During the initial assault on Baghdad, soldiers set up forward bases
named Camp Shell and Camp Exxon. Those soldiers knew the score, even if
the Pentagon's talking points dismissed any ties between Iraqi oil and
The Bush/Cheney administration has moved quickly to ensure US corporate
control over Iraqi resources at least through the year 2007. The first
part of the plan, created by the UN under US pressure is the Development Fund for Iraq which is being controlled by the US and advised by the
World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The second is a
recent Bush executive order that provides absolute legal protection for
U.S. interests in Iraqi oil.
In May, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1483,
which ended sanctions and endorsed the creation of Development Fund for
Iraq, to be controlled by Paul Bremer and overseen by a board of
accountants, including UN, World Bank, and IMF representatives. It
endorsed the transfer of over $1 billion (of Iraqi oil money) from the
Oil-for-Food program into the Development Fund. All proceeds from the
sale of Iraqi oil and natural gas are also to be placed into the fund.
In the creation and expected implementation of this Development Fund for Iraq, one finds the fingerprints of the global economic structural
adjustment that has attracted so much protest in recent years. World
Bank and IMF programs, backed by the rigged rules of the World Trade
Organization, have imposed dramatic financial restructuring upon much of
the world. Developing countries have amassed huge debts in exchange for
selling out their natural resources to powerful Northern corporations.
This paradigm cloaks corporate welfare and neocolonialism in terms of
"poverty alleviation" and now in Iraq, "humanitarian assistance".
New debt for Iraq will accrue through the very program that President
Bush pledged would 'benefit the people of Iraq.' The Development Fund,
derived from actual and expected Iraqi oil and gas sales, apparently
will be used to leverage U.S. government-backed loans, credit, and
direct financing for U.S. corporate forays into Iraq. Besides financing
reconstruction projects, some of the funds will also be used as
collateral for projects approved by the U.S. Export-Import Bank (ExIm),
whose mission is not development or poverty alleviation, but rather the
creation of US jobs and the promotion of American business abroad.
ExIm recently announced that it was open for business in Iraq and would
begin considering applications by subcontractors (that is, companies
hired by Bechtel and Halliburton) in Iraq. Corporations have found it
next to impossible to obtain private bank credit for work in Iraq, due
to the ongoing insecure environment. But ExIm has stepped in to take a
lead role in facilitating U.S. business in Iraq.
"The primary source of repayment," explained an ExIm release, "is the
Development Fund for Iraq, or another entity established under the
auspices of the Coalition Provisional Authority with access to foreign
exchange and protection from claims of creditors of the former regime."
In other words, the US government is happy to provide credit to any US
business wishing to do business in Iraq - especially because the money
comes from Iraq.
For the Bush/Cheney administration and their allies in the oil industry,
this was not enough. Hours after the UN endorsed US control of the
'Development Fund' for Iraq, Bush signed an executive order that was
spun as implementing Resolution 1483, but in reality, went much further
towards attracting investment and minimizing risk for US corporations in
Executive Order 13303 decrees that 'any attachment, judgment, decree,
lien, execution, garnishment, or other judicial process is prohibited,
and shall be deemed null and void', with respect to the Development Fund
for Iraq and "all Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products, and interests
In other words, if ExxonMobil or ChevronTexaco touch Iraqi oil, it will
be immune from legal proceedings in the US. Anything that could go, and
elsewhere has gone, awry with U.S. corporate oil operations will be
immune to judgment: a massive tanker accident; an explosion at an oil
refinery; the employment of slave labor to build a pipeline; murder of
locals by corporate security; the release of billions of tons of carbon
dioxide into the atmosphere. The President, with a stroke of the pen,
signed away the rights of Saddam's victims, creditors and of the next
true Iraqi government to be compensated through legal action. Bush's
order unilaterally declares Iraqi oil to be the unassailable province of
In the short term, through the Development Fund and the Export-Import
Bank programs, the Iraqi peoples' oil will finance U.S. corporate
entrees into Iraq. In the long term, Executive Order 13303 protects
anything those corporations do to seize control of Iraq's oil, from the
point of production to the gas pump - and places oil companies above the
rule of law.
The authors are analysts with the Sustainable Energy & Economy Network
of the Institute for Policy Studies. For more information on Executive
Order 13303, see www.seen.org