Naomi Klein reports:
'The people of Iraq are free," declared U.S. President George W. Bush in Tuesday's State of the Union address. The day before, 100,000 Iraqis begged to differ. They took to the streets of Baghdad shouting "Yes, yes to elections. No, no to selection."
According to Iraq occupation chief Paul Bremer, there really is no difference between the White House's version of freedom, and the one being demanded on the street. Asked on Friday whether his plan to form an Iraqi government through appointed caucuses was headed toward a clash with Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's call for direct elections, Mr. Bremer said he had no "fundamental disagreement with him."
It was, he said, a mere quibble over details. "I don't want to go into the technical details of refinements. There are, if you talk to experts in these matters, all kinds of ways to organize partial elections and caucuses. And I'm not an election expert, so I don't want to go into the details. But we've always said we're willing to consider refinements."
I'm not an election expert either, but I'm pretty sure there are differences here than cannot be refined. Ayatollah al-Sistani's supporters want every Iraqi to have a vote, and for the people they elect to write the laws of the country -- your basic, imperfect, representative democracy.
Mr. Bremer wants his Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to appoint the members of 18 regional organizing committees. The committees will then select delegates to form 18 selection caucuses. These selected delegates will then further select representatives to a transitional national assembly. The assembly will have an internal vote to select an executive and ministers who will form the new government of Iraq. That, Bush said in his address, constitutes "a transition to full Iraqi sovereignty."
Got that? Iraqi sovereignty will be established by appointees appointing appointees to select appointees to select appointees. Add to that the fact that Mr. Bremer was appointed to his post by President Bush and that Mr. Bush was appointed to his by the U.S. Supreme Court, and you have the glorious new democratic tradition of the appointocracy: rule by appointee's appointee's appointees' appointees' appointees' selectees.
The White House insists that its aversion to elections is purely practical: there just isn't time to pull them off before the June 30 deadline. So why have the deadline? The most common explanation is that Bush needs "a braggable" on the campaign trail: When his Democratic rival raises the specter of Vietnam, Mr. Bush will reply that the occupation is over, we're on our way out.
Except that the United States has absolutely no intention of actually getting out of Iraq. It wants its troops to remain, and it wants Bechtel, MCI and Halliburton to stay behind and run the water system, the phones and the oil fields. It was with this goal in mind that, on Sept. 19, Mr. Bremer pushed through a package of sweeping economic reforms that The Economist described as a "capitalist dream."
But the dream, though still alive, is now in peril. A growing number of legal experts are challenging the legitimacy of Mr. Bremer's reforms, arguing that under the international laws that govern occupying powers -- the Hague Regulations of 1907 and the 1949 Geneva Conventions -- the CPA can only act as a caretaker of Iraq's economic assets, not as its auctioneer. Radical changes such as Mr. Bremer's Order 39, which opened up Iraqi industry to 100 per cent foreign ownership, violate these laws and could therefore be easily overturned by a sovereign Iraqi government.
That prospect has foreign investors seriously spooked, and many are opting not to go into Iraq. The major private insurance brokers are also sitting it out, having assessed Iraq as too great an expropriation risk. Mr. Bremer has responded by quietly canceling his announced plan to privatize Iraq's 200 state firms, instead putting up 35 companies for lease (with a later option to buy). For the White House, the only way for its grand economic plan to continue is for its military occupation to end: only a sovereign Iraqi government, unbound by the Hague and Geneva Regulations, can legally sell off Iraq's assets.
But will it? Given the widespread perception that the United States is not out to rebuild Iraq but to loot it, if Iraqis were given the chance to vote tomorrow, they could well immediately decide to expel U.S. troops and to reverse Mr. Bremer's privatization project, opting instead to protect local jobs. And that frightening prospect -- far more than the absence of a census -- explains why the White House is fighting so hard for its appointocracy.
Under the current U.S. plan for Iraq, the transitional national assembly would hold onto power from June 30 until general elections are held no later than Dec. 31, 2005. That's 17 leisurely months for a non-elected government to do what the CPA could not legally do on its own: invite U.S. troops to stay indefinitely and turn Mr. Bremer's capitalist dream into binding law. Only after these key decisions have been made will Iraqis be invited to have their say. The White House calls this self-rule. It is, in fact, the very definition of outside-rule, occupation through outsourcing.
That means that the world is once again facing a choice about Iraq. Will its democracy emerge stillborn, with foreign troops dug in on its territory, multinationals locked into multiyear contracts controlling key resources, and an entrenched economic program that has already left 60-70 per cent of the population unemployed? Or will its democracy be born with its heart still beating, capable of building the country Iraqis choose?
On one side are the occupation forces. On the other are growing movements demanding economic and voter rights in Iraq. Increasingly, occupying forces are responding to these movements by using fatal force to break up demonstrations, as British soldiers did in Amarah earlier this month, killing six. Yes, there are religious fundamentalists and Saddam loyalists capitalizing on the rage in Iraq, but the very existence of these pro-democracy movements is itself a kind of miracle: After 30 years of dictatorship, war, sanctions and, now, occupation, it would certainly be understandable if Iraqis met further hardships with fatalism and resignation. Instead, the violence of Mr. Bremer's shock therapy appears to have jolted tens of thousands into action.
Their courage deserves our support. Last week, at the World Social Forum in Mumbai, India, author and activist Arundhati Roy called on the global forces that opposed the Iraq war to "become the global resistance to the occupation." She suggested choosing "two of the major corporations that are profiting from the destruction of Iraq" and targeting them for boycotts and civil disobedience.
In his State of the Union address, President Bush said, "I believe that God has planted in every heart the desire to live in freedom. And even when that desire is crushed by tyranny for decades, it will rise again." He is being proven right in Iraq every day -- and the rising voices are chanting, "No, no U.S.A. Yes, yes elections."
Thursday, January 22, 2004
Naomi Klein reports:
Sunday, January 11, 2004
O'Neill Tells '60 Minutes' Iraq Was 'Topic A' 8 Months Before 9/11
"From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go." ~Paul O'Neill
A year ago, Paul O'Neill was fired from his job as George Bush's Treasury Secretary for disagreeing too many times with the president's policy on tax cuts.
Now, O'Neill - who is known for speaking his mind - talks for the first time about his two years inside the Bush administration. His story is the centerpiece of a new book being published this week about the way the Bush White House is run.
Entitled "The Price of Loyalty," the book by a former Wall Street Journal reporter draws on interviews with high-level officials who gave the author their personal accounts of meetings with the president, their notes and documents. [Simon and Schuster, the book's publisher, and CBSNews.com, are both units of Viacom.]
But the main source of the book was Paul O'Neill. Correspondent Lesley Stahl reports.
Paul O'Neill says he is going public because he thinks the Bush Administration has been too secretive about how decisions have been made.
Will this be seen as a “kiss-and-tell" book?
“I've come to believe that people will say damn near anything, so I'm sure somebody will say all of that and more,” says O’Neill, who was George Bush's top economic policy official.
In the book, O’Neill says that the president did not make decisions in a methodical way: there was no free-flow of ideas or open debate.
At cabinet meetings, he says the president was "like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people. There is no discernible connection," forcing top officials to act "on little more than hunches about what the president might think."
This is what O'Neill says happened at his first hour-long, one-on-one meeting with Mr. Bush: “I went in with a long list of things to talk about, and I thought to engage on and as the book says, I was surprised that it turned out me talking, and the president just listening … As I recall, it was mostly a monologue.”
He also says that President Bush was disengaged, at least on domestic issues, and that disturbed him. And he says that wasn't his experience when he worked as a top official under Presidents Nixon and Ford, or the way he ran things when he was chairman of Alcoa.
O'Neill readily agreed to tell his story to the book's author Ron Suskind – and he adds that he's taking no money for his part in the book.
Suskind says he interviewed hundreds of people for the book – including several cabinet members.
O'Neill is the only one who spoke on the record, but Suskind says that someone high up in the administration – Donald Rumsfeld - warned O’Neill not to do this book.
Was it a warning, or a threat?
“I don't think so. I think it was the White House concerned,” says Suskind. “Understandably, because O'Neill has spent extraordinary amounts of time with the president. They said, ‘This could really be the one moment where things are revealed.’"
Not only did O'Neill give Suskind his time, he gave him 19,000 internal documents.
“Everything's there: Memoranda to the President, handwritten "thank you" notes, 100-page documents. Stuff that's sensitive,” says Suskind, adding that in some cases, it included transcripts of private, high-level National Security Council meetings. “You don’t get higher than that.”
And what happened at President Bush's very first National Security Council meeting is one of O'Neill's most startling revelations.
“From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,” says O’Neill, who adds that going after Saddam was topic "A" 10 days after the inauguration - eight months before Sept. 11.
“From the very first instance, it was about Iraq. It was about what we can do to change this regime,” says Suskind. “Day one, these things were laid and sealed.”
As treasury secretary, O'Neill was a permanent member of the National Security Council. He says in the book he was surprised at the meeting that questions such as "Why Saddam?" and "Why now?" were never asked.
"It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The president saying ‘Go find me a way to do this,’" says O’Neill. “For me, the notion of pre-emption, that the U.S. has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do, is a really huge leap.”
And that came up at this first meeting, says O’Neill, who adds that the discussion of Iraq continued at the next National Security Council meeting two days later.
He got briefing materials under this cover sheet. “There are memos. One of them marked, secret, says, ‘Plan for post-Saddam Iraq,’" adds Suskind, who says that they discussed an occupation of Iraq in January and February of 2001.
Based on his interviews with O'Neill and several other officials at the meetings, Suskind writes that the planning envisioned peacekeeping troops, war crimes tribunals, and even divvying up Iraq's oil wealth.
He obtained one Pentagon document, dated March 5, 2001, and entitled "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield contracts," which includes a map of potential areas for exploration.
“It talks about contractors around the world from, you know, 30-40 countries. And which ones have what intentions,” says Suskind. “On oil in Iraq.”
During the campaign, candidate Bush had criticized the Clinton-Gore Administration for being too interventionist: "If we don't stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we're going to have a serious problem coming down the road. And I'm going to prevent that."
“The thing that's most surprising, I think, is how emphatically, from the very first, the administration had said ‘X’ during the campaign, but from the first day was often doing ‘Y,’” says Suskind. “Not just saying ‘Y,’ but actively moving toward the opposite of what they had said during the election.”
The president had promised to cut taxes, and he did. Within six months of taking office, he pushed a trillion dollars worth of tax cuts through Congress.
But O'Neill thought it should have been the end. After 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan, the budget deficit was growing. So at a meeting with the vice president after the mid-term elections in 2002, Suskind writes that O'Neill argued against a second round of tax cuts.
“Cheney, at this moment, shows his hand,” says Suskind. “He says, ‘You know, Paul, Reagan proved that deficits don't matter. We won the mid-term elections, this is our due.’ … O'Neill is speechless.”
”It was not just about not wanting the tax cut. It was about how to use the nation's resources to improve the condition of our society,” says O’Neill. “And I thought the weight of working on Social Security and fundamental tax reform was a lot more important than a tax reduction.”
Did he think it was irresponsible? “Well, it's for sure not what I would have done,” says O’Neill.
The former treasury secretary accuses Vice President Dick Cheney of not being an honest broker, but, with a handful of others, part of "a praetorian guard that encircled the president" to block out contrary views. "This is the way Dick likes it," says O’Neill.
Meanwhile, the White House was losing patience with O'Neill. He was becoming known for a series of off-the-cuff remarks his critics called gaffes. One of them sent the dollar into a nosedive and required major damage control.
Twice during stock market meltdowns, O'Neill was not available to the president: He was out of the country - one time on a trip to Africa with the Irish rock star Bono.
“Africa made an enormous splash. It was like a road show,” says Suskind. “He comes back and the president says to him at a meeting, ‘You know, you're getting quite a cult following.’ And it clearly was not a joke. And it was not said in jest.”
Suskind writes that the relationship grew tenser and that the president even took a jab at O'Neill in public, at an economic forum in Texas.
The two men were never close. And O'Neill was not amused when Mr. Bush began calling him "The Big O." He thought the president's habit of giving people nicknames was a form of bullying. Everything came to a head for O'Neill at a November 2002 meeting at the White House of the economic team.
“It's a huge meeting. You got Dick Cheney from the, you know, secure location on the video. The President is there,” says Suskind, who was given a nearly verbatim transcript by someone who attended the meeting.
He says everyone expected Mr. Bush to rubber stamp the plan under discussion: a big new tax cut. But, according to Suskind, the president was perhaps having second thoughts about cutting taxes again, and was uncharacteristically engaged.
“He asks, ‘Haven't we already given money to rich people? This second tax cut's gonna do it again,’” says Suskind.
“He says, ‘Didn’t we already, why are we doing it again?’ Now, his advisers, they say, ‘Well Mr. President, the upper class, they're the entrepreneurs. That's the standard response.’ And the president kind of goes, ‘OK.’ That's their response. And then, he comes back to it again. ‘Well, shouldn't we be giving money to the middle, won't people be able to say, ‘You did it once, and then you did it twice, and what was it good for?’"
But according to the transcript, White House political advisor Karl Rove jumped in.
“Karl Rove is saying to the president, a kind of mantra. ‘Stick to principle. Stick to principle.’ He says it over and over again,” says Suskind. “Don’t waver.”
In the end, the president didn't. And nine days after that meeting in which O'Neill made it clear he could not publicly support another tax cut, the vice president called and asked him to resign.
With the deficit now climbing towards $400 billion, O'Neill maintains he was in the right.
But look at the economy today.
“Yes, well, in the last quarter the growth rate was 8.2 percent. It was terrific,” says O’Neill. “I think the tax cut made a difference. But without the tax cut, we would have had 6 percent real growth, and the prospect of dealing with transformation of Social Security and fundamentally fixing the tax system. And to me, those were compelling competitors for, against more tax cuts.”
While in the book O'Neill comes off as constantly appalled at Mr. Bush, he was surprised when Stahl told him she found his portrait of the president unflattering.
“Hmmm, you really think so,” asks O’Neill, who says he isn’t joking. “Well, I’ll be darned.”
“You're giving me the impression that you're just going to be stunned if they attack you for this book,” says Stahl to O’Neill. “And they're going to say, I predict, you know, it's sour grapes. He's getting back because he was fired.”
“I will be really disappointed if they react that way because I think they'll be hard put to,” says O’Neill.
Is he prepared for it?
“Well, I don't think I need to be because I can't imagine that I'm going to be attacked for telling the truth,” says O’Neill. “Why would I be attacked for telling the truth?”
White House spokesman Scott McClellan was asked about the book on Friday and said "The president is someone that leads and acts decisively on our biggest priorities and that is exactly what he'll continue to do."
Wednesday, January 7, 2004
The Christian Science Monitorreports:
"There are two things you don't want to see being made," German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck reputedly said. "Sausage and legislation." The mad-cow episode in the United States illustrates that quip as no other story in recent memory.
Americans today are learning far more than they ever wanted to know about the process of turning cows into thousands of products that even a hard-core vegan would have trouble avoiding - cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, fire-extinguisher foam, lubricants, the glue that holds plywood together. Not to mention the steaks, roasts, hamburger, and other meat items that human carnivores regularly devour.
The process is necessarily violent and mechanical, involving slicing, grinding, and high-pressure blasting and compression. It's much safer than it was years ago - both for slaughterhouse and meat- processing workers, as well as for consumers. But it has also run the risk of mixing the potentially disease-causing parts of the cow (brain, spinal cord, and parts of the intestine) into the muscle meat and other food products - including sausage - that many Americans eat every day. Meat from the infected Holstein was mixed in with 20,000 pounds from other cows before being shipped to market.
Some doctors now suspect that people diagnosed with Alzheimer's may in fact have the human version of the neurological disease, which incubates years before appearing in the form of mental and physical degeneration. No one knows for sure if there is any possible link to animals with bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE (the scientific name for mad-cow disease), however. That's because until now the inspection system for cattle headed for the slaughterhouse has been relatively minimal.
The other part of von Bismarck's comment has also been illustrated in the mad-cow story. That's the way federal laws have been crafted to deal with a $175 million industry that feeds millions here and abroad while providing hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Cattle interests have given more than $20 million to political campaigns since 1990, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Although the GOP has received about 80 percent of this largess, Democrats and Republicans alike - most from farm and ranching states - have been recipients.
Meanwhile, many top Bush appointees in the US Agriculture Department (USDA) come from the industry. Secretary Ann Veneman's chief of staff is the former chief lobbyist for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, one of Washington's most powerful special-interest groups. The department's spokeswoman was the trade group's director of public relations.
Some say that having former beef- industry officials in senior positions brings a high level of expertise to the job. But critics claim that industry influence has led to the following: Defeats for federal-budget increases aimed at ramping up inspections. Loopholes in the Food and Drug Administration's 1997 ban on the use of cattle remains as an ingredient in feed for ruminants (cows, goats, and sheep). And a refusal - until now - to restrict the practice of allowing "downed" cattle (those injured or too sick to stand) as part of the food chain.
Five years after the 1997 ban, the General Accounting Office (the investigative arm of Congress) criticized the FDA for laxness in policing the use of cattle remains to feed other livestock.
"BSE may be silently incubating somewhere in the United States," the GAO warned in 2002. "If that is the case, then FDA's failure to enforce the feed ban may already have placed US herds and, in turn, human food supply at risk."
Critics say the USDA in particular has a conflict of interest. It's supposed to promote US agriculture while also protecting the health and safety of those who consume farm products.
Up until now, it seems the weight of this balance has favored the industry. But the USDA's quick response to the mad-cow scare is seen by all parties as moving the political scale back toward consumer protection. Last week, the USDA moved to restrict "mechanically separated beef" and ban the use of "downed" cattle for human food. And this week, federal officials announced plans to destroy 450 calves in Sunnyside, Wash., including a calf born to the heifer infected with BSE.
"Excluding cattle brains, eyes, spinal cord, and guts from the human food supply is certainly a step in the right direction," says Michael Greger, a medical doctor who studies BSE for animal rights and consumer groups. "Unfortunately," he adds, "the US still feeds those potentially risky tissues to pigs, pets, and poultry."
At the same time - more bad news for those who'd rather not know the origins of their sausage - the litter from chicken coops (grain, feathers, and manure) still can be swept up and fed to cattle under the new regulations. "The major concern in feeding rendered cattle remains to other animals," says Dr. Greger, "is that the cattle remains may directly, or indirectly, find their way back into cattle feed, which could potentially spark a British-style outbreak of mad-cow disease."
Friday, January 2, 2004
In The Nation, Aram Roston reports:
David Horgan opposed the war on Iraq, but in other ways he is an antiwar protester's worst nightmare: The oil executive freely admits that he is in the bombed-out country "for greed and glory." His goal is a mammoth oil deal for the small Irish company he works for, Petrel Resources. Still, amid the shooting and kidnappings and chaos, the wiry 43-year-old Irishman says he will be satisfied with even crumbs. "A crumb in Iraq," he says eagerly, eyes widening, "would be hundreds of millions of dollars at present value. It is high risk, in every sense, but it is an excellent play."
Horgan is no newcomer to Iraq and to this particular "play." He dealt with the administration of Saddam Hussein and he is willing to do business with whoever comes next, even a US puppet, as he believes it will be. "We'll deal with the puppet," he said one day at the Baghdad Sheraton, as a group of Nepalese Gurkha warriors clomped past loaded with body armor and rifles. "Any puppet will have exactly the same objectives and worries. His first priority is to get the oil flowing." That may sound cynical, but at least it sounds honest--which is more, as Horgan points out, than the Bush Administration can say about its justification for invading Iraq.
A little time with Horgan in Baghdad opens up a window on one of the most important but confusing elements of postwar Iraq: the upcoming battle for control of its vast oil reserves. Before the war, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously announced that this war had "literally nothing to do with oil," while antiwar protesters chanted "no blood for oil," in the streets. Since then there has been very much blood, and surprisingly little oil. New exploration of Iraq's untapped fields is at a virtual standstill; the repair of the old fields has been notoriously slow. A little-known statistic: According to international oil traders, the United States is currently importing 500,000 barrels of Iraqi oil per day (a type of oil charmingly called "Basrah Light"), down from more than 700,000 per day last February, before the war started. I caught up with Horgan one day outside the Iraqi Oil Ministry. He was dressed in a gray suit that flapped in the dry hot wind. More and more, amid the chaos, power over oil seems to be slipping back into the hands of the Iraqi bureaucracy. The ministry is an eleven-story edifice of the typical squat Stalinist design, the color of desert dirt. The place is bristling with coils of razor wire slung like giant slinkies, and a machine-gun bunker protected by sandbags is set on each side of the entrance. Inside it has the bustling ambience of a run-down betting parlor. Most maps and contracts are off-limits, and mustached bodyguards lounge about on the plush executive floor, with pistols of various makes and calibers in their belts.
But there are rarities here, tidbits of information that would make an oilman's nose twitch. The well-lit library is full of dusty tomes with titles like The Sedementology of the Euphrates Formation and Floraminera and Biostratratology of Some Late Cretacean Sediment of Northern Iraq. That day Horgan was dropping off a series of seismic readings he had carried back with him to Ireland from the last visit, and he was picking up some large-scale maps, which, he said, "had heretofore been military secrets, believe it or not."
Perhaps Horgan finds it easy to do business in Iraq because the bombed-out buildings of Baghdad and the nightly shootings and explosions are somewhat reminiscent of the Belfast of his youth. He and the other children would throw rocks at the British soldiers, he said. "Sometimes they'd charge at you in the armored vehicles and scatter the kids." In 1999, Horgan and other Petrel executives made their first visit to Baghdad, where they joined the herd of international companies tugging at Saddam Hussein's sleeve. Sure, UN sanctions were in place, but companies were jostling for position when the walls eventually would come tumbling down. The Iraqis were glad to talk. "More than eighty-five companies were negotiating with us at that time," recalled Ali Hammadi, an executive at the Iraqi Oil Ministry. In an interview, he dressed in a well-ironed blue shirt and sat behind an expansive wooden desk. Through the window was a view of the sprawling derelict Iraqi Olympic compound once headed by Saddam Hussein's son Uday. "We had plans, tremendous plans," Hammadi said, waving his hand to show the size. Hammadi has a cosmopolitan air and wears tinted glasses. "I negotiated with Russians, Italians, Germans and Canadians." Even American firms pursued their prospects, through European interests, as did the Chinese, the Indonesians and the Indians.
Ali Hammadi says many of the shoppers in this international oil bazaar were interested in a vast region known only as the "Western Desert"--inhabited by nomadic tribesman and virtually unexplored. The Western Desert is what one international oil consultant, his voice mockingly falling to a worshipful murmur, called the "Holy Grail" of the oil industry. Iraqi oil is miraculously cheap to pump out of the ground, costing about a dollar a barrel. Iraqis in general seem to have a touch of pride about their oil. "It comes up to the ground," one man told me, smiling. "I've seen it seeping up." Another one laughed one day: "You put a pipe in the ground and oil comes out." The chief wells are to the North, near Kirkuk, where sabotage keeps production down, and to the South, near Basra. But the Western Desert offers untold riches. Horgan says Petrel Resources reached an agreement under Saddam to explore a chunk of the Western Desert known as Block 6. It was, he says, signed by a high-ranking Iraqi official, although, crucially, it was not ratified by Saddam Hussein. "We think it's a valid agreement," he insists.
Iraq's current American rulers are studiously noncommittal about contracts signed under Saddam. For to understand Iraqi oil development, it's clear that there is not just the one Iraqi Oil Ministry but a parallel "shadow" ministry run by American advisers. To get to the Coalition Provisional Authority's shadow ministry of oil requires a trip to the "Green Zone"--a giant sprawl smack in the middle of Baghdad. Here, one would have no idea that Iraq is populated by Iraqis. At the perimeter, an Iraqi man manages to wander through toting a shopping bag with bootleg pornographic DVDs for sale, but on this compound air-conditioned minibuses take US contractors and soldiers and civilian government officials to their work sites. There is a three-mile running track, a swimming pool, a fitness center, even a barber shop and beauty salon run by Halliburton's Kellogg Brown & Root. And deep inside Saddam Hussein's former palace, where the top coalition supervisors have burrowed in, is the bustling air-conditioned office where the American advisers run their oil operation. They are on personal-services contracts, like hockey players who have signed to a team. One man, who spoke on condition of anonymity, dismissed Horgan's claims of an agreement with a shake of his head. "A lot of people believe they have agreements," he said. Which is to say, in reality, that no one knows what will happen to the deals made before the invasion. The CPA says that any contract that violated the old UN rules is illegal, but that leaves a lot of wiggle room.
David Horgan doesn't care what the coalition thinks in any case. "The weird thing is," he said, "the CPA, they have no clue. They never go anywhere. They never go out. We ignore them. Why would we even talk to the coalition?" He has never ventured into the Green Zone. Much of the world thought the war would result in a flurry of business activity, with the world's oil giants sweeping through Iraq like a killer whale through a school of fat salmon. That didn't happen. One reason is that it's probably the most dangerous place in the world for an oil executive right now. The Exxons and the Shells and BPs don't want to deal with the physical risk to their executives. In the barricaded hotels that house expatriates there are a swarm of former Gurkhas, French Foreign Legionnaires and Special Forces veterans trained in every army between New Zealand to the Netherlands. Still, the supply doesn't meet the threat. Horgan is one of the few Western oilmen to be found in Iraq, and he shuns the security guards, whom he dismisses as goons and mercenaries. "They're going to draw attention to you. The best thing is just to use humor, make eye contact with people, smile at them."
Horgan's happy theory is that the rebels who have been attacking US troops and their allies use discretion: "The working assumption is that there's some sort of discipline and control over these rebels and they distinguish between friendly neutrals and coalition nationals." He nodded, "That's our working assumption."
But an even more significant reason the big boys from the oil industry are staying clear is the legal black hole into which they'd be stepping. After all, until there is a legitimate sovereign government in Iraq, it is unclear whether any new long-term oil exploration deals will stand. As one American attached to Paul Bremer's shadow ministry told me one day, "We're not a legitimate government." That means most of that untouched oil underneath the desert sand is off-limits--and all the oil giants can only stare, like alcoholics looking at liquor bottles in a shuttered shop. No one, at present, has the shop keys.