Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


July 8, 2014

Lion and the Lamb: Time for an oil change

CROSSVILLE — The land of Iraq, earlier known as Mesopotamia, has a long history going back to Neanderthal times some 60,000 years ago. Later, around 10,000 years ago, it became the site for some of the most important developments in human history: the invention of the wheel, planting of cereal crops, the development of cursive script, mathematics, astronomy and agriculture. Today it is recognized as one of the cradles of civilization.

The Iraq location also became a prize bit of real estate, conquered by a dozen empires over the years until 1921 when the Kingdom of Iraq was established as a League of Nations mandate under British control. In setting up this nation as a pro-Western monarchy, however, Britain planted the seeds for many future troubles. By defining the territorial limits of Iraq without taking into account the politics of the various ethnic and religious groups in the country, such as the Kurds, Shi'ites, and Sunnis, the groundwork was laid for today's rivalries and enmities.

The Americans entered the picture fairly late in the game. In the 1830s, a large number of evangelical missionaries arrived to build hundreds of churches, schools and medical facilities. Beginning in 1880, archaeologists from from American universities conducted field work in Mesopotamia, hoping to discover artifacts that would corroborate biblical history. In the 1900s, U.S. oil corporations, looking for commercial opportunities in Mesopotamia, gained a 23.75 percent share in the Iraq Petroleum Corporation. In 1958, however, a coalition of Iraqi military officers, disillusioned by the monarchy's subservience to the West, overthrew the king in a bloody coup d'etat and set up a new regime with an anti-western flavor.

This led to a number of further developments. In 1967, Iraq severed diplomatic relations with the United States because it considered the U.S. complicit in Israeli military conquests during the Six Day War in June of that year. Then, in the 1970s, after Iraq nationalized U.S. petroleum interests and entered into a partnership with the Soviet Union to develop its oil capacity, U.S. officials began covertly equipping Kurdish rebels in order to weaken the Iraqi government. 

On March 20, 2003 this process culminated in a U.S.-led military invasion of Iraq that involved 248,000 soldiers from the U.S., 45,000 British soldiers, 2,000 Australian soldiers, 194 Polish soldiers, and Kurdish militia troops. The American and British leaders, George Bush Jr. and Tony Blair, denied that the invasion had anything to do with oil. But when they realized that the invasion's codename "Operation Iraqi Liberation" could be shortened to OIL, they quickly changed it to "Operation Iraqi Freedom." The rationale for the invasion, however, was more explicitly set forth in Bush's Executive Order No. 13303. It declared that future legal claims on Iraq's oil wealth constitute "an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States." This was our nation's official answer to the question "What is our oil doing under their sand?" 

This switch in claimants to Iraq's oil has been a stark one. Before the 2003 invasion, Iraq's domestic oil industry had been fully nationalized and closed to Western oil companies. After a decade of war, the picture radically changed. The oil industry was now almost completely privatized and dominated by foreign firms such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, and Shell, and by American oil service companies such as Halliburton, the Texas-based firm headed by Dick Cheney before he became George Bush's running mate. Iraq's oil industry now operates with little oversight or regulation.  

This de-nationalization process has had a profound impact on Iraq itself. Efforts to uproot the foreign hold on its major strategic asset and source of national wealth have been blocked. Hope for rebuilding its infrastructure and social services, such as health care and education, has been turning into national despair and fomenting civil warfare.

Michael Schwartz, a professor of sociology at Stony Brook University, has an important insight to share about Iraq and its oil problems: "The oppressive United States occupation was racked with insurgency precisely because it tried to harness the country's vast oil resources to its imperial designs in the Middle East. The oppressive Maliki regime is now racked with insurgency because the prime minister refused to share these same vast oil revenues with his Sunni constituents."

An oil change is long overdue. 

• • •

This column by local writers is dedicated to the theme that the lion and the lamb can and must learn to live together and grow in their relationship toward one another to ensure a better world of peace and justice.  Opinions expressed in "Lion and Lamb" columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff.  For more information, contact Ted Braun, column coordinator, at 277-5135.

Text Only
  • Lion and the Lamb: A promised land?

    Back in biblical times there was a group of people who believed that God had promised them a segment of land on this planet that would be theirs forever. Who could have known back then that this ancient promise and territorial justification would be used by their descendants today to claim the same segment of land?

    July 29, 2014

  • We the People: Bring back the American dream

    Our economy continues to expand. The stock market is at record levels, yet many ask why so many of us are struggling?  Barely half of us believe the American dream is attainable.

    July 29, 2014

  • Tidbits: Taking a low-tech break

    Feeling increasingly strangled by my electronic leash, with phone, text messages, email, social media and a variety of other forms of communication always at my side, I took the weekend off.

    July 28, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Governing before and after mass corruption

    Laws in America were originally written simply. Every citizen could read them quickly and understand their meaning. The founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Northwest Ordinance and the Constitution of the United States, none of which was longer than 4,500 words.

    July 28, 2014

  • We the People: The last dance

    Charlie Hayden’s last recording session with his early partner, Keith Jarrett, was in 2007.  The songs they played were mostly melancholy.  The second album coming from that session includes Weil’s “My Ship” and Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.” The dark ballad “Goodbye,” by Gordon Jenkins, was the final track.

    July 22, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Living in a pressure cooker

    The Gaza Strip, a small Palestinian territory about the size of Washington, D.C., has been in the news almost every day.  Its key location at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea has attracted a number of occupying powers over the years, and it has  been at the center of much Middle East history.

    July 22, 2014

  • Tidbits: The excitement of election day

    On March 12, 1996, there were 427,183 votes cast in the presidential primary election. Among those votes was mine, the first vote I cast in an election, just two days after my 18th birthday.

    July 21, 2014

  • Raising the minimum wage

    My first job from which FICA was withheld was a minimum wage job, seventy-five cents an hour. And yes, even then no one could live on that little money. However, I was a high schooler living at home where my father provided room and board. The job gave me pocket money to buy gasoline, to take my girlfriend out for movies and burgers, and to buy tickets for baseball games.

    July 21, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Children on the move

    The news this past week has focused on the humanitarian crisis developing on our southern border. Thousands of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras seeking to escape from the violence, human trafficking and extreme poverty in their countries have been entering the United States.

    July 15, 2014

  • We the People: Memo to gun rights groups

    The recent incident in California helps us understand why we cannot rely on mental health services alone to solve the problem of gun violence.

    July 15, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Raw: Japanese Soldiers Storm Beach in Exercises Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Two Women Narrowly Avoid Being Hit by Train In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast New Sanctions on Key Sectors of Russian Economy Crayola Announces Family Attraction in Orlando US Ready to Slap New Sanctions on Russia Kerry: Not Worried About Israeli Criticism Boater Rescued From Edge of Kentucky Dam Girl Struck by Plane on Florida Beach Dies Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre House to Vote on Slimmed-down Bill for Border Looming Demand Could Undercut Flight Safety Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice
Graduation 2014