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Why Iraq is a Success

by Captain Future Sun Dec 2nd, 2007 at 07:19:10 PM EST

With the deal last week between the Bushites and the current Iraqi government to formalize the intention to keep U.S. troops in those huge permanent bases in Iraq, and to "encourage" foreign investment (i.e. U.S. oil companies and related Bushite corporations), two prominent theories--not mutually exclusive by any means--got additional evidence for their answers as to why the Bushites began and prosecuted the war and occupation of Iraq.

One theory is Naomi Klein's in her book, The Shock Doctrine. Basically she outlines a strategy used in various parts of the world to further the goal of enriching large corporations--almost always run by or with strong ties to the folks now identified as Bushites, but who have pulled strings, or assisted their mentors in doing so, in previous Republican administrations.

On Thursday she got the opportunity--the first I know of--to explain what she means on U.S. television: on a very well done segment of Countdown with Keith Olbermann. (Her theory aside, Klein should be regularly analyzing geopolitics and the news on U.S. television.) Here's what she said about Iraq:

KLEIN: Well, Iraq is the classic example of the shock doctrine. You had a military strategy that was called Shock and Awe. It was a military strategy designed to maximize disorientation. The theory was--This is a quote from Richard Armitage, the former deputy undersecretary of state, who said that the theory was that Iraqis would be so shocked, they would be easily marshaled from point A to point B.

In that moment when they were supposed to be easy to control, easy to martial, you had Paul Bremer waltz in his Brooks Brothers suits and Army beauties, the uniform of the disaster capitalists, and say Iraq is open for business, and create this sort of--an attempt to create a corporate Utopia for American multinationals.

It didn`t work out. Then you saw the emergence of a third shock, not an economic shock, but shocks to body, the shock of torture, as they attempted to control this rebellious country. There`s three kinds of shocks in "The Shock Doctrine," the shock of the crisis, then an economic shock therapy program, and then, if people don`t behave, a third shock, which is the shock of torture.

But didn't it work out? Certainly it's been messy, and so far such favored corporations as Halliburton, Bechtel and Blackwater have had to take their considerable piles of money and run, but could this latest agreement be the Bushite victory?

Jim Holt in the London Review of Books reverse-engineers the Iraq war and sees how this is entirely possible. First, he outlines the prize Iraq represents. That it's all about the oil isn't a news flash to a lot of people, but probably most don't know just how much oil is involved:

Iraq has 115 billion barrels of known oil reserves. That is more than five times the total in the United States. And, because of its long isolation, it is the least explored of the world's oil-rich nations. A mere two thousand wells have been drilled across the entire country; in Texas alone there are a million. It has been estimated, by the Council on Foreign Relations, that Iraq may have a further 220 billion barrels of undiscovered oil; another study puts the figure at 300 billion. If these estimates are anywhere close to the mark, US forces are now sitting on one quarter of the world's oil resources. The value of Iraqi oil, largely light crude with low production costs, would be of the order of $30 trillion at today's prices. For purposes of comparison, the projected total cost of the US invasion/occupation is around $1 trillion.

To get and keep control of that oil--even if it takes another decade or two--is the purpose of those bases, Holt suggests. He points out that "Five self-sufficient `super-bases' are in various stages of completion. All are well away from the urban areas where most casualties have occurred. There has been precious little reporting on these bases in the American press, whose dwindling corps of correspondents in Iraq cannot move around freely because of the dangerous conditions."

But they are all mini-cities or walled suburbs. He refers to Thomas Ricks' reporting on one of the bases, the Balad air base: "Although few of the 20,000 American troops stationed there have ever had any contact with an Iraqi, the runway at the base is one of the world's busiest. `We are behind only Heathrow right now,' an air force commander told Ricks."

(Holt mentions something that I pointed out a couple of years ago--that U.S. bases in Iraq meant that U.S. bases in somewhat unstable Saudi Arabia, that so upset Osama bin Laden, could be closed--and they have been.)

But even if the U.S. and the West can't get much Iraqi oil into their pipelines for awhile, they still win because the U.S. presence deters their major competitor for oil in the world: China. Without more energy, China's economy can't keep growing at its current rate. By denying China this source, the West has a chance to weather the Chinese economic storm.

So Holt wonders:

Was the strategy of invading Iraq to take control of its oil resources actually hammered out by Cheney's 2001 energy task force? One can't know for sure, since the deliberations of that task force, made up largely of oil and energy company executives, have been kept secret by the administration on the grounds of `executive privilege'. One can't say for certain that oil supplied the prime motive. But the hypothesis is quite powerful when it comes to explaining what has actually happened in Iraq. The occupation may seem horribly botched on the face of it, but the Bush administration's cavalier attitude towards `nation-building' has all but ensured that Iraq will end up as an American protectorate for the next few decades - a necessary condition for the extraction of its oil wealth.

Which is why the failure to nurture a strong central government is actually success:

"If the US had managed to create a strong, democratic government in an Iraq effectively secured by its own army and police force, and had then departed, what would have stopped that government from taking control of its own oil, like every other regime in the Middle East?"

So if you're thinking in terms of money--in billions and trillions--the whole thing makes sound business sense:

The costs - a few billion dollars a month plus a few dozen American fatalities (a figure which will probably diminish, and which is in any case comparable to the number of US motorcyclists killed because of repealed helmet laws) - are negligible compared to $30 trillion in oil wealth, assured American geopolitical supremacy and cheap gas for voters. In terms of realpolitik, the invasion of Iraq is not a fiasco; it is a resounding success.

In fact the only counter argument Holt can muster is that the Bushites don't appear to be this smart. "Still, there is reason to be sceptical of the picture I have drawn: it implies that a secret and highly ambitious plan turned out just the way its devisers foresaw, and that almost never happens."

And it makes perfect sense, even rhetorically. When real politik Republicans talk about freedom, they mean the freedom of themselves, their rich cronies and supporters to loot the world unencumbered by law, morality, environmental responsibility or compassion. That certainly seems to be what the Bushites mean when they say they're bringing freedom to Iraq. So for them Iraq may well be a success, and a catastrophe for everyone else.

Actually, it wasn't her first appearance on television.  She did Bill Maher's show a few weeks back.  It was quite good, and I'm sure the video is floating around YouTube somewhere.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Dec 2nd, 2007 at 07:48:40 PM EST
Bill Maher is pay cable, isn't it? It's great she was on there but I'd like to see her on news channels as well. I believe she is something like a regular commentator in Canada.  With all the same talking heads offering very little insight or alternative, it would be a boon to U.S. news/talk TV to have her on often.    

"The end of all intelligent analysis is to clear the way for synthesis." H.G. Wells "It's not dark yet, but it's getting there." Bob Dylan
by Captain Future (captainfuture is at sbcglobal dot net) on Sun Dec 2nd, 2007 at 07:55:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, yes, but Keith Olbermann is paid cable, too.  It's just that HBO requires an additional subscription fee.

I agree that she should be on television more.  I really enjoyed her on Maher's show.  But she's not likely to receive much attention beyond Olbermann.  I could definitely see her appearing on PBS and NPR, and maybe even Chris Matthews (when it's not campaign season), but little else.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Dec 2nd, 2007 at 11:31:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nice fiction.

You've got to control it.

If you spend $1 Trillion in a farcical attempt to control $30 trillion estimated reserves, is this prudent?

Doesn't look like it.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Sun Dec 2nd, 2007 at 08:16:14 PM EST
And as Eric Margolis once famously said, you can just buy it.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins
by EricC on Sun Dec 2nd, 2007 at 08:17:49 PM EST
Only if it's a commodity, with all the infrastructure, laws, and social conditions necessary to make it so.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Sun Dec 2nd, 2007 at 10:59:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A $1 Trillian investment for a $30 Trillian asset base may look as risky venture, but when the $1 Trillion is taxpayers money and the $30 Trillian is the size of the potential profit pool for your private enterprises (less operating costs) then it's a very good deal indeed.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Dec 2nd, 2007 at 09:09:35 PM EST
I would rather see it as consequences of a strategy then as the plan Holt sees. The bush crowd wanted to control Iraq and make it a free-market dream to the greater profit of the corporations. Therefore the old iraqi army and police was disbanded. Therefore laws were changed (except good laws, like laws forbidding unions) and corporations invited. The iraqi people did not want it and rebelled. To quell this rebellion a number of strategies was implemented, including the democracy charade (remember the initial statements of a long occupation before elections, like Germany after ww2?).

The official sanction of the bases and the looting by the mock government of the green zone by now does not matter to anyone. It matters not to the iraqi people, nor to the american government. Sure it makes it look a bit more legal, but why should anyone care about that at this stage? Sort of like bankrobbers getting the frightened clerk to sign a waiver after being robbed. Looks more ad-hoc then like a plan.

And the fortresses reminds me of a quote from Frank Herbert:

  'They say they've fortified the graben villages to the point where you cannot harm them. They say they need only sit inside their defences while you wear yourselves out in futile attack.
   'In a word,' Paul said, 'they're immobilised.'

Dune was also about the attempts to control resources in a desert area.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 at 09:34:49 AM EST
'In a word,' Paul said, 'they're immobilised.'

Exactly, so it doesn't make sense unless there is something else.
May be they are working hard and not just sitting, within those boundaries:

We're second only to Heathrow now

What the hell do you need to move in so many plane rotations ? food for 20k soldiers ? this takes you nowhere near Heathrow. Stockpiles of ammo to last years ?  tooling and machinery to make you own ammo ? a refinery ?

It just doesn't add up with the "sit in there" perspective. This will have a ghastly ending. Think nerve gas or something similar, when all the press it out of Iraq, all the phone lines are torn down, all the western satellite imagery is under control.


by Pierre on Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 at 10:17:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We're second only to Heathrow now

shades of 'Air America'...  "and you aren't looking at the second largest city in Laos..."  [wtte]

wandering off topic...

I do wonder what that silly motorbike helmet crack is doing in the middle of the piece...  AFAIK the vehicle registration stats from states where the MHLs were repealed clearly show that motorbike registrations increased markedly and accounted for the increased mortality per annum, i.e. same risk level per participant, more participants.  I suppose one could claim that this means  that fatalities were a consequence of the repeal, but only because the state stopped penalising an activity so it became more popular...

obligatory "show me the numbers" analysis

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 at 06:19:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Basically I agree, but I wouldn't put the emphasis on the figure of 30 trillion.
When the oil will be sold energy prices will probably have gone up quite a bit.
Furthermore it's not about the money. It's about control. And not only the control of China. Both Europe and Japan need middle eastern oil in large quantities. If the US manages to control control their energy supply then even a breakup of NATO or an eviction from Okinawa won't lead to truly independent players on the world stage.
by generic on Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 at 11:55:09 AM EST
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 at 12:32:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Naomi Klein is visiting Portland this Friday, and I will be sure to attend. For me the most interesting part of her current thesis is the Milton Friedman (sp?) theme: put out your theories and policy recommendations, because, when the shit hits the fan (the "shock" part), people will look for alternatives. If yours ain't out there, then, obviously, it won't be considered. So - keep up the good work, everybody.

paul spencer
by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Mon Dec 3rd, 2007 at 01:06:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's easier to believe that Cheney and his friends foresaw something on their way to Iraq than to accept the situation as an absolute breakdown of all reason and order. The human brain simply recoils at the prospect of nothing to understand.

Iraq today looks more like gangrene under a microscope than it resembles any other form of life, and gangrene is a very spontaneous entity. A little zone of chaos in the body is all it requires.

(I only posted on European Tribune out of admiration for Jerome, and the rest of it is just a sad joke.)

by Jacob Freeze on Tue Dec 4th, 2007 at 02:58:53 AM EST
I don't think it's that they foresaw that their neoCon prescription for Iraq would fail: it's just that for them, a "failed State" is an acceptable outcome.

You only have to look at oil developments in West Africa, and the US military positioning (eg new Cape Verde base) to see that US foreign strategy has been entirely consistent in its pursuit of energy security at any cost.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Dec 4th, 2007 at 05:11:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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