21 December 2011

Veni, vidi, vici

Great news. As of December 15, Operation Iraqi Freedom, otherwise known as the Iraq War, is officially over (we won). Australia, as part of the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ can give itself a big pat on the back here. We, and the forces of Western Democracy, have done bloody well.

In summary we were in a bad situation back in 2003 when the whole thing kicked off. Osama bin Laden and his Terrorist Army were pretty much in charge of everything in North Africa and the Middle East. Even worse, some guy on a desk in the CIA had reliably informed us that our former best friend Saddam Hussein appeared to be making Weapons of Mass Destruction - and not that nerve gas we said it was OK for him to use on the Kurds, really bad nerve gas this time. Maybe even nukes.

The situation was simply unacceptable. If anyone’s going to be killing innocent civilians it’ll be the goddamn Western Democratic Powers thank you very much. To that end we bombed the bejezus out of Baghdad and anywhere else that looked promising. Even let our boys play with a bit of white phosphorous in Faluja. Geneva Convention? What are you? A pussy?

May 1st 2003 – all done. The Iraqi population pretty much gave us a tickertape parade. Now it was time to clean up. Things were in a pretty bad state due to the bombing in the Gulf War and the years of economic sanctions before the bombing in the Iraq War. Luckily Iraq had a newly democratised society finally out from under the yoke of Saddam Hussein; they were raring to go. Even better, Iraq probably the largest oil reserves in the Middle East* – all that money would allow Iraqi society to flourish in no time. They just needed a little help from their Liberators – us!

First things first, everyone in any position of power was a member of Saddam’s evil Ba’ath Party. This wasn’t because Saddam was a crazy dictator and being in the Ba’ath Party might make it slightly easier for you to get a job or avoid getting executed for coughing at an inopportune moment; it was because you were an evil supporter of an evil dictator. Getting rid of anyone who was a member of the Ba’ath Party gave the new Iraq a minty fresh taste – the fact that these were the very people who knew how to run the country was immaterial. We could always get new guys in to replace all that experience we were flushing down the toilet. Oh yeah, we’d also let looters burn and destroy nearly every public record in Baghdad (apart from those in the Oil Ministry*) so that should make it even easier.

Second things second, Iraqi Society was a little too homogenous. Most Iraqis thought of themselves as Iraqis first, then Muslims. We knew better though, there were Dangerous Sectarian Undercurrents that could erupt into violence at any moment. To that end we based all subsequent decisions on the idea that the country was divided amongst Shi’a Muslims, Sunni Muslims and Kurds. That guy on the desk in the CIA found out that the Sunnis had been pretty much the big boys under Saddam so they had to be put in their place. A few years later things were ticking along nicely, political representation was based along ethno-sectarian lines, ethno-sectarian based violence was up to nearly 100 incidents per day and Iraq had a brand new constitution that the Iraqi People had been completely excluded from having a say in.

Next up it was time for the money to start rolling in. The Iraqi oil industry had some of the best engineers in the business. They’d managed to keep the show on the road despite bits of infrastructure being blown up every other day and the sanctions meaning they had to fix things with string and paperclips. Unfortunately lots of them were Ba’athists so they had to go. The rest started joining the revived trade unions that had been illegal under Saddam. That was no good either, as they were all in favour of keeping the oil under the aegis of the Iraqi State, buying in technology with the profits from existing wells in order to develop more production capacity, and training a new generation of Iraqis to manage and exploit their country’s single most important resource. That all sounded dangerously like communism so we put a bunch of guys in charge based purely on how hard they could suck up to the occupying forces, left Saddam’s laws on the books that made trade unions illegal, and moved trade unionists from one facility to another to make sure they couldn’t stir up trouble.

Things looked bad for a minute when the neutered remnants of the government couldn’t even pass an oil law so we at least had some sort of legal recourse if the country ever got uppity about their economy getting raped. Eventually though everyone settled down and had a good old fashioned auction. There was plenty of collusion between bidders and plenty of oil up for grabs so there wasn’t too much competition to put people off. Lots of companies got the rights to extract lots of oil for the next 20 years*. The new Iraqi government were really obliging by not insisting on any legal oversight, not mandating any jobs for Iraqis, and even chucking in some compensation for all the security the companies would have to hire. Everyone was happy. Especially the West, as a bunch of private companies ramping up production on pretty much every oil field in Iraq would certainly be a kick in the nuts for any production limits OPEC tried to set in the future*.

So, three cheers for us. Another job well done, and it only cost us 5,123 lives... Oh yeah, there were a few dead Iraqis too – somewhere between 100,000 and 650,000. It can be hard to keep track when you’re killing so many people you don’t give a fuck about.

* NB: the war had nothing whatsoever to do with oil.