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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Desperate, Bush and Big Oil Turn to Death Squads and Sadr

Bush will go before the camera tonight, to claim the need for a troop build-up to combat terrorists. Absent from the President's plan will be any meaningful change in approach. While previous strategy have been acknowledged as not working, Bush appears incapable of accepting the fact his policies in Iraq cannot work.

Any change in Iraq strategy may be meant to discourage criticism of the war, and by proxy, Bush's management of the occupation. Judging from the President's abandonment of any recommendation offered by the Iraq Study Group, any meaningful change of course will be obstructed by the President's pride, his inability to admit his policies have been a complete failure.

Proponents of the build-up fail to mention that the use of force to unseat Saddam has created a nightmarish scenario of an Iraq overrun by terrorists. To war supporters, the consequences of invading Iraq are now meant to be borne by all Americans--regardless of their level of support for the war. The burden of preventing even greater disaster has now befallen us all. Why? Because the consequences of failure are too high, for a war they engineered.

Bush and the war supporters are desperate to justify the ongoing military effort and the strain it's caused. The US seeks to propel a security imperative for maintain a presence in Iraq--to defend it from Al Qaeda, a radical Islamic insurgency originally created by the US in its covert efforts in Afghanistan versus the Soviets.

Paradoxically, the base of support for Al Qaeda is nourished by resentment against the US occupation. By prolonging the occupation, the US encourages Al Qaeda recruitment and helps it grow. The security threat posed by Al Qaeda--and the strengthening insurgency--in turn justifies the occupation.

A security vortex may have been intentionally created, designed to lock US military forces into the strategic heart of the Middle East and atop the world's second largest reserves of oil. To some conspiracy theorists, Rumsfeld's downplaying of required force strength numbers was a nefarious plan to seed open-ended occupation and control of oil.

The only issue remaining open to debate is whether or not the occupation can be made sustainable and for how much longer.

By clamping down on the Sunni and their sympathy to Al Qaeda, the US has effectively strengthened the Shia grip on power. No where is this reality more evident in the behavior of Shia death squads operating against the Sunni, in what is know as the "El Salvador" option.

Another nasty reality is the ascendancy of Muqtada al-Sadr and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq as the barbarity of Saddam execution at the hands of Sadr supporters showed. The US can't bear to admit its occupation has ushered in an age of domination of Iraq by radical fundamentalists.

Boxed in militarily, more troops or "End-strength" can't alter the eventual outcome, which is defeat of pluralism and secularism in Iraq. The only possible benefit of continuing the Occupation is to the military-industrial complex and Big Oil, friends of the Administration.

Bush is clearly hoping the time bomb his policies have created in Iraq and Afghanistan will allow the US occupation to continue through his reign. The President's legacy will be a greatly weakened US military and greatly diminished US global stature.

Bush is still clinging to the concept of victory, which at this point must be considered to be delay in the total unravelling of all his intentions in Iraq, and the reassertion of realism in American foreign policy. Cleaning up the mess will be left to other more competent leaders, who will have to walk delicately to avoid facing the political consequences of a defeat which Bush's policies have made inevitable.

Whatever authority Bush now possesses is militaristic and antagonistic, which is politically and strategically unimplementable. Perhaps Bush will try to expand the war to other nations in a last-ditch effort to save Iraq. Iraq cannot be saved. War with Iran will only make the military and geopolitical limitations of Bush policy more evident, and push the negative consequences of the rampant use of force forward, and force a domestic political confrontation with Bush that he will lose.

Saddam Execution Follow Up

By planting sympathetic executioners, Sadr did demonstrate his political reach, at least outside the Mainstream Media, who seem completely oblivious to the political connotations of a penetration of the execution by forces loyal to Sadr.

Writing on his website Empire Burlesque, Chris Floyd brings up the new political reality:

"as both Steve Gilliard and Juan Cole note, Saddam was not actually hanged by the "sovereign" Iraqi government at all; he was turned over to the Mahdi Army militia of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, religious Chekists in black leather jackets and black masks -- and the very people that Bush's viceroys say are the main instigators of the murderous violence roiling the Leader's Babylonian satrapy today."[Source]

Here at Jbpeebles.blogspot.com, we anticipated the impact of the Saddam execution video. The role of Sadr's men in the execution demonstrated that Sadr's faction had established political dominance. Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki alledgedly presented al-Sadr a piece of the rope used to hang Saddam.

Unlike the mainstream media, I brought up not the video's brutality but see it as the political message it was. Saddam's execution was meant to antagonize all Sunnis, not just Saddam's supporters.

The Media has grown bored of the constant "sectarian" violence. Little consideration is given to the premise that the ongoing violence is a product of the ongoing occupation. The role of the US in fermenting Shia-Sunni discord as a matter of policy has been suppressed. Naturally, the Mainstream Media has attributed much of the violence to terrorists, disguising the fact much of the violence may have been caused intentionally and directly by the US in its efforts to suppress the Sunni insurgency.

Salvador Option in Iraq

In my last post, I'd mentioned the El Salvador option, referring to the practice of deploying right-wing paramilitaries to quash popular dissent, such as that seen in El Salvador early in the eighties. The death toll from US-supported intervention in that region may have been over 100,000.

The US has both directly and indirectly funded military counter-insurgencies. Traditionally, it has supported right-wing dictatorships largely in response to the perception of a left-wing threat. Typically, the units committed acts of terror to break down support for insurgencies. These military groups successfully intimidated, with the ensuing large collateral damage tolerated.

Chris Floyd discusses the darker side of the US mission in Iraq. The intention of training Iraqi troops was not only to stand up as the US stands down, but to also develop the a cadre of paramilitaries capable of implementing a campaign of terror and oppression against the Sunni insurgency. This is what's known as the "El Salvador" option.

Waging this battle involved total committal to a "stratergy" of ethnic cleansing and systematic repression and the abandonment of human rights. In advance of Bush's policy speech on Iraq, rumors suggest a block-by-block campaign through the streets of Baghdad in an effort to root out the insurgents.

Judging from the minimal increase in troops strength, much of the chore for repressing Sunnis will necessarily fall on the Iraqis.

Many of Bush's top leaders have experience in Latin America dating from the 1980's, including Defense Secretary Gates and soon-to-be Undersecretary of State Negroponte, who earned their stripes for the Right in fighting the spread of leftism there. Bush resurrected the School of the Americas which trains Latin soldiers from Bush-friendly regimes in frequently extreme counterinsurgency tactics, and has been labelled a export center for terrorism by some critics.

Experience in repressing an insurgency like that faced by the military dictatorship in El Salvador may be applicable to Iraq. Yet in Iraq the Shia are presumably the governmental power; as the majority repression would target ethnic minorities rather than other Shia. Also, in the most restive areas where a large Sunni majority exists, Iraqi government forces under Shia control would face a broad Sunni insurgency.

A string of retaliatory outbursts by one side against the other hints at worse fates for Iraq, should the warring factions gain more military power which they would presumably use to lump casualties indiscriminately on the other.

Perhaps Iraq and El Salvador differ in all respects but for their methods, which are simply the same. Writing in Empire Burlesque, Chris Floyd in '05 talked about US efforts to train Iraqis in assassination and intimidation. See the story here.

Repressing the Sunni insurrection may be achievable through the application of the El Salvador option, with atrocities conducted by Shia militiamen within Iraq Army and police units. News reports of executed Sunnis--hands tied, all shot execution-style, hint at a force not only ruthless but systematic as well. Torture forms a core taks at the center of Salvadorian counterinsurgency strategy, not necessarily for the benefit of gathering intelligence, but rather to intimidate the public into submission.

The use of torture in Abu Ghraib, and liberalization of harsh interrogation techniques demonstrate an obeisance to the crudities of the El Salvador option, under the goal of gathering intelligence. The impact was greater aggravation of the population and rising support for the insurgency.

Tactics aimed at humiliation, and in particular sexual humiliation, hint at a deeper and darker strategy to intimidate would-be resisters. As in El Salvador, the more egregious the crimes, up to an including the murder of nuns, the stronger the resistance--eventually creating a military or socially political force of equal or greater strength.

If the use of excess force by paramilitaries is an inherently flawed strategy, then why would it be adopted? Obviously the Salvador option is attractive economically to an powerful business elite which profit by exploiting the masses and plundering public resources. By spreading fear through the indiscriminate use of force, popular guerrila movements are theoretically suppressed.

For an occupying power, the Salvador option allows occupying troops to be drawn down, as the methods of intimidation and control over dissent are outsourced to in-country providers. It must be remembered that Bush is aiming to make the occupation sustainable; the lower the US casualties, the more tolerable the occupation.

Oil Politics

The oil industry possesses the ungainly reputation as the best industry for governments with poor human rights records to do business with. The Western consumer appears less concerned about the source of gas than its availabilty in plenty, and at low prices.

Until there's a legislative effort put forth to source our energy fairly, the end consumer will be content to buy oil regardless of how it was procured, or how many lives lost to secure it. Meanwhile, in places like Nigeria, oil has become the source of considerable violence and graft. Intent on extraction and export, the large oil firms make their impact a low priority. Sporadic attacks on oil pipelines and resources has been one consequence.

The Iraqi government may prove more responsive to the needs of the general public, especially if Muqtada al-Sadr and his political authority rule the country, as Saddam's execution hinted. The Shia are likely to want the oil fields for themselves and must be less likely to want to enter into terms friendly to Big Oil outsiders. Dependent on oil revenue, the Shia may be more aware of the risks multinationals face in expanding production in Iraq, and be more sympathetic to the needs of oil developers considering the security situation.

So dealing with Shia is in the best interest of the oil companies, and stability going forward necessary to extract and export the oil. Unfortunately, the process of stabilizing Iraq--a necessity for the drawing in foreign capital for oil extraction--encourages the Sunni insurgency.

Seeds of Trouble

Under proportional representation, the hallmark of democracy, Sunnis are bound to suffer. Lacking oil fields of their own, the Sunni are at the mercy of Shia and Kurd. Why would the Shia share oil revenues with their politically marginalized weaker sisters? Like the nest of some predatory bird, the weaker ethnic groups may ruthlessly eliminated. Iraq may now be at the stage where the larger of the bird offspring (the Shia) denies its (Sunni) sibling food (oil). Later, with Mama and Papa (US) Eagle gone, the older sibling will eventually kick its weakened sibling out of the nest--the political power nexus centered on control over Iraqi oil.

Yet the Sunni and Kurds are armed and determined. The Sunni and Kurds will need to be placated, rather then left subordinate and vulnerable to the exertion of control over the oil fields by the Shia. And no matter what the state of disarray in the Sunni insurgency, support from Saudi Arabia appears continuing, which gives the Sunnis real staying power, especially in light of sympathies to Al-Qaeda's struggle against the infidel.

Al-Qaeda has assumed an anti-Shia role. Still, the presence of US troops encourages Al Qaeda. Without the US there in Iraq, perhaps Al Qaeda would lose some support in its war against America. Bush's addition of 4,000 troops to Anbar Province won't affect the strategic balance. Functioning there as a guerilla force, Al Qaeda will grow in response to the scope of military power directed against it.

The primacy of Muqtada and Iranian-backed SCIRI power reflects the political power of the majority Shia.

The US military presence may mask an urge among Shia to seize all government control, in the fashion of Saddam's rise to power, where political enemies are immediately purged in an orgy of vengeance. Saddam's execution hinted at a craving for a night of the long knives. With whatever facade remains of a plural secular society will rapidly be dismantled by the underlying Shia fundamentalist majority, so the US must back Maliki to prop up the facade.

Under Sadr, the Shia might move to remove any political forces not willing to submit in the course of a coup, followed by the prompt implementation of Sharia law and pro-Iranian doctrine. Sadr's political faction is after all the Supreme Council for Revolution in Iraq. Sound familiar? It should. The Supreme Council for Revolution in Iran currently controls that nation.

Shia extremists could emerge in Baghdad, eager to implement their regressive worldview and turn back the clock on progress. For now, the Shia appear content to wait for the Americans to leave.

Exploiting Iraq

Chris Floyd has edited his article "New Oil Law Means Victory in Iraq for Bush" for his website Empire Burlesque. The newer version, "Claiming the Prize: Bush Surge aimed at Securing Iraqi Oil," is here.

The Independent has a good article on the benefits awaiting Western oil firms here.

The roots of Iraqi exploitation are evident in other countries which have been economically liberalized. Victimized by their Right-wing business elite, these countries have lost control over their economies, and been put at the mercy of arbitrary economic influences from abroad. Impoverished by draconian controls over their currencies by the International Monetary Fund and international bankers, the countries are forced to capitulate to disadvantageous terms and lease out resources in order to prevent economic collapse.

Predatory Capitalism

Establishing US economic hegemony over Iraq has directed reconstruction projects to large military contractors, who have close relationships to government bodies like the Pentagon and White House who award the contracts. Military-industrial companies have profitted, including Cheney's former Halliburton.

Implementing hegemonic controls over Iraq benefits Big Oil, an industry also ingratiated to the Bush Administration. Preferential treatment in US govenrment policies for Big Oil predictably rewards the industry's political support for Bush. To offer up Iraq's oil, at discount, is a simple matter of progression in policy, the evolution of a process that began with the awarding of military contracts to companies friendly to the Administration.

Chris Floyd refers to an article Max Fuller wrote for the Centre for Research on Globalization. Fuller describes the economic integration process designed to extend US control over Iraq:
"In Iraq the war comes in two phases. The first phase is complete: the destruction of the existing state, which did not comply with the interests of British and American capital. The second phase consists of building a new state tied to those interests and smashing every dissenting sector of society. Openly, this involves applying the same sort of economic shock therapy that has done so much damage in swathes of the Third World and Eastern Europe. Covertly, it means intimidating, kidnapping and murdering opposition voices."[link]

The issue of Iraqi control over its oil and economy has been point of contention since the early days of the Occupation. Like some appointed ruler, Bremer and his Coalition Provisional Authority passed a series of illegal measures privatizing the economy, reducing obstructions to the repatriation of capital, and granting legal immunity for foreign contractors.

Fuller discusses the systemic methodology draining Iraq of its right to economic sovereignty. He looks at the coercive management of Iraq's economy and resources by outsiders, alongside the use of the military to suppress the population.

Fuller is aware that El Salvador is not another Iraq. He does however find in Colombia an excellent example of economic exploitation accompanied by strong repression by Right-wing death squads. Apparently the process is more about migrating the Salvador approach to thugs in-country, to further expedite the looting of public assets. Fuller explains:
"As a model, El Salvador is not wholly accurate either. In El Salvador US ‘advisors’ were few in number and prohibited from taking part in combat. Nevertheless, it is towards this model that the US is attempting to move, hoping to farm out the sordid business of occupation to Iraqi auxiliaries. But, in many ways it is contemporary Colombia that offers the closest analogy: not for the disposition of US forces, but because here the same process of asset-stripping, impoverishment and conquistador-like plundering is both deeply entrenched and ongoing."[Source]

The political roots of repression accompany forced liberalization:
"...internal conflict in which thousands of social activists have been murdered has butted seamlessly with the country’s exposure to economic liberalisation. In short, legitimate social demands are violently suppressed in favour of allowing foreign capital to extract super profits from Colombia’s rich natural resources and selling off its public assets for the same purpose."[Source]

Since the end of Communism, the US has demonstrated benevolence to countries who are open to neoliberal trade policies and membership in the the International Monetary Fund. As both Argentina and Thailand can attest, joining that elite club of nations may require the submission of sovereign interest to the whims of international currency flows and arbitrage. In the nineties, liberalization in international capital flows led to a drain of foreign currency reserves and rapid currency depreciation in those countries.

The lesson for a battered Iraq is clear: take the money and develop now. Longer-term issues aren't as crucial, so the reasoning would go. Also, Big Oil would claim the Iraqis lack sufficient capital or experience to develop their own fields.

Gradually, Iraq would embrace laws even more favorable to outsiders, in exchange for the development of oil fields in Iraq. Starved of any outside capital by the underlying security environment, Iraqi may have no choice but to turn to international oil companies; the only ones likely to be approved to extract Iraq's oil.

While the internationalization of the Iraqi economy benefits large oil concerns, longer-term, the contracts may be quite detrimental, as Chris Floyd points out. Just how far will Iraq go to service these outside interests remains to be seen; only time can tell how much oil can be brought to the surface and transported unmolested out of Iraq.

With the obvious security risks, Iraq is a bargain, yet at the time a risky proposition for a multi-billion dollar investment. Should the Shia take power down the road, Sunnis could retaliate by disrupting oil infrastructure and exports, if the oil flow was seen as benefitting the Shia-controlled government.

At the present, oil fields in Shia areas in southern Iraq appear to be working, so the model for further oil development under Shia control exists. The full scope of the Sunnis' capacity to retaliate remains unknown. With Iraq's infrastructure damaged is unclear how difficult it will be to maintain (or disrupt) an entire oil field grid were it constructed.

Oil Synergy

Oil is blamed for continuation of the Occupation. Bush-Cheney and their Big Oil ties have been a tired refrain for the progressive media while the Mainstream covers up an obvious motive for the invasion. Hesistant to displease fellow conglomerates, the corporate-owned media ignore the role of Big Oil in promoting an occupation of Iraq.

The energy industry can claim a large camp of support and influence under the Bush Administration, as all the players--Cheney, Bush, Rice--have directly worked for Big Oil. Rice's services to Chevron were so highly esteemed as to earn the Secretary of State an oil tanker named after her, the S.S. Rice.

Big Oil's affection for Bush & Co. is clearly well-placed: price of their product has tripled since before Bush took power. New sources of supply have been opened to extraction, albeit not without substantial risk.

In serving America, Big Oil is obligated to provide America with its energy needs. Big Oil justifies its favorable treatment in Iraq by the need to must supply America with abundant energy. In this sense, Cheney and Bush--always sympathetic to the oil industry--see what is good for the oil industry as being good for the US. Therefore whatever is good for them, is seen as good for the US.

Had the US government been truly independent, the US government would have sought better oil contracts and lease terms, as was discussed here on jbpeebles. Instead, the Interior Department, overseeing leases, recently fired a whistleblower (see the NYT article here.)

Under the Bush Administration, many lobbyists for Big Oil have found their way into high places in government; low-balled lease terms and perhaps even the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan have been the payback, if the considerable energy reserves of those countries can be cheaply acquired.

The oil industry has reason to maintain the status quo. In selling to the American public, oil must not be too expensive--causing inflation--but not too cheap, either, lest profits be threatened. Most importantly, profitability must be increasing for the industry lest their stock price decline.

Motivated by the profit motive, like any other business, the oil companies have no interest in seeing their sales fall. Energy conservation is a sales inhibitor and thus purged from any policy. America's conservation movement dates to the Carter years, and has hardly been heard from since Bush took office. Whatever our national energy management plan, conservation appears suspiciously absent.

Our energy planning appears to revolve around securing new sources of oil. Cheney's Energy Task Force meetings--in which a map of Iraq's oil fields was consulted--remains off limits to public scrutiny. Will Congress investigate? The Administration has made secret access to White House visitor logs, a formerly public source of information. As a result Cheney's co-conspirators remain anonymous.

The state of energy addiction is profound that the US government has committed to expand energy production. Operating in tandem with government policies, Big Oil is expanding its drilling on public land; lease deals with the federal government--ostensibly the people's representative in these matters--has profitted Big Oil by reducing their acquisition costs, at the expense of the public who must buy their product at the pump (after government has taxed it.)

The Media will never threaten the market for energy. Keeping Americans in the dark as to the scope of their dependency perpetuates the status quo and waste. Aware of America's energy habit, Big Media avoids any mention of the inherent immorality of stealing Iraqi oil.

How deeply are the interests of Big Oil and the Administration tied? Should the scale of waste be exposed, the need for conservation would become a mandate for change. Transparency in the Media might allow us to see the scope of our government's interest in keeping oil pumping and profits rising.

To Americans, oil is as addictive as Big Macs. As our obesity epidemic shows, we've become addicted to that which hurts us. I recently saw the documentary "Supersize Me" on MSNBC, which charts the effects of Morgan Spurlock's thirty-day binge at McDonald's. One consequence of eating Big Mac's every day were the headaches Spurlock would have if we didn't eat Big Macs.

Big Oil furnishes the equivalent of Big Macs, and we become addicted to them as we are to cheap gas. Yet at the same time, our corporate "Pusher Men" feed our ever worsening addiction, which is not an addiction to Big Macs but rather a lifestyle branded for consumption.

Big Oil has generated massive profits to the rising price of oil. Simultaneously the largely artificial "terror environment" has driven the price higher. It's unclear how much terror has been the result of suggestion by Bush and Blair's governments. fear or terror undoubtedly plays to the Right's support for popular militarism. Recently we've seen quite a swing downward, yet oil still sits at price triple that of the pre-invasion price. Cheney has said that the US needs oil out of the Mideast. Also, through the use of predatory techniques, Iraqi oil resources stand to be systemically exploited by Big Oil.

As for Big Oil, should the US government embrace the needs of one vital industry as its own? Does securing America's energy future justify making war--the ultimate use of governmental authority--abroad? Big Oil should have to pay its fair share for its access to public lands, whether in Iraq or off the coasts of the US mainland. Big Oil has a vested interest in seeing the price of energy to the end-consumer rise; governments in seeing it not rise too fast.

Where do the interests of Big Oil and the US public coincide? As a for-profit entity, Big Oil must profit, and its stock price must perpetually go up to entice investor interest. By controlling the world's energy supply, Big Oil can create a monopoly. By devaluing conservation and hyping demand (despite the debt it brings), governments can maintain rising demand.

Wars become increasingly costly to the general economy. At some point maintaining the benefit of occupation for one corporate constituency cannot justify the collateral damage resulting from the ongoing use of force needed to sustain that benefit.

There is also the tendency to avoid fiscal oversight in government spending, in order to mask conflicts of interest. Funds spent in the service of corporate interest have cost the US mightily and delivered less than adequate results.
Efficiency in the provisioning of public resources should be an ideal, not demeaned by the inadequate comparisons to the corporate model, where profitability is the standard by which success is measured. The failure to restore New Orleans shows the inadequacy of privatized or commercial solutions.

The failure to rebuild Iraq may in large part be a product of no-bid contracts and sweetheart deals. The inadequacies of the reconstruction effort now spurn Bush efforts to revive reconstruction through the Iraqi government, despite all the evidence of corruption and mismanagement.

Just how far does the synergy between Big Oil and the current government go?
Are the two entities intertwined, or do the goals of one exist parasitically on the root of the other? Does our foreign policy serve our energy needs, or is our energy gluttony the result of wise business strategy in a free market?

Perhaps our federal government has melded with Big Oil. Favoring one industry redefines the nature of service to our government and nation. The rise of corporate power may hint of a time to come when wars will be fought not by countries but by companies; science fiction has plenty of examples.

In their fullest form, corporate/government synergies have been deemed fascism. So it's possible wars will still be fought between countries, on behalf of their most dominant corporations.



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