Saturday, July 7, 2007

Iraq and oil

The fact that the Iraq war is about oil is not news to many people. Nearly everyone, supporter and opponent, has known this from the beginning. All the other explanations have been provided with a metaphorical wink and a nudge. The practical economic purpose of the war has been the reason why there has been public support, even as casualties have mounted. The war is more about being well placed to protect Saudi oil, without having troops on holy Arabian soil, than it is about Iraqi oil.

So why did Howard (delicately) and Nelson (indelicately) have to say it? The answer lies in the Liberal party's parlous electoral position. Maybe 90% of the electorate already knew, but the government feels it has to reach that other 10% and tell them that the whole thing has some practical purpose. Of course their hasty retreat shows that they are well aware of their dubious ethical position, and that is what this post is about.

My grump for the day is with the journalists. When Nelson said "oil security", the question that needed to be asked was: "Do you mean helping the legitimate owners of the oil secure it against 3rd parties, or are you talking about securing it for our use against the legitimate owners?" Of course we all know that the latter is the case, but he would have been forced to respond with the former. But at least once he'd responded we can ask him who the legitimate owners of Saudi oil are: the princes who put the money in Swiss bank accounts, or the people who currently get the crumbs.

Which brings me to the biggest mistake of the Iraq war. The effect of preventing the Baath party and other opponents of the Americans from standing in the election was that the election had no legitimacy, particularly in the eyes of those opponents. If the Baath party, and even Saddam himself and al Qaeda, had been allowed to stand then they would have been roundly trounced, and the government would have had legitimacy, and everything would have worked out much better. As it is the insurgents can reasonably choose to ignore the election, assert that the government has no legitimacy to request American military presence in the country, assert that the current government are Quislings, and claim the normal human right to resist foreign occupation. And isn't it incredible that the Americans, whose country was founded on that right, completely fail to perceive its possible applicability here.