The forgotten plunder of Iraq

Published: 00:00, Nov 21,2019


From left to right, former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, president George W Bush and vice-president Dick Cheney. —Common Dreams/PRI

Few talk or think about Iraq these days and the media ignores this important but demolished nation, writes Eric Margolis

VICTOR Hugo said of the devastated Balkans in the 19th century: ‘The Turks have passed by here. All is in ruins or mourning.’

Welcome to modern Iraq.

The British were always masters of efficient imperialism. In the 19th century, they managed to rule a quarter of the Earth’s surface with only a relatively small army supported by a great fleet.

Many of their imperial subjects were so overawed by the pomp and circumstance of British rule that they often willingly cooperated, or at least bent the knee.

Call it colonialism 101. Ardent students of Roman history, the British early on adopted the Roman strategy of ‘divide et impera’ — divide and conquer. The application of this strategy allowed the British empire to rule over vast numbers of people with minimal force.

In my last book, American Raj, I sought to show how the American empire was using techniques of the British imperial raj (which means ‘rule’ in Hindi) employed in India to control the Middle East. Now, we are seeing the same strategy in forgotten Iraq.

Few talk or think about Iraq these days; the media ignores this important but demolished nation. Iraq, let us recall, was the target of a major western aggression concocted by George W Bush, Dick Cheney and Britain’s Tony Blair, and financed and encouraged by the Gulf oil sheikdoms and Saudi Arabia.

Most people don’t understand that Iraq remains a US-occupied nation. We hear nothing about the billions of dollars of Iraqi oil being extracted by big US oil firms since 2003. For the United States, Iraq was a treasure house of oil with 12 per cent of the world reserves. It was OPEC’s second largest producer.

Recall one of the leading neocons who engineered the invasion of Iraq, Paul Wolfowitz, who claimed the United States could finance its entire invasion of Iraq (he estimated the cost at about $70 billion) by plundering Iraq’s oil. Today, the cost of the occupation has reached over $1 trillion and Wolfie is nowhere to be seen. Meanwhile, president Trump is saying that the United States will grab Syria’s oil fields. Wherever it may be, oil is as American as apple pie.

So where did all the money go? A large amount for corrupt Iraqi politicians and more for the ten plus US bases in Iraq. Perhaps a modest payoff for neighbouring Iran, Iraq’s Shia clergy or helping finance Iraq and Syria’s ISIS. But that still leaves a huge amount of unaccounted cash from oil plundered by the United States. One day we may find out.

In recent weeks, Shia and Sunni Iraqis have been rioting to protest the continuing US proxy rule via a Washington-installed puppet regime in Baghdad that, curiously, also has some Iranian support. As of this writing, 120 Iraqis have been shot dead and some 6,000 wounded. This is happening while scores of Palestinians are being killed by Israel in Gaza.

In the Cheney-Wolfowitz’s plan, Iraq was to serve as the principal US military base to control the entire Middle East, Iran and Afghanistan. This didn’t happen because of fierce Iraqi resistance to US-British rule. But the United States has still kept some army, marine and, most important, air bases in Iraq. Supposedly ‘independent’ Iraq is not allowed modern air or armoured forces and its air space remains under US control. The US troops that were recently sent to Syria came from the Iraq garrison — a small version of Dick Cheney’s imperial dream.

Ever since the 2003 invasion, Iraq has been ruled by a succession of US-appointed figureheads who have proven as corrupt as they are inept. During the war, the United States destroyed most of Iraq’s water and sewage systems, causing some 500,000 children to die from water-borne diseases, wrecking much of its industry and commerce and leaving millions of men unemployed. Public services have all but broken down.

Before the US invasion, Iraq led the Arab world in industry, farming, medicine, education and women’s rights. All that was destroyed by the US ‘liberation.’

I was in Iraq in 2001 and 2003 and saw how much it had developed in spite of the draconian rule of Saddam Hussein. I was one of only a few journalists trying to dispute the western lies about Iraq. The dim-witted Iraqi secret police threatened to hang me as a spy — after I revealed their germ warfare plant at Salman Pak had been set up and was secretly run by British technicians.

Today, Iraq is far worse off than during the days of Saddam Hussein. It is being plundered and exploited while its people suffer. So much for the ‘liberation.’, November 17. Eric Margolis is a columnist, author and veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East.

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