What's Left

May 23, 2003

Getting rich on Iraqi oil

By Stephen Gowans

So what if Iraq had none of the weapons of mass destruction Washington and London said it had (and even if it had, it could hardly have had enough to pose much of a threat to a pair of countries whose weapons of mass destruction are a Himalaya to what would have been an Iraqi pimple); so what if Iraq never had any ties to al-Qaeda; so what if rather than reducing terrorist attacks, the invasion of Iraq has only heightened them; so what if the promise that regime change in Iraq would pave the way to peace in the Middle East hasn't, and seems very unlikely, to come true; so what if rather than welcoming US and British forces, Iraqis are demanding they get out; so what if the attack was illegal; so what if the story of Private Jessica Lynch was a Hollywood fantasy; so what if the invasion and occupation to eliminate a threat that never existed is costing American taxpayers billions of dollars, money readily available for pointless, illegal wars, but somehow always scarce when the discussion turns to healthcare or housing all can afford; so what if whatever doubts existed before the war of it being motivated by oil and conquest have been laid to rest;  so what if, in some places, the president of the United States is called der Fuhrer and the Bush regime is likened, without a lot of hyperbole, to the Nazis for its doctrine of preventive war; so what if the US has become a country so adrift in a sea of its own lies and deceptions, that its people suffer from a collective detachment from reality; so what?

What really matters, the object of the whole exercise, has been achieved: The US and Britain (well, the US, with Britain along to scoop up a few crumbs from the master's table) now control the proceeds of sales of Iraqi oil, to be used to rebuild a country Washington and London destroyed, through two wars and over a decade of ruinous sanctions they bloody-mindedly insisted on maintaining, despite the consequent deaths of well over one million. What really matters is that the rebuilding will be done by US and British firms, on terms that profit US and British firms indefinitely.

The schools will be rebuilt by US and British investors, their curricula designed by US and British companies, and chances are they will be operated by US and British corporations. Water treatment facilities will be rebuilt by US and British firms (having been destroyed by US and British bombs, and left crippled by US and British sanctions), and chances are they will be run as privatized utilities by US and British companies. And in dozens of other areas, the same model will be followed. Whatever the Pentagon and the British military destroyed, US and British firms will rebuild, pocketing the proceeds from the sales of Iraqi oil. More than likely, they'll also own and run the rebuilt infrastructure and the rebuilt economy.

In other words, having been devastated by the Pentagon, and not without some pleasant outcomes for the bottom lines of such US firms as Raytheon and Lockheed-Martin and General Electric who furnish the Pentagon with its bombs and missiles and war machines, Iraq will be made over into a neo-liberal's wet dream. A wizened Margaret Thatcher, to say nothing of her clone, Tony Blair, must be creaming themselves already. But the shouts of ecstasy in London, will have nothing on the orgiastic moans issuing from Washington, where most members of the Bush cabinet have more direct interests in the profits to be had from rebuilding a country they've just pummelled and whose oil they've brought within their grasp.
 
Once the US proconsul takes his leave, (perhaps leaving a parting gift like the Platt Amendment), Iraqis will be free to make whatever decisions they like within the narrow space of decision-making not already claimed as the legitimate space of the economy's new American and British owners, which is to say they'll be granted the same freedoms and democracy Americans and Britons have -- the freedom to express their views, but not to deflect the course of the nations's government from its accustomed role of aiding the profit-making of the people who own and control the economy -- the real rulers.

In the meantime, all that Iraqi oil will have been put to good use, making Bush and Cheney and people like them richer, the true and desired aim of what American presidents and their prime ministerial British sidekicks call freedom and democracy.

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