The Baker Agenda: Troops Out, Oil Companies In?
Recommendations 62 and 63 confirm that control of Iraqi oil is a fundamental premise of Administration policy. This was denied in the first years of the war, but this week the President confirmed his belief that Islamic extremists will “gain access to vast oil reserves and use Iraq as a base to overthrow moderate governments all across the broader Middle East.” [LAT, 12-6-06]. Then James Baker revealed the interest of his longtime oil industry allies, as well as key financial and corporate interests, in an Iraq resolution favorable to their narrow interests.
Recommendation 62 says the US government should help draft an oil law that “creates a fiscal and legal framework for investment.” It further recommends that the US, in conjunction with the International Monetary Fund [IMF], should “pres Iraq to continue reducing subsidies in the energy sector...until Iraqis pay market prices for oil products...” That is, in a country besieged by civil war, bombings of infrastructure, unemployment at 50 percent levels, and the lack of necessities, the Baker Report proposes to make everyday life harder for average Iraqis so that the oil industry profits.
Recommendation 63 says the US should “assist” Iraqi leaders in privatizing the national oil industry into a “commercial enterprise” to encourage investment by the multi-national oil companies.
Who said it was not about blood for oil?
There’s more to uncover. But at this point we know that the Baker commission is sprinkled with heavyweights from oil, construction, and financial entities with interests in Iraq. Baker is a Texas oilman whose law firm has interests in debt repayment to Kuwait and other Gulf States. Lawrence Eagleberger has ties to Halliburton and Philips Petroleum, and is a former head of Kissinger Associates, a corporate consulting firm whose clients remain secret [Paul Bremer was managing partner of the Associates]. Vernon Jordan is a power lawyer at Akin Gump who is closely associated with the secretive Bilderberg Group [as well as the Clinton circle and civil rights firms]. Leon Panetta served on the board of the New York Stock Exchange. The expert working groups for the ISG include leaders of Bechtel, PFC Energy, and two representatives of Citygroup, Inc., the firm of Robert Rubin, leading neo-liberal advocate and member of Clinton’s cabinet.
Not a single person from the peace movement, women’s, environmental, civil rights or labor organizations were among the “expert” consultants listed in the ISG Report, although the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute were there.
The Report acknowledges that “senior members of Iraq’s oil industry” argue for a nationalized oil company to centralize and allocate revenues fairly by region and group. But the Baker team dismisses any such idea on grounds that simply favor private multinationals. They approve of “aggressive” Kurdish investment deals with oil companies in northern Iraq, and note that Shi’a leaders are reported to be negotiating for foreign oil companies as well.
The Sunni armed nationalist groups have consistently stood for the Iraqi right to control Iraqi oil, while also offering a generous role for American contractors and corporations in their vision of the future.
All this suggests that the ideological goal of the US invasion was not simply to displace Saddam Hussein but to dismantle the Arab nationalist state as a whole, opening the oil fields to private penetration. It is even possible that the grand alliance behind the Baker report includes support for US military disengagement in exchange for permanent guarantees that privatize the second largest oil fields on the planet.
As for the peace movement, it has been hobbled by the lack of a powerful alliance, both organizational and organic, with the “anti-globalization” movement which has fought the global IMF and WTO privatization plans, and the environmental groups battling global warming and greenhouse emissions. Without those unifying linkages, the peace movement has been limited mainly to demands for US troop withdrawals, an effort that has had an enormous impact.
What if the endgame is US combat troops out, US multinational corporations in? What if James Baker is remembered as the peacemaker, if not the leader of the peace movement?
While pushing hard for the removal of troops, it might not be too late to broaden and connect the peace movement more closely with other social movements as the historic debate accelerates about the lessons of the war for our country’s future memory.