May 26th, 2007 by ravi
A fat lot of difference

When Ralph Nader pointed out that there are no significant differences between the Democrats and Republicans it was met with responses that ranged from insult to false outrage which persists to this day among idle commentors in the blogosphere who challenge Nader’s motives, personality and commitment! One presumes they consider their own hard commenting e-politicking in favour of the Democratic party the better alternative to Nader’s decades of activism. The 2006 Democratic victory, eked out based on a sad mixture of Bush’s unpopularity and a field of ex-Republican and “Blue Dog” candidates, was the crowning achievement of this hyper-cautious citizen politician “liberal”s. The expectation then would be that we would, in quick order, gather evidence of how wrong Nader was about the difference between the two parties. Well, here is Matt Taibbi:

Tension Mounts as Antiwar Movement Challenges Dems’ Commitment to Stop the War


Neither of these Democratic leaders, after all, are Huey Newton, or even Benjamin Spock. They are not going to get up on a table, shake a shoe in the direction of the White House, shout “Fuck you, pig!” and just turn off the money, consequences be damned. No, these are career bureaucrats, political herd animals who survive year after year by clinging for dear life to the concept of safety in numbers. They will watch the bushes with great big eyes to see what is rustling back there, and when exactly two-thirds of the herd decides to bolt, they all will — not just the Democrats, but the Boehners and McConnells too, leaping over logs, tearing off big chunks of fur against the bark of trees, etc.


So maybe Reid and Pelosi really are working the phones on this one, who knows. What I do know is this; there are elements of the Democratic-crafted Iraq supplemental that are not only severely regressive but would actually tend to encourage the continuation of the insurgency. Anyone who wants an example of why the areas in which the Democrats and Republicans are in agreement are more significant than the ones in which they differ need only look at the two parties nearly unanimous endorsement of the “Benchmarks” the Iraqi government must meet, according to the supplemental. The key passage reads as follows:

(2) whether the Government of Iraq is making substantial progress in meeting its commitment to pursue reconciliation initiatives, including a hydro-carbon law…

It is notable that the hydrocarbon law comes in first place in this clause, ahead of “legislation necessary for the conduct of provincial and local elections,” reform of de-Baathification laws, amendments to the constitution and allocation of revenues for reconstruction projects. For whether or not it really was “all about oil” at the beginning of the war, the fate of the occupation really does hinge almost entirely upon oil initiatives now, as the continued presence of U.S. troops in the region may depend on whether or not the Iraqi government bites the bullet and decides to eat the proposed hydrocarbon law in question.

The law, endorsed here by the Democrats, is an unusually vicious piece of legislation, an open blueprint for colonial robbery of the Iraqi nation. It is worth pointing out that if you go back far enough in the history of this business, the law actually makes the U.S. an accomplice in the repression of Saddam Hussein, the very thing we claim to be rescuing the country from.


The proposed Hydrocarbon Law is a result of pressure from the American government on the Iraqis to draft an oil policy that would adhere to the IMF guidelines. It allows foreign companies to take advantage of Iraqi oil fields by allowing regions to pair up with foreigners using what are known as “production-sharing agreements” or PSAs, which guarantee investing companies large shares of the profits for decades into the future. The law also makes it impossible for the Iraqi state to regulate levels of oil production (seriously undermining OPEC), allows oil companies to repatriate profits, and would also allow companies to hire foreign workers to man facilities. Add all the measures up and the Hydrocarbon law not only takes control of the oil industry away from the Iraqi state, but virtually guarantees that the state will profit very little from future oil exploitation.


Moreover, let’s just say this about the Democratic Party. They can wash their hands of this war as much as they want publicly, but their endorsement of this crude neocolonial exploitation plan makes them accomplices in the occupation, and further legitimizes the insurgency. It is hard to argue with the logic of armed resistance to U.S. forces in Iraq when both American parties, representing the vast majority of the American voting public, endorse the same draconian plan to rob the country’s riches.

Current blogosphere darling (though even that tide is turning) Obama has been on the forefront of the call for the Iraqis to show responsibility. No doubt his righteous scolding will accomplish this bogus goal, more so than the death and disorder that the Iraqis are enduring as a result of our assault. Taibbi addresses such callous nonsense:

But I’ll tell you what I can do without. I can do without having to listen to American journalists, as well as politicians on both sides of the aisle, bitch and moan about how the Iraqi government better start “shaping up” and “taking responsibility” and “showing progress” if they want the continued blessing of American military power. Virtually every major newspaper in the country and every hack in Washington has lumped all the “benchmarks” together, painting them as concrete signs that, if met, would mean the Iraqi government is showing “progress” or “good faith.”

The term offered by the blog-comment-osphere for their hyper-cautious centrism is “gradualism”. Taibbi comments:

Moreover, this endorsement of these neoliberal “benchmarks” by the Democrats makes me believe a lot less in their “gradualist” approach to ending the war. If they viewed the war as much of the world did, as a murderous and profoundly immoral criminal enterprise, they would understand that morally, they really have no choice now but to refuse to send Bush even a dime more for this war.

Howard Zinn wrote recently a timely piece pointing out that we are not politicians but citizens. But for the “progressive” blogosphere, the small bits of power derived from colluding with the Democrats (which they perceive as king-making, or at best productive engagement) perhaps offer greater satisfaction than the uncertainties of citizen activism of the type practised by Nader.

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