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Washington & Big Oil vs. the world

By Fred Goldstein

The Bush administration has run into a series of hard bumps on its road to war. There is visibly mushrooming opposition to the war at home and abroad, as well as the sudden escalation of conflict between Washington and its imperialist rivals in Paris and Berlin. Bush's drive for war against Iraq is truly becoming a battle of Washington against the world.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Washington, San Fran cisco and other cities on Jan. 18. Sim ul taneous demonstrations were carried out in dozens of cities on all continents. The worldwide movement is mobilizing for demonstrations on Feb. 15, which were initiated by the European anti-war organizations.

Bush's poll numbers in the U.S. have dropped precipitately, both on support for the war and on the economy. Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported on Jan. 25 that "the Bush administration has asked 53 countries to join the United States in a military campaign against Iraq, but so far the 'coalition of the willing,' in President Bush's phrase, consists of a handful of countries and even fewer commitments of troops, officials and diplomats said yesterday."

Bush's belligerent State of the Union speech was calculated to overcome this worldwide mass opposition and the crisis with the French and German governments. He combined threats to go it alone with a new barrage of lies to justify the war.

Bush's job was facilitated by Hans Blix, head of the United Nations inspections team, whose report handed Washington a gift of war propaganda by making a blanket denunciation of Iraq's attitude. Blix served the overlords in the White House and the Pentagon by what a Jan. 26 BBC report described as the "sandbagging of Iraq." But he covered himself by asking for more time for inspections and saying, give peace a chance.

Reviving a dead horse

A clear indication of the Bush administration's desperation to overcome mass resistance to the war and rope in reluctant regimes around the world was Secretary of State Colin Powell's charge, reiterated by Bush, that Iraq was linked to Al-Qaeda. The fact that Powell was the first to publicly level this charge, which he did at an international meeting in Davos, Switzerland, was an ominous sign that the administration was united for war.

Beginning right after Sept. 11, the right wing in and around the Bush administration was clamoring for a declaration linking Iraq to the World Trade Center disaster and claiming links to Al-Qaeda. James Woolsey, former CIA director and a leader of the "attack Iraq" forces outside of the administration, rushed off to Europe to get the "proof." He went with the blessing of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, but the mission was undertaken without Powell's consent.

Woolsey came back with nothing but allegations that an Iraqi intelligence agent had met with Al-Qaeda in Prague. This was denied by the Czech government after an investigation. U.S. intelligence could not verify it.

The claimed Al-Qaeda connection was the battle cry of the go-it-alone, war-now grouping within the administration. Bush himself would not sanction the claim and Powell held to the position that there was no evidence. The ruling class generally resisted such claims, knowing they were a lie and could not be substantiated.

Now Washington, despite all its demonization of Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi government, is more isolated than ever. So it has finally played the Al-Qaeda card, and this time Powell is fully on board. Lacking any evidence of a connection to Sept. 11, Bush is attempting to tie Iraq to some future attack similar to the one on the World Trade Center.

Oil slicks everywhere

This flimsy scare tactic will not deter the anti-war movement one iota. If anything, such flagrant and crude lies and patent war propaganda are bound to spur the movement on to meet the new war danger. More and more clear evidence about the true nature of this imperialist war of conquest is coming out daily.

The slogan "No Blood for Oil," one of the most popular slogans of the movement worldwide, expresses a large part of the truth about the war drive.

The London Sunday Herald of Jan. 26 carried a lead story saying that, "Tony Blair and George Bush have privately agreed to a joint strategy that will delay any possible war against Iraq for four weeks, during which time they will work tirelessly to achieve three key objectives:

"Firstly, they seek to persuade France ... not to carry out its threatened veto of a second UN resolution to allow the U.S. to intervene in Iraq.

"The French, along with Russia and China, also permanent members of the UN Security Council but not expected to vote, have extensive oil rights in Iraq and want those guaranteed before agreeing to any UN resolution."

In addition, Bush and Blair agreed in a "lengthy telephone conversation" to "ensure that all military personnel and hardware" are in place for a "likely attack at the start of March." They also agreed to "utilize every possible moment to win the hearts and minds of the American and British public to persuade them that war is justified."

Above all, "the U.S. is also understood to be ready to compromise its plans to monopolize the post-war oil industry in Iraq using only U.S. oil firms. The U.S. gov ernment's promise to hold Iraqi oilfields 'in trust' for the people of Iraq is now looking like an international, U.S.-led promise to spread the spoils between U.S., French, Chinese and Russian oil companies."

This report sheds light on both the war aims of the U.S. ruling class and the struggle that broke out with the French government, in a bloc with the German imperialists, over U.S. plans to go to war. According to the Wall Street Journal of Jan. 17, oil industry experts say that Iraq, "with serious investment," could be producing six million barrels of oil a day within five years. By comparison, Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil producer, had output of 8.03 million barrels a day in December.

"The Bush administration," continues the Journal, "is eager to secure Iraq's oil fields and rehabilitate them, industry officials say. They say Mr. Cheney's staff hosted an informational meeting with industry executives in October, with Exxon Mobil Corp, ChevronTexaco Corp., ConocoPhillips and Halliburton among the companies represented. Both the Bush administration and the companies say the meeting never took place.

"Since then, industry officials say, the Bush administration has sought input, formally and informally, from executives and industry experts on how best to overhaul Iraq's oil sector. An industry expert said Tuesday that State Department officials met with as many as two major oil companies and an industry consultant as recently as last week."

Sharing some of the loot

The French oil giant TotalFinaElf has the promise of major oil concessions in Iraq, including the Masjoun fields near the Iranian border and Nahr Omar fields in the south. It has not been able to exploit these concessions because of the U.S.-imposed sanctions. Russian firms such as Lukoil have billions in contracts also.

The U.S., despite its importation of Iraqi oil in the last few years, has no oil concessions in Iraq because of hostile relations. The irony of the present diplomatic/military situation is that Washington, which has no concessions, is demanding the French, the Russians and China vote for a U.S. invasion which will leave the Pentagon, Wall Street and Big Oil in charge of Iraq's oil fields, putting the French, the Russians and the Chinese at the mercy of Washington. They are being asked to participate in a war to take away or drastically reduce their own holdings. Small wonder there is a last-minute rebellion by the French imperialists.

As for the German imperialists, they are not allowed into the Middle East, nor are the Japanese imperialists. Both ruling classes were defeated in World War II by U.S. imperialism. And although both are huge industrial economies with vast energy needs, neither has any holdings in the region. To a large extent, this disparity in spheres of influence was behind both world wars and forms the basis for present and future conflicts.

All the oil companies are straining at the bit for the war and the takeover that they anticipate. The Deutsche Bank, in a special 35-page report to its clients, recommended that they buy ExxonMobil, despite its poor economic performance recently. The report, cited in the London Daily Mirror of Jan. 26, stated that "ExxonMobil's status as the largest U.S. oil company gives it major weight with the U.S. government. The company may find itself in pole position in changed-regime Iraq."

The Boston Globe revealed in a Jan. 26 report that "the Bush administration has compiled a classified strategic plan to protect Iraq's oil fields during war and then manage that oil for months or years afterward.... The Pentagon," continues the Globe, "which has many more planners working on the oil question than other parts of the government, will take over the role of protecting the oil facilities.... U.S. special forces have been on the ground inside Iraq since September, monitoring the oil fields and rigs.... U.S. spy planes also have continued surveillance of the oil fields in recent months."

The sudden bloc between the French and the Germans against Washington put Colin Powell, the advocate of coalition and diplomacy, on the spot. In the heat of this inter-imperialist struggle he shifted sharply to the right.

He will struggle to build a united coalition for Washington's unprovoked war of conquest in Iraq, and for its drive to take over the Middle East. And he may well succeed, by a combination of threats and promises to share the loot. But he has gone over to the hawks' position of go-it-alone if necessary. Thus he will be bringing a united position demanding adventurous aggression to the UN Security Council on Feb. 5.

But the struggle with the Germans and the French is not strictly over oil. These regimes, and the government of Tony Blair as well, and all the governments of the world for that matter, are caught between the imperious demands of Washington and the widening and deepening resistance to the war among the masses of people of the world.

Protests keep growing

Three quarters of the people in France are opposed to the war. Eighty percent of the people in Germany are opposed. Almost the entire Turkish population is opposed to the war, but the regime is being forced to take U.S. troops. The Bush administration's war drive is intruding on the agenda of the entire world, making every government subject to the hostility and distrust of its own population.

In particular, the European regimes have to face the coming Feb. 15 mobilizations, which promise to be massive. They will shake the political foundation of any regime that goes along with Washington's military plans.

And above all, the opposition in the U.S. is growing by leaps and bounds. Indeed, the French and German imperialists were well aware of the massive outpouring on Jan. 18 in Washington and San Francisco, and undoubtedly were encouraged in their challenge to Washington. It is the mobilization of the anti-war struggle on a broader and broader scale, moving toward resistance, that has helped cause a split in the imperialist camp and also has the potential to push back sections of the ruling class here at home.

The great mobilizations of Oct. 26 and Jan. 18 must serve as the basis for even greater mobilizing in thoward resistance, that has helped cause a split in the imperialist camp and also has the potential to push back sections of the ruling class here at home.

The great mobilizations of Oct. 26 and Jan. 18 must serve as the basis for even greater mobilizing in the coming struggle to stop the war.

Reprinted from the Feb. 6, 2003, issue of Workers World newspaper
This article is copyrighted under a Creative Commons License.
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