106193709113315170

Read of the day:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,5673,1029259,00.html

Beware the bluewash

The UN must not let itself be used as a dustbin for failed American
adventures

George Monbiot
Tuesday August 26, 2003
The Guardian

The US government’s problem is that it has built its foreign policy on
two great myths. The first is that it is irresistible; the second is
that as time advances, life improves. In Iraq it is trapped between the
two. To believe that it can be thwarted, and that its occupation will
become harder rather than easier to sustain as time goes by, requires
that it disbelieves all that it holds to be most true.

But those who oppose its foreign policy appear to have responded with a
myth of equal standing: that what unilateralism cannot solve,
multilateralism can. The United Nations, almost all good liberals now
argue, is a more legitimate force than the US and therefore more likely
to succeed in overseeing Iraq’s reconstruction and transition. If the US
surrendered to the UN, this would, moreover, represent the dawning of a
fairer, kinder world. These propositions are scarcely more credible than
those coming out of the Pentagon.

The immediate and evident danger of a transition from US occupation to
UN occupation is that the UN becomes the dustbin into which the US dumps
its failed adventures. The American and British troops in Iraq do not
deserve to die any more than the Indian or Turkish soldiers with whom
they might be replaced. But the governments that sent them, rather than
those that opposed the invasion, should be the ones that have to answer
to their people for the consequences.

The vicious bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad last week suggests
that the jihadis who now seem to be entering Iraq from every corner of
the Muslim world will make little distinction between khaki helmets and
blue ones. Troops sent by India, the great liberal hope, are unlikely to
be received with any greater kindness than western forces. The Indian
government is reviled for its refusal to punish the Hindus who massacred
Muslims in Gujurat.

The UN will swiftly discover that occupation-lite is no more viable than
occupation-heavy. Moreover, by replacing its troops, the despised UN
could, in one of the supreme ironies of our time, provide the US
government with the escape route it may require if George Bush is to win
the next election. We can expect him, as soon as the soldiers have come
home, to wash his hands not only of moral responsibility for the mess he
has created, but also of the duty to help pay for the country’s
reconstruction. Most importantly, if the UN shows that it is prepared to
mop up after him, it will enhance his incentive to take his perpetual
war to other nations.

It should also be pretty obvious that, tough as it is for both the
American troops and the Iraqis, pinned down in Iraq may be the safest
place for the US army to be. The Pentagon remains reluctant to fight
more than one war at a time. One of the reasons that it has tackled Iran
and North Korea with diplomacy rather than missiles is that it has
neither the soldiers nor the resources to launch an attack until it can
disentangle itself from Iraq.

It is clear, too, that the UN, honest and brave as many of its staff
are, possesses scarcely more legitimacy as an occupying force than the
US. The US is now the only nation on the security council whose opinion
really counts: its government can ignore other governments’ vetoes; the
other governments cannot ignore a veto by the US. In other words, a
handover to the UN cannot take place unless George Bush says so, and
Bush will not say so until it is in his interests to do so. The UN,
already tainted in Iraq by its administration of sanctions and the fact
that its first weapons inspection mission (Unscom) was infiltrated by
the CIA, is then reduced to little more than an instrument of US foreign
policy.

Until the UN, controlled by the five permanent members of the security
council, has itself been democratised, it is hard to see how it can
claim the moral authority to oversee a transition to democracy anywhere
else. This problem is compounded by the fact that Britain, which is
hardly likely to be perceived as an honest broker, is about to assume
the council’s presidency. A UN mandate may be regarded by Iraqis as
bluewash, an attempt to grant retrospective legitimacy to an illegal
occupation.

None of this, of course, is yet on offer anyway. The US government has
made it perfectly clear that the UN may operate in Iraq only as a
subcontractor. Foreign troops will take their orders from Washington,
rather than New York. America’s occupation of Iraq affords it regional
domination, control of the second biggest oilfields on earth and, as
deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz has hinted, the opportunity to
withdraw its troops from Saudi Arabia and install them in its new
dependency instead. Republican funders have begun feasting on the
lucrative reconstruction contracts, and the Russians and the French,
shut out of the banquet, are being punished for their impudence.

Now that the US controls the shipping lanes of the Middle East and the
oilfields of central Asia and West Africa, it is in a position, if it so
chooses, to turn off the taps to China, its great economic rival, which
is entirely dependent on external sources of oil. The US appears to be
seeking to ensure that when the Iraqis are eventually permitted to vote,
they will be allowed to choose any party they like, as long as it is
pro-American. It will give up its new prize only when forced to do so by
its own voters.

So, given that nothing we say will make any difference to Bush and his
people, we may as well call for a just settlement, rather than the
diluted form of injustice represented by a UN occupation. This means the
swiftest possible transition to real democracy.

Troy Davis of the World Citizen Foundation has suggested a programme for
handing power to the Iraqis which could begin immediately, with the
establishment of a constitutional convention. This would permit the
people both to start deciding what form their own government should
take, and to engage in the national negotiation and reconciliation
without which democracy there will be impossible. From the beginning of
the process, in other words, the Iraqi people, not the Americans, would
oversee the transition to democracy.

This is the logical and just path for the US government to take. As a
result, it is unlikely to be taken. So, one day, when the costs of
occupation become unsustainable, it will be forced to retreat in a
manner and at a time not of its choosing. Iraq may swallow George Bush
and his imperial project, just as the Afghan morass digested the Soviet
empire. It is time his opponents stopped seeking to rescue him from his
self-destruction.

· George Monbiot’s book The Age of Consent: A Manifesto for a New World
Order is published by Flamingo.

www.monbiot.com
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003

106189894436725191

Read this in the Australian today. Unusually good article for a Murdoch paper!

Poison of the ‘I don’t want to know’ syndrome

26aug03

WE all know it’s happening.

A slow-motion catastrophe is afflicting Western democracy. A growing indifference to politics deriving from feelings of futility and cynicism.

For example. People are inured to scandal. They expect duplicity from the political class – on all sides of politics. And they don’t seem to care. In fact, they’re beyond caring. They’ve learned to live with the duplicitous and dishonourable. Scepticism may be healthy but cynicism like this is carcinogenic. It kills the body politic.

There’s a feedback loop that has politicians and their spin doctors driving the opinion polls while the opinion polls drive the politics. Consequently, faith in the polity, the media, the system, in democracy itself, is rapidly eroding. In the US, symptoms include fewer and fewer citizens feeling compelled to vote. In a nation where it’s non-compulsory, even presidents are elected by a depressingly small percentage of the electorate. It’s approaching the point where only the white middle class bothers to pull the levers in those voting machines.

And you see it – or rather you don’t see it – in Australia. In a phenomenon rarely discussed. Here we’re driven to the ballot box by the threat of a fine. But although compulsory voting ensures a high turnout, it’s low energy. People vote with indifference rather than enthusiasm.

The fact that a prime minister might have a 55 or 65 per cent approval rating doesn’t prove that that approval is particularly approving. It simply demonstrates that, when forced to make a choice, voters go for what they perceive as the lesser of evils.

John Howard’s ratings don’t prove that Australia likes him very much or holds him in high regard. The figures simply mean the voters cop him. Had approval ratings been available in the era of a Chifley or a Curtin they’d have measured something different than the approval rating for a Keating or a Howard. The figures might look similar or identical, but they don’t indicate the same depth of feeling. It’s like the devaluation of the dollar. A dollar still looks like a dollar, is still symbolised by the “$”. But a dollar isn’t what it used to be. And nor, necessarily, is the “%”.

We live in a devalued democracy where, increasingly, people are disengaged. Disengagement. A term that social researcher Hugh Mackay detects again and again in his political seismology.

Compounding this detachment is the paradox of living in a society that boasts the quality of its communications, either remaining or becoming ignorant on almost every issue. Thus recent polls show that legions of Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein and his secular Baath Party were in bed with al-Qa’ida, that Hussein was one of the architects of the September 11 attacks. Millions are convinced that those WMD were used against US troops as they moved towards Baghdad. And, moreover, that the weapons have been found.

All evidence and information to the contrary is filtered out – and the finest filter of all is, yes, disengagement. Those Ridley Scott images of brave lads in great lumbering uniforms and great lumbering tanks are all you need to know.

Of course, the modern state has weapons of mass distraction at its disposal – knowing that the attention span of the media, even the quality media, is about a fortnight – while that of the public seems to be shrinking to nanoseconds. The state knows that the media bombardment means we rapidly forget; that today’s great dollops of news bury yesterday’s news, let alone the news of the month before. People live in a constant state of now, with decreasing historical understanding or context.

Best of all, governments know that, by and large, people don’t want to know. Australians didn’t want to “know” the truth of the boatpeople. They wanted to “know” that they were queue-jumpers, illegals or even terrorists. They wanted to know that the dangers posed by Hussein’s WMD were sufficient reason for going to war – and even if they now know they were conned, they don’t want to know. They’re more interested in what goes on in The Block, Big Brother and the shopping mall than what’s happening in the hallowed halls of government.

And because voters seem increasingly indifferent to the moral and ethical issues that not so long ago galvanised public opinion, politicians believe they can get away with more. With murder. What does it matter if you’re caught over “kids overboard” or WMD or back-room deals on ethanol? No worries, no trubs. You’ll get away with it.

Thus our leaders are leading us – and we are leading our leaders – further and further down that road of disengagement. And political leadership becomes followship as, like ducks in a row, governments acquiesce to the US. The best that can be said about Australia is that it takes a leading role in following.

106150761477619639

Found this interesting article at the Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/online/story/0,3605,1022663,00.html
Brutal reality hits home

Since Vietnam, the public has only seen a sanitised version of war. But the internet, with its unfettered access, has changed all that. Sean Dodson reports

Sean Dodson

Thursday August 21, 2003

The Guardian

The warning comes before the image. A two-paragraph disclaimer justifying some of the most gruesome images of war you are likely to see. The first image is of a boy with his legs blown off. Then there is another child – face in close-up – with streams of blood pouring down his young face. The next is the head of a horribly burned man swathed in white bandages. It is followed by the swollen neck of a peace protester, the victim of wood pellets fired from a gun in Oakland. The website adds that the suspects are policemen.

These images – and some far, far worse – come courtesy of a New Zealand website that describes itself as a “fiercely independent internet news agency”. For several months, Scoop Media has been publishing the kind of graphic images you rarely see in mass circulation newspapers or on western television. And, until now, rarely on the internet.

Ever since Roger Fenton, a founder of the Royal Photographic Society, covered the Crimean war armed with a box camera and a letter of introduction from Prince Albert, photojournalism has been an essential part of war reporting. Fenton’s aim, and that of Prince Albert, was to provide a set of images that would restore public confidence in an unpopular war. The role of the war photographer was set.

But by the time of the Vietnam war, photography as a propaganda tool had backfired. Horrific images of the conflict turned the US public against the war. Since then, in each subsequent war, the public has been presented with images far less graphic. The recent war in Iraq was no different, with a straw poll by MediaGuardian.co.uk at the war’s height indicating that few UK picture editors were willing to risk upsetting readers with pictures of fatalities, even if they were in the background. As Phillip Knightley wrote in the First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero and Myth-Maker from the Crimea to Kosovo: “Although in most cases the camera does not lie directly, it can lie brilliantly by omission.”

“To sanitise the reality of warfare is abhorrent,” explains Scoop’s editor, Alastair Thompson. “To censor images of capture, of death, as a consequence of war, is wrong. If Scoop were to do so, it would be subscribing to the glitzy rah rah Hollywood-facade-style of reportage that the mainstream United States-based media has become obsessed with.”

The Qatari news network, al-Jazeera, painted no such picture during the war. And it could have provided a counterbalance for western audiences. But its English language website was inaccessible during much of the conflict. A denial of service attack on the site, allegedly the target of belligerent hackers, shut it down, preventing a western audience from seeing a far more bloody portrait of Iraq. That website is now under wraps, preparing itself for a relaunch later this year.

Even if you can’t speak a word of Arabic, the internet allows you less fettered access to the realities of war. You don’t even have to look hard. Simply type “war graphic image iraq” into Google and you can see some of the most terrible images imaginable. Many are from IndyMedia sites, alternative news networks and Arab stations, but there are stranger bedfellows, too. Among Google’s returns will be a site called Babykiller.com, built by US anti-abortionists who rage against the war by cataloguing pictures of child atrocities. The left-wing Scoop Media has some surprising company.

Viewing these sites throws up a number of moral dilemmas. Are you being voyeuristic? Are the websites perversely triumphal? Are they simply preaching to the converted, providing nothing but war pornography? What about notions of taste and decency?

“Are taste and decency relevant standards when considering war?” asks Thompson. “War is horrible, it is grotesque, revolting and deeply disturbing. Why should it be any different for the public, in whose name the mayhem is being waged? This is not to say we did not have misgivings about publishing some images, we did.”

Each news organisation, be it a website, a newspaper or a television station, has debates about what images to show. The images of the bloated heads of the dead Uday and Qusay Hussein were only published in the Guardian and on its website, Guardian Unlimited, after much heated debate.

But even when television does portray war in all its graphic and uncensored detail, it holds it at arms’ length. Channel 4’s excellent The True Face of War was screened at 11.20pm. As one viewer wrote on the Channel 4 website: “However distressing – and I can hardly write this through my tears – this programme should be shown at PRIME time.”

It is worth remembering, there is no prime time on the internet. There is only choice. Although military censorship and hacker attacks can disrupt it, a more graphic face of war is bleeding on to the internet and coverage of war may be never the same.

Relevant links
http://scoop.co.nz/mason/features/?s=warimages
http://www.babykiller.com www.robert-fisk.com/iraqwarvictims_mar2003.htm
www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=31709

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003

106052087597142898

This is a bit of a laugh: In a spoof titled “The Case for Regime Change,” the editorial cartoonist and columnist Ted Rall describes the case for military intervention to change the regime in Washington.

The Case for Regime Change

NEW YORK–Making the case for United Nations intervention against the United States, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami told the organization yesterday that military action will be “unavoidable” unless the U.S. agrees to destroy its weapons of mass destruction.

In a much-anticipated speech to a special session of the U.N. General Assembly held in Brussels, Khatami launched a blistering attack against American leader George W. Bush, accusing him of defying U.N. resolutions and using his country’s wealth to line the pockets of wealthy cronies at a time when the people of his country make do without such basic social programs as national health insurance.

“Nearly two years ago, the civilized world watched as this evil and corrupt dictator subverted the world’s oldest representative democracy in an illegal coup d’ιtat,” said Khatami. “Since then the Bush regime has continued America’s systematic repression of ethnic and religious minorities and threatened international peace and security throughout the world. Thousands of political opponents and ordinary citizens have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment. Basic civil rights have been violated. This rogue state has flouted the international community on legal, economic and environmental issues. It has even ignored the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war by denying that its illegal invasion of Afghanistan–which has had a destabilizing influence throughout Central Asia–was a war at all.”

Khatami said the U.S. possesses the world’s largest arsenal of nuclear weapons, weapons “that, when first developed, were used immediately to kill half a million innocent civilians just months after acquiring them. No nation that has committed nuclear genocide can be entrusted with weapons of mass destruction.”

“Bush has invaded Afghanistan and is now threatening Iraq. We cannot stand by and do nothing while danger gathers. We can’t for this tyrant to strike first. We have an obligation to act pre-emptively to protect the world from this evildoer,” Khatami said.

As delegates punctuated his words with bursts of applause, Khatami noted that U.S. intelligence agencies had helped establish and fund the world’s most virulent terrorist organizations, including Al Qaeda, and the Taliban regime that harbored them. “The U.S. created the Islamist extremists who attacked its people on September 11, 2001,” he stated, “and Bush’s illegitimate junta cynically exploited those attacks to repress political dissidents, make sweetheart deals with politically-connected corporations and revive 19th century-style colonial imperialism.”

Khatami asked the U.N. to set a deadline for Bush to step down in favor of president-in-exile Al Gore, the legitimate winner of the 2000 election, the results of which were subverted through widespread voting irregularities and intimidation. “We favor not regime change, but rather restoration and liberation,” he said. In addition, Khatami said, the U.S. must dismantle its weapons of mass destruction, guarantee basic human rights to all citizens and agree to abide by international law or “face the consequences.”

Most observers agree that those “consequences” would likely include a prolonged bombing campaign targeting major U.S. cities and military installations, followed by a ground invasion led by European forces. “Civilian casualties would likely be substantial,” said a French military analyst. “But the American people must be liberated from tyranny.”

Khatami’s charges, which were detailed in a dossier prepared by French President Jacques Chirac, were dismissed by a representative of the American strongman as “lies, half-truths and misguided beliefs, motivated by the desire to control a country with oil, natural gas and other natural resources.” National Security Minister Condoleezza Rice denied that the U.S. maintains weapons of mass destruction and invited U.N. inspectors to visit Washington to “see for themselves that our weapons are designed only to keep the peace, subject of course to full respect for American sovereignty.”

The U.N. is expected to reject any conditions for or restrictions on arms inspections.

Experts believe that the liberation of the United States will require a large ground force of European and other international troops, followed by a massive rebuilding program costing billions of euros. “Even before Bush, the American political system was a shambles,” said Prof. Salvatore Deluna of the University of Madrid. “Their single-party plutocracy will have to be reshaped into true parliamentary-style democracy. Moreover, the economy will have to be retooled from its current military dictatorship model–in which a third of the federal budget goes to arms, and taxes are paid almost exclusively by the working class–to one in which basic human needs such as education and poverty are addressed. Their infrastructure is a mess; they don’t even have a national passenger train system. Fixing a failed state of this size will require many years.”

——-
(Ted Rall’s latest book, a graphic travelogue about his recent coverage of the Afghan war titled “To Afghanistan and Back,” is now in its second edition. Ordering and review-copy information are available at nbmpub.com.)

——-
http://www.zeal.com/exit.jhtml?cid=10159836&wid=101891320&so=&xr=/website/profile.jhtml%3Fcid%3D10159836%26wid%3D101891320

106052018798447879

I think its time to have a bit of a bash on SUVs.

I was driving home from Phillip Island on Saturday and some tosser with his family in a Nissan Patrol with massive bull bars decided to sit on my bumper, as I was only going the speed limit. When he passed he did the same to the next car in front, a small hatch back. It was so obvious that he was out to intimidate passenger cars with his bull-barred monster. Clearly he has a small penis.

Following is a great article I came across this evening:

Big Babies
SUV Killers Beg for Mercy

By: Ted Rall

For more than a decade, citizens who drive normal-size cars have been bullied, poisoned, and murdered by drivers of sport utility vehicles. Now they’re being asked to like it.

“Did My Car Join Al Qaeda?” asks Woody Hochswender in the New York Times. “Where I live, about 100 miles north of New York City, at least half of all the vehicles you see on the road are SUV’s or other light trucks. They make a great deal of sense. This is not just because we have plenty of long, steep driveways and miles and miles of dirt roads.”

“According to their enemies, SUV drivers aren’t just road hogs; they’re also sociopaths who are overcompensating for deep-seated feelings of inferiority. I resent being psychoanalyzed this way. I’m after traction, not dominance, OK?”,” writes Walter Kirn in Time magazine.

The road hog set is up in arms over TV ads that call their souped-up steroidwagons anti-Christian, anti-American, and pro-terrorist. SUV’s have had their windows smashed in Washington, been spray-painted with anti-war slogans in Massachusetts and set ablaze by the lot full in Pennsylvania. Environmental groups sell SUV “tickets”, and bumper stickers that read “As a matter of fact, I do own the road,” encouraging activists to stick them on the gas hogs.

Opponents call SUV’s wasteful, polluting, and dangerous to other drivers. Because these fuel-inefficient leviathans now comprise a quarter of new car sales, and big models like the GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Suburban only get 12 miles per gallon, all of the air-quality improvements made during the 70’s and 80’s have been erased. “But a car’s miles-per-gallon rating is only one measure of fuel efficiency”, argues Hochswender. “Miles driven is another. People who drive light trucks quickly learn not to drive around aimlessly.” He’s wrong. There’s zero evidence that SUV drivers drive fewer miles than other motorists. And even if some have trained themselves to eliminate frivolous miles, then driving a more efficient vehicle those lesser lengths is an opportunity for further improvement. Consider this startling fact: the SUV is the only reason the United States has been unable to comply with the Kyoto Accord on air pollution.

Even more irritating to non-SUV drivers is the sense of being pushed around – and off – the roads by 9,000-pound gorillas. No one needs the results of a formal “crash compatibility” test to tell them that their Toyota Corolla will fair poorly in a close encounter with a Ford Expedition. The fact is you’re more than twice as likely to die in a crash with an SUV than with another sedan. “Four-wheel-drive vehicles allow workers to get to and from their jobs, and parents to transport their children safely to school, sporting events, ballet classes, and the rest”, defends Hochswender. But every SUV added to the traffic on the road decreases the likelihood of someone else’s kids arriving alive at school or ballet class. It’s basic physics, the law of conservation of momentum to be exact. SUV drivers increase their own security at the expense of other drivers.

Ironically, it’s even worse than that. SUV’s not only endanger the occupants of smaller cars – they kill their own drivers in roll-overs at triple the rate of other vehicles, according to Jeffrey Runge, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

It’s unfortunate if an SUV driver kills himself, but the real issue is what he does to others.

Granted, no consumer is innocent. The Gap T-shirt you buy at the mall is produced by children toiling under exploitative conditions overseas. Microsoft software is packaged by prisoner slave labor. Of course, if you were truly virtuous you’d skip even that sexy hybrid Prius and its holier-than-thou 50 mpg rating and just bike to work. But it’s hard to argue with Union of Concerned Scientists director Jason Mark’s conclusion that, as socially-responsible purchasing decisions go, SUV’s “represent the worst”.

Short of opening a shooting range next door to a daycare center, buying an SUV is perhaps the single most antisocial act an ordinary American can commit. And as resentment against this egocentrism coalesces into anger, SUV owners are becoming defensive. Kirn again: “Nothing takes the pleasure out of driving like the suspicion that at every four-way stop, someone in a fuel-efficient compact is sneering at my moral deficiencies. I want to scream: ‘But I live on a dirt road! I have a farm! See all the mud on my fenders! I need this rig!'”

What I would scream back, if I met Kirn, would be this: “What did you people do 20 years ago?” Back in the days before SUV’s, farmers drove pick-ups and the rest of us drove cars. The soccer mom with a gaggle of kids drove a low stationwagon or slow minivan. Nowadays, the overwhelming majority of SUV’s are plying our highways and suburban streets. Fewer than 1% will ever be driven off-road.

Why are SUV owners surprised that nobody likes them? Americans have long defined themselves by the cars they drive; is it unreasonable to assume that someone who drives an oversized gas guzzler is a selfish, aggressive lout? People buy SUV’s because they’re imposing, so they can see over smaller cars. Is it shocking that drivers whose sight lines are blocked by these hulking machines, and who are blinded at night by the headlights of great overbearing tailgaters, are resentful?

More and more SUV drivers are coming out of stores to find their vehicles “keyed”, stickered, or worse, and SUV’s are replacing fur coats as the spray paint target of choice. Sure it sucks, but can SUV owners complain? Vandalizing property is a mere misdemeanor next to willfully endangering other people’s lives and hastening the demise of the planet.

“What are we supposed to do now, turn our SUV’s in?” asks Hochswender. Well, yeah. And quit whining because everybody hates you.

——-
Ted Rall is the author of Gas War: The Truth Behind the American Occupation of Afghanistan, an analysis of the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline and the motivations behind the war on terrorism. Ordering information is available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

Ted Rall: Big Babies
Also:
http://solai.netfirms.com/forum/articles/trall-7.html

106003734046707571

How many Americans will die for oil?

August 4 2003

George Bush has given oil companies carte blanche in Iraq. This will lead to disaster, writes Kenneth Davidson.

Is Iraq’s oil good enough reason for one or two of America’s 148,000 occupying forces to die in Iraq each day over the next four years?

The answer is probably no, if the growth of dissident military communities such as the “Bring Them Home Now!” lobby is any indication.

Resentment among the troops, and their families, about their being stuck in Iraq after the war has not been helped by the failure of the Bush Administration to come up with weapons of mass destruction, and President George Bush’s response to reports that attacks on occupying troops were increasing (“bring ’em on”).

But what would the occupying forces and their families make of Bush’s executive order 13303, promulgated without fanfare in May, which gives sweeping powers to US oil companies operating in Iraq while granting immunity to them for the consequences of any of their actions in exploiting the oil.

In a report last month for the US Democratic legal think tank Government Accountability Project (GAP), the legal director, Tom Devine, said that in terms of legal liability, 13303 “cancels the concept of corporate accountability and abandons the rule of law . . . (It) is a blank cheque for corporate anarchy. Its sweeping, unqualified language places the industry above domestic and international law for anything related to commerce in Iraqi oil.”

The immunity is unconstrained. The opening sentence decrees that “any judicial process” is “null and void”. Section 1 (b) shields the value “of any nature whatsoever” if it is “related to” the “sale or marketing of . . . all Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products” or “interests”.

According to Devine: “That means all corporate activities with roots or any connection to Iraqi oil. It covers everything from extraction through transportation, advertising, manufacture, customer service, corporate records and payment of taxes. It covers compliance with contractual obligations involving Iraq that industry enters into with the US Government in postwar Iraq. The scope can be further expanded to virtually all oil-related commerce, by blending Iraqi oil with domestic supplies for any commercial transaction.”

The executive order applies to US “persons” (including corporations or other organisations) who “come into possession or control” of anything relevant to Iraqi oil or oil products. Devine comments: “Translated from the legalese, this is a licence for corporations to loot Iraq and its citizens.”

The order is built on UN Security Council resolution 1483, which ended sanctions against Iraq and led to the establishment of the Development Fund for Iraq – into which the $1.7 billion of Iraqi money from the UN Oil-for-Food program and all proceeds from future sales of Iraqi oil and gas will be placed.

The development fund is controlled by Paul Bremer, who is in charge of the US occupation of Iraq, and it will be overseen by a board that includes representatives of the UN, the World Bank and the IMF.

Critics of the development fund point out that the money from past and future Iraqi oil sales deposited in the fund will be used to leverage US public and private loans to rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure and to develop Iraq’s huge oil reserves.

According to Devine, executive order 13303 violates UN resolution 1483 rather than implementing it.

While the UN resolution granted limited immunity for oil-related reconstruction activities, it made clear these immunities did not extend beyond “the initial purchaser” for misconduct beyond “privileges and immunities enjoyed by the United Nations” and for “any legal proceedings in which recourse to such proceeds or obligations is necessary to satisfy liability for damages assessed in connection with an ecological accident, including an oil spill, that occurs after the date of the is resolution”.

The companies, which will be operating on seed capital provided by Iraqi oil and the US taxpayer, will have had cancelled their civil and criminal liability abroad and domestically, as well as their normal liability for spending of US taxpayers’ money.

According to Devine: “Under the executive order there is no accountability to the taxpayers for taxpayer-supported spending by . . . firms with US contracts . . . It cancels liability for civil fraud in government contracts under the False Claims Act, the most effective anti-fraud statute. In short, the order is a blank cheque for pork-barrel spending.”

It is also a recipe for intensified conflict between the occupiers and the occupied.

The question is, for how long will US troops be prepared to risk death for Bush’s Texas oil mates?

Kenneth Davidson is a staff columnist.

Email: kdlv@ozemail.com.au

This story was found at: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/08/03/1059849273357.html