Thursday, April 21, 2011

See how they run

It's time the rest of the story came out -- not because it is history, but because it is not. The U.S. is still in Iraq. Major decisions about the continuing presence of U.S. troops there loom just ahead. The major U.S. media have done little or nothing to investigate the story, though journalists working the U.K., notably Greg Palast, produced excellent reports on the subject. The endless chain of books about the Green Zone and corruption has not really gotten to the heart of the matter. As the U.S. deliberates about its next steps in Iraq, it is time somebody does.

That's from Thomas Ferguson's "Oil-Soaked Politics: Secret U.K. Docs on Iraq" (Huffington Post) about the Independent of London's scoop on Tuesday. Paul Bignell (Independent) reported:

Five months before the March 2003 invasion, Baroness Symons, then the Trade Minister, told BP that the Government believed British energy firms should be given a share of Iraq's enormous oil and gas reserves as a reward for Tony Blair's military commitment to US plans for regime change.
The papers show that Lady Symons agreed to lobby the Bush administration on BP's behalf because the oil giant feared it was being "locked out" of deals that Washington was quietly striking with US, French and Russian governments and their energy firms.
Minutes of a meeting with BP, Shell and BG (formerly British Gas) on 31 October 2002 read: "Baroness Symons agreed that it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq in that way if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the US government throughout the crisis."

The response has been typical. It's bad news for New Labour so the Guardian pretends the revelations didn't take place the same way they did with the Downing St. Memos (which the Times of London first reported on). And in the United States, most daily papers have worked overtime to avoid the topic while 'left' institutions like Democracy Now! have reduced it to a headline -- and not even the first headline of the day. The Progressive has had no time for the news. The Nation magazine which used to grandstand on the Iraq War (cover editorials on how they wouldn't support any Democratic politician who didn't call for an end to the Iraq War, for example) can't find time for it. Katrina can bore the world with her desperate attempts to use buzz words -- sometime misuse them -- as she runs after any topic she thinks might garner attention from the MSM. All those (bad) bloggers at The Nation and not one of them can write a piece on the issue. How very telling. As the Beatles once sang, "See how they run like pigs from a gun, see how they fly, I'm crying" ("I Am The Walrus" -- credited to Lennon & McCartney, written by John.)

At WSWS, Robert Stevens explores the topic:

The mass of official documents confirm that, eight years on and following the death of an estimated 1 million civilians, the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq was indeed a war for oil.
The documents came to light only due to Freedom of Information requests over a period of five years by Greg Muttitt, an expert on Iraqi oil policy, who works for the British charity Platform. Muttitt has written a book, Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq, published this week.
The documents illustrate the imperialist character of the war. The Independent notes: “BP was concerned that if Washington allowed TotalFinaElf’s existing contact with Saddam Hussein to stand after the invasion it would make the French conglomerate the world’s leading oil company. BP told the Government it was willing to take ‘big risks’ to get a share of the Iraqi reserves, the second largest in the world.”

The following community sites -- plus the ACLU, Jane Fonda, Military Families Speak Out, War News Radio and -- updated last night and this morning:

David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award.
We'll close with this from Bacon's "A LABOR LAW BOSSES WOULD LOVE" (In These Times):

MEXICO CITY (4/14/11) - Changing labor law sounds like some technical modification, a subject lawyers argue about in musty hearing rooms. In Mexico it's been front-page news for weeks. Changing the country's labor law would transform the lives of millions of workers. It would cement the power of a group of industrialists who have been on the political offensive for decades, and who now control Mexico's presidency and national government.
"Labor law reform will only benefit the country's oligarchs," claims Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who many if not most Mexicans think actually won the last presidential election in 2006, as candidate of the leftwing Party of the Democratic Revolution. Napoleon Gomez Urrutia, head of the miner's union who was forced into exile in Canada in 2006, says Mexico's old governing party, the Party of the Institutionalized Revolution (PRI), which lost control of the presidency in 2000, "is trying to assure its return by making this gift to big business, putting an end to labor rights."
In part, the change is drastic because on paper, at least, the rights of Mexican workers are extensive, deriving from the Revolution that ended in 1920. At a time when workers in the U.S. still had no law that even recognized the legality of unions, Article 123 of the Mexican Constitution spelled them out. Workers have the right to jobs and permanent status once they're hired. If they're laid off, they have the right to severance pay. They have rights to housing, health care, and training. In a legal strike, they can string flags across the doors of a factory or workplace, and even the owner can't enter until the dispute is settled. Strikebreaking is prohibited.
The new law would change most of that.
Companies would be able to hire workers in a six-month probationary status, and then fire them at the end without penalty. Even firing workers with 20 or 30 years on the job would suddenly become much easier and cheaper for their employers, by limiting the penalty for unjust termination to one year's severance pay. "That's an open invitation to employers," according to Arturo Alcalde, Mexico's most respected labor lawyer and past president of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers. "The bosses themselves say the PRI reform is the road to a 'paradise of firings.' It will make it much cheaper for companies to terminate workers."
The justification, of course, is that by reducing the number of workers at a worksite, while requiring those remaining to work harder, productivity increases and profits go up. Meanwhile for workers, though, a permanent job and stable income become a dream, while the fear of firing grows, hours get longer, and work gets faster, harder and more dangerous.

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends