"The Iraqis didn’t do it."
The politicians won't say it, so who will. There is just one powerful voice the lockstep feebleness of our leadership cannot silence, and that is the interior voice of intellect and conscience in millions of Americans.
The one statement that every candidate for political office should be able to make, and apparently none can, is that the Iraqis didn’t do it. Those poor Iraqis were not the ones behind 9/11. Probably every literate child around the world knows it, yet neither our major parties nor our most powerful media outlets can acknowledge this bloodstained elephant in the room.
Some information that the White House is not sharing about Iraq, out on the “stay the course” campaign trail:
Under the Bush administration the US had a trade deficit with Iraq—importing copiously from Iraq—right up into the months of invasion. Until May 2003, the U.S. imported more goods from Iraq in regular commerce, even going to war against it, than exported to Iraq. According to the US Census Bureau, Foreign Trade Division, in January through June 2003 the US imported $2,516,700,000 worth of products from Iraq. During the same period it exported $30 million worth of products to Iraq, for a trade deficit of about $2.4 billion.
I wish with all my heart—since there is no way to bring the thousands of dead back to life—that at a minimum our three television networks and some of our biggest newspapers would salve the world with this one simple statement. The Iraqis didn’t do it.
The U.S. trade deficit with Iraq peaked at $6 billion in election year 2000. The Bush campaign—in spite of its vaunted concern about the region—seems not to have mentioned it. That may be partly because we have had a trade deficit with Iraq for several years—or it may more simply be that the Bushes were not really all that concerned about Saddam.
The last year we had a trade surplus with Iraq was 1996.
According to those bruisers at the Census Bureau, by some strange chance Iraqi imports fall into the single category of “mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials.” Imports of Iraqi oil by US oil companies nearly doubled in February and March 2003. Presumably the oil companies knew or surmised that war was imminent, notwithstanding White House claims of war as a “last resort.”
With the war underway, U.S. exports to Iraq have increased.
US oil companies were Saddam’s biggest customers, a fact surely known to every Iraqi although not to most US citizens. In 2001, the US was "the main market for Iraqi crude," according to the Middle East Economic Survey. Forbes estimated that US companies purchased 70 percent of Iraq’s oil in 2001. One of the single biggest US customers was Chevron, where Condoleezza Rice was on the board of directors. (Chevron merged with Texaco three weeks after September 11, 2001, and the merged giant ChevronTexaco continued its purchases of Iraqi oil, with no sign that the White House considered this a security breach.)
Not that pre-war US exports to Iraq were nonexistent. Our two biggest exports to Iraq in 2002, by far, were “drilling and oilfield equipment” ($16 million) and “excavating machinery” ($4 million). That would be Halliburton Company, headed from 1995 to 2000 by Richard Cheney, who left Halliburton to join the Bush ticket.
Obviously, if the Bush administration had wanted serious information about Iraqis' purported WMD, it could have asked Halliburton, the world’s biggest producer and distributor of oilfield equipment and related services, including in Iraq. “Parts for boring or sinking machinery” were the second-largest category of exports from Texas, where Halliburton is based, for four straight years.
While Cheney was head of Halliburton, Halliburton subsidiaries were forging ahead in their continuing project of rebuilding and maintaining Iraq’s oil industry. Dresser-Rand and Ingersoll-Dresser Pump Company, two Halliburton subsidiaries, had contracts worth more than $73 million with Iraq during Cheney’s stint at Halliburton.
The Dresser subsidiaries were previously connected to the Bush family and were acquired by Halliburton under Cheney—with the effect among others of distancing George W. Bush from the asbestos controversy, a Dresser liability. The acquisition did little for Halliburton’s bottom line, but that problem was addressed by the cornucopia of government contracts awarded to Halliburton under the Bush-Cheney administration.
Failing to hear from our press or our universities, we must hope that some political candidate will eventually say it. Paul Wellstone might have said it. We cannot hope that any of the famous Republicans with an independent power base—John McCain, Arnold Schwarzenegger—will say it. Obviously the Clinton and Schumer types are not going to come through; their political function is more to protect the Republican Party from the wrath of the people than to protect the people from the depredations of the Bush-Cheney cabal. The idea that Senators like George Allen or Jon Kyl—one of the main protectors of Halliburton in Congress, along with Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia—would voice this simple recognition is just gallows humor.
But there is one powerful voice the lockstep feebleness of our leadership cannot silence, and that is the interior voice of intellect and conscience in millions of Americans. I could testify truthfully in court that I have heard better commentary about what’s going on right now from cabbies and in thrift stores than I hear expressed on any of the Sunday morning talk shows.
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This story was published on November 6, 2006.