Bush's new Iraq puppet master

Issue 

On April 7, US President George Bush announced that he was nominating Zalmay Khalilzad to replace John Negroponte as the US ambassador to Iraq. Who is Zalmay Khalilzad?

An Afghan-American, Khalilzad began working in the US State Department during Ronald Reagan's administration, helping to organise the arming of Afghan and other Islamists — including Osama bin Laden — in their war against the Soviet-backed government of the left-wing Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan. During that war more than a million Afghans were killed, a third of the Afghan population was driven into refugee camps and Afghanistan was left in ruins.

After the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, the administration of George Bush senior began to formulate a post-Cold War global strategy. This was first articulated in a 1992 Defense Planning Guidance, which was drafted by Khalilzad under the leadership of then-defence secretary Dick Cheney and his then-deputy, Paul Wolfowitz.

The strategy paper placed special emphasis on the Persian Gulf and the surrounding region: "In the Middle East and Southwest Asia, our overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in the region and preserve US and Western access to the region's oil." The paper envisioned accomplishing far-reaching objectives by pre-emptively attacking states allegedly seeking weapons of mass destruction, strengthening US control of Persian Gulf oil, and refusing to allow international coalitions or law to inhibit US freedom of action.

During the 1990s, Khalilzad was also a consultant to the Union Oil Company of California when Unocal was trying to negotiate with the Taliban government for rights to build a US$2 billion natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to a Pakistani port. During this period Khalilzad publicly defended the Taliban regime.

When Bush junior entered the White House in 2001, Khalilzad became a member of Bush's National Security Council staff as special adviser on the Persian Gulf and Central Asia, working closely with the pro-US Iraqi opposition (such as Ahmad Chalabi) that supplied Washington with phoney "intelligence" that Iraq had an arsenal of chemical and biological weapons and was developing a nuclear bomb.

Immediately after the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in December 2001, Khalilzad was appointed US special envoy in Kabul, where he ensured the installation of former Unocal manager Hamid Karzai as Afghanistan's president by turning a blind eye to the Afghan warlords' revival of opium production (suppressed under the Taliban regime).

Paul Rogers, professor of peace studies at Bradford University in Britain, observed in a March 17 article on the Open Democracy website: "Afghanistan is returning to levels of production typical of the chaotic period after the withdrawal of Soviet military forces in 1989. According to United Nations sources, opium poppy cultivation from 2003-04 increased by 64%; around 120,000 hectares (300,000 acres) are now under cultivation. The most recent UN Office on Drugs and Crime report, Afghanistan: Opium Survey 2004, finds that Afghanistan now accounts for 87% of the world's illegal production of opium ... On the basis of the 2004 estimate, 2.3 million people in over 330,000 households are involved in production, 10% of the Afghan population."

Reuters reported on March 24 that the US State Department estimated opium production now accounts for 60% of Afghanistan's gross domestic product.

While touted by the Bush administration as an example of its "spreading of democracy" to Third World countries, Karzai's regime has pushed back the holding of parliamentary elections, originally scheduled for last year, to September 2005. Not only does the rule of Karzai's regime not extend much beyond Kabul, even its survival there is totally dependent on the presence of thousands of US and allied Western occupation troops. Even the "inner core of Karzai's security is run by the US State Department with personnel provided by private US contractors", according to a report in the March 30 Hong Kong Asia Times.

Khalilzad's nomination as the Washington's new puppet master in Iraq — he must now be confirmed by the US Senate — underscores the continuing centrality of the conquest of Iraq and its vast oil resources to Washington's plans for global domination.

Coincidently, three days before Bush announced Khalilzad's nomination as Washington's new viceroy in Iraq, ChevronTexaco — the giant US oil company that US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Khaklilzad's immediate boss, was a director of while he was a Unocal consultant — announced that it had agreed to take over Unocal for $US16.4 billion.

From Green Left Weekly, April 20, 2005.
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