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[casi] Two Articles by Robert Fisk

September 30, 2003
A Lesson in Obfuscation
Don't Mention Oil or Ask About the Victims
The Independent

"The right thing ... a magnificent job ... heroes ...
pride". So off Tony went again yesterday on Breakfast
With Frost, spinning and spinning about Iraq.

I wonder what he'd think of the city morgue downtown
from here when they bring the gunshot victims in every
morning. Or down in the Basra area where
the British rule and where, in the past few weeks, 38
corpses have been found, hands and feet tied, each
neatly executed with a shot through the back of the
neck. Baath party officials, we're told. Killed, quite
possibly, by the Shia Badr Brigade. Yup, things are
getting better and better in "New Iraq".

And as for those weapons of mass destruction?

"We know perfectly well he had these weapons, he had
these programmes." But is there anyone who doesn't see
through this obfuscation? For when Tony
says: "We know perfectly well he had those weapons",
he is, of course, referring to the chemical weapons
Saddam had more than 10 years ago and which have not
existed for years. The "programmes", which we still
haven't discovered, are what Tony hopes the Iraq
Survey Group will come up with when they admit in a
few days' time that there weren't any weapons of mass

No mention of course that when Saddam had these
terrible things, the British and American government
were happily doing business with Saddam. Why not
talk about weapons of mass deception?

Then we have my favourite line. "We were getting rid
of one of the most terrible, repressive regimes in the
world's history." Well, I've seen the mass graves and
I've met the torture victims and I've been to Halabja
and I was denouncing Saddam's wickedness when the
Foreign Office were telling a former editor of mine
that I was being too harsh on Saddam. But as for one
of the most terrible, repressive regimes in the
"world's history ..." Well, we'll just forget the
Roman Empire with its system of mass slavery and
crucifixion and we'll pass on Ghengis Khan and all the
Goths, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, the Inquisition, the
anti-semitic Tsars, Mussolini's Fascist
Italy, Stalin's Soviet Union and that little man with
the moustache who caused a wee problem between 1939
and 1945.

I'm afraid that even by Saddam's demented values, he
doesn't come close to the latter. But in the wheel of
historical fortune in which our Tony lives, it doesn't
matter a damn. Actually, I rather prefer Thomas
Friedman's depiction in The New York Times of Saddam
as a cross between Don Corleone and Donald Duck. But
you can't bang your fist on your heart and clang your
armour for such a creature. And how are the victors
really faring? Well in Baghdad today, there are more
roads blocked by the occupation authorities than there
were under Saddam. There's a grey concrete wall along
the Tigris river bank three miles in length and 20
feet high to protect the occupiers and another one of
two miles to protect the so-called Interim Council and
there are walls around the Baghdad Hotel where the CIA
lads stay and there
are soldiers on Humvees on every road pointing rifles
at the Iraqis they came to liberate and there is a
ruthless resistance movement increasing in size by the

The Americans are keen to have some "rules of
engagement" for their occupation soldiers and they've
just received them - at Washington's request
- from, wait for it, the Israeli Defence Force. So
stand by, I suppose for yet more shooting at
demonstrators and stone throwers and more brutal night
raids with innocents killed. But according to Tony, it
was all a jolly successful war.


October 1, 2003

Oil, War and Panic

Don't Tell Me America Would Have Invaded Iraq If Its
Chief Export was

The Independent

Oil is slippery stuff but not as slippery as the
figures now being peddled by Iraq's American
occupiers. Up around Kirkuk, the authorities are
keeping the sabotage figures secret--because they
can't stop their pipelines to Turkey blowing up. And
down in Baghdad, where the men who produce Iraq's oil
production figures are beginning to look like the
occupants of Plato's cave--drawing conclusions from
shadows on their wall--the statistics are being
cooked. Paul Bremer, the US proconsul who wears combat
boots, is "sexing up" the figures to a point where
even the oilmen are shaking their heads.

Take Kirkuk. Only when the television cameras capture
a blown pipe, flames billowing, do the occupation
powers report sabotage. This they did, for example, on
18 August. But the same Turkish pipeline has been hit
before and since. It was blown on 17 September and
four times the following day. US patrols and
helicopters move along the pipeline but, in the huge
ravines and tribal areas through which it passes, long
sections are indefensible.

European oilmen in Baghdad realise now that Iraqi
officials in the oil ministry--one of only two
government institutions that the Americans defended
from the looters--knew very well that the sabotage was
going to occur. "They told me in June that there would
be no oil exports from the north," one of them said to
me this week. "They knew it was going to be
sabotaged--and it had obviously been planned long
before the invasion in March."

Early in their occupation, the Americans took the
quiet--and unwise--decision to re-hire many Baathist
oil technocrats, which means that a large proportion
of ministry officials are still ambivalent towards the
Americans. The only oil revenues the US can get are
from the south. In the middle of August, Mr Bremer
gave the impression that production stood at
about 1.5 million barrels a day. But the real figure
at that time was 780,000 barrels and rarely does
production reach a million. In the words of an oil
analyst visiting Iraq, this is "an inexcusable

When the US attacked Iraq in March, the country was
producing 2.7 million barrels a day. It transpires
that in the very first hours after they entered
Baghdad on 9 April, American troops allowed looters
into the oil ministry.
By the time senior officers arrived to order them out,
they had destroyed billions of dollars of
irreplaceable seismic and drilling data.

While the major oil companies in the US stand to cream
off billions of dollars if oil production resumes in
earnest, many of their executives were
demanding to know from the Bush administration--long
before the war--how it intended to prevent sabotage.
In fact, Saddam had no plans to destroy the
oil fields themselves, plenty for blowing up the
export pipes. The Pentagon got it the wrong way round,
racing its troops to protect the fields but
ignoring the vulnerable pipelines.

Anarchy is now so widespread in post-war Iraq that it
is almost impossible for international investors to
work there. There is no insurance for them--which is
why Mr Bremer's occupation administrators have
secretly decided that well over half the $20bn
(lbs12bn) earmarked for Iraq will go towards security
for its production infrastructure.

During the war, a detailed analysis by Yahya Sadowski,
a professor at the American University of Beirut,
suggested that repairing wells and pipes
would cost $1bn, that raising oil production to 3.5
million barrels a day would take three years and cost
another $8bn investment and another $20bn for repairs
to the electrical grid which powers the pumps and
Bringing production up to six million barrels a day
would cost a further $30bn, some say up $100bn.

In other words--assuming only $8bn of the $20bn can be
used on industry--the Bush overall budget of $87bn
which now horrifies Congress is likely to rise
towards a figure of $200bn. Ouch.

Since the 1920s, only about 2,300 wells have been
drilled in Iraq and those are in the valleys of the
Tigris and Euphrates. Its deserts are almost
totally unexplored. Officially, Iraq contains 12 per
cent of the world's oil reserves--two-thirds of the
world's reserves are in just four other countries,
Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait and the Emirates--but it
could contain 20 per cent, even 25 per cent.

It's possible to argue that it was Saddam's decision
to switch from the dollar to the euro in November 2000
that made "regime change" so important
to the US. When Iran threatened to do the same, it was
added to the "axis of evil". The defence of the dollar
is almost as important as oil.

But the real irony lies in the nature of America's new
power in Iraq. US oil deposits are increasingly
depleted and by 2025, its oil imports will account
for perhaps 70 per cent of total domestic demand. It
needs to control the world's reserves--and don't tell
me the US would have invaded Iraq if its chief export
was beetroot--and it now has control of perhaps 25 per
cent of world reserves.

But it can't make the oil flow. The cost of making it
flow could produce an economic crisis in the US. And
it is this--rather than the daily killing of
young American soldiers--that lies behind the Bush
administration's growing panic. Washington has got its
hands on the biggest treasure chest in the
world--but it can't open the lid. No wonder they are
cooking the books in Baghdad.

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