17 June 2008

Exclusive: Ex-UK Army Chief in Iraq Confirms Peak Oil Motive for War; Praises Fraudulent Reconstruction Programmes

A former senior British Army official in Iraq, James Ellery, admits the link between peak oil and the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq. Currently director of British security firm and US defence contractor, AEGIS, Ellery also whitewashes the massive corruption in Iraqi reconstruction projects.

Brigadier-General James Ellery CBE, the Foreign Office’s Senior Adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad since 2003, confirmed the critical role of Iraqi oil reserves in potentially alleviating a “world shortage” of conventional oil. The Iraq War has helped to head off what Brigadier Ellery described as “the tide of Easternisation” – a shift in global political and economic power toward China and India, to whom goes “two thirds of the Middle East’s oil.”

After the 2004 transfer of authority to an interim Iraqi civilian administration, Brigadier Ellery set up and ran the 700-strong security framework operation in support of the US-funded Reconstruction of Iraq. His remarks were made as part of a presentation at the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), University of London, sponsored by the Iraqi Youth Foundation, on 22nd April.

World Oil Shortage

“The reason that oil reached $117 a barrel last week”, he said, “was less to do with security of supply… than World shortage.” He went on to emphasise the strategic significance of Iraqi petroleum fields in relation to the danger of production peaks being breached in major oil reserves around the world. “Russia’s production has peaked at 10 million barrels per day; Africa has proved slow to yield affordable extra supplies – from Sudan and Angola for example. Thus the only near-term potential increase will be from Iraq,” he said. Whether Iraq began “favouring East or West” could therefore be “de-stabilizing” not only “within the region but to nations far beyond which have an interest.”

Last month geological surveys and seismic data compiled by several international oil companies exploring Iraqi oil reserves showed that Iraq has the world’s largest proven oil reserves, with as much as 350 billion barrels, significantly exceeding Saudi Arabia’s 264 billion barrels, according to a report in the London Times. Former Bush administration energy adviser Matthew Simmons, author of the book Twilight in the Desert, says that Saudi oil production has probably already peaked, with production rates declining consecutively each year. This month the UK Treasury Department warned of the danger of an oil supply crunch by 2015, due to rocketing demand from China and India.

The Threat of Easternisation

Brigadier Ellery’s career in the British Army has involved stints in the Middle East, Africa, Bosnia, Germany and Northern Ireland. “Iraq holds the key to stability in the region,” he said, “unless that is you believe the tide of ‘Easternisation’ is such that the USA and the West are in such decline, relative to the emerging China and India, that it is the East – not the West – which is more likely to guarantee stability. Incidentally, I do not.” Iraq’s pivotal importance in the Middle East, he explained, is because of its “relatively large, consuming population” at 24 million, its being home to “the second largest reserve of oil – under exploited”, and finally its geostrategic location “on the routes between Asia, Europe, Arabia and North Africa - hence the Silk Road.”

Oil production peaks when a given petroleum reserve is depleted by half, after which oil is geophysically increasingly difficult to extract, causing production to plateau, and then steadily decline. US oil production peaked by 1970, while British production in the North Sea peaked by 2000, converting both countries from exporters into net importers of oil and gas.

Oil industry experts and petroleum geologists increasingly believe that world oil production is precariously close to peaking. According to an October 2007 report by the German-based Energy Watch Group, run by an international network of European politicians and scientists, world oil production peaked in 2006. According to BP’s annual statistical review of world energy supply and demand for 2008, released on 11th June, world oil production fell last year for the first time since 2002, by 130,000 barrels per day last year to 81.53 million. Yet world consumption continued to rise by 1.1 per cent to 85.22 million barrels per day, outweighing production by nearly 5 per cent.

Iraqi Reconstruction Corruption Whitewash

Brigadier-General James Ellery is currently Director of Operations at AEGIS Defence Services Ltd., a private British security firm and US defence contractor since June 2004. In April this year, the same month as Ellery’s SOAS lecture, AEGIS won the renewal of its US defence department (DoD) contract for two more years, which at $475 million is the single largest security contract brokered by the DoD. The contract is to provide security services for reconstruction projects in Iraq conducted by mostly American companies.

A US government audit by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, released exactly two years before Brigadier Ellery’s SOAS presentation, concluded that AEGIS could not prove it had properly trained or vetted several armed Iraqi employees. For a random sample of 20 armed guards, no training documentation was found for 14 of them. For 125 other employees, AEGIS reportedly failed to document background checks. The auditors concluded that “there is no assurance that Aegis is providing the best possible safety and security for government and reconstruction contractor personnel and facilities.”

During his April presentation at SOAS, AEGIS director Ellery declared, “Iraq promises a degree of prosperity in the region as it embarks on massive Iraqi-funded reconstruction, a part of which will raise Iraqi’s oil production from 2.5 million bpd today to 3 million by next year and maybe ultimately 6 million barrels per day.” He added, “With a budget of $187 billion over 4 years, Iraq is poised to have a considerable impact on the economies of countries whose technologies can fill the skills gap left by the latter years of Saddam Hussein’s regime.”

During the UN sanctions regime imposed primarily by the US and Britain, Iraq was banned from importing thousands of household goods, including food, medicines, clothes and books, from 1991 to 2003, purportedly to prevent Saddam from developing weapons of mass destruction. It is now widely recognized that the sanctions led to massive socio-economic deprivation, the break-down of civilian infrastructure, large-scale unemployment, and de-industrialisation, resulting in the deaths of up to 1.8 million Iraqis, half of whom were children. The humanitarian crisis led United Nations officials such as Dennis Halliday, former UN Assistant Secretary-General, and Hans von Sponeck, former Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, to resign in protest.

Today, those profiting most from reconstruction projects in Iraq are not Iraqis, but private contractors based primarily in the United States and Britain, according to a new report out last month by Stuart Bowen Jr, incumbent Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. The Bowen Report found that at least 855 contracts valued at billions of dollars were cancelled before completion. Another 112 agreements were cancelled because of poor performance, while still more projects recorded as completed never happened. In one case, a $50 million children’s hospital in Basra is listed as completed although the contract was stopped when only 35 percent of the work was finished.

During Brigadier Ellery’s tenure at the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Baghdad, under Paul Bremer’s leadership $8.8 billion of reconstruction funds were unaccounted for, and a further $3.4 billion was re-directed for “security” purposes. A UN body to audit the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI), by which the CPA Programme Review Board managed Iraqi oil revenues until June 2004, found “gross irregularities by CPA officials in their management of the DFI,” and condemned the United States for “lack of transparency” and providing the opportunity for “fraudulent acts.”

Under American- and British-administered Iraqi reconstruction programmes, Iraqi agriculture has been devastated. In 2004, the Coalition Provision Authority imposed a hundred economic orders designed to open Iraq’s economy to foreign investment, including Order 12 for tax- and tariff-free imports of foreign products. The Order allowed the giant American agribusiness conglomerate Cargill to flood Iraq with hundreds of thousands of tonnes of cheap wheat, undercutting local food prices, and wiping out the livelihoods of Iraqi farmers.

As an executive director of AEGIS, one of the most prominent US defence contractors in Iraq, Brigadier Ellery is a personal beneficiary of the privatisation of the Iraqi economy. In the conclusions of his April address, he said, “Iraq has resources aplenty: not just oil, of which there is a prodigious quantity”, but especially “the capacity to rebuild a balanced economy including agriculture - for which Iraq was a legend.”

13 June 2008

42 Days: Creeping Internment

The British state's attempt to push through detention without charge for 42 days is a precursor to a plan to impose indefinite internment, targeted disproportionately against Muslims and ethnic minorities.

The current controversy over 42 days is only a sign of things to come. The British state views the House of Commons victory as a stepping-stone on the way to obtaining the power to impose internment, that is, the power to label innocent people people as "terrorist suspects", and subsequently detain them indefinitely without charge. Yet just as the House of Lords is expected to reject the Bill for now, it is equally expected that unelected Prime Minister Gordon Brown will attempt to galvanise the Parliament Act to force the Bill through.

One of the most vocal voices in the state campaign for internment is that of Ken Jones, who as head of the Association of Police Chief Officers (APCO), and former chair of its counter-terrorism committee, insisted last year that there was a need to hold people without charge for "as long as it takes." This "judicially-supervised detention" is, we were told, essential to counter the increasingly complex, global nature of terror cells.

This was, however, only an official public admission of police planning that has clearly gone on far longer. The first hint that Scotland Yard was privately pushing for internment came on 8th October 2006. The conservative political commentator Iain Dale revealed that Sir Ian Blair as Metropolitan Police Commissioner told a Reform Club Media Group meeting under Chatham House rules that the British people should "brace themselves for a truly appalling act of terror", following which "people would be talking quite openly about internment".

Then on the 19th October 2006, Professor Anthony Glees, director of the Brunel Centre for Intelligence & Security Studies at Brunel University, wrote a piece in the Independent, 'Internment should be a policy option', arguing for the overturning of the European Convention on Human Rights, which he insisted is "inappropriate for a country at war." Advocating that "We need to think about how we should behave to people who consider us enemies", namely Muslim communities, he went on to argue:

"Internment in the second world war is called MI5's darkest hour, but internment was a very effective way of keeping the country safe from Nazi subversion. People say that the vast majority of those interned were Jews, and they would be the last people to act in a subversive way. In fact research shows that there were some Jews in Britain as agents of the Third Reich. Their families were in the hands of the Gestapo and they were blackmailed. And some say that internment in Northern Ireland made the situation better. Internment needs to be talked about. There shouldn't be things that shouldn't be considered - if they can help."

The increasing attempt to legitimise the concept and practice of internment against predominantly Muslim communities adds to the raft of anti-terror legislation which is already systematically discriminatory. It also feeds into the the rampant politicization of intelligence, in which - as investigative journalist and Spectator editor Peter Oborne has documented in a paper for the Centre for Policy Studies - the spectre of terrorism both before and after 7/7 has been deliberately exaggerrated, and even fabricated, by the British government and police to legitimize authoritarian measures of social control at home and abroad.

According to Harmit Atwal of the Institute of Race Relations in London:

"There are two criminal justice systems in Britain today. In the first, under the ordinary rule of law, there is a balance between the rights of the citizen and the rights of the state. But in the second, under the special provisions of anti-terror laws, you can be arrested, questioned and publicly accused of being a threat to civilisation on the thinnest of pretexts, detained without fair trial and go slowly mad in the cells of Belmarsh, Woodhill or the immigration detention centres. The first system applies to white Britons. The second system applies to foreign nationals and, increasingly, British Muslims too."

Hence, the impact of creeping internment will most likely be the further systematic erosion of British national security. According to Des Thomas, a former Senior Detective Superintendent, Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) and Deputy Head of Hampshire Constabulary CID, the 7/7 attacks served "to facilitate the introduction of repressive legislation and oppressive policing resulting in the frightening and alienation of the Muslim community." Thomas warned that the tightening of anti-terror powers is thus "conducive to allowing insurgents to establish an area from which they would be free to move, recruit and mount further attacks. Laws of this kind are often impossible to implement and the trying may itself act as a recruiting sergeant for extremist organisations." Increasingly harsh anti-terror laws make "it easier for Muslim extremists to convince potential recruits" exposing the "short-sighted and repressive nature of the state response." [p. 9]

Thomas' concerns are backed by the evidence - evidence that the British state, MPs and mainstream media continue to ignore. A study by the Democratic Audit at the University of Essex that:

"The key to successfully combating terrorism lies in winning the trust and cooperation of the Muslim communities in the UK. However, the government's counter terrorism legislation and rhetorical stance are between them creating serious losses in human rights and criminal justice protections; loosening the fabric of justice and civil liberties in the UK... harming community relations... having a disproportionate effect on the Muslim communities... prejudicing the ability of the government and security forces to gain the very trust and cooperation from individuals in those communities that they require to combat terrorism. The impact of the legislation and its implementation has been self-defeating as well as harmful."

Similarly, even Demos, a think-tank of which Brown's predecessor Blair has been particularly fond, backs up these findings in a study setting out a six-point strategy for countering extremism by working within and alongside Muslim communities. The report finds that the potential radicalisation of younger generations of British Muslims is precisely the danger that increasing indiscriminate arrests under new anti-terror powers will exacerbate.

Inevitably, casting the net so wide that innocent people are inevitably drawn into new police 42 day internment-regimes will culminate in increasing discontent, frustration, and anger at the injustice of the legal system. It will also generate a massive burden in manpower, cost and bureaucracy on a national security system which is already riddled with holes, to process thousands of cases the vast majority of which will be dead leads.

Given that the Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Kevin Macdonald, had already confirmed that an extension of detention time without charge is simply unnecessary ("Our experience has been that 28 days has suited us quite nicely"), the underlying state rationale behind creeping internment has neither been explained, nor justified.

10 June 2008

The Price of Business-as-Usual

Christian Aid is angry. The British government has just "eviscerated" the Climate Change Bill, claimed the agency.

The Guardian, in contrast, appears relatively delighted. They simply cut and pasted a news agency report from the Press Association, headlined "UK bill to set carbon targets clears first hurdle."

For some reason, they don't seem very bothered about analysing the details. Yes, they've got a nice little debate going, with critics like ex-environment minister Michael Meacher head-to-head against current minister Phil Woolas, plus some added criticisms from the Lib Dems, the Tories officially congratulating Labour, not to mention several Tory backbenchers opposing the whole idea of action to prevent dangerous climate change. But there's a very important point, mentioned, alluded to, but not really elaborated on, a point that at this time the public sorely needs to understand.

I haven't seen any other reporting on what the government has just done with this Bill, and would be interested to see how the Bill is portrayed (if it is portrayed beyond the above meagre pickings).

But Christian Aid puts it very clearly. What matters, is not so much what is being proposed, but what the govt is studiously avoiding:

"Christian Aid said it was deeply disappointed at the Government's refusal, revealed yesterday by Phil Woolas MP, Minister of State for the Environment at the start of the Bill's second reading in Parliament, to include a target for cutting UK carbon emissions of 80 percent over 1990 levels by 2050.

It said the removal from the Bill of an undertaking to ensure that UK emissions of greenhouse gases do not exceed the level necessary to limit global temperature rises to not more than 2C above pre industrial levels would fatally undermine the credibility of the UK's climate change policies.
...

'Only carbon emission cuts of 80% and above will keep global temperatures below 2oC. That target is essential as beyond 2C the effects of climate change such as drought, floods and disease will become rampant.' "

Decisions, decisions. So the govt has decided that there's no need to worry about the two degree limit (which is bad enough).

In fact, and we need to be very clear on this, at current rates of increase of emissions, where are we likely to be over the coming decades? Well, the Guardian isn't exactly unfamiliar with this, given their summary of Mark Lynas' book Six Degrees, which outlines the findings of thousands of peer-reviewed scientific papers:

"The impacts of two degrees warming are bad enough, but far worse is in store if emissions continue to rise. Most importantly, 3C may be the 'tipping point' where global warming could run out of control, leaving us powerless to intervene as planetary temperatures soar. The centre of this predicted disaster is the Amazon, where the tropical rainforest, which today extends over millions of square kilometres, would burn down in a firestorm of epic proportions.

"Computer model projections show worsening droughts making Amazonian trees, which have no evolved resistance to fire, much more susceptible to burning. Once this drying trend passes a critical threshold, any spark could light the firestorm which destroys almost the entire rainforest ecosystem. Once the trees have gone, desert will appear and the carbon released by the forests' burning will be joined by still more from the world's soils. This could boost global temperatures by a further 1.5ÂșC - tipping us straight into the four-degree world.

"Three degrees alone would see increasing areas of the planet being rendered essentially uninhabitable by drought and heat. In southern Africa, a huge expanse centred on Botswana could see a remobilisation of old sand dunes, much as is projected to happen earlier in the US west. This would wipe out agriculture and drive tens of millions of climate refugees out of the area. The same situation could also occur in Australia, where most of the continent will now fall outside the belts of regular rainfall.

"With extreme weather continuing to bite - hurricanes may increase in power by half a category above today's top-level Category Five - world food supplies will be critically endangered. This could mean hundreds of millions - or even billions - of refugees moving out from areas of famine and drought in the sub-tropics towards the mid-latitudes. In Pakistan, for example, food supplies will crash as the waters of the Indus decline to a trickle because of the melting of the Karakoram glaciers that form the river's source. Conflicts may erupt with neighbouring India over water use from dams on Indus tributaries that cross the border.

"In northern Europe and the UK, summer drought will alternate with extreme winter flooding as torrential rainstorms sweep in from the Atlantic - perhaps bringing storm surge flooding to vulnerable low-lying coastlines as sea levels continue to rise. Those areas still able to grow crops and feed themselves, however, may become some of the most valuable real estate on the planet, besieged by millions of climate refugees from the south."

Yet after all the fanfare and jumping around and big words and loud promises, when all the racket about being Green has died down, the govt reneges on its own promises. What a surprise. Not.

Given that Brown did the same last year when he "U-turned" on pledges to follow EU targets to generate 20 per cent of Europe's energy from renewable sources, as also noted by the Guardian, to its credit (and even the Telegraph).

Why?

Because, according to both papers, the Business Secretary John Hutton was worried about pissing off the Ministry of Defence, an "excessive" cost of about £4billion of investment (we won't worry about the jobs that could be created in the process, nor the £205 billion of taxpayers money the govt has poured unchecked and unaccounted for into Iraq up to 2007, probably subsidising corrupt defence contractors, that's £6.5 billion for this year alone), as well as conflicting with the petrol-friendly nuclear power lobby.

This Bill is a fraud.

9 June 2008

Iraq: Agreement to Allow US to Launch Wider Regional War

According to the Gulf News here.

And immediately denied by US officials, also here.

Makes you wonder though, doesn't it? Especially given the distance Israel is putting between itself and the ill-considered declaration from an Israeli minister that war with Iran is "inevitable."

My view?

Well, everyone knows the Hawks are eager for a war on Iran. But it's becoming more difficult to get their way.

Unfortunately, the war-mongers -- I'm not just talking about the Hawks in Washington and their imbecile lieutenants in Whitehall, I'm talking about the many servile unthinking media pundits, some of whom like to think of themselves as 'security' journalists, who've been parroting govt press releases for so long they've lost all ability to critically connect concepts together (yes, the process known as 'thinking' controlled by those obscure rules of 'logic' against the landscape of 'fact') -- the war-mongers don't really understand the potential ramifications of a war.

Neither are they capable of seeing the obvious disinformation that has been poured for the last 5 years or more into making the world believe that Iran really poses a threat to our security, disinformation which is without a shred of actual evidence, beyond the BS that passes for "intelligence."

But so what! Let's nuke the crap out of the place and trigger Armageddon. We'll all be safer then.

5 June 2008

Revealed: Secret plan to keep Iraq under US control

The Independent today reports on the continuing wonders of the drive for democratisation and civilisation in Iraq in a frontpage piece sub-headlined:

"Bush wants 50 military bases, control of Iraqi airspace and legal immunity for all American soldiers and contractors"

By Patrick Cockburn

Thursday, 5 June 2008

A secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad would perpetuate the American military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the US presidential election in November.

The terms of the impending deal, details of which have been leaked to The Independent, are likely to have an explosive political effect in Iraq. Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which US troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilise Iraq's position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country.

But the accord also threatens to provoke a political crisis in the US. President Bush wants to push it through by the end of next month so he can declare a military victory and claim his 2003 invasion has been vindicated. But by perpetuating the US presence in Iraq, the long-term settlement would undercut pledges by the Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama, to withdraw US troops if he is elected president in November.

The timing of the agreement would also boost the Republican candidate, John McCain, who has claimed the United States is on the verge of victory in Iraq – a victory that he says Mr Obama would throw away by a premature military withdrawal.

America currently has 151,000 troops in Iraq and, even after projected withdrawals next month, troop levels will stand at more than 142,000 – 10 000 more than when the military "surge" began in January 2007. Under the terms of the new treaty, the Americans would retain the long-term use of more than 50 bases in Iraq. American negotiators are also demanding immunity from Iraqi law for US troops and contractors, and a free hand to carry out arrests and conduct military activities in Iraq without consulting the Baghdad government.

The precise nature of the American demands has been kept secret until now. The leaks are certain to generate an angry backlash in Iraq. "It is a terrible breach of our sovereignty," said one Iraqi politician, adding that if the security deal was signed it would delegitimise the government in Baghdad which will be seen as an American pawn.

The US has repeatedly denied it wants permanent bases in Iraq but one Iraqi source said: "This is just a tactical subterfuge." Washington also wants control of Iraqi airspace below 29,000ft and the right to pursue its "war on terror" in Iraq, giving it the authority to arrest anybody it wants and to launch military campaigns without consultation.

Mr Bush is determined to force the Iraqi government to sign the so-called "strategic alliance" without modifications, by the end of next month. But it is already being condemned by the Iranians and many Arabs as a continuing American attempt to dominate the region. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the powerful and usually moderate Iranian leader, said yesterday that such a deal would create "a permanent occupation". He added: "The essence of this agreement is to turn the Iraqis into slaves of the Americans."

Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is believed to be personally opposed to the terms of the new pact but feels his coalition government cannot stay in power without US backing.

The deal also risks exacerbating the proxy war being fought between Iran and the United States over who should be more influential in Iraq.

[...]

Hmm. Of course, nothing to do with oil.

Nothing to do with the fact that Saudi oil reserves have already peaked and are now in decline, with production declining year after year, according to former Bush administration energy adviser Matthew Simmons.

Certainly nothing to do with the finding last month, based on geological surveys and seismic data compiled by several international oil companies exploring Iraqi oil reserves, that Iraq "has the world's largest proven oil reserves, with as much as 350 billion barrels", significantly exceeding Saudi Arabia's 264 billion barrels.

If truth be told, the new figures were probably estimated by the oil majors, and the US State Department, several decades ago, but deliberately repressed from public understanding both in Iraq and beyond.

And certainly, none of this has anything to do with the Iraqi oil law that has been stalled for a year, which is set to privatise Iraqi oil reserves and dump them exclusively in the hands of Western corporate multinationals, despite objections from Iraqi trade unions which of course represent the demands of the majority of Iraq's labourers. "Iraqis will never accept this sellout to the oil corporations", says Kamil Mahdi, an Iraqi academic based at the University of Exeter. But who cares what the Iraqi people want anyway? It's not like these barbarians really understand anything about freedom and democracy anyway.

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