There is a large element of truth in the proposition that the Rwandans have been doubly unlucky. First, through their geography and second, because of the absence of oil there. Unfortunately for the Iraqis the reverse of that proposition is the case.
What is now suggested about the situation in Iraq is that the United States' imputed lust for oil trumps, on every count, the human rights excesses of the sadistic Ba'athist regime and the perils presented to the world by the serial recidivist, Saddam. Even the Sydney Morning Herald editorialist has joined the chorus of "no blood for oil".
This claim does not withstand analysis. Its principal purpose appears to permit the simultaneous preservation of what Tony Blair has rightly called knee-jerk anti-Americanism while distracting discussion from the truth of the Saddam regime. The English journalist Christopher Hitchens has coined a new term for this - "subject change" - the embarrassment created by too close exposure to, and concentration upon, the true facts of the Iraqi regime, which is avoided by always changing the subject to familiar anti-American nostrums. 'Regime change' is avoided by 'subject change'.
There are two things to be said about this position. First, there is nothing to be apologetic about for the protection of Western interests against a madman who, left unchecked, stands to hold sway over not just his own oil but all the oil in the gulf. The appeasement advocates may not remember, but Saddam assuredly does remember all too keenly, the grudges he bears against not just Iran but the Gulf states and the Saudis for their earlier support of the coalition which ejected him from Kuwait. However repulsive the Saudis are, if they are to be displaced it should not be at the behest of Saddam.
Second, does anyone really believe that ordinary Iraqis gain or have gained for decades, any benefits from that country's oil? The evidence of Saddam's ransacking of his country's oil resources is available for anyone with the inclination to discover it. He has not agonised about moral dilemmas while he and his cronies have bled the Iraqi people white in the systematic plunder of their oil resources.
The circumvention of the UN sanctions on oil sales outside the terms of the1991 ceasefire agreement and the 1996 UN Food for Oil agreement have become legion- and the main beneficiaries are Saddam, his Ba'athist clique and its cronies. In this week's New York Times an Iraqi functionary described it (privately of course) as "gangster business, pure and simple".
But the breach of these recent post-Kuwait agreements represents nothing more than business as usual for Saddam. According to forensic accountants Kroll & Associates, since 1981 Saddam is estimated to have diverted about $US1 billion from oil revenues for his personal use. Even if this estimate is a gross exaggeration, it places the 'blood for oil' argument in perspective.
Compared to Saddam, if the whole of the Iraqi oil industry was operated by Texaco, the average Iraqi's life would be incomparably improved. Indeed, if the former executives of Enron were given the task, their rapaciousness would seem touchingly amateurish when compared with the Corleone style of Saddam.
The truth about the present state of the Iraqi oil industry is far more complex than the 'blood for oil' crowd admit. An investment of $30-40 billion is necessary in order to rehabilitate existing wells and develop new oil fields. The international community should insist on Saddam's departure as a condition of implementing any plan to bring these resources to the point where they can deliver real benefits to all Iraqis.
It should be clear to all by now that the continued existence of the Saddam regime and the delivery of benefits derived from its oil resources to Iraqis are mutually incompatible.
Not content to plunder just the oil resources, UN humanitarian aid has in more recent times become another source of personal enrichment for the Saddam clique. Medical supplies have been diverted to the black market and Saddam's grotesque number one son, the murderous Uday, has even been implicated in the re-labelling and diversion for resale abroad of UN supplied baby food.
The regime's crocodile tears shed for starving children are easily exposed as gross hypocrisy. What is disturbing is the stubborn refusal of so many in the West to recognise and appreciate the true implications of a regime with Saddam's record armed with weapons of mass destruction.
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