Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Iraqi Oil Law: strike one

There have been some rather interesting developments in Iraq over the last couple of days. I mean, apart from the usual levels of death and mayhem, although one is loathe to suggest that such is at all "interesting." But the recently announced strike by Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions is something not likely to attract much media attention amidst the howls about the Immigration Bill, the nauseating right wing wailing over Lewis Libby's goodness and Paris Hilton walking out of prison after three days.

But distracting celebrity gossip is not the real reason why you won't read much about the IFOU strike. Because the strike is about more than just the usual wage/benefit dispute, although that is there as well and provides some cover to the larger concern of the union over the Iraq Oil Law, a law that is now largely seen as a gift to foreign oil interests and comes at the expense of the Iraqi population in general. In fact, the head of the IFOU, Hassan Jum’a Awwad, wrote an open letter to Congress pleading with members there to untie the withdrawal of US troops from the passage of the oil law. Recall that this was something Dennis Kucinich revealed had been a "benchamrk" in the bill passed by the Democratic congress.
We see no good reason for linking the passing of the feeble Iraqi oil law to the withdrawal of the occupation troops from Iraq.

Everyone knows that the oil law does not serve the Iraqi people, and that it serves Bush, his supporters and the foreign companies at the expense of the Iraqi people who have been wronged and deprived of their right to their oil despite enduring all difficulties.

We ask our friends not to link withdrawal with the oil law, especially since the USA claimed that it came to Iraq as a liberator and not in order to control Iraq’s resources.
Congress, it seems, didn't get the memo.

It is not too surprising to realise that unions in Iraq have been sorely mistreated for much of the modern history of country. Hussein routinely abused, jailed or killed union leaders when he could find them. How happy it is then to learn that the Bush administration, with satrap Maliki acting in good stead, is treating Iraqi unions much the same way as Hussein once did.
Together with other unions in railroads, hotels, ports, schools and factories, they've gone on strike, held elections, won wage increases, and made democracy a living reality. Yet the Bush administration, and the Baghdad government it controls, has outlawed collective bargaining, impounded union funds and turned its back (or worse) on a wave of assassinations of Iraqi union leaders.
The "or worse" scenario under Maliki is, of course, entirely likely and he appears to be emulating those other union-busting Bush friends in Colombia. Early on in the occupation, the IFOU stood up to the likes of Halliburton when that barnacle of industry first got its no-bid contracts.
Holding a no-bid, sweetheart contract with occupation authorities, Halliburton Corp. came into Iraq in the wake of the troops in 2003. The company tried to seize control of the wells and rigs, withholding reconstruction aid to force workers to submit. The oil union struck for three days that August, stopping exports and cutting off government revenue. Halliburton left.
Because of this, the IFOU is
one of the most respected organizations in Iraq and has constantly acted as a guardian of Iraq's oil against outside interests. Which meant that, eventually, it would come to loggerheads with the long arm of the anti-union, anti-Iraqi Bush administration, whose sole purpose now seems to comprise nothing but getting the oil law passed, the bunkers situated, the oil rigs pumping. Really, why else are we still there? Everyone is well aware that "democracy," or whatever that bastard child government the White House created there might be called, is not suddenly going to get all better just because the oil law is passed. Though this is often the bromide we hear spilling out of various congressional members, who now seem to be as much a part of the scam as the White House, the passage 0f the oil law is being met with serious resistance within Iraq and for good bloody reason. As Hassan Jum’a Awwad said,
The general public in Iraq is totally convinced that Bush wants to rush the promulgation of the oil law so as to be leaving Iraq with a victory of sorts, because his project is failing every day and the occupation is collapsing in all parts of Iraq.
While the general public in Iraq may be well aware of the what the oil law will do, rest assured, the general public and even some members of Congress in the United States are resolutely uninformed about it.

After failing to waken the dull, dead eyes of congressional members in Washington, the IFOU threatened to go on strike. As part of the strike, the union threatened to shut down pipeline operations that would directly affect Baghdad. Naturally and with a brash intolerance of unions no doubt imparted by the similarly inclined Bush administration, Prime Minister Maliki order troops into Basra where the strike was to commence and surround striking workers while also ordering the arrest of the leaders of the union. This action against a union seeking to protect the public interest of Iraq smacks of one thing and it sends yet another signal to all of Iraq that Maliki is not really their prime minister. He is Bush's bitch. I suspect that with this move, Maliki may have just sealed the fate of the oil law as it currently exists. It will never pass in its current form and too much publicity -- at least there -- has now been imparted upon the bill. It probably wouldn't have passed in its current form anyway, since the union demanded to be part of the legislative negotiations. Nonetheless, Maliki's strident response has fairly doomed the cherished oil law, so coveted as it is in Washington.

[By the way, keep an eye on the blog of the General Union of Oil Employees in Basra. As time goes on, it may be one of the best ways of keeping track of the state of the oil law and just how those oil contracts are getting assigned. Ain't that internet grand? No wonder those telecom fucks want to shut it down.]


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