Remember the movie Matewan? When courageous West Virginian miners stood up to the union busting coal companies, and risked everything to win their right to live as Americans should? Today, American unions aren’t the same. Perhaps spoiled by their success during the twenty’s, today they rarely show that much muscle and instead pat themselves on each others backs whenever they finagle an agreement that often capitulates to corporate owners, but, in turn, increases their own personal net worth as wealthy individuals.

Fortunately that is not the case in Iraq. In a little known story, the unions of oil workers, located in the southern area of Iraq near Basra, organized and stood up to first Bremer’s coalition government, then Halliburton’s storm troopers, and now the puppet government of Maliki. As we now are coming to realize, the current military buildup or Surge as it is called, which we all knew had little chance of overall success, is simply a political move to apply pressure and force Iraqi passage of the Hydrocarbon’s Act, which as mentioned elsewhere, guarantees a whopping 70% instead of a normal 10% of Iraqi oil profits to American oil companies. The surge is there not just to protect a few American supporters, but is intended to intimidate and to suppress any Iraqi opposition that would naturally be expected to occur whenever one nation is forced to give up its national treasure to another. But as is often the case, when one pushes too hard to exert a pressure, a counter-resistance grows beneath their thumb.

So it is with the Iraqi unions. Their broken country is saturated by corruption, fed by the US interests, Exxon-Mobil, Phillips-Conoco, and Chevron, all of which exert a strong influence upon those “oil ministers” who were groomed on these shores months before this war began. In this environment, it is only the labor unions who have found the moral courage, as did Americans of old, to stand up against impossible odds, and proclaim “no, this just isn’t right.”

What bravery those unions are showing against impossible odds, is even more admirable when compared to the ethics of those at home, right here in our “land of the brave”.

Unfortunately, the moral courage, once possessed by our reporters and newsman on which many of us were weaned during the Nixon-Watergate years, now seems to have ebbed somewhat. Today if one wants truth, only the blogs are speaking it.

Just recently Kucinich’s magnificent 50 min speech which only got to the floor by a rare parliamentary move, outlines for the first time on the hallowed floors of Congress, exactly the horrific terms we are forcing upon the Iraqi’s with this Hydrocarbon Bill. Any mention of this historical event was buried deep on the back pages of America’s mainstream media, or worse, met with silence.

But bloggers jumped all over it. One must shake his head in shame. How can one honestly explain why newspapers, which of course, are primarily funded through advertising revenues, could possibly be loathe to print, and want to bury, a news story that now rivals the Watergate cover-up as the prime example of our government going over the edge? Does not this Hydrocarbon Bill, developed here inside the Beltway’s oil-funded think-tanks, and now being forced through the Bush administration’s approved and appointed Iraqi ministers, when read fully, prove without a doubt that we went to war for oil? Can any reasonable person assume a different outcome? Can anyone also explain why none of 2008’s front runners, also funded primarily through large corporate donors, have dared to mention this outrage in any of their campaign whistle stops?
Afraid of something they must be.

Are PSA’s really that bad? Here is what the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies (page 87) had to say about them.

“PSAs are the oil industry’s equivalent of sharecropping contracts. As with the latter, economic theory suggests that PSAs are inefficient contract forms because the FOC
does not receive its marginal product. Thus, the question arises how and why this inefficient form of an oil contract flourishes. Principal-agent theory helps to explain
how risks and rewards have to be balanced in order to nonetheless let this type of arrangement prosper. The fact that PSAs are one of the dominant exploration and
development agreements points towards their efficiency as an institutional arrangement for risk sharing even if they are inefficient in terms of economic theory. In that sense it can be argued that a PSA is a political rather than an economic contract.”

What this says in “Oxford”ese, is that PSA’s are simply one sided agreements, like slavery, that cannot occur in free markets where both parties are willing. They can however, occur in forced arrangements.

We have taken the Matrix pill. And now it is clear. This is why we went to war. This is why we are spending a Trillion Dollars. This is why Rumsfeld hamstrung the Pentagon so success on the ground could not happen. This is why Cheney was so adamant not to release the Energy Task Force’s documents to the GAO. This is why the Vice President went to such great lengths, resulting in his imprisoned chief of staff, to discredit the notion that Iraq did not have nuclear weapons. This is why, against US law, records of who visited the Vice President, were erased. This is why Wolfowitz was put in charge of the IMF. This is why, when the officers on the ground, who we were repeatedly told were the ones being listened to, said emphatically that the surge was a waste of men and money, many names were passed over until a military commander was found who would say, even if only indirectly, that he could support it.

But enough about cowardly squeamishness. I came to praise the Iraqi Oil Unions….

Just last week they received concessions from the Maliki government, and a strike was averted. This threatened strike would have, if it had occurred, shut down all oil flowing onto tankers out of southern Iraq. Those of you who understand Moslems, know that they place great symbolism upon certain numbers. Very important to them is the number 14. Article 14 in their demands states as follows:

14- Submit the draft of the new oil law for our union to study; we have reservations and questions concerning it.

If one continues reading one soon finds this clause in their list of initial demands.- Make a determination on oil companies’ profits margins on the basis of the amendments to which you agreed and to determine those margins according to the certification/attestation from the south region financial/tax jurisdictions, not according to the formula adopted by the Minister that has been deemed detrimental to our membership.

In American prose, that means “Don’t go with the American plan.” Perhaps I alone am guilty of showing my personal ignorance in my assuming that the barbarity of Saddam’s regime flowed through all Iraqis, and that the cruel bombings of civilians showed a lack of polish on their entire culture. I was somewhat take back by the civilized beauty of this statement.

It was our hope, after the fall of that statue, to witness the dawn of a new era marked by the recognition of the legitimate rights of our members in the oil sector. This sector that for so long has suffered injustice and been denied equity. Since the advent of this new era, we focused our efforts into effectively thwarting all attempts to exploit this sector and tamper with our resources. You have been informed of how we stalled foreign companies in their attempts to control our oil fields and refineries, and how we forced them to leave. In addition, we worked hand in hand with the ministries and agencies to accelerate the pace of oil production, and to safeguard the means of production, and raise awareness amongst workers of investing to boost the chances of success for the new era. Unfortunately, our demands for entitlements were ignored, despite four years of continued promises by ministry and government officials. In fact, we took our demands to the highest levels of the government.
We kept the prime minister apprized of our demands, but were disappointed when we came to realize that our demands fell on deaf ears. Throughout this period we worked to defuse anger and resentment and address criticism leveled by our members who mistakenly thought of us as the ones failing to put forth their legitimate demands.

In a joint statement, the Iraqi Labor Unions demand that the new oil laws be renegotiated. Knowing more than anyone else, what was at stake, this group has tried everything possible to convince rational human beings that these laws are not fair to the average Iraqi citizen.

In some commentary spoken in London, Hassan Juma’a, President of the General Union of Oil Employees in Basra, gave some illuminating testimony.

Particularly he provide some insight how Iraqi’s feel towards us when it comes to our actions with their oil. One can see the heavy hand of Bremer was instrumental in many of the problems we face today.


Paul Bremer’s decrees banned the formation of trade unions and associations in order to protect US interests. [They said that the 1987 decree remained in force]. We expected that the living standards of the workers would increase, but a table of wages was issued by Paul Bremer with eleven steps, where the oil workers’ wage was set at the equivalent of $35. That was strange for a country which has the second largest oil reserves in the world.

Meanwhile, workers brought from Asia by KBR [a subsidiary of the US corporation Hallliburton, granted contracts by the occupation authorities for reconstruction] were getting twenty times as much.

Then, in subtle understatement he describes the struggle, that must have mirrored the struggle at Matewan.

In the oil union we objected to the wages decision. The US administration refused to listen to us, so we staged a strike on 10 August 2003. We stopped oil exports for three days. It forced the Americans, the Oil Ministry, and the Finance Ministry to scrap the two lowest scales in the wages table.

We think it’s important KBR gets out, because we believe that US strategy is that military occupation should be followed by economic occupation.

So why has it taken so long for oil revenues to pay the cost of rebuilding Iraq. The finger again points to Cheney. According to the Union:

The Federation has announced it “will endeavor to to prevent exploitation by foreign companies and their flagrant interference in production and exports,” blaming the companies for “exploiting the current political vacuum and chaos in the country.” They claim that the Iraqi oil industry, far from needing external investment, is in fact being deliberately starved of funds to the tune of $4.5 billion this year, simply to worsen the country’s negotiating position as infrastructure slowly collapses. In fact the unions have been active in voluntarily maintaining infrastructure to fend off the need for external investment. They are also working on publicizing these secretive deals and building resistance.


As evidence accumulates one story at a time, the trend becomes very disheartening to any American familiar with the story of our founding Fathers. It will be hard to explain to our children, our complicity in letting Cheney do to Iraq, what we rebelled against Great Britain for doing to us.

Cheney took us in to rape Iraq. That is the only conclusion one can reasonably assume when presented with all of the unadulterated evidence.

It is truly ironic that American values are much more prevalent in a labor union halfway across the globe, than they are here within our hallowed halls of government.

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