Subject: MORE ON WAR AND NEO-IMPERIAL PLUNDER : FROM THE CENTER FOR THE ADVANCED STUDY OF AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS, GRENOBLE, FRANCE.
9 June 2003
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
Oil and the petrodollar are in the news again. We have received many
articles attempting to clarify US policies in "post-war" Iraq. Below are
three outstanding essays which attempt to expalin the the causes and
effects of the US invasion of Iraq: The first, is a brief analysis of the
origins of the war by the political prisoner on Pennsylvania's death row,
Mumia Abu-Jamal, whose investigation of international pre-war meetings in
Great Britain exposes the profit motive behind the military invasion of the
Iraq. The second essay, by journalist Johnathan Steele, discusses the human
cost of this war for the Iraqi people. And the third essay, also by Steele,
warns of the consequenses of a post-war imperialist plunder of Iraqi wealth.
As usual, we welcome readers' comments on the essays that are circulated
the Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social
Movements in Grenoble.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/Director of Research
From: Annie Bingham <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: "The War Behind the War" by Mumia Abu-Jamal
THE WAR BEHIND THE WAR
by Mumia Abu-Jamal
"In strict confidence... I should welcome almost any war, for I think
country needs one."
-- Theodore Roosevelt, U.S. President
(In letter to a friend, 1897)
Many and diverse are the reasons for war, and rarely are the truest
reasons publicly espoused by the politicians who rattle their sabers
to the maddened throng.
Politicians have learned to coin phrases that boil the blood, or
stir the pulse, but these are emotional, not rational, spurs to
Behind his public performance, out of the light and the roar of the
crowd, the thinkers sit, and quietly plot great wars and social
conflicts, for real, not emotional nor imaginary profits and the
acquisition of greater wealth. For months, this writer has been
seeking evidence of such meetings, but to little avail.
While perusing an article from the liberal newspaper, *The
Guardian*, of Sept. 2002, the London journal reported a meeting of
the Royal Institute of International Affairs there, composed of
leading oil executives, Iraqi exiles, and (of course) international
legal experts. The title of the closed door confab? "Invading Iraq:
Dangers and Opportunities for the Energy Sector". One attendee summed
up the day's events with the telling quip: "Who gets the oil?" And
there it is.
The one-time Iraqi deputy oil minister, Taha Hmud Moussa, speaking
before the current conflict ripened, told reporters in an interview
that the nation had a potential yield of 300 billion barrels of oil,
"when all of Iraq's regions are explored."
If western oil interests can get their hands on those reserves
(which were lost when Iraq nationalized their fields in 1972) they
expect to be able to produce some 8 million barrels a day within 10
years. The math answers a lot of questions.
Eight million barrels, at $30 bucks a barrel, 365 days a year-- and
you're looking at $87.6 billion--(with a 'b'!)--a year.
For British and American oilmen, this is just too much to
resist. A war? Hell, they'll fight 10 wars if need be (well, not
'fight' exactly--but get others to fight). This is a war for profit
This is the real 'bling! bling!'.
Many years ago, in Philadelphia, a man was arrested in a seedy part
of town, after a woman escaped what was described as a 'Den of
Horrors'. The man, who clearly was mentally deranged, had locked up,
chained, tortured and killed a number of women in his basement. When
a flashy Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer took his case, some
reporters asked him why he took the case, given the grisly nature of
it. The lawyer flashed a toothy smile, and quipped, "I've got a
hundred-thousand reasons to". He was referring to the fact that
the man, while deranged, was also a skillful stock investor, and had
garnered several hundred thousand bucks in dividends from trading.
You want to know the real reasons for this "Showdown with Saddam",
"Countdown to Baghdad", and the like? It is not because, as the
president blithely suggests, "Saddam is a bad man". Nor is it
because, "Saddam tried to kill my Daddy." It's not because
the people of Iraq live under a cruel dictator, and we got to bring
'em some "democrisy".
The Middle East has no shortage of dictators, some of whom
are America's 'staunchest allies.'
It is not because Iraq has used chemical weapons against "it's own
people." The Turks, members of NATO and (provisionally) the EU, are
ruthless when it comes to the Kurds, who may not speak their
mother tongue, nor wear their national colors, for fear of government
persecution. (The U.S. 'campaign' for human rights conveniently
ignores Turkey's brutal suppression of their Kurdish minority, and
the imprisonment of Kurdish political prisoners, like Leyla Zana, the
first Kurdish woman elected to the Turkish Parliament. One of her
charges was she was "wearing accessories of yellow, green, and red,"
or traditional Kurdish colors! She is one of 4 Kurdish legislators
imprisoned under such ridiculous charges, but the Bush Regime is
You want to know the real reason for the war in Iraq?
They've got $87.6 *billion* reasons! Oil.
by Johathan Steele
Guardian Newspapers, 5/28/2003
The western media focused on the number of civilians killed in Iraq,
the country's ill-prepared armed forces suffered far greater losses.
All over Baghdad on walls of mosques or outside private homes, pieces
inscribed with yellow lettering bear witness to the thousands of Iraqis
killed in the
American-led war. Only if they were officers do these notices make clear
whether the victims
were soldiers or civilians. As far as Iraqis are concerned all the dead are
they fell defending their country or were struck when missiles or cluster
bombs hit their
Iraqis argue that in a war launched against their country illegally,
casualty is an innocent
who deserves equal mourning. Yet the few western newspapers and human
which have begun to calculate the war's death toll focus on civilians.
The website - www.iraqbodycount.net - calculates the civilian toll as
between 5,425 and 7,041. A Los Angeles Times survey of 27 hospital records
in Baghdad and its outlying districts found that 1,700 civilians died in
The bias in these counts may be influenced by the trend of wars in the
and Africa, where civilians were at greatest risk. Evidence from Iraq
suggests this war was
The Los Angeles Times itself contacted four mosque-based burial societies
interring 600 bodies of civilians, and many more of soldiers. Haidar Tari,
director of tracing
missing persons for the Iraqi Red Crescent, estimated up to 3,000 such
burials, perhaps two-thirds involving soldiers.
Interviews I did with officers and soldiers in Baghdad also suggest
military death toll
exceeded the civilian. The imbalance was not as marked as in the first Gulf
war when around
3,500 Iraqi civilians were killed, compared with 100,000 soldiers.
In this war no more than 10% died in most units. The resistance American
and British forces
met as they advanced into Iraq was mainly confined to the first week. After
that men ran away
in huge numbers.
Lt Col Adel Abdul Jabar commanded an air defence unit on the eastern
approach to Baghdad. "We had 250 men moving about in the area manning 57mm
anti-aircraft guns. American planes were hitting us day and night. We shot
down some cruise missiles and morale initially was high," he recalls.
After a missile scored a direct hit on an underground bunker killing
soldiers on March 24,
three days into the war, many deserted. "We were down to 175 men out of 250
after a week,"
he says. On April 4 a cluster bomb landed on part of the air defence force
at Doura. "It really
frightened the men. A captain, a first lieutenant, and 19 soldiers were
killed or wounded. You
could not approach the injured because of the unexploded bombs lying on the
wounded were dying where they were."
The shock caused a new exodus. By April 9 the unit only had 13 officers
wounded in the arm. More than 80% had fled. Twenty-five, exactly 10%, had
Stationed at the al-Taji airbase north of Baghdad, Private Abbas Ali
Hussein was a private in
an artillery unit. He and 200 others were ordered to move to the capital's
western outskirts as
the Americans approached. Half slipped off on the way or deserted in the
On April 5 US planes attacked. "Seven of our 18 guns were hit in one
"They were in civilian areas on the main road. The others were quickly
moved under palm
trees. Between seven and 10 of us were killed. Others ran. I experienced
bombing as a child
but had never been near anything like this. It was terrible."
Two of his close friends had died and he felt he could not abandon his
post. "I thought I had to
carry on to avenge them," he says. Military honour also played a role, plus
the fact that his
father was a retired army officer and a member of the Ba'ath party. By
April 8, when US forces were in Baghdad, he and five others were the only
ones left from the unit of 200. Like many other Baghdad soldiers, Private
Hussein used to go home during the war for food and clean clothes. The army
supplied nothing. Desertions in his unit were at 90%. Around 5% were killed.
One of the biggest battles took place at Baghdad airport. Adel Ali,
with 950 airforce
troops guarding the perimeter. There were 1,000 infantry and another 1,000
Republican guards outside the airfield. After US land forces reached it on
April 5, he estimates that about a hundred Iraqis died. The death toll was 3%.
To try to stop desertions, soldiers had to sign a declaration saying
understood they would be executed. In practice, no interviewee knew of such
cases. Mass desertions affected every unit including the Special Republican
Guards, who experts predicted would mount the fiercest resistance. Many
were members of Saddam Hussein's tribe in Tikrit. In fact, they abandoned
Tikrit even before Baghdad fell.
Before the war, thinktanks estimated that the Iraqi military had 389,000
men, including 80,000 members of the Republican Guard. Iraq was also
believed to have up to 60,000 paramilitaries and 650,000 reservists, though
how many of the latter answered the call is unclear.
Extrapolating from the death-rates of between 3% and 10% found in the
around Baghdad, one reaches a toll of between 13,500 and 45,000 dead among
troops and paramilitaries. The heaviest fighting took place around Baghdad
and in a few places on the route from the south. The overall casualty rate
may lie closer to the lower figure.
Postwar calculations are rough, but they are all there is since Iraqi
officials kept no tally. The
US also avoided the issue. "We don't do body counts", said General Tommy
Franks, the US
Read the small print: the US wants to privatise Iraq's oil
No one here believes this is a humanitarian war
by Jonathan Steele in Damascus
Monday March 31, 2003
In this highly politicised city where anger over the invasion of Iraq
alternates with pride in the resistance, there is one sure way to
lighten the mood. Suggest that George Bush and Tony Blair
launched their war because of Saddam Hussein's suspected
weapons of mass destruction. Hoots of derision all round.
Whether they are Syrians or members of the huge Iraqi exile
community, everyone here believes this is a war for oil. In nearby
Jordan and across the Arab world the view is the same.
Some suggest a second motive - Washington's desire to
strengthen Israel. Under one theory US hawks want to break
Iraq into several statelets and then do the same with Saudi
Arabia, to confirm the Zionist state as the region's superpower.
Others cite Donald Rumsfeld's recent comments about Iran and
Syria as proof that war on Iraq is designed to frighten its
neighbours, who happen to be the leading radicals in the
Oil is the war aim on which all Arabs agree. While the
Palestinian intifada is resistance to old-fashioned colonialism
with its seizure and settlement of other people's land, they see
the Iraqi intifada as popular defence against a more modern
phenomenon. Washington does not need to settle Iraqi land, but
it does want military bases and control of oil.
Many Arabs already define this neo-colonial war as a historic
turning point which might have as profound an effect on the Arab
psyche as September 11 did on Americans. Arabs have long
been accustomed to seeing Israeli tanks running rampant. Now
the puppet-master, arrogant and unashamed, has sent his
helicopter gunships and armoured vehicles to Arab soil.
The US has mounted numerous coups in the Middle East to
topple regimes in Egypt, Iran and Iraq itself. It has used crises,
like the last Gulf war, to gain temporary bases and make them
permanent. In Lebanon it once shelled an Arab capital and
landed several hundred marines. But never before has it sent a
vast army to change an Arab government. Even in Latin
America, in two centuries of US hegemony, Washington has
never dared to mount a full-scale invasion to overthrow a ruler in
a major country. Its interventions in the Caribbean and Central
America from 1898 to 1990 were against weak opponents in
small states. Three years into the new millennium, the enormity
of the shift and the impact of the spectacle on Arab television
viewers cannot be over-estimated. Is it an image of the past or
future, they ask, a one-off throw-back to Vietnam or a taste of
things to come?
Blair sensed Arab suspicions about the fate of Iraq's oil when he
persuaded Bush at their Azores summit to produce a "vision for
Iraq" which pledged to protect its natural resources (they shrank
from using the O word) as a "national asset of and for the Iraqi
people". No neo-colonialism here.
Unfortunately, the small print is different, as could be expected
from an administration run by oilmen. Leaks from the state
department's "future of Iraq" office show Washington plans to
privatise the Iraqi economy and particularly the state-owned
national oil company. Experts on its energy panel want to start
with "downstream" assets like retail petrol stations. This would
be a quick way to gouge money from Iraqi consumers. Later
they would privatise exploration and development.
Even if majority ownership were restricted to Iraqis, Russia's
grim experience of energy privatisation shows how a new class
of oil magnates quickly send their profits to offshore banks. If the
interests of all Iraqis are to be protected, it would be better to
keep state control and modify the UN oil-for-food programme,
which has been a relatively efficient and internationally
supervised way of channelling revenues to the country's poor.
Drop the controls on Iraq's imports of industrial goods. End the
rule that all food under the programme has to be imported,
thereby penalis ing Iraqi farmers and benefiting rich exporters in
Canada, Australia and the US. But maintain the programme for
several years to keep helping the 60% of Iraqis who depend on
subsidised food (it will be more after this war) rather than
channel revenues to a new Iraqi government or a World
Bank-administered trust fund which will be under pressure to
pay it to US construction companies to repair the infrastructure
which Bush's war machine has destroyed. US and UK
taxpayers should finance the peace as they have financed the
war. Iraqi oil earnings must stay out of US and British hands.
If Downing Street has a better grasp than Washington of the
need not to appear to be occupying Iraq, it was equally
misinformed about Iraqis' views of invasion. Both governments
confused hatred of Saddam with support for war. War has its
own dynamic, trapping millions in the desperate business of
daily survival. Naturally they blame US and British troops for the
chaos. Yet, even before the first bomb fell, most Iraqis were
against "liberation" by force.
People living under Saddam Hussein's rule do not give opinions
easily but British and US officials should have done a better job
of talking to Iraqis in Jordan and Syria who are in close touch
with their families in Iraq.
On the eve of the war, I interviewed 20 Iraqis in Amman
individually or in groups of two or three friends for an hour each
on average. They included Sunni and Shia, property owners,
artists, factory workers and several unemployed. Most were
fierce critics of the Iraqi president. But on the over-riding issue of
whether Bush should launch a war, a majority was opposed.
Nine were against, four were torn and only seven were in favour.
Now that war is no longer a theoretical option but a reality
affecting every Iraqi at home and abroad, patriotic feelings are
Western governments apparently confined their research to
people with a narrow vested interest. They financed exiled
politicians who want a share in US-supplied power and then
talked to them as though they were independent. They listened
to businessmen eager to cash in when the US privatises the
economy. They were fascinated by nostalgic Hashemite
The voices of the poor and the professional classes were not
deemed of interest, although these are the people who benefited
from the surge in social investment from 1975-85 and later fell
back under sanctions. London and Washington convinced
themselves that Saddam Hussein had ruined the economy
without asking whether Iraqis shared this view. If they now divert
Iraq's oil revenues, they will be following a long tradition of
blunder and exploitation.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research at CEIMSA
Center for the Advanced Study of American
Institutions and Social Movements
University of Grenoble-3