By Tony Russell|
Washington, Feb. 26 -
In a hastily called press conference, President Bush gathered with present and former members of his administration this afternoon to declare victory in Iraq. The mood was jubilant as the celebrants hoisted glasses of champagne and saluted each other with high-fives.
"It's been a long time coming," said the President, "but today we have a decision by the Iraqi cabinet to remove control of Iraqi oil fields from Iraqi hands, and turn control over to U.S. and international oil companies such as ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco."
The new Iraqi oil law was drafted by an American consulting firm under contract with the Bush administration, and then sent to the White House and headquarters of the major oil companies for approval. Most members of the Iraqi legislature were unaware of its drafting.
Mr. Bush acknowledged that gaining control of Iraqi oil—the largest proven reserves in the world, outside of Saudi Arabia—has come at a cost.
"Some people think the war is going badly. They read about our soldiers dying and getting their arms and legs blown off. They see hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead. They see pictures of naked prisoners being humiliated and tortured. They see the whole Middle East on the verge of bloody chaos. They see half a trillion dollars poured into this war. And they wonder if it's all worth it."
The president went on to address those skeptics. "Well, let's take a look at the big picture. Putting the Iraqi oil fields back in full production will generate over $130 billion a year in oil sales, at today's prices! That's not money squandered on the people of Iraq. That's money in our pockets, made by and for U.S. oil companies and their partners. We're talking about a real bonanza!"
Although the president did not address specifics of the legislation, it is reported that as many as 65 of Iraq's 80 known oilfields will be bid out to giant foreign oil companies, who will be guaranteed up to 70% of their revenues.
Under a large banner proclaiming "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED," Mr. Bush gave credit to members of his team for their contributions. He specifically pointed to former Secretary of State Colin Powell. "I want to say right now that if Secretary Powell hadn't gone to the United Nations and made that dramatic speech describing all the weapons of mass destruction the Iraqis had, we might never have succeeded in selling this war to Congress and the public. Take a bow, Mr. Secretary."
Mr. Bush, his family, and his vice president, Dick Cheney, have longstanding ties to the oil industry. While it is widely acknowledged that they allowed the industry to form American energy policy over the past six years, big oil's role in shaping foreign policy has been less discussed.
In an unusual moment of candor, the president admitted that aggressive U.S. intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan was intended not so much to spread democracy as to spread privatization of the oil business and to secure pipeline routes. "We wanted to create a model in Iraq that can be applied throughout the Middle East," he said. "And even to our own hemisphere, in places like Venezuela."
Mr. Bush issued a sharp warning to the leaders of other oil-producing nations: "This administration will not stand by while despots and dictators nationalize oil production for the selfish benefit of their own people."
Although the war on the ground continues to go badly, and civil society in Iraq continues to slide into a morass of kidnappings, suicide bombings, and ethnic cleansing, today's victory in the boardroom was hailed by the president as "a milestone in the creation of a free Iraq." "Now," said Mr. Bush, "for a free Iran."
© Tony Russell, 2007