The New York Times is shocked — shocked! — to find personal enrichment of American elites at the heart of the rape and gutting of Iraq. Who could possibly have ever foreseen such a scenario as the Times revealed on Thursday, describing how "influential American adviser" Peter Galbraith helped "ram through" highly controversial provisions in the constitution that the occupying force and its collaborators imposed – provisions that could put more than $100 million in Galbraith’s pocket.
Of course, Galbraith’s war-profiteering machinations are hardly unique; the roll call of "advisers" and officials and other insiders feasting on Iraqi corpseflesh is longer than the Mississippi, and considerably more muddy. Just this week, the Financial Times noted that another gaggle of occupation geese, "including Zalmay Khalilzad, former US ambassador to Baghdad, and Jay Garner," the first appointed satrap of the conquered land, are now cashing in on their blood-soaked connections in Iraq.
Given the fact of the rampant corruption among the murder-mongering elite, one might darkly suspect that this sudden spotlight on Galbraith could be related to the embarrassment he recently caused to the Obama administration, which ordered the UN to fire him from his special envoy post after he insisted on a full investigation of the massive fraud in the Afghan elections. (Although one can’t but wonder now if Galbraith took this principled stand only after failing to cut some juicy sweetheart deal with Hamid Karzai.)
However, although the Afghan imbroglio might have played some part in the prominence accorded the revelations by the Times (A call from Rahm to the editorial offices, perhaps: "Galbraith’s fair game now; let him have it"), the story itself was initially unearthed by journalists in Norway, investigating Galbraith’s ties to the Norwegian oil giant, DNO. And what a sordid little saga it is. As the Times notes:
Galbraith, an influential former American ambassador, is a powerful voice on Iraq who helped shape the views of policy makers like Joseph R. Biden Jr. and John Kerry. In the summer of 2005, he was also an adviser to the Kurdish regional government as Iraq wrote its Constitution — tough and sensitive talks not least because of issues like how Iraq would divide its vast oil wealth.
Now Mr. Galbraith, 58, son of the renowned economist John Kenneth Galbraith, stands to earn perhaps a hundred million or more dollars as a result of his closeness to the Kurds, his relations with a Norwegian oil company and constitutional provisions he helped the Kurds extract.
In the constitutional negotiations, he helped the Kurds ram through provisions that gave their region — rather than the central Baghdad government — sole authority over many of their internal affairs, including clauses that he maintains will give the Kurds virtually complete control over all new oil finds on their territory….
[The investigations] reveal in considerable detail that he received rights to an enormous stake in at least one of Kurdistan’s oil fields in the spring of 2004. As it turns out, Mr. Galbraith received the rights after he helped negotiate a potentially lucrative contract that allowed the Norwegian oil company DNO to drill for oil in the promising Dohuk region of Kurdistan, the interviews and documents show…
When drillers struck oil in a rich new field called Tawke in December 2005, no one but a handful of government and business officials and members of Mr. Galbraith’s inner circle knew that the constitutional provisions he had pushed through only months earlier could enrich him so handsomely.
As the scope of Mr. Galbraith’s financial interests in Kurdistan become clear, they have the potential to inflame some of Iraqis’ deepest fears, including conspiracy theories that the true reason for the American invasion of their country was to take its oil. It may not help that outside Kurdistan, Mr. Galbraith’s influential view that Iraq should be broken up along ethnic lines is considered offensive to many Iraqis’ nationalism.
Oh, our good Gray Lady! She just can’t help herself, can she? Even as the Times publishes an actually excellent story outlining vile corruption in high places, it is still fretfully anxious to assure its readers that America’s intentions are always pure, always good, despite any "mistakes" or the inevitable "bad apples." Hence the reference to Iraqi "conspiracy theories" that the American invasion was about taking their oil.
Poor little primitives. Of course it wasn’t just about taking their oil. As the Times’ own Thomas Friedman tells us (via Arthur Silber), it was also about America’s need "to hit someone in the Arab-Muslim world" to assert its dominance. It was also about "the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf [which] transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein," as the elitist faction PNAC told us back in September 2000 (along with their open yearning for a "new Pearl Harbor" to "catalyze" the American people into support the militarist agenda). It was also about the hundreds of billions of dollars in government pork and outright graft that the invasion and occupation have provided to a select and powerful few. It was about our elites’ profound psychological and sexual anxieties that evidently cannot be quelled without resort to violence, destruction, repression and mass death inflicted on innocent people. No, the American invasion of Iraq was about a lot of other things besides "taking their oil."
But by God, taking their oil was sure enough a great big part of it. The recent Jay Garner story has that black gold at its corroded heart as well, as the FT reports:
Mr Garner, the de-facto US governor of Iraq after the war, sat on the board of Vast Exploration when it bought 37 per cent of a Kurdistan oil block two years ago and remains an adviser to the Canadian company. “Jay is very well known in Kurdistan and Iraq and it was useful to the company,” said a spokesman for Vast.
This kind of war profiteering goes back to the very beginnings of the illegal war of aggression — and it goes up to the very top. For example, here’s a piece I wrote way back in December 2003, about the Bush family’s direct involvement in blood money. In detailing the cornucopia of dodgy, dirty dealing that is Neil Bush, I noted this:
Now comes the sweetest deal of all – enriched by the blood sugar seeping out from the bodies of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. Yes, Neil has dipped his silver spoon into the reconstruction gravy being ladled out by his brother George, the White House warlord. Neil is now being paid a fat annual fee to "help companies secure contracts in Iraq," the Financial Times reports.
Bush is co-chairman of a pork funnel called Crest Investment Corporation. His partner, Jamal Daniel, is wired into the chief private conduit of war profits, New Bridge Strategies, a lobbying firm packed with Bush family retainers, many of whom left government service this spring to leap into the Iraq money pit. And what does Neil do to earn his crust of bloodsoaked bread? He told the divorce court that he "answers the phone when Jamal Daniel calls to ask for advice."
And what does Jamal Daniel get out of this unusual arrangement? Why, he gets to say, "I was just talking to my partner, the president’s brother" when he’s negotiating with Bush administration officials to win "reconstruction" contracts for his clients. As long as Brother George keeps tossing cannon fodder into the Iraqi cauldron, Brother Neil will keep padding his fat Bush wallet.
[For an update on Bush’s exemplary life of elitist money-grubbing, see "The Anguish of the Overlords."]
Like Bush, Galbraith is a paradigm of how the system really works — and how it is meant to work. Public service, private enrichment, principled stands, backroom dealing — it’s all one thing to our great and good. And behind it all is a willingness (when it is not an eagerness) to have many thousands upon thousands of people die, and many millions more suffer torment, ruin and grief, to keep the system’s beneficiaries in their wonted, wadded place of power and privilege.