Obama vs. ISG: Yes Blood For Oil!
On Dec 04, Chris Bowers wrote a post, ”The Two Obamas and Me, Part One” which contrasted the principle-driven Obama who first inspired tremendous netroots support with the compromise-driven Obama who now seems intent on demonizing the very people who helped get him his start. One example Chris cited of the second Obama was this:
In town-hall meetings, when those who opposed the war get shrill, Obama makes a point of noting that while he, too, opposed the war, he's "not one of those people who cynically believes Bush went in only for the oil."Chis followed up:
Did anyone with any power every say that? Did any leading Democrats ever say that? Did any progressive or liberal of any public stature ever say that? If they did, I'd love to see the quote.Well, now it appears that someone has come quite close to saying that: The Baker/Hamilton Iraq Study Group (ISG). Privatizing Iraq’s oil is one of their fundamental recommendations—regardless of what the Iraqis want. Democracy—well, that was always an afterthought.
The ISG is a center-right outfit, composed entirely of people who were wrong about Iraq. Anyone who opposed the war from the gitgo was simply not considered ISG material. As Glen Greenwald points out today (“The principal sin of the Baker-Hamilton Report”), their overall proposal is clearly to prolong US involvement, a position that the American people now soundly reject. Greenwald points to an AP poll:
Seventy-one percent said they would favor a two-year timeline from now until sometime in 2008, but when people are asked instead about a six-month timeline for withdrawal that number drops to 60 percent.In defiance of these numbers, the ISG is attempting to once again redefine a “center” that’s an extreme minority position, so that the mainstream of American opinion can in turn be defined as “extremist,” “defeatist” and “off the table.” One part of that center, pointed out by author Antonia Juhasz (The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time) in an LA Times Op-Ed today, is the ISG’s “advocacy for securing foreign companies' long-term access to Iraqi oil fields.” (More on this below.)
Barack Obama, of course, has helped make this happen. Every enabler of bipartisan rhetoric has helped make this happen. But Obama has a special role, since his early backers, those who helped him early when he needed it most, had every reason to suppose that he would be a powerful, eloquent, moral voice of leadership opposing the war. Instead, we’ve gotten a weathervane routine from him, as David Sirota wrote last June for The Nation:
Then there is the Iraq War. Obama says that during his 2004 election campaign he "loudly and vigorously" opposed the war. As The New Yorker noted, "many had been drawn initially by Obama's early opposition to the invasion." But "when his speech at the antiwar rally in 2002 was quietly removed from his campaign Web site," the magazine reported, "activists found that to be an ominous sign"--one that foreshadowed Obama's first months in the Senate. Indeed, through much of 2005, Obama said little about Iraq, displaying a noticeable deference to Washington's bipartisan foreign policy elite, which had pushed the war. One of Obama's first votes as a senator was to confirm Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State despite her integral role in pushing the now-debunked propaganda about Iraq's WMD.
In November Obama's reticence on the war ended. Five days after hawkish Democratic Representative Jack Murtha famously called for a withdrawal, Obama gave a speech calling for a drawdown of troops in 2006. "Those of us in Washington have fallen behind the debate that is taking place across America on Iraq," he said. But then he retreated. On Meet the Press in January Obama regurgitated catchphrases often employed by neoconservatives to caricature those demanding a timetable for withdrawal. "It would not be responsible for us to unilaterally and precipitously draw troops down," he said. Then, as polls showed support for the war further eroding, Obama tacked again, giving a speech in May attacking the war and mocking the "idea that somehow if you say the words 'plan for victory' and 'stay the course' over and over and over and over again...that somehow people are not going to notice the 2,400 flag-draped coffins that have arrived at the Dover Air Force Base."
This is larger context for Obama’s remark dismissing “those people who cynically believes Bush went in only for the oil.” As Chris said, who are those people? I’ve gone to anti-war demonstrations, I’ve attended weekly peace vigils. I’ve talked with people carrying “No Blood For Oil” signs. Even I haven’t met anyone who “believes Bush went in only for the oil.” The point of those signs is not to claim that this was Bush’s only reason—that would be absurd. The signs are meant to point out a reason that the official discussion routinely ignores, and refuses to discuss, except to ridicule—just the way Obama did.
Of course, at a basic level, everyone knows that Iraq is about oil. There are only two reasons we originally got involved in that part of the world: Oil and to deny the Soviets a warm-water port. Israel only became important as a result of those first two reasons. Our oil obsession caused us to overthrow the Mossadegh regime in Iran in 1953—a promising democracy that we would give our eye teeth to have back today, at least, if we had any sense. Which, of course, we don’t. In Afghanistan, our anti-Soviet obsession caused us to team up with the most extremist elements of the Mujahadeen, and partner with bin Laden. The problems we face today are almost entirely of our own making—the result of narrow, short-sighted, knee-jerk responses to situations that were far less threatening to us than the situations we face today, situations our reactive policies have created.
But if oil is half the reason we’re in the Middle East to begin with, oil also plays a very specific role in this very specific war. We had both the President and Vice-President from the oil industry. We had all manner of other oil company connections, we had a huge imbalance in financial support for the GOP from the oil industry vs. alternative energy, we had the super-secret Cheney energy taskforce with maps of Iraq’s oil fields, we had promises that Iraq’s oil revenue would pay for Iraq’s reconstruction—the connections go on and on and on and on. To not talk about any of them is of necessity to not talk about the real reasons, true context, and political alignments that lead us into this war. And this, in turn, leads us to embrace a series of fairy tales, instead. First WMDs and Iraq’s mythical involvement in 9/11, then the absurd notion that Bush not only cares about democracy, but that that’s the reason we invaded Iraq in the first place—a reason that Bush himself strenuously opposed, until it was forced on him by the Iraqi people.
By ridiculing and misrepresenting those who refuse to ignore the link between oil and war—and war and death—Obama has paid his dues to join the Washington insider’s club. And from that perch, he now parades—much like John McCain—as a maverick outsider. (You know, like Frank Sinatra in the heyday of the Rolling Stones, the Velvet Underground and the Mothers of Invention. Or Peter Frampton at the time of the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and the Slits.) The “maverick outsider” status absolutely depends on absolutely banishing real outsiders from even a moment’s notice, especially if they represent a majority of the American people.
In her Op-Ed, “It's still about oil in Iraq,” Antonia Juhasz, begins:
While the Bush administration, the media and nearly all the Democrats still refuse to explain the war in Iraq in terms of oil, the ever-pragmatic members of the Iraq Study Group share no such reticence.Accomplishing this, Juhasz explains, would require re-writing Iraq’s constitution, something the Iraqi’s have resisted so far. She reviews some of the crucial backstory of this struggle before concluding:
Page 1, Chapter 1 of the Iraq Study Group report lays out Iraq's importance to its region, the U.S. and the world with this reminder: "It has the world's second-largest known oil reserves." The group then proceeds to give very specific and radical recommendations as to what the United States should do to secure those reserves. If the proposals are followed, Iraq's national oil industry will be commercialized and opened to foreign firms.
The report makes visible to everyone the elephant in the room: that we are fighting, killing and dying in a war for oil. It states in plain language that the U.S. government should use every tool at its disposal to ensure that American oil interests and those of its corporations are met.
It's spelled out in Recommendation No. 63, which calls on the U.S. to "assist Iraqi leaders to reorganize the national oil industry as a commercial enterprise" and to "encourage investment in Iraq's oil sector by the international community and by international energy companies." This recommendation would turn Iraq's nationalized oil industry into a commercial entity that could be partly or fully privatized by foreign firms.
This is an echo of calls made before and immediately after the invasion of Iraq.
The Iraq Study Group report states that continuing military, political and economic support is contingent upon Iraq's government meeting certain undefined "milestones." It's apparent that these milestones are embedded in the report itself.There is, quite simply, no way around it. The ISG report is a prescription for oil and empire on the cheap, in the face of growing, majority opposition. It is not a solution for “the Iraq mess” as perceived by the American public, with their naive faith in our “good intentions.” It is a solution for America’s elites faced with a severe recurrence of “Vietnam Syndrome” aka “democracy.”
Further, the Iraq Study Group would commit U.S. troops to Iraq for several more years to, among other duties, provide security for Iraq's oil infrastructure. Finally, the report unequivocally declares that the 79 total recommendations "are comprehensive and need to be implemented in a coordinated fashion. They should not be separated or carried out in isolation."
All told, the Iraq Study Group has simply made the case for extending the war until foreign oil companies — presumably American ones — have guaranteed legal access to all of Iraq's oil fields and until they are assured the best legal and financial terms possible.
We can thank the Iraq Study Group for making its case publicly. It is now our turn to decide if we wish to spill more blood for oil.
You know, that thing we’re supposed to be fighting for in Iraq.
So where’s Obama in all this? One thing’s for sure—he’s not front and center, denouncing the ISG for trying to do an end-run around the will of the American people. In fact, quite the opposite: he’s cheering it on...selectively, though without saying so.
While Bush is busy ignoring the ISG by picking and choosing which recommendations he will reject out of hand, Obama’s busy doing the same: ignoring the icky blood-for-oil provisions that he above all does not want to talk about, Obama said:
“In presenting a realistic view of how far the situation has deteriorated, the report avoids the partisan rhetoric that has characterized too much of this debate and offers a unique chance to forge a bipartisan consensus about how to move forward in Iraq.”In other words, ignoring the blood-for-oil dimension of the war is absolutely crucial for maintaining the facade that what’s “bipartisan” in Versailles bears any resemblance at all to what’s non-partisan majoritarian in America. But Obama can’t actually say he’s ignoring the blood-for-oil aspect. That wouldn’t be ignoring it at all.
In the end, ironically, we discover that George Bush really is more honest and forthright. He rejects certain parts of the ISG, and he comes right out and says it. Obama—at least so far—has not been so honest. He hasn’t looked at the actual recommendations, and said, “Sure, blood for oil, fine with me!” But he hasn’t said he’s against it either.
After all, he’s never been one of those cynics. You know what I’m talking about. The ones who believe their own eyes.