Are we allowed to talk about the oil yet?

Now that the proposed Iraqi oil law is out in the open, war supporters like Christopher Hitchens are busy setting up false arguments and trying to convince us that the laws are not what they seem. You see, Hitchens thinks that this gift of freedom from the selfless oil giants will lessen the motivation for the insurgency and put the violence to rest.

Why didn’t we think of this before?

If there is any gut reaction against the word “oil” on the part of Americans, it isn’t about the Iraqis themselves, or ways they might better divide up oil revenues. To put it mildly, it’s the unsettling feeling that none of the rationales that the Bush administration has ever presented for why we needed to invade Iraq seem to add up, so if there were a real reason we invaded (one they were uncomfortable sharing with us) perhaps it might be about oil. Shocking I know.

It is always amusing to hear anyone from the Right talk about ‘giving the oil wealth to the people’. Such a noble socialist agenda indeed.

Most ironic, was that the Baath Party was socialist and actually had the type of centralized government that did real oil wealth distribution. Which is one of the reasons that Iraq’s economy was right up there with pre-capitalist Eastern Europe even before the invasion.

The second is that pre 1st gulf war Iraq’s oil revenue stood at around $15billion per year. Impressive until you think that the operation in Iraq is currently costing the US 2 billion a week. Oil revenue alone is not going to foot the bill.

Third, US taxpayers are certain to demand a reduction in Iraq costs, and Iraq oil revenue is then likely to go into projects currently funded by the US taxpayer (isn’t it always?).

Any way the deal is cut, it will be the government and private oil operators that will get the oil profits. Oil makes big revenues, but does not require a huge workforce, and besides, the new oil laws don’t require the oil companies to invest 1 cent in the Iraqi economy – so what will the rest of the Iraqis do? Get a socialist welfare check? And this helps everyone how exactly?

And finally, there is the small issue of the civil war on at the moment. Private oil companies need big security to put in the kind of money that is required for oil infrastructure. And these guys have real money on the line, and are known to be in touch with reality, so the pathetic surge will not likely sway them. Sure they can privately defend their oil platform fortresses, but this only drives up costs. And when the Americans go, then what direction will the new Iraqi democracy take? Big risks mean companies will demand big BIG money from Iraq and the USA.

These realities kinda sink the idea that the Iraqi’s are going to see much change after all is said and done.

Rather than fall for the false optimism of people like Hitchens who’ve been wrong about everything so far, a healthy does of skepticism is called for. Does it really seem that common-sense concerns about economic policy are the driving force behind the insurgency at this stage of the game? Are people who are embroiled in ethnic hatred and vendettas, really just holding out for a more equitable system of revenue sharing? Is it likely that people who slaughter civilians by the tens or hundreds of thousands are really interested in something like democracy, or ways to make it work more successfully?

Hitchens evidently thinks so.

So I’ll let him cheer the golden goose, showering money on all the Iraqis and making them so happy that they hug each other with joy instead of shooting. Because we know from experience that oil has had such a huge positive impact on other fledgling democracies, how can this law possibly go wrong?

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