Sunday, May 13, 2007

Thomas Friedman: We're In Iraq For Oil

Appearing at The Blogging Curmudgeon, My Left Wing, and the Independent Bloggers' Alliance.

In an unusually lucid column, former Iraq War enthusiast Thomas Friedman makes a plea for a responsible policy for military disengagement from Iraq. I'll go straight to the punch line:

You can’t be serious about getting out of Iraq if you’re not serious about getting off oil.

In other words, it's the oil stupid.

Friedman has a long history of talking out of both sides of his mouth on Iraq. (On many things actually.) And this is not the first time he's let the well-oiled cat slip out of the bag.

In the face of the failure of the government/media campaign to build mass support for a US invasion of Iraq, New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman has felt obliged to come to the aid of the Bush war cabal by proposing a shift in its propaganda. Hence Friedman’s January 5 column headlined “A War for Oil?”

In this thoroughly cynical piece, Friedman concedes what is obvious to anyone who has followed the US military buildup against Iraq with any objectivity: Bush’s plan to invade the country is driven, above all, by a determination to seize control of Iraqi oil....

He continues: “Let’s cut the nonsense. The primary reason the Bush team is more focused on Saddam [than on North Korea] is because if he were to acquire weapons of mass destruction, it might give him the leverage he has long sought—not to attack us, but to extend his influence over the world’s largest source of oil, the Persian Gulf.”

Thus, having acknowledged that the US government is lying to the American people and the world, Friedman seeks to fashion a new justification for war against Iraq. It is not a matter of self-defense, or even countering something Iraq has done. Rather, the country must be attacked and occupied because the regime might—in the future—extend its influence over the world’s largest oil reserves.

Yet, in his relentless cheer-leading for the war he has since soured on, he offered up gems like this one:

The war in Iraq is the most important liberal, revolutionary US democracy- building project since the Marshall Plan. It is one of the noblest things this country has ever attempted abroad.

Friedman is one of those mind-meltingly wrong pundits who has managed to fail spectacularly upward. In "The Iraq Gamble," Jebediah Reed gets to the heart of his infuriating duplicity.

Re-reading Friedman's columns from the six months or so prior to the invasion of Iraq can induce vertigo. Unlike many of his hawkish colleagues, he grokked all the vital details of the situation....

So even a Webelo-grade logician knows where to go from here, right? You connect the dots and conclude that while it would be very nice to get rid of Saddam, it would also be stupid and dangerous.

But somehow he still managed to come out in favor of the war. And if the whole thing weren't so tragically misguided, his reasoning would be worth a chuckle. Says Friedman: "something in Mr. Bush's audacious shake of the dice appeals to me." A nice ballsy gamble of a war. Sure, it could throw the region into chaos, bankrupt this country, and dye the fertile crescent red with the blood of civilians; yet an audacious war is like a red lollipop—who isn't powerless to resist it?

Red lollipop's aside, Friedman's pitch was always a sucker's bet. The author of "The Lexus and the Olive Branch," has always known full well what this war was really about and why his imperialistic self supported it. He has known from the beginning that it comes down that unctuous substance which drives the economic engine of the world.

As Alien Abductee reported a few days ago, the Bush Administration's naked oil grab is reaching a crucial moment. As discussed here everything rides on getting the Iraqi Parliament to pass legislation which will open Iraq's oil reserves for exploitation by Exxon/Mobil, Chevron/Texaco, BP/Amoco, and Royal Dutch/Shell. But the Iraqi's have been infuriating Bushco by dragging their heels on selling their souls. Their recalcitrance has been serious enough that Cheney was flown to the Mideast -- I'm assuming in some sort of portable hyperbaric chamber -- so that he could scold those shiftless Iraqis for threatening to take a summer break.

For all the wrangling and veto threats, our own congress looks to be safely on board with a bid to railroad the Iraqis into giving over the bulk of their oil wealth to the conglomerates.

The supplemental appropriation package requires the Iraqi government to meet a series of “benchmarks” President Bush established in his speech to the nation on January 10 (in which he made his case for the “surge”). Most of Mr. Bush’s benchmarks are designed to blame the victim, forcing the Iraqis to solve the problems George Bush himself created.

One of the President’s benchmarks, however, stands apart. This is how the President described it: “To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country’s economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis.” A seemingly decent, even noble concession. That’s all Mr. Bush said about that benchmark, but his brevity was gravely misleading, and it had to be intentional.

The Iraqi Parliament has before it today, in fact, a bill called the hydrocarbon law, and it does call for revenue sharing among Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. For President Bush, this is a must-have law, and it is the only “benchmark” that truly matters to his Administration.

Yes, revenue sharing is there-essentially in fine print, essentially trivial. The bill is long and complex, it has been years in the making, and its primary purpose is transformational in scope: a radical and wholesale reconstruction-virtual privatization-of the currently nationalized Iraqi oil industry.

If passed, the law will make available to Exxon/Mobil, Chevron/Texaco, BP/Amoco, and Royal Dutch/Shell about 4/5’s of the stupendous petroleum reserves in Iraq. That is the wretched goal of the Bush Administration, and in his speech setting the revenue-sharing “benchmark” Mr. Bush consciously avoided any hint of it.

"The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist," (Keyser Soze) and the Bush Administration has as cleverly sustained the illusion that oil is not the underlying reason for pouring the American blood and treasure into the Iraqi sand. With prestidigitators like Thomas Friedman acting as front men, it wasn't too hard to pull off.