Friday, March 18, 2005

BBC: "Bush made plans for war and for Iraq's oil before 9/11"

This won't surprise some of us...

From the Beeb:

Secret US plans for Iraq's oil
By Greg Palast
Reporting for Newsnight

The Bush administration made plans for war and for Iraq's oil before the 9/11 attacks, sparking a policy battle between neo-cons and Big Oil, BBC's Newsnight has revealed.

Falah Aljibury
Iraqi-born Falah Aljibury says US Neo-Conservatives planned to force a coup d'etat in Iraq
Two years ago today - when President George Bush announced US, British and Allied forces would begin to bomb Baghdad - protesters claimed the US had a secret plan for Iraq's oil once Saddam had been conquered.

In fact there were two conflicting plans, setting off a hidden policy war between neo-conservatives at the Pentagon, on one side, versus a combination of "Big Oil" executives and US State Department "pragmatists".

"Big Oil" appears to have won. The latest plan, obtained by Newsnight from the US State Department was, we learned, drafted with the help of American oil industry consultants.

Insiders told Newsnight that planning began "within weeks" of Bush's first taking office in 2001, long before the September 11th attack on the US.

We saw an increase in the bombing of oil facilities and pipelines [in Iraq] built on the premise that privatisation is coming
Mr Falah Aljibury
An Iraqi-born oil industry consultant, Falah Aljibury, says he took part in the secret meetings in California, Washington and the Middle East. He described a State Department plan for a forced coup d'etat.

Mr Aljibury himself told Newsnight that he interviewed potential successors to Saddam Hussein on behalf of the Bush administration.

And more details from Juan Cole...

Wolfowitz's Plot to Destroy OPEC
And Why it was always Ridiculous

Joe Conason presents some excellent reasons why Paul Wolfowitz should not head the World Bank. But there may be others.

The BBC Newsnight reports the titanic struggle between the Neoconservatives and Big Oil over Iraqi petroleum. If this story is true, it is some of the best reporting to come out of the Iraq scandal for months, and Greg Palast and his colleagues have scooped the Washington Post and the New York Times.

It is a story that also has a bearing on Paul Wolfowitz's bid to become chairman of the World Bank. I have some questions for him. Does he want to reduce the Arabs to poverty? Is he hostile to the very existence of OPEC and of producer cooperatives in primary commodities? Does he favor the use of warfare by states to permit their corporations to take over public energy resources in the Global South? Are his economic policies going to be rooted in a desire to further the interests of the Likud and other rightwing parties in the Global South?

As Palast tells the story, the Neoconservatives (presumably Wolfowitz, Perle and Feith) and the Department of Defense were dedicated to privatizing the Iraqi petroleum industry as a key plank of their Iraq project. They hoped that Iraq's privately-owned (presumably by American petroleum corporations) petroleum industry would secede from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and would pump large amounts of petroleum, refusing to stay within the bounds of the Iraq OPEC quota. By setting quotas for members, OPEC attempts to keep the price of petroleum from falling too far or from oscillating too wildly.

That there was a cult of privatization at the Pentagon has never been in doubt. Iraq has been a socialist country since at least 1968 (and had elements of socialism in the period of military rule 1958-1968). Most major industries were publicly owned. Moreover, the Iraqi population liked it that way. Opinion polls show that 80% of Iraqis think the purpose of a government is to take care of people.

Paul Bremer, the second US civil administrator of Iraq is a fanatical laissez-fairiste. The privatizers would set up private corporations to sell you creek water and oxygen if they could get away with it. In a BBC interview, Jay Garner alleged that the Department of Defense dissolved the Iraqi army and sent it home, causing all of us no end of trouble, because they were afraid that retaining a large Baath institution like that would form an obstacle to radical privatization. Bremer wanted to allow foreign companies to buy any firm in Iraq and to be able to expatriate profits immediately. (The abolition of currency regulations, advocated by Washington Consensus free marketeers, contributed to the meltdown of the East Asian economies in 1997; Malaysia escaped devastation by thumbing its nose at the privatizers and slapping on currency controls. It turns out that if there are no regulations about currency transfers, speculators take advantage of it; Surprise!)

Obviously, the real prize in privatization would be the petroleum industry. No other state-owned Iraqi industries are worth much, and will be difficult to sell to private owners because they are bloated bureaucracies and inefficient.

Posted by crimnos @ 6:35 PM