As neo-cons go you could do much worse than a sharp guy like Krauthammer, but for me his indictment only seals the film as accurately portraying the mess that is oil politics.

So Nichols begins by saying that the recent revocation of private military contractor Blackwater’s license by the Iraqi government is the tip of the iceberg. The fact that Blackwater personnel are already back to guarding U.S. State Department convoys in Baghdad confirms what Nichols calls the great truth of the U.S. occupation of Iraq: “This is a colonial endeavor no different than that of the British Empire against which America’s founding generation revolted.”

Alas, even if congressional oversight finally steels up and clamps down on Blackwater, that’s one down, 140 to go as far as private firms contracting with the U.S. government for work in Iraq, and that means the misadventures of King George (the younger, not the III) continue past his reign of insane membrane. Maybe it’s time for Iraq to pass their own Patriot Act and round up these money-grubbing mercenary assholes and put them in Abu-Ghraib for terrorizing and killing innocent Iraqi civilians.

Fewer Americans are foolish enough at this point to deny that this war is about oil. In the industrialized world’s race to see who can use up the most first, it’s about a shitload of money for the power players who control the supply. Now, the people’s power lies in reducing the demand, but rest assured there are conspiracies in force to thwart that at every turn, whether in attempts to poo-poo conservation and environmental efforts or to stymie the development of alternative fuels. Greed is the only way to describe it. You can add ignorance of the plight of future generations to that, but it’s essentially the same thing.

The second half of Nichols’ article goes into some details about a shady deal in the works with Bush administration benefactor Ray Hunt, CEO of Hunt Oil Company in, you guessed it, Texas. The parallels to the fictional account in Syriana (a term used by Washington think-tanks to describe a hypothetical reshaping of the Middle East) are astounding.

Nichols writes:

The new “production sharing agreement” between Hunt Oil and the Kurdistan Regional Government puts one of the administration's favorite firms in a position to reap immeasurable profits while undermining essential efforts to assure that Iraq's oil revenues will be shared by all Iraqis. Hunt's deal upsets hopes that Iraq's mineral wealth might ultimately be a source of stability, replacing the promise of economic equity with the prospect of a black-gold rush that will only widen inequalities and heighten ethnic and regional resentments.

The Hunt deal is so sleazy - and so at odds with the stated goals of the Iraqi government and the U.S. regarding the sharing of oil revenues - that even Bush has acknowledged that U.S. embassy officials in Baghdad are deeply concerned about it. What Bush and Cheney have been slow to mention is the fact that Iraq's oil minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, says the deal is illegal.

Ohio Congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, oh so appropriately a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has asked committee chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D-California) to launch an investigation into the Hunt Oil deal. Kucinich wants to determine the effect the deal will have on the oil revenue sharing plan, the role the Bush administration may have played in the Hunt-Kurdistan deal, and attempts by the White House to privatize Iraqi oil.

“The Bush Administration desires private control of Iraqi oil, but we have no right to force Iraq to give up control of their oil,” Kucinich declared on the floor of the House this week. “We have no right to set preconditions to Iraq which lead Iraq to giving up control of their oil. The Constitution of Iraq designates that the oil of Iraq is the property for all Iraqi people.”

It seems the Bushies are content to have the playing field in the Middle East be as uneven as it is here. When are these elites going to realize that such a bogus, patrician attitude toward capitalism and democracy just won’t fly?

Vote for Kucinich in 2008!

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"You can add ignorance of the plight of future generations to that, but it’s essentially the same thing."

Ignorance? Or utter disregard for?
This statement of Kucinich's...

"The Bush Administration desires private control of Iraqi oil" true, but requires a bit of elucidation, I think.

The neocons within Team Bush wanted full-on privatization of the Iraqi oilfields and maximum competition amongst its many (inevitably foreign) owners. The result of this was intended to be that Iraq would start producing oil well above their OPEC 'cap', thus vastly reducing the ability of OPEC (that's basically the Saudis) to dictate the supply and therefore the price of oil.

Bottom line: the neocons wanted to be the OPEC-busters.

This isn't happening though, partly because of the insurgent clusterfuck that Iraq has developed into, but probably mainly because the neocons have lost an ideological battle within the administration with an even more powerful group - that being 'Big Oil' (i.e. massive GOP donors) and their supporters within the State Department - much more 'hard-headed' realists, who wanted to continue the historical policy of suppressing Iraq oil production as a way to control price along with their Saudi 'partners'.

This group is the OPEC-boosters.

People like Bremer and Bolton and Rumsfeld being relieved of their positions was a sign that the neocons had lost that particular battle... and that the continued US presence in Iraq would be mainly to ensure that the big International Oil Companies can produce exactly as much (or more pertinently, as little) oil as they want to, in order to best control price and maximise oil profits for all concerned.

It's also why the pronouncements from the US government that they're looking for 'a way out' of Iraq is a load of bullshit. If they leave, control over oil production could potentially be left (as Kucinich hints) to an 'Iraqi Hugo Chavez', who may impudently feel that oil wealth should be shared around the population a bit.

After all the blood, sweat, lies and tears involved in the invasion and occupation, this will not be allowed to happen.

Oops, sorry for the long comment :-(
Do you think Kucinich has a chance? I keep hoping to see him creep up further in the race, because by far I find myself aligning with him.
Joe - yes, much more accurate in your phrasing, thanks.

Cheezy - Like you told me a few posts back, don't apologise. Especially when you augment my posts with such informed reason - well said!

Jefe - No, not the proverbial snowball's chance... But in the primaries you gotta vote on that alignment. My hope is that Kucinich can muster at least one delegate so that he'll get to speak at the convention. The DP needs to heed his call for get-realness, lest it continues to wallow in the mud puddle called The Lesser of Two Evils.
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