Transcript #126-1

Past As Prologue: Multinationals Take Another Step To Steal Iraq's Oil


Partially hyperlinked to sources.  For all sources, see the data resources page.



Greetings, you're listening to podcast number 126 of Blast The Right.  I'm your host Jack Clark.  Great to have you on board.


Today, you'll hear how the multinational oil companies have taken another step towards stealing Iraq's oil.


And, in the second segment, you'll get some great public opinion stats on the hottest issues, guaranteed to demoralize your right-wing friends and acquaintances.


Let's get right into it.


Sources you'll hear in this first segment include: the New York Times, the Washington Post, the British newspaper The Independent,, the Los Angeles Times, the book Overthrow by former New York Times reporter Stephen Kinzer, the New York Daily News, and the Inter Press Service news agency.


Last week the New York Times revealed details of new agreements currently being negotiated between multinational oil companies and the government of Iraq.  The Times did give this front page play, but the story hasn't gotten much traction elsewhere.  The public's undoubtedly largely unaware of it.


But it's critically important that you understand the significance of this development.  To do that, you need to hear some background.


For roughly the first half of the twentieth century, seven Western corporations controlled the world's oil.  Those seven are now merged into four: ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell and British Petroleum.


The oil firms achieved their corporate stranglehold by imposing a severe form of contract called a production sharing agreement, or PSA.


Under these one-sided deals, the multinationals essentially controlled everything: exploration, extraction and sale.  They paid a pitifully small royalty to the country which still retained nominal ownership of the oil.  That royalty was often as low as 12.5%.


Since the 1960's, a wave of nationalism and anti-colonialism inspired Third World nations to force the multinationals to agree to a totally different arrangement.


Here, the country nationalizes its oil, and sets up a national oil company to control the process of exploration, extraction and sale.  The multinationals are hired to perform specific services only.  Instead of the split being as much as 88-12 in the company's favor, that type of percentage is flipped.  The country now retains the vast bulk of the revenue.


Most of the world's oil is now produced under this second, nationalization model.  Oil company control in the form of PSA's is the case with only 12 percent of the world's oil.


Most OPEC nations follow the nationalization model.  Iraq's oil system has been under state control for the last three decades, ever since Saddam nationalized it.


Here's the rub, as one analyst put it:


ever since they lost their exclusive control of the oil to the governments, the companies have been trying to get it back.

Trying to get it back.


OK, get the picture.


That's the setup.  The oil companies are salivating to get back the oil that is rightfully theirs to exploit and profit from.


One of their prime targets has been Iraq.


Here's the head of Chevron in 1998:


Iraq possesses huge reserves of oil and gas — reserves I’d love Chevron to have access to.

How about then head of Halliburton Dick Cheney in 1999:


By 2010 we will need [a further] 50 million barrels a day. The Middle East, with two-thirds of the oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize lies

In 2001, Vice-President Cheney's energy task force says it wants Middle Eastern countries


to open up areas of their energy sectors to foreign investment.

As the Iraq war gets closer and closer, the focus is more explicitly on Iraq.


The U.S. State Department's Oil and Energy Working Group says that Iraq


should be opened to international oil companies as quickly as possible after the war.

It helpfully adds that those multinational friendly, unfair-to-the-country PSA's should be the form of contract.


Then well into the occupation of Iraq, you get the icing on the lets-not-even-hide-our-oil-lust cake. It's in the much touted, bipartisan-endorsed Iraq Study Group report of December, 2006.


Do you remember that one? 


Recommendation No. 63 unabashedly sets forth the corporate agenda for Iraq's oil wealth.  The US should


"assist Iraqi leaders to reorganize the national oil industry as a commercial enterprise"


"encourage investment in Iraq's oil sector by the international community and by international energy companies."

The right-wing did their best to leave nothing to chance with Iraq's black gold.


Around 2005 the Bush administration hired the consultancy firm BearingPoint to "advise the Iraqi Oil Ministry on drafting and passing a new national oil law."


After the law was drafted, it was reviewed by international oil companies, the US and British governments, and the International Monetary Fund. 


Only then was the Iraqi parliament allowed to see it.


No wonder.


As the New York Daily News put it:


It's a radical departure not only from Iraq's existing structure but from how oil is managed in most of the world today."

A non-corporate oil industry analyst said that law would function to the


great detriment of Iraq’s economy, democracy and sovereignty.

Now let me give you some of the gory details:


The law provides for those terrible production-sharing agreements, PSA's, where the multinationals get a hunk of the profits, and have substantial control over the process.  The Iraqi's would be locked into these one-sided agreements for 15-35 years.


Iraq has 80 known oil fields.  The Iraq National Oil Company would retain exclusive control of just 17 of them.  The rest, plus all fields as yet undiscovered -- all fields yet undiscovered -- are thrown open to foreign control.


The law goes further than even the worst doomsayers predicted.  Way beyond prior PSA's. 


Chevron, ExxonMobil, British Petroleum and the other Western oil giants could end up on the board of directors of the Iraqi Federal Oil and Gas Council, while Iraq's own national oil company would become just another competitor.

It gets even worse.


The foreign multinationals will be able, essentially, to run wild in Iraq:


They're given the right to


--take 100% of their profits out of the country

--refuse to take Iraqi companies as partners

--refuse to hire any Iraqi workers, and

--refuse to share technology


And, if there's a dispute, these foreign multinationals won't be subject to Iraqi law, won't come under the jurisdiction of that nation's courts.


If it sounds to you like the law was written not by Iraqi's, but by the Bushians, well, as you of course just heard, it essentially was.


Passage of this law became a high priority for the Bush administration.


You wondering how'd the Bushians do with their let's-steal-Iraq's-oil scheme?


Stay tuned!




So what happened to the US-written Iraq oil law?


It ran in to a firestorm of opposition in Iraq because Iraqis saw it was essentially a give-the-oil-back-to-the-multinationals scam.


For example, Iraq's trade unions wrote a joint letter to the Iraqi President, which read in part:


Production-sharing agreements are a relic of the 1960s

They will re-imprison the Iraqi economy and impinge on Iraq's sovereignty since they only preserve the interests of foreign companies. We warn against falling into this trap.

The US press usually points to disagreements among the Sunni's, Shiite's and Kurds as to how profits should be distributed among themselves, as the reason for opposition to the law.  That's part of it.  But so is the don't-give-the-oil-away sentiment.




With this new Iraqi oil law stalled, you now arrive at the present-day situation, and the deals announced last week.


If the multinationals can't yet seal the deal formally, they'll start tiptoeing in the back door in sweet anticipation of soon owning the house.


What an amazing headline and opening paragraph of the New York Times story:


Deals With Iraq Are Set to Bring Oil Giants Back


BAGHDAD — Four Western oil companies are in the final stages of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power.

Those four companies are ExxonMobil, Shell, Total and BP.


The very companies Iraq took the oil back from 36 years ago, are now being invited back in, thank you very much, by the US-propped-up Iraqi government.


Surprise, surprise.


Chevron, and several smaller oil companies are also involved.


Now, these deals aren't formally set up as the exploitative PSA's.  They're nominally structured as service contracts. The companies will supposedly just be assisting the Iraqi oil ministry.


But, a provision being negotiated would make payments in oil, not cash.  So the companies could reap large profits.


Leila Benali, an expert at Cambridge Energy Research Associates, said that


These are not actually service contracts. They were designed to circumvent the legislative stalemate.

As with most things right-wing instigated, there are many unseemly aspects to this.


These are no-bid contracts, unusual for the oil industry.


The Iraqi Oil Ministry offered as a defense that these companies had been advising the government for two years without charge.


But 46 companies from Russia, China, India and elsewhere had been provided similar free advice, and they didn't get any contracts, no-bid or otherwise.


The critical point here, is the future advantage the US and other Western oil companies will now enjoy.


The contracts, which would run for one to two years and are relatively small by industry standards, would nonetheless give the companies an advantage in bidding on future contracts

Ms. Benali explained:


The bigger prize everybody is waiting for is development of the giant new fields

Those would be the ones subject to the presently-stalled, give-away-the-store, US-drafted Iraqi oil law.


You may be amused at how gingerly some of our corporate media raise the issue of, well, maybe the Iraq war was blood for oil.


Here's reporter Kramer in the New York Times:


There was suspicion among many in the Arab world and among parts of the American public that the United States had gone to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract.

A similar paragraph in the Washington Post danced around the issue:


A higher-profile role for Western companies in Iraq’s oil industry is likely to revive speculation that the Iraq war was motivated by a desire to tap into reserves that were controlled by foreigners until the 1960s, when the industry was nationalized. The belief is widespread in the Arab world.

Speculation.  Belief.  No basis in fact at all, is there?


You now know better than those just reading the New York Times and the Washington Post.


And given all you now know, especially that the US drafted the Iraqi oil law, this New York Times paragraph about these preliminary deals is even more of a joke, don't you think? quote


It is not clear what role the United States played in awarding the contracts; there are still American advisers to Iraq’s Oil Ministry.

What does the right-wing have to say for itself.?  Oh, the usual right-wing out-and-out lying:


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice…said the U.S. government played no role in securing the deals. She called the impending contracts a sign that security gains are attracting foreign investment in Iraq.



As you now understand, the oil giants see Iraq as a rare opportunity to get their hands back on major oil deposits.


If you've been listening to Blast The Right for a while, you know that in the rest of the world, the trend actually continues to be the exact opposite


[T]he oil majors are also struggling to replace their reserves as ever more of the world’s oil patch becomes off limits. Governments in countries like Bolivia and Venezuela are nationalizing their oil industries or seeking a larger share of the record profits for their national budgets. Russia and Kazakhstan have forced the major companies to renegotiate contracts.

For more details about what's happening in Bolivia and Venezuela's battle with the multinationals, see podcasts 49 and 68.


It's all of a piece.  In podcast 121, you also heard about protests in Mexico against the efforts of that country's right-wing government to hand off its oil industry to the multinationals.


The struggle goes on.


Some of you may be thinking to yourselves, well, sure, US and other Western-based multinationals would like to control the oil, but would the US ever go so far as to overthrow a government for that purpose?


Well, it's a well-documented historical fact that we've done just that.


For over 50 years Iran had been getting the short end of an 84-16% production sharing deal.  So in 1953 the democratically-elected government of Iran nationalized its oil industry.  The United States and Great Britain used their intelligence agencies to overthrow the government, and install the Shah as dictator.  He ruled in bloody fashion for 26 years.  Thus was sowed the seeds of the Iranian revolution in 1979.


We overthrew a Iranian government in 1953 to get Iranian oil back into multinational hands, and a half century later, in 2003, we overthrew an Iraqi government to get Iraqi oil back into multinational hands. 


And, I would add, to establish permanent military bases in Iraq.  Remember podcast 58 about the Project for a New American Century?


Our actions in Iran caused massive resentment there and led to a takeover of that country a quarter century later by hard-line Islamic radicals. 


Our actions in effectively grabbing Iraq's oil, will similarly produce results we won't like, and probably in far less time.


So there you have it.


Just this past week, it comes to light that the oil giants now have their foot in the door, their nose under the tent, their bloody claws starting to encircle the throat of the Iraqi people.


A former Exxon CEO, Lee Raymond, was recently unabashed and blunt:


[T]he former chief executive of Exxon, Lee Raymond, praised Iraq’s potential as an oil-producing country and added that Exxon was in a position to know. “There is an enormous amount of oil in Iraq,” Mr. Raymond said. “We were part of the consortium, the four companies that were there when Saddam Hussein threw us out, and we basically had the whole country.

"We had the whole country."


Yes indeed.


And to have the whole country again, is their goal, make no mistake about it.


I wish the Iraqi people well in their struggle to prevent the theft of their oil.


You and I exposing this attempted grand larceny is one way we can help.  As the saying goes, sunlight is a great disinfectant.




Transcript #126-2

Demoralize A Right-Winger: Tell Them The Truth About US Public Opinion


Partially hyperlinked to sources.  For all sources, see the data resources page.



How'd you like to demoralize your friendly local right-winger?  In fact, you can demoralize not just one, but a whole bunch of them.  All the right-wingers you know.


Because nothing gives a right-winger more satisfaction, than the smug belief that the American public is on their side, is conservative, backs up their positions.  That it's we progressives who're out of touch with mainstream America.


Well, just imagine how bummed out they'd be, all these right-wingers, if they knew how wrong they truly are.


As with most things right-wingers say, the exact opposite is true.


There's some juicy additional evidence of this right now, to further back up what you heard, if you were a listener back last Fall.


Sources you'll hear in this segment include:,,, the Associated Press, and


Last September and October you heard my three part series, called Reason To Cheer.  You learned that surveys from major polling organizations all show that Americans support progressive policies on most every economic and social justice issue; that our progressive majority is growing larger and larger; and that increasingly left-leaning youth will turn the country increasingly progressive.


What issues?  For starters, try the overall role of government, health care, immigration, taxes, and moral values.  Yes, moral values.


Majorities of your fellow citizens -- often 2/3 or more -- endorse all of these progressive positions:

--the government should provide more, not less services
--the government should take care of those who can't take care of themselves
--the government should guarantee health care for every American
--the distribution of wealth in this country is unfairly concentrated
--the wealthy pay too little in taxes
--the minimum wage should be raised
--there is a moral imperative to pay workers a living wage
--undocumented immigrants should have a path to citizenship
--Democrats reflect the nation's moral values more than do Republicans


And to top it all off, the views of the nation's youth on many issues are even more strongly progressive than that of the country as a whole.


As summarized by The New York Times, America's youth "have continued a long-term drift away from the Republican Party."


Fair enough, and a joy to hear.  Enough to bring a smile to your face, to paint the picture quite rosy.


Well, it gets even better, and this is what you can use in this Summer of 2008 to drive a stake through any remaining political enthusiasm your right-wing friends and acquaintances may still be mustering for their cause.


Scott Rasmussen is a nationally recognized pollster.  He's also a conservative Republican.  So one would expect that he's not inclined to tilt his polls in favor of Democrats. 


If a Rasmussen poll has bad news for the GOP, you can bet that there's truly some real world bad news there.


So the following really caught my eye the other day.


The June Rasmussen poll of the top ten issues on the electorate's mind, found that the Democrats are trusted more than the Republicans on every single one.


Every single one.


Now there are the usual suspects you'd expect.


By double digits, Americans trust Democrats more on health care, education, the economy, government ethics and corruption, and social security.


Telling your right-wing buddies that won't affect them much.


They'll shrug it off, and say, maybe so, but on the things people really care about -- by which they mean security issues, plus the hot-button, culture war, wedge issues -- on those, the right-wing side wins hands down.






Right-wingers are going down here as well.


On Iraq, Democrats are trusted by more than an 8 point margin.


On abortion, by a 7 point margin.  Yes, by a 7 point margin.  Apparently John McCain's calling on his website for the overthrow of Roe v. Wade, is not going over that well.  And many Americans probably aren't yet even aware of his extreme position on this issue.


Closely monitor the look on the face of any right-winger you tell this to.


Continuing with the countdown:


On immigration, Democrats enjoy a 4 point advantage.


On national security/the war on terror, a 3 point advantage.  Not a big margin, but most right-wingers would expect their side to be way ahead on this one.


Lastly, there's taxes.  The be-all and end-all of right-wing ideology, cut, slash, eliminate where possible any tax you can get your hands on.


By which they mean of course, primarily reduce the tax burden on the wealthy, which Bush's tax cuts have done quite well, they wealthy will be the first to admit.


The richest 10% of Americans have gotten somewhere between 60 and 80% of the benefit of Bush's tax cuts.


But right-wingers think they're continuing to pull the wool over the public's eye, that the public still thinks it's Republicans who'll lower the taxes of the average Joe.


I guess not.


By a 2% margin, voters trust Democrats more on taxes than Republicans.


Again, a narrow margin, but the right-wing would expect a landslide in the opposite direction.


Crestfallen may not begin to describe the look you'll see on the face of the right-wing recipient of this bit of news.


Now one caveat:


When Obama and McCain are substituted for generic Democrat and Republican, McCain is even with Obama on economic issues, and has a double digit edge on national security topics.


As Rasmussen says, the attitudes indicated by the generic Republican vs. Democrat question


are likely to have a bigger impact on Congressional races rather than the Presidential election

Well, in a worst case scenario, much bigger Democratic majorities in the House and Senate would be able to kill many of the bad things a President McCain would be try to do.


Supreme Court nominees, anyone?


And since Rasmussen has actually had Obama ahead of McCain over the last couple of weeks by up to several points, maybe it'll be an overwhelming Democratic majority Congress combined with a President Obama.


Now that would really demoralize your friendly local right-wingers, big big big time.


And mark my words: if a President Obama and strong Democratic majority Congress don't follow a progressive path, I'll be the first one out there to condemn and agitate against them.


For now, though, I'm focused on ripping our government out of the hands of the right-wing.


Demoralizing them is one part of achieving that all-important goal.


You've just gotten some potent ammo to do so.


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