This article originally was published on TomDispatch.
On June 19, the New York Times broke the story in an article headlined “Deals with Iraq Are Set to Bring Oil Giants Back: Rare No-Bid Contracts, A Foothold for Western Companies Seeking Future Rewards.” Finally, after a long five years-plus, there was proof that the occupation of Iraq really did have something or other to do with oil. Quoting unnamed Iraqi Oil Ministry bureaucrats, oil company officials and an anonymous American diplomat, Andrew Kramer of the Times wrote: “Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP…along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies, are in talks with Iraq’s Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq’s largest fields.”
The news caused a minor stir, as other newspapers picked up and advanced the story and the mainstream media, only a few years late, began to seriously consider the significance of oil to the occupation of Iraq.
As always happens when, for whatever reason, you come late to a major story and find yourself playing catch-up on the run, there are a few corrections and blind spots in the current coverage that might be worth addressing before another five years pass. In the spirit of collegiality, I offer the following leads for the mainstream media to consider as they change gears from no-comment to hot-pursuit when it comes to the story of Iraq’s most sought after commodity. I’m talking, of course, about that “sea of oil” on which, as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz pointed out way back in May 2003, the month after Baghdad fell, Iraq “floats.”
All the News That’s Fit to Print Department
In a June 30 follow-up piece, the Times’s Kramer cited US officials (again unnamed) as acknowledging the following: “A group of American advisers led by a small State Department team played an integral part in drawing up contracts between the Iraqi government and five major Western oil companies.”
In addition, he asserted, this “disclosure…is the first confirmation of direct involvement by the Bush administration in deals to open Iraq’s oil to commercial development and is likely to stoke criticism.” This scoop, however, reflected none of the evidence–long available–of the direct involvement of Bush Administration and US occupation officials in Iraq’s oil industry.
In fact, since the taking of Baghdad in April 2003, the name of the game has been facilitating relationships between Iraq and US-based and allied Western energy firms when it came to what President Bush used to delicately call Iraq’s “patrimony” of “natural resources.”