Friday, October 19, 2012







Let’s review: After a brief statement deploring the loss of life on Sept. 12, Obama and his flunkies (Press Secretary Jay Carney, UN Ambassador Susan Rice) put on a prolonged full-court press to convince the American people that an obscure You Tube video, “Innocence of Muslims” — which had been out for months — was the cause of a wave of violence that swept the Islamic world on the 11th anniversary of 9/11, including the Benghazi attack.
Rice made a sweep of the Sunday shows a few days later to argue that an “insult” to Islam’s prophet was the cause of all the carnage across the region. Quoth she: “This is a response to a hateful and offensive video that was widely disseminated throughout the Arab and Muslim world.” Carney parroted similar nonsense.
Obama himself even went on the David Letterman show to retell the same falsehood, then doubled down with a speech at the United Nations in which he intoned: “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”
But the video had nothing to do with the Benghazi attack, and everybody knew it, including the intelligence community and Hillary Clinton’s State Department.



So I'm at a daily paper visiting a friend who's an editor when a name reporter decides he's going to make small talk while the editor's on the phone and hijacks the computer to show me "something you won't believe.  It's so sad."  Wrongly, I assumed I was about to see the children of Falluja.  Wrong.  I saw a dog from Australia that people around the world are donating to because it lost its snout saving a child.  And the dog's coming to -- or now in -- the United States with a friend and will have surgery at one of the UCLAs (Davis?) and, turns out, the dog's also got tumors and a sexually transmitted disease and -- On and on, it went.  Now I love dogs.  And if someone wants to send a terminal dog across the globe for  reconstructive surgery of a snout, that's their decision.  But I do think it's very sad that people want to pull up a picture of this dog and oh-and-ah over it and these same people will not even look at the children of Falluja.  
Monday, we noted a new study by the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. The study documented the miscarriages and the birth defects and the huge increase in both.  The linked study even has photos of the children.  But that didn't become an internet sensation.  What does that say about us that we can feel for an injured dog but ignore suffering children?  If you're a citizen of the United States, especially what does that say about us?  These birth defects are a result of weapons the US used. 
Fred Mazelis (WSWS) noted the study yesterday and explained:
A study published in the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology focuses on an extraordinary epidemic of congenital birth defects in Iraqi cities over the past decade, particularly in Fallujah and in the southern city of Basra, assaulted by British troops in 2003.
This study has been released only one month before a broader survey is due to be released by the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO report has looked at nine areas in Iraq and is also expected to show increases in birth defects.
As summarized in the British newspaper The Independent, the first study, entitled "Metal Contamination and the Epidemic of Congenital Birth Defects in Iraqi Cities" and published online on September 16, pinpoints statistics for Fallujah and Basra that add up to a public health crisis that is as serious as any other around the world.
More than 50 percent of all births surveyed in Fallujah were born with a birth defect between 2007 and 2010, the newspaper explains. In the 1990s, Falllujah had a birth defect rate of 2 percent. This rose to about 10 percent in the early years of the twenty-first century, and then exploded in the years following the siege of Fallujah in 2004.
The data on miscarriages was also significant. Before the 2004 attacks on Fallujah, both in April and in November-December of that year, about 10 percent of pregnancies ended in miscarriage. This rose to a rate of 45 percent in the two years after the bombings. It fell as the most drastic attacks subsided, but the rate still remained high, at one in six pregnancies.
If today's conversation had taken place anywhere but a newsroom and involved people other than journalists, I wouldn't be writing about it.  But in the supposed information industry, not only did the reporter not know about the above, when I pulled up the study to show the photos, his response was "Eww, gross."  No, not "gross," tragic.  Those poor children who never hurt anyone and who suffer now because of an illegal war.  I think, my opinion -- I could be wrong, I often am -- that we've soaked up enough entertainment, gossip and cute animals online.  I think it's really past time we learned to actually care -- especially when the harmed are harmed because the actions of our government.
Early this morning, Laura Rozen (The Back Channel) reported, "Oil giant Exxon Mobil is expected to soon announce that it is pulling out of non-Kurdish Iraq, an energy expert source told Al-Monitor Wednesday on condition of anonymity.  The decision would not apply to Exxon's contracts in Kurdish Iraq, which has been a source of on-going tension with Baghdad authorities for the company, the source said."  Ahmed Rasheed and Patricky Markey (Reuters) state the corporation didn't inform "Iraq of its interest in quitting the country's West Qurna oilfield project" according to unnamed sources.  Sometimes unnamed sources lie.  This may be one of those times.  This is very embarrassing for Nouri and his government and feigning surprise may be their effort to play it off.  'How could we have stopped it?  We didn't even know it was coming!'   That would explain why the 'big surprise' that isn't is being played like it is.  Derek Brower (Petroleum Economist) has been covering this story for over 48 hours (including a source that stated ExxonMobil had informed the Iraqi government) and he notes that ExxonMobil will be focusing all their "efforts on upstream projects in Kurdistan instead."  In addition to the claim in Rasheed and Markey's piece about  Iraq having had no meeting on this, Brower notes that a meeting took place today at the Ministry of Oil.  It would appear Nouri's spinning like crazy in an effort to save his faltering image.  (Nouri can certainly spend billions -- as he proved last week on his mad shopping spree for weapons, he just doesn't seem able to maintain releations with those who help Iraq generate large revenues.)
This Reuters story notes that unnamed US officials stated Iraq was informed and it adds the Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister for Energy, Hussain al-Shahristani, "told Reuters in an e-mail that Baghdad was sticking to its line that all contract signed with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) without the approval of Baghdad were illegal."  ExxonMobil has long had problems with their deal with Baghdad.  In March,  Emily Knapp (Wall St Cheat Sheet) explained, "Foreign oil companies involved in Iraq's oil expansion generally prefer to be compensated for capital expenditure and service fees in oil because cash payments are more complicated to arrange. Now the parties have reached an agreement in which they will be paid in crude. Exxon and Shell spent $910 million on West Qurna-1 last year, and were repaid $470 million in cash."  Hassan Hafidh (Wall St. Journal) adds today, "Exxon's 2010 deal with the Iraqi central government to improve production in the West Qurna-1 field was never expected to be lucrative under the best circumstances, the person said.  The government had agreed to pay Exxon Mobil and its partners $1.90 for each additional barrel of oil they pumped after refurbishing the already producing field.  The fees would barely be enough to cover the companies' costs."
And there is the issue of the nature of the contracts.  The KRG is offering production sharing ones while Baghdad sticks with the less return-friendly technical service contracts.  Dropping back to the November 11, 2011 snapshot:
In Iraq, things are heating up over an oil deal. Hassan Hafidh and James Herron (Wall St. Journal) report, "ExxonMobil Corp. could lose its current contract to develop the West Qurna oil field in Iraq if it proceeds with an agreement to explore for oil in the Kurdistan region of the country, an Iraqi official said. The spat highlights the political challenges for foreign companies operating in Iraq" as Nouri's Baghdad-based 'national' government attempts to rewrite the oil law over the objection of the Kurdistan Regional Government. Tom Bergin and Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) offer, "Exxon declined to comment, and experts speculated the move could indicate Baghdad and the Kurdish leaders are nearing agreement on new rules for oil companies seeking to tap into Iraq's vast oil reserves." UPI declares, "The breakaway move into Kurdistan, the first by any of the oil majors operating in Iraq under 20-year production contract signed in 2009, could cost Exxon Mobil its stake in the giant West Qurna Phase One mega-oil field in southern Iraq." Salam Faraj (AFP) speaks with Abdelmahdi al-Amidi (in Iraq's Ministry of Oil) declares that the Exxon contract means that Exxon would lose a contract it had previously signed with Baghdad for the West Qurna-1 field.  Faraj sketches out the deal with the KRG beginning last month with Exxon being notified that they had "48 hours to make a decision on investing in an oil field in the region."  Exxon was interested but sought an okay from the Baghdad government only to be denied.
November 11th, things heated up and they never cooled down.  For months, Nouri's people sent angry letters to ExxonMobil.  The multi-national corporation chose not to respond leaving Nouri looking like an angry, spurned lover.  Or a stalker.  Nouri's people continued to send those letters with no response.  And we pointed out how ridiculous Nouri was looking and making Iraq look throughout that period.  There were threats of lawsuits, there was barring ExxonMobil from auctions, it was ridiculous.  First of all, it didn't build confidence among the international business sector that Iraq had its act together.  Second of all, those remaining acutions?  In the February 22nd snapshot we noted what was being offered by Baghdad in the March acution  was "a dingo dog with fleas." Were we wrong?  The auction was a bust.  They had no takers.  Instead of grasping that Nouri had created a serious image problem for Iraq, they decided they just needed to have the same auction all over again.  So they scheduled it for two days at the end of May.  From the May 31st snapshot:

Iraq's two day energy auction ended today. Yesterday brought one successful bid. W.G. Dunlop and Salam Faraj (AFP) explain, "Iraq on Thursday closed a landmark auction of energy exploration blocks with just three contracts awarded out of a potential 12, dampening hopes the sale would cement its role as a key global supplier." The offerings weren't seen as desirable and the deals offered even less so. But big business began sending signals this auction would not go well over two months ago. (And we've noted that at least three times in previous months.) That's due to the instability in Iraq caused by Nouri -- and it is seen as caused by Nouri in the oil sector because he is the prime minister, he did pick a fight with Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, he did order Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi arrested. All the instability in recent months have not helped. His attacks on ExxonMobil and their deal with the KRG has not helped. Nouri al-Maliki is bad for business. If Iraq had the arrangement they did under Saddam Hussein, Nouri could get away with that. But he's going to have to grasp real soon that state oil isn't what it was under Hussein. The economic model (imposed by the US) is mixed. And if Iraqis hadn't fought back, it would be strictly privatized. Nouri's not yet learned that his actions impact Iraq's business. (And, in fairness to Nouri, this is a new thing for Iraq. Saddam Hussein could do anything and it wasn't an issue unless the super powers decided it was. But, again, it's a mixed model now. Nouri might need to bring in some economic advisors from out of the country.) W.G. Dunlop and Salam Faraj (AFP) report Iraq's response to the poor showing at the auction is to declare that they will hold another one.
Well one is greater than zero.  But not worth the cost of putting together one auction, let alone two.  Following the twin embarrassments of March and May, Nouri had a new 'brilliant idea:'
get the White House to tell Exxon "no."  So he made noises and made public letters to the White House.  Then, on July 19th, Nouri al-Maliki insisted that the White House had conveyed, in a letter, their support for his attempts to cancel the October contract the Kurdistan Regional Government signed with ExxonMobil.  No such thing happened.  But damned if some in the press reported differently.  The US does not have state-control over oil companies -- certainly not over multi-national ones like ExxonMobil -- "multi-national" meaning more than one nation.  Like so many of Nouri's brilliant plans, that one fell apart.  Derek Brower explains, "Pressure has been building on the central government to punish ExxonMobil for its investment in Kurdistan, he said.  The government knows it could not win a court case if it stripped the US firm of its contract, he said, but could make operations intolerably difficult." It couldn't win a court case.  What the KRG and ExxonMobil did, for all of Nouri's pouting and foot stomping, ws legal.  Thomas W. Donovan (The National) explains:
The most urgent need is for a comprehensive federal law to regulate the hydrocarbons industry. At present, petroleum operations are governed by a collection of laws from previous regimes and by the 2005 constitution. This legal hodgepodge gives no guidance on the interplay between the federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), nor does it set out any rules for oil-revenue sharing between the central administration and the regional governorates.
A draft law to govern oil and gas production was tentatively agreed upon as far back as 2007. However, disputes between Baghdad and the KRG blocked enactment of a law, and today there are three draft versions, none of them likely to win approval anytime soon.
2007 is a key date. Not just because Nouri was prime minister (but he was -- the US government installed him in April 2006).  In the lead up to the US 2006 mid-terms, Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress lied to the American people, swearing, "Give us back one House of Congress and we'll end the Iraq War."  The American people trusted that they were being told the truth and did something pretty amazing -- turned both house of Congress over to the Democratic Party.  That was so surprising that even Pelosi and company hadn't been pushing it as a possibility.  Afraid the Democrats might be telling the truth and might pull the funding on the illegal war, Bully Boy Bush quickly devised a series of benchmarks in 2007.  He signed off on them, Nouri al-Maliki signed off on them.  This was the tool by which, the White House insisted, progress could be measured in Iraq.
Because the US press is as stupid as the US Congress (well, the Congress didn't want to end the Iraq War, let's be honest, so they weren't stupid so much as they were pretending to be), no progess was always somehow turned into success.  In April of 2007, Mike Peska (NPR's Day By Day -- link is text and audio) decided to grade the progress on the benchmarks.  He should have just stuck to putting happy face stickers on each one.  Needing people to help him deceive, he enlisted the master of deception Philip Zelikow (adviser to Condi Rice, betrayer of 9-11 Jersey Widows and others who thought they'd get a real investigation into the events of 9-11) and the Brookings Institution's Carlos Pascual.  Here's how the 'brain trust' graded the 'progress' on the oil law:
Pres. BUSH: Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis.
PESCA: Both Pascual and Zelikow said this is happening as we speak. Details are still to be worked out, but sharing oil revenue is something the Iraqis can point to as an area of real progress, much more so than the third plank that the president touch on.
They needed to pass legislation.  And Pesca 'reported' that his hand-picked brain trust said "this is happening as we speak."  Seriously? 
It was a lie then, it's a lie over five years later.  Happening as we speak?  It never happened.  The press sold the Iraq War.  Not just the start of it but all of it.  There has never been accountability for any of these actions.  No one's ever done their update of, "Remember when we said . . . Well, turns out . . ."  And let's remember that Mike Pesca was just on Weekend Editon Sunday ridiculing the New York Daily News' Filip Bondy for being creative with languge in his description of a home run.  That home run mattered to baseball fans.  Those benchmarks?  All the press whores that lied -- that includes Pesca -- provided cover for Nouri and Iraqis suffer because of Pesca and his ilk.  Filip Bondy's descriptive powers didn't have a fly.  Pesca might need to remember that before he takes to NPR next to slam another journalist.  And Rachel Martin might want to think about who she goes on air with to mock other journalists.
Having agreed, in writing, to pass an oil and gas law and never having accomplished it, over five years later, Nouri's got no standing to whine about what the KRG is doing.  If he doesn't like it, he should have kept his word and passed an oil and gas law.  Didn't do it, so the current law(s) allow the KRG to make the deals they're making.  Considering the money involved, you'd think even a semi-functioning government would have taken this seriously.  The Ministry of Oil notes on their website, "The ministry of oil of Iraq declared that the daily oil exports for September 2012 rose to 2.6 million barrels with 8.4 billion dollars outcome [. . .]"
All that money and Nouri still can't turn on the lights.