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Whatever Happened to the Neocons’ Grand Schemes to Control Iraq’s Oil?

Dick Cheney thought the US occupation would see a quadrupling of Iraq's capacity to pump oil, and a privatization of its production. Not quite.

Americans have largely stopped thinking about Iraq, even though we still have approximately 110,000 troops there, as well as the largest "embassy" on the planet (and still growing). We've generally chalked up our war in Iraq to the failed past, and some Americans, after the surge of 2007, even think of it as, if not a success, at least no longer a debacle. Few care to spend much time considering the catastrophe we actually brought down on the Iraqis in "liberating" them.

Remember when we used to talk about Saddam Hussein's "killing fields"? The world of mayhem and horror that followed the U.S. invasion and occupation delivered new, even larger "killing fields" that we don't care to discuss, or that we prefer to consider the responsibility of the Iraqis themselves. Even with violence far lower today, Baghdad certainly remains one of the more dangerous cities on the planet. The bombs continue to go off there regularly and devastatingly, while the killing, even if not of American troops who rarely patrol any longer and are largely confined to their mega-bases, has not ended, not by a long shot; nor has the anger, suspicion, and depression that go with all of this.

A striking recent article in the British Guardian by reporter Martin Chulov seemed to catch something of what the U.S. actually accomplished in Iraq in a nutshell. It describes a country in "environmental ruin" (and, let's not forget, taxed with an ongoing drought of monumental proportions). The headline tells the story: "Iraq littered with high levels of nuclear and dioxin contamination, study finds." The contamination from depleted uranium weapons, bombed pipelines, and other disasters of the years of war, civil war, and chaos seems centered around Iraq's population centers and, perhaps not surprisingly, coincides with a massive rise in birth defects.

Worse yet, in all those years of occupation, the U.S., despite billions of dollars spent (or rather squandered) on "reconstruction," never managed to deliver electricity, jobs, potable water, health care, or much else. And despite many attempts, as Michael Schwartz, returning TomDispatch regular and the author of War Without End, makes clear, Washington never even got the oil out of the ground in a country that is little short of a giant oil field waiting to be developed. A remarkable record when you think about it. TomDispatch editor Tom Engelhardt

The Iraqi Oil Conundrum
Energy and Power in the Middle East
By Michael Schwartz

How the mighty have fallen. Just a few years ago, an overconfident Bush administration expected to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, pacify the country, install a compliant client government, privatize the economy, and establish Iraq as the political and military headquarters for a dominating U.S. presence in the Middle East. These successes were, in turn, expected to pave the way for ambitious goals, enshrined in the 2001 report of Vice President Dick Cheney's secretive task force on energy. That report focused on exploiting Iraq's monstrous, largely untapped energy reserves -- more than any country other than Saudi Arabia and Iran -- including the quadrupling of Iraq's capacity to pump oil and the privatization of the production process.

The dream in those distant days was to strip OPEC -- the cartel consisting of the planet's main petroleum exporters -- of the power to control the oil supply and its price on the world market. As a reward for vastly expanding Iraqi production and freeing its distribution from OPEC's control, key figures in the Bush administration imagined that the U.S. could skim off a small proportion of that increased oil production to offset the projected $40 billion cost of the invasion and occupation of the country.

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