Monday, April 21, 2003

I've read the Slate Hitchens’ piece about three times and I’m still not sure what the point of it is except to get in one more feeble swipe at the anti-war left (incidentally which he allies to the reactionary right; that the anti-war left is reactionary is implicit). The left is angered by Halliburton’s contract to rebuild the oil fields, ergo the left prefers Saddam to Halliburton. This isn’t a leap in logic; it’s freefall.

It's interesting how Hitchens can’t come up with a compelling reason why Halliburton should be the first granted an award, other than,

...unless the anti-war forces believe Saddam's fires should be allowed to burn out of control indefinitely, they must presumably have an idea of which outfit should have got the contract instead of Boots and Coots. I think we can be sure that the contract would not have gone to some windmill-power concern run by Naomi Klein or the anti-Starbucks Seattle coalition, in the hope of just blowing out the flames or of extinguishing them with Buddhist mantras. The number of companies able to deliver such expertise is very limited. The chief one is American and was personified for years by "Red" Adair—the movie version of his exploits (played by John Wayne himself!) was titled Hellfighters. The other main potential bidder, according to a recent letter in the London Times, is French. But would it not also be "blood for oil" to award the contract in that direction? After all, didn't the French habitually put profits in Iraq ahead of human rights and human life? More to the point, don't they still?

Interesting, that French connection. Where have I seen that before?

According to the report, the Halliburton subsidiaries, Dresser-Rand and Ingersoll Dresser Pump Co., sold material to Baghdad through French affiliates. The sales lasted from the first half of 1997 to the summer of 2000. Cheney resigned from Halliburton in August.

If Hitchens honestly wants to trumpet the humanitarian cause of liberating Iraq he should know better to attempt to defend Halliburton. I guess I’m not surprised that he couldn’t help dashing off just one more reactionary hawkish screed. What surprises me is how utterly he misses the point. It isn’t simply about what we think this war is about. It’s about Middle East perceptions of our motives and to send in Halliburton before we’ve even slapped the “Victory” label on Operation Iraqi Freedom doesn’t do so much for winning hearts and minds.

Polling people in the street on the oil issue drew some angry reactions as the Iraqi capital recovered from the destruction and the looting that followed the collapse of the old regime on April 9.

"Oil? Is that all you think about? Look at us, we have nothing, no water, no electricity, no security, we can barely eat and you think about our oil?," said a woman, too angry to give her name.

It's not about Saddam or Halliburton. It's about priorities. And when the administration prioritizes oil security over immediate basic humanitarian need they are the ones being "oleaginous."

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