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WHAT WE THINK
Washington's military machine seizes control of Iraq
They're the real looters

April 18, 2003 | Page 3

THE LOOTERS who ransacked Iraq knew exactly what they were looking for. They chose their targets in advance, and used armed force to grab the country's most prized assets--and now they're after even more.

But these looters aren't the desperate poor of Baghdad and Basra. They lurk in the boardrooms of Exxon and BP, and in the offices of the White House and the Pentagon.

In the very first days of the U.S. war on Iraq, U.S. troops--using handy plastic instruction cards specially prepared for them by BP--seized southern oilfields near Basra.

The fighting effectively ended in the north, where 2,000 Special Forces soldiers led by Col. William Mayville seized Iraq's second-largest oil facilities in the historically Kurdish city of Kirkuk. "When you want to send the message, 'Hey, don't screw with the oil,' coming here was important," said Mayville, whose troops did nothing as crowds broke into businesses and offices around Kirkuk.

But the looting of Iraq has only just begun. For example, by awarding the contract to put out oil fires to Halliburton, the U.S. government guaranteed revenues of as much as $7 billion over the next two years to the company where Dick Cheney served as CEO.

Nice work if you can get it. But Washington has decreed that only U.S. companies need apply. If any European or Japanese companies get a piece of the action, they'll do so as subcontractors and take their orders from American bosses.

As for the United Nations (UN), it will be restricted to handing out food and medicine, if the U.S. military dictators have their way. Only when it comes to sharing the cost of rebuilding Iraq does Washington want international partners.

The U.S. is trying to strong-arm France, Germany and Japan to get the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to cancel the debt for its new puppet state in Iraq--while impoverished countries like Argentina are pressured to repay their crushing debts.

All of this maneuvering highlights the real aims behind the U.S. war. "Washington is intoxicated by the vision of imposing a Pax Americana on the Arab world on the model of the imperial 'order' which Britain imposed on the entire region in an earlier age," wrote Patrick Seale in the magazine Middle East International.

"The occupation of Iraq, a major Arab country at the strategic heart of the region, will allow the United States to control the resources of the Middle East and reshape its geopolitics to its advantage--or so the Anglo-American strategists hope."

Already, the staged photo ops of "liberation" are giving way to the ugly images of occupation. U.S. troops pointing rifles at protesters in Baghdad. Long-oppressed Shias organizing to stop the U.S. from imposing handpicked leaders. Kurds in the North ordered to abandon their aspirations for self-determination and independence. Hated police from Saddam Hussein's regime hired to work again as cops.

What's more, after invading Iraq because it supposedly threatened its neighbors with weapons of mass destruction, the new bosses of Baghdad are threatening those very neighbors--Syria and Iran. And while the U.S. hasn't found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, it brought a new one of its own to the region--the Massive Ordnance Air Blast, nicknamed the "Mother of All Bombs" because of its nuclear-like explosion.

For now, George W. Bush is basking in wartime glory--while U.S. soldiers who died for oil profits are given elaborate funerals with speeches praising them for sacrificing their lives to "defend their country." Yet even the corporate media can't screen out news of the humanitarian disaster--and popular unrest--in Iraq.

Time will show that large numbers of Iraqis view the U.S. not as liberators, but occupiers and colonizers. Meanwhile, some of the young people who joined the military for economic reasons will come to question why they had to kill--and risk being killed--for oil company profits and U.S. imperialism.

That's why Washington's war makers are hoping that their conquest of Iraq will demoralize the antiwar movement in the U.S.--and make it easier to get away with the next war, and the one after that. We have to organize to stop them.

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