Sometimes, I Hate It When I'm Right

I sent American troops to Iraq to make its people free, not to make them American. Iraqis will write their own history, and find their own way. As they do, Iraqis can be certain, a free Iraq will always have a friend in the United States of America.
--George II in a speech at the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, 24 May 2004

I want to believe this. I really do. And yesterday I spoke to a friend who does believe this is the rationale of the Iraq invasion. I didn't think anyone believed that anymore, what with the Project for the New American Century begging President Clinton to invade Iraq as early as January, 1998 in a letter co-signed by Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. And the flimsy pretext for war that was discredited by the 9/11 Commission...

Responding to a presidential tasking, Clarke’s office sent a memo to Rice on September 18, titled “Survey of Intelligence Information on Any Iraq Involvement in the September 11 Attacks.” Rice’s chief staffer on Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, concurred in its conclusion that only some anecdotal evidence linked Iraq to al Qaeda.The memo found no “compelling case” that Iraq had either planned or perpetrated the attacks.

Secretary Powell recalled that Wolfowitz—not Rumsfeld—argued that Iraq was ultimately the source of the terrorist problem and should therefore be attacked. Powell said that Wolfowitz was not able to justify his belief that Iraq was behind 9/11. “Paul was always of the view that Iraq was a problem that had to be dealt with,” Powell told us.“And he saw this as one way of using this event as a way to deal with the Iraq problem.”

...and UN Weapons Inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed El Baradei.

In preparing this post, I discovered that there are more bits of evidence of a fledgling WMD program in Iraq than the press generally leads us to believe. So although Iraq failed to constitute an imminent threat to the US or demonstrate direct ties to Al Qaeda or the 9/11 attacks, it certainly contravened a number of UN resolutions and did appear to be fostering a WMD program.

Nevertheless, such an embryonic program merits continued and intensifying international pressure, not invasion of the country, destruction of the Presidential Residence, ejection of the President from power, assassination of his sons, and long-term occupation.

Try to imagine the reaction of Americans and the international community to China invading the US, razing the White House, capturing George I, assassinating George II and Jeb, occupying the country, killing a few thousand civilians in the process, then installing a provisional government which would facilitate Chinese corporate development in the US. Unthinkable? Not for Oval Office Hawks.

Back to my conversation last night. I said that instead of a nationalized oil industry, with the potential to return substantial profits to the citizenry of Iraq, American companies are treating Iraq--home of 11% of the world's oil reserves--like a land rush, and will siphon off as much profit from the country as they can. He said that now the free market will reign in Iraq. Of course, that's true only if your companies originate in a member state of the Coalition of the Willing. That doesn't sound like any free market I know. He conceded that, but said that among these eligible companies, a legitimate bid competition process will be in force.

Not so fast. Mother Jones reported that this process is routinely circumvented ($71.6b in non-competitive defense contracts awarded in 2002):

Defense Department [...] awarded a contract -- behind closed doors and without any competitive bidding -- to a subsidiary of Halliburton, the construction and oil services company where Vice President Dick Cheney formerly served as chief executive officer.[...] Although Halliburton had little experience buying fuel, it did have a broad logistical support contract with the Pentagon -- which Cheney, as secretary of Defense in 1991, had asked Halliburton to design. "Only the contractor that developed these complex plans," stated a Pentagon briefing document last year, "could commence implementing them on extremely short notice."
Halliburton didn't do a better job than [Jeffrey] Jones and his agency [the Pentagon's Defense Energy Support Center]. The military soon was paying $2.64 for a gallon of gas, double the price that Jones says he would have paid. Although Halliburton subcontracted much of the work to Kuwaiti buyers with minimal competition, it still earned as much as $100 million from the deal. A Pentagon audit has reported that Halliburton may have overcharged taxpayers about $61 million, prompting the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation.

Wow. The Operation is circumventing competition with a government agency on Halliburton's behalf. What hope do Italian, Japanese, or Australian companies have of getting in on the action? Let alone German, Canadian, or French companies from outside the Coalition? This is a case of an entirely too visible hand guiding commerce. Too bad there's nobody bigger out there to slap it when it gets out of line. We have to rely on the American Public to do that.

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