BY DOUG LORIMER
In a final public relations ploy before ordering a blitzkrieg-style invasion of Iraq on March 19, US President George Bush issued a prime-time ultimatum on March 17: "Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing."
While cynically holding out the prospect that Iraq would not be invaded if the Iraqi president fled abroad, Bush declared in his televised address: "A broad coalition is now gathering to enforce the just demands of the world. The United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities, so we will rise to ours."
On March 20, the White House claimed this "broad coalition" had "grown" to 35 countries. However, this was only an increase of one on the 34 countries which had declared a month ago that they supported a US-led attack on Iraq. These countries represent only 10% of the world's population and since, in nearly all of them up to 80% of the population oppose the war, Bush's "broad coalition" amounts to a tiny 3% of the world's population.
Only two countries — Britain and Australia — have committed military forces to fight alongside those of the US. Kuwait and Jordan are the only countries bordering Iraq which have allowed their territory to be used as launching pads for the US invasion.
Even Turkey, Washington's NATO ally in the Middle East, has refused to allow its territory to be used by US air and ground forces to attack Iraq )although it has allowed the US to pass through its airspace). At the same time, despite Washington's opposition, Ankara has mobilised 100,000 troops to invade northern Iraq in order to crush the Iraqi Kurds and seize control of the oil fields of Mosul and Kirkuk.
"If Turkish operations in northern Iraq bear any resemblance to those [against Kurds] in southeastern Turkey, we can expect to see a human rights disaster", warned Elizabeth Andersen, an official of the US Human Rights Watch organisation.
As for Bush's claim that the UN Security Council had "not lived up to its responsibilities", what he really meant was that it had refused to bow down and endorse US aggression.
Bush's March 17 address was delivered the same day that Washington gave up attempting to obtain backing for an invasion of Iraq from the UN Security Council.
Ten days earlier Bush had said he would call for a vote at the Security Council, no matter what the outcome, on a resolution sponsored by the US, Britain and Spain and endorsed by Bulgaria, which was widely seen as aiming to give Washington legal sanction for its long-planned invasion of Iraq.
But after more than a week of intense diplomatic pressure, bribes and threats had failed to guarantee any more votes for the resolution, US officials decided that it was better not to have a vote at all than to expose just how little support there was for Washington's invasion of Iraq.
To obscure this fact, US officials claimed that they were withdrawing the resolution because France had threatened to veto it. However, both France and Russia had made it clear they were opposed to the resolution when it was first presented to the Security Council on February 24.
The Bush administration therefore needed a further PR ploy to divert attention from its complete failure to line up a broad coalition behind the goal of militarily conquering Iraq. Hence, the final Wild West-style "get-out-of-town-or-else" ultimatum.
In reality, there was nothing Hussein could do to stop a US invasion, since Washington had decided more than two years ago that it was going to happen. The January 3 Washington Post reported: "On September 17, 2001, six days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush signed a 2½-page document marked 'Top Secret' that outlined the plan for going to war in Afghanistan as part of a global campaign against terrorism. Almost as a footnote, the document also directed the Pentagon to begin planning military options for an invasion of Iraq, senior administration officials said."
War for oil
In his March 17 televised address, Bush declared: "The US has the sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security."
A US military occupation of Iraq is crucial to US "national security" because of the country's strategic location at the centre of the oil-rich Persian Gulf region, as well as Iraq's own vast oil reserves.
"Oil fuels much more than automobiles and airplanes", former CIA analyst Robert Ebel told a US State Department-sponsored forum in April 2002. "Oil fuels military power, national treasuries and international politics. It is no longer a commodity to be bought and sold within the confines of traditional energy supply and demand. Rather, it has been transformed into a determinant of well-being, national security, and of international power for those who possess this vital resource and the converse for those who do not."
Having the vast oil resources of the Persian Gulf region under its control has always been seen by the US rulers as vital to Washington's exercise of "international power". As Michael Klare, professor of peace and at Hampshire College in Massachusetts and author of Resource Wars has observed: "Control over the Persian Gulf translates into control over Europe, Japan and China. It's having our hand on the spigot."
Even before the Bush gang was put into office by the US Supreme Court in early 2001, after it failed to win a majority of the popular vote in the November 2000 US presidential election, key figures had made the takeover of Iraq's oil reserves a central part of their blueprint for US global domination.
The blueprint was outlined in Rebuilding America's Defences: Strategies, Forces and Resources for A New Century, a document drawn up in September 2000 by the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), a US foreign policy lobby group that counted as its leading lights, among others, Dick Cheney (now US vice-president), Donald Rumsfeld (now US defence secretary), Paul Wolfowitz (now Rumsfeld's deputy) and Bush's younger brother, Jeb.
According to the PNAC document, "the US for decades sought to play a more permanent role in [Persian] Gulf regional security. While unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."
It is "highly probable" that the US will maintain military bases in post-war Iraq, Robert Kaplan, a leading member of the PNAC, recently told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Such bases will provide staging posts for the next target in Washington's drive to bring the oil-rich Persian Gulf region under its imperial control — Iran. Already, US officials are beginning to claim that Iran's alleged "weapons of mass destruction" program is more advanced than Iraq's.
Until the 1970s, the face of US power in the Gulf was the US-led cartel of major oil companies — Exxon, Mobil, Chevron, Texaco and Gulf Oil (since taken over by ChevronTexaco) — with BP and Shell as junior partners.
But in the early 1970s, with US military power weakened by domestic opposition to the Vietnam War, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states nationalised their oil industries, setting up state-owned companies to run the oil wells, pipelines and port facilities.
As part of Washington's drive to reassert control over the Gulf's oil industries, think-tanks linked to the Bush administration — the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute — are advocating the privatisation of Iraq's oil industry.
Once a US military viceroy is installed in Baghdad, the contracts that Iraq's state-owned oil industry has signed with French, Russian and Chinese oil companies are likely to be abrogated, leaving the field open for US companies.
"What they have in mind is denationalisation, and then parcelling Iraqi oil to American oil companies", James Akins, the former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia in the early 1970s, told investigative writer Robert Dreyfess in the March-April issue of Mother Jones. "The American oil companies are going to be the main beneficiaries of this war."
The US oil company that will most immediately benefit from the war is Halliburton, of which US Vice-President Cheney was CEO in the 1990s. Halliburton employees are providing logistical support — tents, food, laundry, etc, — for the US troops in Kuwait under a package deal with the Pentagon worth close to US$1 billion.
Halliburton's Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) engineering and construction division will build the US occupation army's bases. KBR is "basically the 'corps of engineers' to the US military", Jim Wicklund, an analyst at Bank of America Securities told Reuters on March 19. "It is expected that the occupying army's infrastructure could in large part be supplied by KBR."
And if the US succeeds in conquering Iraq, Halliburton will most likely be given the job of rebuild Iraq's oil industry infrastructure. Deutsche Bank analyst Michael Urban told Reuters that Halliburton and other US oil services companies could reap up to US$3 billion for such work.
"They have the businesses. They have the government relationship already well-established, and, as we all know, Cheney was the CEO, so it makes logical sense", stockmarket analyst Denis Walsh told Reuters.
Cheney retains a personal interest in Halliburton's fortunes. According to his 2001 financial disclosure statement, Cheney continues to be paid up to $1 million a year by Halliburton under a "deferred compensation" contract following his resignation as the company's CEO to become Bush's running mate in the 2000 presidential election.
Cheney, however, is not the only member of the Bush administration who has a personal interest in Washington's drive to extend the US oil corporations' domination of the world energy market. According to a January 2002 study of 2001 financial disclosure statements by the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity, the top 100 officials in the Bush administration had up to $327.4 million invested in private businesses, $144.6 million of which was invested in energy corporations.
From Green Left Weekly, March 26, 2003.
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