Monday, June 30, 2008

Oil and death

In today's New York Times, Andrew E. Kramer returns to the topic of the Iraqi oil in the front page story "U.S. Advised Iraqi Ministry On Oil Deals" which reveals that in addition to Big Oil representatives that the US government paired up with Iraqis as 'advisors' (click here for Kramer's June 19th report)the US State Department was also involved in the deals -- also as 'advisors':

In their role as advisers to the Iraqi Oil Ministry, American government lawyers and private-sector consultants provided template contracts and detailed suggestions on drafting the contracts, advisers and a senior State Department official said.
[. . .]
But any perception of American meddling in Iraq's oil policies threatens to inflame opinion against the United States, particularly in Arab nations that are skeptical of American intentions in Iraq, which has the third-largest oil reserves in the world.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies' Frederick D. Barton is quoted stating, "And we undermine our own veracity by citing issues like sovereignty, when we have our hands right in the middle of it."

Andy Rowell (Price of Oil) observes in "Guess Who Helped Draw Up Iraqi Ministry Oil Contracts … The Americans:"

Another leading critic of the Iraqi oil industry Greg Muttitt, from Platform in London, says that “even the most vehement opponents of oil privatisation do not object to such “technical service contracts” (TSCs): they are a normal model of business, where a company acts as contractor, providing a service to its client, a government or national oil company, for an agreed price.”

But peel beneath the surface, he argues “and the contracts start to look very strange. For a start, the deals are with the wrong companies. The companies which usually carry out TSCs are specialist service providers, like Schlumberger, Saipem or Baker Hughes. They are often hired in for geological, construction or drilling expertise, or to install a piece of technology.”

Also in the New York Times, Alissa J. Rubin's "Iraq Criticizes Attacks By American Troops" which notes Sunday's violence as well as the reaction within the Iraqi government to the deaths of civilians -- a Friday raid in Karbala resulted in the death of a relative of Nouri al-Maliki and prior to that three employees of a bank were shot dead while enroute to work. Rubin leaves out the four family members killed in a US air bombing on the same day (Wednesday) that the three employees were shot dead. Rubin notes:

An Iraqi government statement demanded that the soldiers be held accountable in Iraq. The issue is particularly delicate now because the two countries are negotiating a long-term security agreement and among the chief points of disagreement are whether the American military will be free to conduct operations and detain suspects and whether if its soldiers kill civilians, they will have immunity from Iraqi law.
Currently soldiers can only be tried under American military law. However, there have been many shootings of Iraqi civilians by American soldiers and contractors, prompting Iraqi politicians to demand that they have a right to prosecute soldiers and contractors in their courts.

McClatchy Newspapers' Hannah Allem has been reporting on this issue all weekend. From her "Crisis grows in Iraq over U.S. raid that killed Maliki relative:"

"We are afraid now of signing the long-term pact between Iraq and America because of such unjustified violations by the troops. Handing over security in provinces doesn't mean anything to the American troops," said Mohamed Hussein al Musawi, a senior Najaf-based member of the prime minister's Dawa Party. "We condemn these barbaric actions not only when they target a relative of Maliki's, but when any Iraqi is targeted in the same way."
Outrage over the mysterious operation has spread to the highest levels of the Iraqi government, which is demanding an explanation for how such a raid occurred in a province ostensibly under full Iraqi command.
"This is a Special Forces operation, an antiterrorism unit that operates almost independently so there's been no coordination with the local forces on the ground," said a high-ranking member of the Iraqi government who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the extreme sensitivity of the issue. "That's why it's so important to have a Status of Forces Agreement to regulate this relationship. As long as it's vague and open, these incidents will continue to happen."

And from Allam and Qassim Zein's "In Maliki's hometown, grief and questions after deadly U.S. raid:"

One is that the raid occurred within Karbala province, one of nine provinces ostensibly under full Iraqi control. The U.S. military handed over Karbala security in October 2007; Iraqi authorities say the raid was conducted without their knowledge or coordination.
The second is that the man described by the military as "a local security guard" was actually a cousin of Maliki's and served as the personal bodyguard of Maliki's sister, relatives and Iraqi officials said. Ali Abdulhussein al Maliki was killed at his guard post outside the villa belonging to Maliki's sister, said the guard's brother, Ahmed Abdulhussein al Maliki.
The brother -- referred to here without his tribal name to avoid confusion with the prime minister -- was reluctant to speak about the incident, but allowed a few minutes for a visiting journalist in part because tribal custom deems it shameful to turn away a guest. Dressed in a dark-brown suit, he was presiding over the mourning ceremony and had long lines of sheikhs in flowing robes and traditional headdresses waiting for him.
Abdulhussein, who was not present during the raid, said his brother and three other bodyguards were at the home of Maliki's sister, their cousin, in a guard station attached to the main, two-story villa. Before dawn Friday, Abdulhussein said, the guards heard U.S. helicopters in the area. Abdulhussein said about 50 American ground troops in camouflage then stormed into Janaja. He said he still has no idea why they came to the Maliki home.
"(The troops) raided this room, the guard room, and detained the guards, including Ali, who'd memorized a few English words and tried to tell them, 'I'm police. I'm a Maliki guard,'" Abdulhussein said. "They tied the hands of the three guards and took Ali to the room. Ten minutes later, they heard gunfire. The American forces killed Ali."

Currently Doug Smith (Los Angeles Times) reports al-Maliki is going to assign a judge to examine the deaths of four civilians killed by US troops:

The appointment of a judge to hear evidence against U.S. soldiers would represent a significant encroachment on the rules laid down during the U.S. occupation, which provide foreigners working in the country, both military and civilian contractors, immunity from the Iraqi judicial process.
Abadi acknowledged that the judge would have no authority to convict or sentence Americans, but he said a forum is needed to provide Iraqis a sense of justice.
"It's not acceptable, Iraqis getting killed without even knowing if it is the result of a tragic incident or this is negligence on the part of the U.S. military," he said.

From Kevin Maurer's "Blind Special Forces soldier: determined to serve" (AP) we'll note the following:

Since the war began in Iraq, more than 100 troops have been blinded and 247 others have lost sight in one eye. Only two other blind officers serve in the active-duty Army: one a captain studying to be an instructor at West Point, the other an instructor at the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Lastly, Sam notes this video from Ralph Nader's presidential campaign which features Nader addressing illegal spying on American citizens.

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