Unsolved Mystery: The Iraqi Hydrocarbon Law

Finding information about the much-discussed but barely reported Iraqi hydrocarbon law has been about as easy as finding information about which specific breed of puppy the vice president uses in his top secret ghoul smoothies. (Answer: all of them. The VPOTUS has also mentioned in private that adorable baby orangutans are "crumbelievable.") Hence, my daily search to learn more about the law has met with results ranging from brief mentions by Tony Snow to the repetition of the same information first reported by The Independent.

But TomPaine.com is now reporting that the controversial profit-sharing agreements (PSAs) have been stripped (in theory) from the law.

The PSAs, as originally reported by The Independent, would have allowed Western oil robber barons to slip into Baghdad and hork Iraqi oil for 30 years and, in the near term, the PSAs would've allowed Vice President Cheney's advisors at Shell, Exxon-Mobil and BP to keep around 75 percent of the profits.

The legislation was brokered by the financially embattled BearingPoint corporation in McLean, Virginia, and The Independent further reported that as much as $117,000 was donated to both Bush campaigns, in addition to other contributions to several ranking Republicans on the House defense appropriations subcommittee. BearingPoint's Iraq contract from your federal government? $240 million, according to The Independent.

The president's escalation plan and the passage of the hydrocarbon law, which is expected by March, are converging in a spooky yet well-lubricated coitus and all but confirms many of our suspicions that the president's most excellent adventure has, indeed, been about oil profits and his own 2004 re-election plans (see his remarks regarding war presidents). Reuters reports:

"Passing an oil law to help settle potentially explosive disputes among Iraq's ethnic and sectarian communities over the division of oil reserves has been a key demand of the United States in providing further military support to the government."

That'd be your escalation-slash-oil "coincidence." In the same article, which primarily reported on the passage of the law in the Iraqi Oil Committee, Reuters buried the following quote on page four of their story:

"If the legal problems are solved by the oil law, that's good news," said a senior Western oil executive.

"But security issues are a much bigger issue. The big money will not go to Baghdad unless it's convinced that employees and contractors won't be abducted, shot or killed."

Of course reducing the violence in Baghdad should be a huge priority... so civilians can walk the streets and eat and go to work and worship without, you know, dying. But dammit, securing the streets of Baghdad with American blood so Rich Western Oil Executive White Guy X can breathe easier? Sorry, no.

And now, even without the thievery of the PSAs, it looks like there's still language in the law that will allow the oil companies to get what they were (allegedly) promised in those secret energy policy meetings with Vice President Cheney.

Antonia Juhasz, a visiting scholar at Institute for Policy Studies, reports for TomPaine.com that no-one really knows the actual specifics of the law, including and especially the Iraqi people. Secrecy, after all, is the hallmark of Bush-style democracy (secretive democracy is not unlike, say, pro-Jew Nazism). What is known, however, is:

"[The hydrocarbon law] also grants foreign oil companies "national treatment," which means that the Iraqi government cannot give preference to Iraqi oil companies (whether public or privately owned) over foreign-owned companies when it chooses contractors. This provision alone will severely cripple the government's ability to ensure that Iraqis gain as much economic benefit as possible from their oil."

So here's a thumbnail of what we could be facing in the coming months and years.

--After the hydrocarbon law is passed, an enormous influx in Big Oil lobbyists and negotiators will certainly ride into Baghdad like well-dressed ticks clinging tenaciously to the necks of our soldiers -- thirsty and driven to apply an onslaught of coercive pressure on the weak and vulnerable Iraqi government. Their goal: to attain epic deals not unlike the ones previewed by the apparently defunct PSAs

--As huge oil profits are fleeced from the Iraqi people by Western multinationals, insurgents will be further motivated to continue the civil war. Presuming that security will dictate Big Oil's level of activity in Baghdad, the violence won't be as significant there but you can count on continued and increased bloodshed in Anbar province and elsewhere.

--The Sunnis, who lack any real oil, and their allies in al-Qaeda will be further motivated to seek revenge on Western and Shi'ite targets inside and outside of Iraq. American soldiers and Iraqi civilians will continue to be caught in the middle of it all -- at least until 2009, with blowback stretching deep into the future.

Tell me again, Bush Republicans, how this isn't about oil. Tell me again, Bush Republicans, how this helps to end the civil war and prevents further terrorism.

Tuesday night, in his State of the Union address, the president might comment about the Iraqi oil law and he'll do his very best to make it taste just like a peach -- wealth and unity for the Iraqi people and such. Two years ago, in his 2005 State of the Union, it was all about the purple fingers. Two years ago, he predicted great victories for our soldiers and the Iraqi citizens as the result of the purple fingers. Congressmen embarrassed themselves by strutting around with purple fingers as if they had personal blood invested in the effort for the Iraqi vote. Two years later, things are worse. The destruction and secrecy and the back-room deals continue. The civil war and occupation and profiteering escalates. And the mainstream press continues to ignore this law: a disgusting and perverse side of the Iraq story. In her article, Antonia Juhasz mentioned an opportunity to make some news tomorrow:

On January 23, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will hold a hearing to investigate "oil and reconstruction strategy in Iraq." This offers a critical opportunity to demand a cessation of all U.S. government and corporate influence over Iraqis as to the future of their oil.

Here's the link to contact the members, including Senators Feingold, Boxer, Webb, Obama and Dodd. If we're ever going to get out of there and allow the Iraqi people to prosper in a way that doesn't involve deepening -- escalating -- their resentment, distrust and, ultimately violence, towards the West, now's the time. And it could all hinge on this law, or, rather, how American profiteers will exploit it.