Saturday, June 19, 2010

BP and Iraq: Same Story, Different Details

Twin Oil Disasters: BP and Iraq
Bloody Friday in Iraq Leaves 27 Dead, over 80 Wounded

By Juan Cole / June 19, 2010

The wave of violence in Iraq on Friday, wherein guerrillas killed at least 27 and wounded dozens, underlined how fragile the country still is. In many ways, American Iraq resembles BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil gusher. In the cases both of Iraq and of Deepwater Horizon, oil men were trying to get a big reserves of petroleum that had earlier been out of their reach. Iraq’s 115 billion barrels of oil had been put off limits by sanctions pushed for in Congress by, among others, the Israel lobbies. The Deepwater Horzizon lay deep under the Gulf of Mexico, under a mile of water and 2 further miles of the earth’s crust– the deepest oil well in history.

In both Iraq and Deepwater Horizon, corners were cut and the people behind them tried to succeed on the cheap. Instead of nearly half a million troops in post-war Iraq, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sent a little over 100,000, and they could not keep order. Instead of a whole range of safety measures on the Deepwater Horizon rig, BP made do with no relief well and skimped on a number of other key pieces of equipment.

Both Iraq and Deepwater Horizon are long-term catastrophes. Iraq has been destabilized into the foreseeable future. By the definition of the University of Michigan’s Correlates of War project headed by the late David Singer, Iraq is still in a civil war, with civilian deaths likely to range between 3000 and 4000 this year. Despite holding parliamentary elections on March 7, Iraq has been unable to form a government and there is not one in sight. There was no plan B once the Neoconservative fantasy of installing Ahmad Chalabi as a soft dictator was revealed as completely impractical. And, the US military is leaving Iraq a waste dump of toxic materials. Likewise, BP had no plan B once its rig blew up and killed 11 crewmen. Top kill, junk shot, etc., all failed. Millions of gallons of petroleum have jetted into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening it with dead zones and extensive damage to coastal marshes. The damage, as with Iraq, will last for many years.

Both the Iraq tragedy and the BP tragedy are testimonies to greed and hubris. They speak of gigantic endeavors undertaken with insufficient forethought and too few resources. They are enterprises that made a handful of ruthless men wealthy, and impoverished everyone else. In the cutting of corners for short term petty profit, in the extractive determination, in the disregard for any rule of law or prudent regulations, these two projects were both stamped with the personality of Dick Cheney (who met with energy corporations and worked tirelessly to remove them from regulatory oversight, so that he is at the matrix of both disasters).

Neither the Iraq catastrophe nor the BP calamity would have happened if we developed alternative forms of energy to replace petroleum.

Many of the attacks in Iraq on Friday took the form of reprisals by militant Sunni Arabs against what they see as collaborators, and some targeted Iraqi and US troops.

Near the Syrian border at Qa’im, gunmen killed 7 Iraqi soldiers at a checkpoint. Since caretaker Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has repeatedly blamed Syria for harboring Baathist Iraqi officers, the Qaim attack may well again inflame passions between Baghdad and Damascus.

In Fallujah, guerrillas fired a rocket at a US military base but it landed on three civilian houses and kill 4 persons and wounded 7. Those who want to put a US military base in Fallujah for the long term should keep in mind two words: in and coming.

In Tuz Khurmato north of Baghdad, the scene of much past violence, guerrillas set off a car bomb that killed 8 persons and wounded 69– with most of the casualties being women. The bombing may have targeted the home of Niazar Nomaroglu, a Turkmen provincial councillor.

Another target, in Salahuddin province, had been a translator for the Us military. He was killed as a collaborator by members of his own family. His plight increased the dread of many Iraqis who cooperated with US troops. There are now only 90,000, down from a peak of 160,00, and the number is headed for 50,000 this fall. As their numbers dwindle, both they and their Iraqi allies become more vulnerable.

Source / Informed Comment

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