Original version published in The Moscow Times, August 15, 2003.
At long last, a "smoking gun" has been found to justify the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. Investigators probing obscure government archives in the occupied capital city have uncovered a document signed by the unelected tyrant which provides a clear casus belli for the much-disputed conflict.
This remarkable directive was part of a series of moves undertaken by the dictator to strengthen his one-party stranglehold on the state by looting the wealth of the Iraqi people and placing himself and his cronies beyond the reach of the law. It was issued at the leader's autocratic whim, without public notice or any vote by the oppressed nation's ludicrous, rubber-stamp "legislature." It freed the dictator and his looter-barons from responsibility for a broad range of potential crimes: fraud, environmental devastation, slave labor, even murder – as long as those activities were related to filling the ruling clique's pockets with profits from Iraq's oil.
A more powerful instrument of repression can scarcely be imagined – yet the bleeding-heart apologists for tyranny, those craven bootlickers who so strenuously oppose "regime change" to remove a thugocracy choking the life from a long-suffering people, have not uttered a peep about this nefarious document, which lies at the heart of a criminal enterprise that has claimed thousands of innocent victims and fanned the flames of international terrorism.
We refer, of course, to Executive Order 13303, quietly promulgated by George W. Bush in May then buried deep in the verbiage of the Federal Register, where it was recently unearthed by Jim Vallette of the Institute for Policy Studies. Here, Bush's prettified public motives for war give way to the "bottom line" so beloved by the sordid corporate hacks and ideological extremists who seized Washington in the 2000 judicial coup.
In the order, Bush proclaims that any legal action taken for any reason against any American corporation dealing in "Iraqi petroleum products" at any point in the process – from well-head to gas-pump to boardroom – "constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security" of the United States. In fact, the very possibility that one of Bush's oil pets might be held accountable for its actions while gorging on Iraqi crude is so terrifying that the Looter-in-Chief has declared a "national emergency" to deal with the situation. (A "national emergency" that he forgot to mention to, er, the nation.)
The Bush edict grants a blanket immunity to all traffickers in Iraqi oil – as long as their moolah finds its way, by hook or crook, into the coffers of "United States persons or entities." Bush declares flatly that any "judicial process" launched against these protected entities "shall be deemed null and void." And how to guarantee that his partners and patrons won't be troubled by some rogue nation that still clings to the outmoded principle of law and order? Simple: one of the agencies authorized to "employ all powers" necessary "to carry out the purposes of this order" is our old friend, the Defense Department.
Ostensibly, Order 13303 is aimed at preventing sissy-baby war-shirkers like, say, Russia, from going to court to enforce their existing oil contracts with Iraq. Here, the Regime is merely recognizing "facts on the ground": Iraq's oil doesn't belong to Saddam anymore; it belongs to George Bush, and he could do what he likes with it. (Forget the shuck-and-jive about "preserving the resources of the Iraqi people" – that's just cornball for the yokels back home.)
But as Vallette points out, the rap sheet of American energy "entities" is crammed with ugly incident, including the aforesaid employment of forced labor, the hiring of murderous goons to put down protests by unruly natives, the subversion and corruption of national governments, and the despoiling of vast swathes of sea and coastline on a regular basis. There's little reason to believe these swaggering behemoths will be more circumspect in their fevered rush to exploit Iraq's captive treasures. Like many other of Bush's unconstitutional, unlegislated and undebated secret directives, Order 13303 is essentially a license to kill.
It's also part of a massive effort to turn Iraq into a Bushist theme park, where favored corporate cronies can run wild, unfettered by regulation and glutted by American taxpayer money that frees them from any financial risk. To that end, Bush sent his old college buddy Thomas Foley to Baghdad last week, the Financial Times reports, to "advance the privatization" of Iraqi state enterprises by ensuring that the sell-off of the nation's non-oil assets will be "open to foreign trade" – i.e., "United States persons or entities." Many of the latter have hired Bush's former campaign manger and political fixer, lobbyist Joe Allbaugh, to front for them at the occupation trough, the National Journal reports.
At the same time, a rigged bidding process last week forced rivals of Dick Cheney's paymaster, Halliburton (yes, he still gets fat checks from his old firm) out of the running for a new multibillion-dollar contract to administer Iraq's oil fields, the Washington Post reports. Those billions will now flow to the Vice Man's company – whose every action will be whitewashed by Bush's order of indemnity.
But there is no indemnity, no immunity, for the American soldiers dying daily in guerrilla ambushes, or the innocent Iraqis mown down daily by their panicky conquerors, or the innocent people around the world at increased risk as terrorists ape the Bushist way of enforcing ideology by violence. No, they all pay the full price – the blood price – for the Bush barons' free ride.