Oil-Slick Jim Moves In

Editor's Note: This piece is excerpted from the new edition of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (Plume), by Greg Palast.

I usually avoid the New York Times, but lately it's become a compulsion, though only for the new daily column titled, "Names of the Dead." Today's listing: "DERVISHI, Ervin, 21, Pfc, Army. Fort Worth."

I'm not one of those cynics who thought Bush sent us into to Iraq for the oil. To me, Saddam Hussein was always a Kurd-killing cockroach with a Hitlerian mustache. I never liked the guy -- not even when he worked for George Bush Sr.

It's worth going over the work the Butcher of Baghdad did for his Texas patrons when he was their butcher:

  • 1979: Seizes power with U.S. approval; moves allegiance from Soviets to U.S. in Cold War.

  • 1980: Invades Iran, then the "Unicycle of Evil," with U.S. encouragement and arms. (In fairness, credit here goes to Nobel Peace Laureate, James Carter.)

  • 1982: Bush-Reagan regime removes Saddam's regime from official U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

  • 1983: Saddam hosts Donald Rumsfeld in Baghdad. Agrees to "go steady" with U.S. corporate suppliers.

  • 1984: U.S. Commerce Department issues license for export of aflatoxin to Iraq useable in biological weapons.

  • 1988: Gasses Kurds in Halabja, Iraq.

  • 1987-88: U.S. warships destroy Iranian oil platforms in Gulf and break Iranian blockade of Iraq shipping lanes, tipping war advantage back to Saddam.

  • 1990: Invades Kuwait with U.S. permission.

U.S. permission? On July 25, 1990, the dashing dictator met in Baghdad with U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie. When Saddam asked Glaspie if the U.S. would object to an attack on Kuwait over the small emirate's theft of Iraqi oil, the ambassador told him, "We have no opinion.... Secretary [of State James] Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction ... that Kuwait is not associated with America." Saddam taped her.

Glaspie, in her 1991 Congressional testimony, did not deny the authenticity of the recording, which diplomats worldwide took as a Bush Sr's okay to an Iraqi invasion.

So where is Secretary Baker today? On the lam, hiding in deserved shame? Doing penance by nursing the victims of Gulf War Syndrome? No, Mr. Baker is a successful lawyer, founder of Baker Botts of Houston, Riyadh, Kazakhstan. Among his glittering client roster is Exxon-Mobil oil and the defense minister of Saudi Arabia. Baker's firm is protecting the Saudi royal from a lawsuit by the families of the victims of September 11 over evidence suggesting that Saudi money ended up in the pockets of the terrorists.

And Baker has just opened a new office ... at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This is a White House first: the first time a lobbyist for the oil industry will have a desk right next to the President's. Baker's job, to "restructure" Iraq's debt. How lucky for his clients in Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom claims $30.7 billion due from Iraq.

If you remember, Henry Kissinger ran away from appointment to the September 11 Commission with his consulting firm tucked between his legs after the U.S. Senate demanded he reveal his client list. In the case of Jim Baker, our elected Congress had no chance to ask him who is paying his firm nor even require him to get off conflicting payrolls.

To get around the wee issue of conflicts galore, the White House crafted a neat little subterfuge. The official press release says the President has not appointed Mr. Baker. Rather Mr. Bush is "responding to a request from the Iraqi Governing Council." That is, Bush is acting on the authority of the puppet government he imposed on Iraqis at gunpoint.

Why is our President so concerned with the wishes of Mr. Baker's clientele? What does Bush owe Baker?

It was Baker, as consigliore to the Bush family, who came up with the strategy of maneuvering the 2000 Florida vote count into a Supreme Court packed with politicos.

Over the years, Jim Baker has taken responsibility for putting bread on the Bush family table. As Senior Counsel to Carlyle, the arms-dealing investment group, Baker arranged for the firm to hire both President Bush 41 after he was booted from the White House and President Bush 43 while his daddy was still in office.

We know why Jim Baker is in the White House. But what was Private Dervishi doing in harm's way in Iraq? Saddam was already in the slammer and Iraq "liberated" nearly a year.

The answer came to me in a confidential document that oozed out of Foggy Bottom, 100 pages from the State Department's secret "Iraq Strategy." It's all about the "post-conflict" economy of Iraq written well before Americans were told we would have a conflict there.

There's nothing in the Iraq Strategy about democracy or voting. But there's plenty of detail about creating a free-market Disneyland in Mesopotamia, with "all" state assets -- and that's just about everything in that nation -- to be sold off to corporate powers. The Bush team secret program ordered: "... asset sales, concessions, leases and management contracts, especially those in the oil and supporting industries."

The Strategy lays out a detailed 270-day schedule for the asset grab. And that's why PFC Dervishi was kept there: to prevent or forestall elections. Because no democratically elected government of Iraq could ever sell off its oil. Democracy would have to wait, at the point of a gun, for the "assets sales, concessions, leases" to Bush's corporate buck-buddies.

There you have it. The secret Strategy tells us that, if Bush didn't go into Iraq for the oil, he sure as hell ain't leaving without it.

For more information on the book and the book tour, visit www.gregpalast.com/calendar/.

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