Sunday, January 07, 2007

Whispers in the Execution Chamber

John Burns of the NYT, who really is one of the best journalists to cover Iraq writes about the American-Iraqi struggle over the execution of Saddam Hussein. He describes how conflicting cultures, political objectives and styles confronted each other over the issue of when and how to hang Saddam Hussein. It was ironical that Hussein, in his last hour, would bid his Americans a sincere goodbye before steeling himself to face the men baying for his blood and who could hardly contain their desire to kill him. But the most important service of Burn's account is the illustration of the power dynamic between the Iraqi government and second-tier American commanders who felt ultimately compelled to follow the letter of the law. Compelled to recognize the new government of Iraq as a sovereign government whose wishes were final, even when it went against all their instincts.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, the real motive and purpose of all of this is finally made clear. (For those stupid enough to believe otherwise). A half trillion dollar war so that Exxon/Mobil, BP, Shell, can get their 30-year contract(s) to extract Iraqi crude. This will be a first for large scale Western oil interests since the Iraqi oil industry was nationalized in 1972. I just wonder how long it will take for our liberal democratic Iraqi partners to nationalize the oil, again.

1/07/2007 03:56:00 PM  
Blogger sam said...

With emotions dangerously sharpened and Washington flailing for a strategy that will shift attention away from its role even while maintaining its influence in the region, violence will inexorably spread. Some Iranian academics and former officials are already describing this conflict as another Thirty Years War that will eventually lead the region to a Muslim version of the Treaty of Westphalia and the modern era.

It was the 1648 Peace of Westphalia that finally buried the hatchet between Catholics and Protestants in Europe and brought into being sovereign nation states and the modern international system.

The Westphalian system allowed each state to define its religion. In the process, it created a segregated, sect-cleansed Europe.

30 Years' War?

1/07/2007 04:33:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/07/2007 05:39:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

This story shows why we have so many problems with the Iraqis, and why we aren't trusted. It's their country, so we should have shown them the respect of handing Saddam over without arguing. The arrogance is unbelievable, that the American government was trying to lecture the Iraqis about Muslim holidays and Iraqi law.

There were media reports well before Saddam was executed that the Sunnis had taken prisoners who would be killed if Saddam died. Maliki said afterwards that he was trying to prevent more of the same thing, or some other attempt by the Insurgency to prevent the execution.

The Bush administration should be more concerned about getting Iraqis to fight with us, and to stop attacking us, instead of trying to govern Iraq.

1/07/2007 05:50:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...


I am confused. Who would you have responsible for rebuilding the antiquated Iraqi petroleum infrastructure?

1/07/2007 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

It's amazing that anyone would argue that we went into Iraq for oil. The Iraq War could cost the government and tax payers over a trillion dollars by the time it is over, yet neither the government or the average US citizen would make any money from "US" oil companies getting Iraqi contracts.

1/07/2007 06:20:00 PM  
Blogger jj mollo said...

Civilized people think about these things too much. The world is a dangerous place and people who are dangerous to the possibility of collective rapprochement need to be eliminated. Our guys were coming up with excuses to keep him alive. They probably wanted to milk him for more information. They wanted to use the trials for a "truth and reconciliation" type of social bonding. They wanted to give the Kurds a chance to wallow in their victimhood. All legitimate urges. At the bottom, however, they didn't really have the stomach for hanging the nice old man. I don't know whether to be proud or embarrassed. It's just the way we are.

I also wish it had been done more formally, with the high theater of righteous legal momentum. It was just a little undignified, but I think we could live with that if we contemplate the decades of Iraqi terror intertwined with the strands of that noose.

1/07/2007 06:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Who says it *NEEDS* to be rebuilt? How about using that trillion dollars building a future that's not dependent on Jihadi oil and the trillions of US dollars to safeguard it. How about starving whole that Jihadi and neoSoviet geopolitical ecosystem, and replacing it with something that relies on brain trust and entrepreneurship, instead of something to digg out of the ground. How about that?

1/07/2007 06:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wu Wei

There's only ONE REASON why the American soldier (and Israeli soldier) has had to take it in the ass, and that reason is Jihadi oil. The liberal democratizing project is failing because we wont kill those Jihadis that are trying to kill it. And the reason we wont kill those Jihadis that are trying to kill it, is because of Jihadi oil contracts.

1/07/2007 06:57:00 PM  
Blogger Fat Man said...

Burns is the hack who gave us the legend of the looted Museum. I will not forgive him for that one.

1/07/2007 07:04:00 PM  
Blogger 49erDweet said...

It is so nice that mətušélaḥ takes the time to 'enlighten' us with his absolutely total grasp of the mindsets of everyone and every entity involved in the ME. What would we simpletons do with him?

Oh, to be so witless, naive and blind to 'the true' reality again. Unfortunately, reason eventually rears its ugly head and facts finally intervene to re-establish some sense of abject truth to those with open minds.

Thanks, w, for another interesting post.


1/07/2007 07:17:00 PM  
Blogger unaha-closp said...

I am confused. Who would you have responsible for rebuilding the antiquated Iraqi petroleum infrastructure?

The oil companies take 20% of the profits, a rate the Gulf Times says is twice the average of other similar deals worldwide. Really is a marvellously good deal.

1/07/2007 07:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


See my reply to Wu Wei in reply to your question.

Btw, you forgot to mention Arafat. You know, the guy that was sleeping soundly 50m from Israeli guns; the guy that ordered the murder of US ambassador Cleo Noel; the guy that State Department diplomats worried that bringing murder charges against because would anger US "friends" in the Jihadi world. These same “friends” that are exporting Jihad to Somalia to Serbia to Britain to France to Russia to the Philippines to the US, etc., and to which the Farsi imperialists feel they have to answer with their own brand of Jihad.

1/07/2007 07:51:00 PM  
Blogger unaha-closp said...

Peter Grynch,

Pakistan distributes nuclear technology and shelters the Taliban. Saudi Arabia exports fundamentalism and pays off the families of Palestinian murderers. Syria maintains a stock of biological capable missiles and assasinates opponents. Iran is developing nukes and supports terrorism.

Saddam (may he rest in hell) was not atypical for the region in terms of his unhelpfulness to peace, freedom and democracy. However Iraqi oil fields were somewhat under developed and its army weak.

Mətušélaḥ has suggested that developing Iraqi oil production was a valid reason for going to war. Your counter that going to war was non-stupid because Saddam was a terrorist supporting, weapons building tyrant implies that any President who allows other tyrants to retain power is behaving stupidly. Of the two arguments I tend to favor oil as the more rational reason for going to war.

1/07/2007 08:19:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

When the earth was peopled by bands of hunter-gatherers, warfare was endemic, as these noble savages struggled for control of natural resources. Throughout prehistory to the present, aggregates of human beings of various sizes and relationships have continued the brutal struggle for control of natural resources. Those who have failed have perished. That is the natural order of things – survival to the fittest.

Assuming the Second Iraq War was in fact based solely on control of petroleum, the modern world’s life blood, the would make it a normative war. Am I to understand that shame is the only morally acceptable response to the process of natural selection?

Reportedly, there are over 200,000,000 motor vehicles in the Untied States alone. Unless the United States chooses to undergo the greatest depression in the history of the world, the turn to alternative fuels will require considerable time. In the interim, the United States will remain dependent on the uninterrupted flow of petroleum products to maintain the status quo. Since Iraq has, as I recall, the third largest reserves of petroleum, those reserves must be developed and distributed in a manner conducive to the long-term benefit of the United States. For better or worse, the institutions best able to accomplish that end are the current leaders in the oil industry.

I will live with the shame.

1/07/2007 09:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saddam go off pretty easy compared to his victims and they no trials at all. The Anti-Bush crowd would have screamed for Iraqi sovereignty if we had tried to stop the execution.

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
admire brutal dictators

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
mourn evil tyrants

1/07/2007 10:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Why live in shame when you can drive your 200,000,000 US motor vehicles on ethanol? Why live under the threat of nuclear armed Jihadis, when all it takes is about $20 USD to convert your current US motor vehicle to one that can use ethanol as its main fuel. Why?

1/07/2007 10:47:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...


So, for the sum of $4 billion, the US can achieve energy independence, that is what you are saying?

1/07/2007 11:09:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

The media expects us to believe that if Saddam's executioners had been silent instead of teasing him:

... that the Iraqi Sunnis would have cheered his execution instead of saying he was a martyr

... that the death penalty opponents in Europe wouldn't have protested after the execution

This is supposedly true in spite of Shiites and Sunnis killing each other by the hundreds.

We are also told that the "Arab street" is very upset because the execution happened during a festival ... even though Iraqi Muslims kept killing each other during the festival, like they do during all holidays. Just like there would be such offense to us returning fire from a mosque, even though the Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites destroy each other's mosques, and fight each other from them.

It reminds me of a book by a US soldier who fought al-Sadr in that holy cemetary. US forces tried to respect the cemetary during the fighting, then a few months later the Shiites tore out part of the cemetary to make a parking lot.

1/07/2007 11:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm saying that your US government is so corrupt, that is wont even give it a serious try.

1/07/2007 11:13:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

The White House should look into this carefully before setting the new Iraqi agenda.

UK "Moderate" Islamic Leaders Preaching Hatred

___Secret video footage reveals Muslim preachers exhorting followers to prepare for jihad, to hit girls for not wearing the hijab, and to create a ‘state within a state’. Many of the preachers are linked to the Wahhabi strain of Islam practised in Saudi Arabia, which funds a number of Britain’s leading Islamic institutions.

___At the Sparkbrook mosque, run by UK Islamic Mission (UKIM), an organisation that maintains 45 mosques in Britain and which Tony Blair has said ‘is extremely valued by the government for its multi-faith and multicultural activities’, a preacher is captured on film praising the Taliban.
___Another speaker says Muslims cannot accept the rule of non-Muslims. ‘You cannot accept the rule of the kaffir [non-Muslim],’ a preacher, Dr Ijaz Mian, tells a meeting held within the mosque. ‘We have to rule ourselves and we have to rule the others.’
I just love Muslims unplugged and uncensored.

1/07/2007 11:22:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

WW, I agree completely with you 11:12.

This is obviously just another excuse for the same idiots to say the same stuff they were going to say anyway.

The more you treat their views as sensible, the more they will take, and rub your face into it. We've been treating idiotic ideas as serious ever since the first Ramadan 'cease-fire' nonsense. And you set precedents and benchmarks that are then held against you in the future.

Yet, in the end it is still back to the same problem...even setting aside this advice...what do you do when you need such an irrational population as the 'Muslim world' to help you by cleaning our their own?

It is very easy to say that 'we suck at propaganda' and 'we're losing the info wars,' but this is what we're dealing with.

Some years ago the Iranians withdrew a wrestling competitor from the Olympics because he was scheduled to fight an Israeli. He was brought home in celebration and awarded money. It is perfectly indicative of a majority of the populations we're dealing with. They would rather lose themselves than have us win.

And insofar as America is concerned, that sticks for a lot of people even outside the Middle East, including many of the useless Europeans.

1/07/2007 11:34:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

The tragedy is we were given a window with the Iraqi Shi'ites, at least, where they would have been happy to win with us and truly gave us a shot...but of course that's water under the bridge by now.

1/07/2007 11:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


A 2005 joint study by the US Dept of Energy and Dept of Agriculture suggests that 30% of US oil imports can be replaced by bio-based ethanol by assuming relatively modest changes in agricultural and forestry practices. If you accept that you can conserve at least 50% of current petroleum use simply by moving to high efficiency hybrids plug-in, then it seems to me that you are very close to total indpendence from foreign oil.

(Sorry in advance for any current/past typos and misplaced words. I've been up for 23 hrs now,.. can barely see straight).

1/08/2007 12:19:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

I wonder if you looked into the trials and executions of British spy who was Benedict Arnold's "handler", the Lincoln Assassination Conspirators, the assassin who killed President McKinley (i.e., Leon Czolgosz), the German spies captured in the US in WWII, and other trials 50 plus years ago in the U.S. which had national significance - what you would find relative to the atmosphere, the speed and decorum in which it was conducted and the rapidity of execution?

The Iraqis did not do it quite "our way" but then once upon a time, neither did we.
Our "norm" of today is reprensented by the trials of Squeeky Fromm, John Hinckley, the Unabomber, OJ Simpson, Scooter Libby, and the Duke University Lacross Team.

At least Al-Jack Rubi did not gun down Saddam on the way to the courtroom.

1/08/2007 05:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BS. Did anyone apply those thermodynamic calculations towards Cedarfard's inexhaustible methane production? Anyway, the majority of the studies published in the last 10 years find that ethanol production yields a net positive energy value. Why not google debunking Pimentel?

1/08/2007 07:18:00 AM  
Blogger RattlerGator said...

Cedarford: take out this one sentence, "Abetted by the usual Bush jellyfish that bootlick to The Religion of Peace," and I think I agree with that rant.

Though frustrating, there are many in the "religion of peace" that must be considered. Though the only superpower, we aren't a dictatorship of one.

I think the execution of Saddam Hussein was a great accomplishment -- the Shiite's would have much preferred killing him right away. It's hard right now for Americans to see how much we gained by insisting on "process" but that gain is there, nevertheless. It was not an American shitting on Saddam Hussein *OR* the Maliki government.

Iraq was allowed to do what Iraq wanted to do. The whole world saw it though they may bitch and moan about certain aspects of it.

Now, if we can only get the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party to begin seeing the real context of our present world situation -- a Chinese and Russian leadership that gives less than a damn about the principles of interest to the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.

I'm going to be watching Senator Webb and hoping he doesn't punk out on us. He needs to talk some sense to the Democratic Party, damn the consequences.

Those "whispers in the execution chamber" were a good representation of the genius of the American political system. That entire event was a hard-fought compromise displeasing to most but accomplished nevertheless.

We've checked that block and now we move on to the next "impossible" hurdle. With an ungrateful world sitting largely on the sidelines, still bitching and moaning and bitching some more. Not to mention certain Americans still frothing about oil and ethanol and . . . any damn thing else, so long as it permits them to crap on the intentions of their country while remaining oblivious to the Russians and the Chinese.

1/08/2007 07:34:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

Bush will reveal the new Iraq plan at 9 PM EST on Wednesday. Apparently it is the AEI/Kegan plan, the newest version. Can't say I'm optimistic because that is just retrying the same thing we did over the summer, but with all US troops because the Iraqis won't contribute any.

According to his spokesman it appears Bush's argument will be that we have to fight the terrorists there in order to avoid fighting them here. The counter argument will be that we can focus on Al Qaeda in Iraq without fighting their civil war.

1/08/2007 08:06:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

Bart Hall: I am a mechanical engineer who took too much thermo in college, and used to be highly suspicious of ethanol as a fuel due to the energy cost of actually producing it versus what it yielded, but I read a recent article - think it was in Popular Science - which said that there was indeed a positive energy yield from the production of Ethanol - it gave figures - and that, furthermore, since it took CO2 out of the air, it was a benefit relative to the global warming issue, if you believe in that. Maybe the figures they gave were wrong but I rather doubt it. However, I think we should consider insisting that all Ethanol production occurs using Ethanol as an energy source for the tractors, trucks and factories that produce it. We will find out if it a subsidy-driven scam real quick that way.

But perhaps a much more promising energy production technology is the use of genetically modified bacteria to produce alcohol from a variety of cellulose substances. If we could use all that pinestraw lying around the Southeast U.S. to make fuel then The South Gonna Rise Again.

1/08/2007 08:24:00 AM  
Blogger Reocon said...

Wretchard writes:

Compelled to recognize the new government of Iraq as a sovereign government whose wishes were final, even when it went against all their instincts.

Against their instincts for damn good reason. Wretchard's memory seems to be failing, either that or he is utterly incapable of understanding the nature and goals of the Shiite Islamists who took power have taken power in Iraq. This is all the more ironic for Wretchard's castigation of previous failed policies in his January 3 post Parthian Shot:

Because sooner or later America needs better options than standing back . Standing back and letting Khomeini take over Iran, as Carter did; or letting Syria into Lebanon in exchange for support to drive Saddam Hussein out Kuwait, as the elder Bush has been accused of doing; or leaving Saddam in place at the end of Desert Storm while exhorting the Shi'a and Kurds to rise up; or maintaining an expensive naval and air blockade against Saddam as Clinton did. All those instances of standing back and operating from a distance have bought America no love and have led it "tomorrow, tomorrow and tomorrow" to this dusty place.

And when Bush stood by and allowed Shiite Islamofascist to take power in Iraq the same way that they took power in Iran (through elections), Wretchard applauded this travesty as a great "victory" for democracy! Did he not know that the Reagan administration declared the Dawa party an Iranian backed terrorist group? That SCIRI and Dawa are anti-Israel and Pro-Hezbollah? That these Islamofascist are deeply allied with Iran. Maybe Wretchard can take a long hard look at his past blog posts then find a nice word for Dhimmi Carter.

Isn't it time that psuedo-conservative bloggers be held to account for their terrible analyses? The American Conservative is already savaging their intellectual superiors in the print media:

And even Rich Lowry, Buskley's heir at the National Review had made the honest call that:

The mainstream media is biased, arrogant, prone to stultifying group-think and much more fallible than its exalted self-image allows it to admit. It also, however, can be right, and this is most confounding to conservatives.

In Iraq, the media’s biases happen to fit the circumstances. Being primed to consider any military conflict a quagmire and another Vietnam is a drawback when covering a successful U.S. military intervention, but not necessarily in Iraq. Most of the pessimistic warnings from the mainstream media have turned out to be right — that the initial invasion would be the easy part, that seeming turning points (the capture of Saddam, the elections, the killing of Zarqawi) were illusory, that the country was dissolving into a civil war.

I'm sure we will read a similar accounting from Wretchard soon as to his many grievous errors. Such is his dedication to truth.

1/08/2007 09:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok. Here's a quick wiki link, top of google's hits.


What can I say. Garbage in, garbage out. If your input data is wrong and outdated so is the output data.

Last paragraph from the link provided:

"A 2005 study by Michael Wang, a transportation research scientist at the US Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory, found that "the energy used for each unit of ethanol produced has been reduced by about half [since 1980]." Now, it takes 0.74 million BTU of fossil fuels to deliver 1 million BTU of ethanol, including growing, all intermediary processes, delivery, and so on, compared to 1.23 million BTU of fossil fuels to deliver 1 million BTU of gasoline. This more recent study may obsolete some of the previous criticisms of the ethanol energy balance, as the production, transportation, and storage has become much more efficient." Citations are provided in the article.

1/08/2007 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger Tarnsman said...

Find alternatives to imported oil.

1.) The U.S. has more coal than any other country in the world
2.) The Fischer-Tropsch process, used by the Germans in WW II, is a nearly century-old chemical technique for converting coal into liquid fuel. New techniques allow the process and resulting fuels to be cleaner.

Build nuclear power plants to provide the clean, cheap and abundant energy to convert coal into liquid fuels to power our vehicles and gases to power our turbines.

I know all you bio-mass freaks are pulling out your hair right now, but in all this discussion of ethanol/methanol this is another little problem that no one likes to discuss: water. You need lots and lots of it to make these bio-fuels. The water generally isn’t where you need it and there are the environmental/energy/dollar costs associated with that part of the equation beyond what Bart Hall posted earlier.

Nuclear + coal = energy independence

Oh, and then there’s the tar-sands of Canada, which contain more oil than all the Middle East. In the US there’s the Utah Tar Sand Resource with deposits equaling 32 billion barrels of oil. A drop in the bucket compared to the 1.7 trillion barrels in the Canadian tar-sands. Yes, tar-sand oil is expensive and require lots of energy to extract and process the bitumen. But again building nuclear power plants will provide the needed clean, cheap and abundant energy for the conversion process.

BTW Venezuela has their own tar-sands equaling Canada’s. So the “oil” is still out there. Just have to develop the infrastructure to exploit it.

Back to the original thrust of this thread before it was hijacked. Saddam hanged = good thing. US honoring the wishes of the sovereign government of Iraq = good thing. IMHO, Saddam should have been summarily shot when he was dragged from this spider hole, but then I’m not in charge.

1/08/2007 10:19:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

> And when Bush stood by and allowed Shiite Islamofascist to take power in Iraq

All options are bad but that's probably the least bad. The Sunnis are linked with Al Qaeda, so they're not any better for the US. It is better to let the people have democracy (and Iraq's is real, compared to the rigged Iranian elections).

In fact I think maybe we should stop trying to play both sides by bending over backwards for the Sunnis while they keep killing civilians every day, like they've been doing for years. The Sunnis have always been the one fighting the government. They were the ones who started shooting at the Shiites first, while the Shiites held their fire for years.

Instead of giving things to the Sunnis in the hope they'll stop the insurgency, we should say that they are the bad guys, the insurgency, and they will be treated as such until they cease fire.

If the Sunnis had behaved like the Shiites, our troops would be home now after a victory parade.

1/08/2007 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger High Power Rocketry said...

Did he kill over 150,000 people? If not, we are worse.

1/08/2007 11:54:00 AM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

The US didn't kill 150,000 people in Iraq, and no one has ever shown evidence that we did.

The Iraqis have freedom now, and what they do to themselves is their own problem.

1/08/2007 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/08/2007 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

And by the way, the estimate of 150,000 killed in Iraq came from someone in anti-American, mass- murderer al-Sadr's organization.

Al-Shemari is a controversial figure and a member of the movement of radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Some U.S. officials have complained that the ministry has diverted supplies to al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia.

1/08/2007 12:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Notice this is written without discussing cost."


What's the cost of safeguarding the transport of Jihadi oil from the ME, half trillion dollars a year? (Excluding wars). What's the cost of dhimmi Europe being transformed into Eurabia? What's the cost of protecting shipping lanes for Chinese and Indian commerce employing slave labor and US subsidized oil. What’s the cost on the human soul when cities are designed to serve the car instead of people. I agree, let's discuss the costs.

1/08/2007 01:15:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

If the US had killed a million Iraqis, how does that translate into the US being worse than Saddam?

1/08/2007 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

One thing stands in the way of secure and abundant supplies of oil: GovernmentRonald Bailey | January 5, 2007

Petroleum geologists are pretty sure that there is more than enough oil in the world to meet projected demand for at least the next 25 years. In other words, as I reported in my article “Peak Oil Panic” last year, geologically speaking “peak oil” is at least a generation away. But
the days when you could punch a hole in the ground and up would bubble
some crude have now passed. It will take increasing technical savvy and
a lot of money to keep oil production up with demand. Fortunately, the
International Energy Agency believes that projected demand for oil and
gas can be met if producers invest $4.3 trillion and $3.9 trillion (in 2005 dollars) respectively over the next 25 years. The question is that level of investment happening?

That’s were I get worried. The problem arises because 77 percent of the
world’s known oil reserves are in the hands of state-owned oil
companies. Such “companies” do not respond with alacrity to market
signals and so are under-investing in new production technologies and
even in maintaining the production facilities that they currently have.
I have earlier pointed out that an “oil crisis,” that is, a steep rapid
run up in the price of oil may occur at any time due to government
incompetence or maliciousness. Iran: A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencescaught my attention when it projected that Iran’s exports of oil could dry up by 2015. Why? Because, according Johns Hopkins University geographer Roger Stern, “Iran's petroleum sector is unlikely to attract investment sufficient to maintain oil exports. Maintaining exports would require foreign investment to increase when it appears
to be declining.” Basically, Iran’s oil exploration and production
facilities are rusting away as the Iranian government spends the
current oil windfall to maintain itself in power. The country cannot
generate enough investment capital nor develop the expertise it needs
to boost oil production without foreign private investment.

Today, Iran produces about 3.7 million barrels a day, about 300,000 barrels
below its Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) quota.
Stern somewhat oddly concludes that this oil production death spiral
may be behind Iran’s claim that it needs to develop nuclear power.
However, as Stern himself points out this claim “strains credulity.”
Iran flares off enough natural gas now for it produce four times the
electricity that the nuclear plant it is constructing would generate,
and much more cheaply too. Stern concludes, “Energy subsidies,
hostility to foreign investment, and inefficiencies of its state-planned economy underlie Iran's problem, which has no relation to ‘peak oil.’

Mexico: Production in Mexico’s largest oil field peaked in 2004 and is slated to decline at about 14 percent
per year. Mexico has discovered many other deep water oil fields that
could offset the declining production in older fields, but does not
have the funding or the expertise to develop them. All Mexican oil and
gas resources were nationalized in 1938 and foreign ownership is
prohibited by the Mexican constitution.

Last March, the CEO of
Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) Luis Ramirez Corzo stated that the company
needs to invest $20 billion annually for the next 20 years to maintain
production. However, Pemex has invested only about half that over the
past 5 years. Amazingly, as private oil companies around the world
raked in record profits last year, Pemex lost $3.75 billion.
Why? The chief reason is that the Mexican government loots the company
to finance itself. Only a state-owned oil company can lose money when
oil prices have been this high.

Russia: Last year, Russia’s oil production actually exceeded
Saudi Arabia’s which is constrained by OPEC production quotas.
Ominously the administration of Russian president Vladimir Putin seems
bent on renationalizing his country’s oil and gas industry. Between 1999 and 2004, private sector Russian oil production grew 47 percent.
In those years, private oil companies made over $41 billion in the net
profits and reinvested more than $36 billion in exploration, drilling,
and modern technology. At the same time, state-owned companies
increased production by 14 percent. Production the largest state-owned
company, Rosneft, was basically flat.

As part of the drive to renationalize Russia’s energy industries, the
Putin administration ginned up some tax evasion charges against the
highly successful private Russian oil giant Yukos and then basically
seized it. Now the Putin administration is using
ham-fisted bureaucratic maneuvers to seize the assets of foreign owned
oil and gas companies. For example, last month, Russia forced a deal in
which the state-owned oil and gas company Gazprom paid well below the market price
for a majority share of the giant $20 billion Sakhalin-2 oil and gas
project which had been built by Shell Oil. In addition, Russia is
increasingly using its energy resources as a foreign policy weapon.

However, those days are numbered. Due to under-investment, Russian gas production is already beginning to decline.As a recent report from the Congressional Research Service noted, “Russia’s
ability to maintain and expand its capacity to produce and to export
energy faces difficulties. Russia’s oil and gas fields are aging.
Modern western energy technology has not been fully implemented.” And
just where will Russia get the latest technologies for maintaining and
boosting production if its government continues to seize private
assets? An attorney for jailed Yukos executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky,
Robert Amsterdam told the Washington Times,
"By putting energy companies in the hands of rival bureaucratic
factions in the Kremlin, profit is suppressed, investment is

Venezuela: The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report in June 2006 that found the Venezuelan oil production dropped
from 3.1 million barrels per day to 2.6 million barrels per day since
2001. Again the administration of the leftwing populist Hugo Chavez is
starving his country’s oil industry of needed investments to pay for an
array of social programs. The GAO report noted, Venezuela needs willing foreign oil company partners to maintain the country’s
current level of oil production.” Venezuela is also making itself
unfriendly to outside investors. In 2006, Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) seized
oil fields run by ENI of Italy and Total of France. Five others were
"voluntarily" handed over including ones run by ExxonMobil and Statoil
of Norway

In March 2006, Karen Harbart, assistant
secretary for policy and international affairs in the U.S. Department
of Energy testified before a congressional hearing that Venezuelan
“production levels are down [and] current production is increasingly
coming from private sector sponsored fields, as state company
investment and expertise declines. Private foreign companies have all
but frozen new investment due to the uncertainty of the situation.”

Besides the ones mentioned above, the list of corrupt oil producing countries
is nearly endless--Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Angola, Libya--and that’s just
in Africa. If an “oil crisis” fails to materialize, it will be because
nimble private oil companies will have succeeded in boosting production
capacity in enough places around the world that temporarily losing one
or two major producers to incompetence or malice won’t matter much. But
the sad fact is that the world’s energy security would be a lot greater
if more of the world’s oil and gas resources were in the hands of
private companies. Disclosure: Yes, yes, yes. I still own 50 shares of ExxonMobil. And yes, ExxonMobil has been a contributor
to the Reason Foundation. So go ahead and take everything I’ve written
above with a grain of salt—it doesn’t matter because the reporting is
still as true and as accurate as I can make it.

1/08/2007 01:59:00 PM  
Blogger Brother Waxwell said...

Publicly stating your belief that our actions in Iraq were done on behalf of oil company profits and the like. Is essentially just like hanging a huge, bright neon sign over your head that reads - "Hi! I'm absolutely clueless!". It's a bummer you apparently lack the ability to comprehend complex events. Really, I feel for you. But for God's sake. Please don't thrust upon the rest of us the over simplified rationale you've manufactured in order to allow yourself the ability to try and understand why these events have taken place. Insisting others seriously address your reasoning is, in effect, like asking someone to impair themselves. So that they may share the same handicap you suffer. Its absurd and an insult to someone's intelligence.

1/08/2007 02:23:00 PM  
Blogger Herr Wu Wei said...

A second Saddam hanging video was released today. There was also a story about how Saddam is now a martyr in some of the Arab world.

But also today a tape was played in the courtroom of Saddam talking about how poison gas would kill thousands. Those who claim he is a hero focus only on the last few minutes of his life, ignoring the horrible killings which went before it.

1/08/2007 03:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brother Waxwell,

When the Jihadis re-nationalize the oil (and they will), will you still stand by your religion?

1/08/2007 05:26:00 PM  
Blogger Elmondohummus said...

"What’s the cost on the human soul when cities are designed to serve the car instead of people"

And converting to ethanol fixes that how, exactly? Suddenly cities will magically reconfigure themselves?

Your true colors are showing in that post, buddy. You don't give a damn about fuel alternatives.

1/08/2007 06:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What are my true colors, I'm not a stooge and a patsy for big oil companies, the defense industry, and corrupt politicians? But you're right. I don't give a damn what alternatives are used. I care about getting off Jihadi oil dependence. If it's solar, ethanol, coal, conservation, change of lifestyle, it matters little to me.

1/08/2007 08:07:00 PM  
Blogger IceCold said...

Burns is superb, and has done the best reporting on the tribunal. Those who helped him on this are also generally solid reporters. But I'm a bit disappointed at the dressing up in this piece, which both adds dramatic effect and ticks the usual negative boxes that are more the concern of New York editors than the Baghdad bureau.
I refer here to the references, as always without comment pointing out contradictory considerations, to tendentious and strained negative views of some event in Iraq. And the bit about confirming that the new Iraq is any sort of version of Saddam's entrenched and organized murder machine is well beneath Burns' usual standard.

The use of the word "rush" is hard to justify. If the legal niceties were in fact followed - and the article cites no way in which they weren't - we're talking about an execution following years of custody, months of investigation, and a trial commencing 4 months following referral and lasting a full year for only 40+ sessions. Echoes of the "12-year rush to war" that preceded the war. An amendment to the tribunal's statute in summer 2005 was opposed by the US, but it became law - it mandated implementation of sentences within 30 days of the resolution of final appeal.

Closely read, the article will cause the informed reader to exclaim at several points - "well, he's Iraq's prisoner, not ours, and they're following the legal niceties insofar as the article actually explains them, so what's the issue?" with handing Saddam over for execution. And that informed reader would be correct. The "legal" objections to the execution at the time it occurred seem empty and completely without merit.

That the court's advisors were shocked by the fairly quick resolution of the appeal is interesting yet does not reflect on the merits of the action. I was surprised too, and I worked closely on the process too, at least until fairly recently - yet all that interests me is the substance of the decision affirming the verdicts and sentences. While I too had hoped that more of Anfal would unfold before Saddam met the rope, it wasn't to be, and there is really not legal or moral ground to stand on in objecting to the timing. Once Dujayl was referred for trial (because it was ready, and there was pressure to start a case - not, as usually reported, primarily because it was deemed an easy case for a shake-down cruise of the court), there was the unavoidable risk that it would run its course and lead to Saddam's execution before Anfal or any other case could be tried.

The moral inversion, bad faith, and shamelessness of the "international community" (including most maddeningly many of our "allies" and least impressively many autocracies and Arab gangster regimes) in judging anything associated with America since 9/11 by preposterously unrealistic standards is echoed, to some degree, by prissiness among US personnel themselves.

I'm a bit taken aback that the embassy would cite Iraqi law regarding a ban on holiday executions. It would have changed nothing in terms of actual Sunni "outrage" (per the commenter above) - and would have bought just a week's reprieve. And arguing about the Presidency Council aspect after many executions have been carried out by other Iraqi courts under a standing arrangement involving Talabani's non-participation seems positively obnoxious. I recall Talabani specifically and publicly noting months back that he would take the usual approach of non-intervention and non-approval to any Saddam execution.

As another commenter above said - and he's more correct than his direct knowledge and experience could probably make him aware - there was more than a touch of arrogance in the reported effort to delay the hanging. To be fair, Khalilzad did his best but then properly advised that Iraq had made its sovereign decision.

The military is cited as the source of much of the discomfort, but I think that part of the story comes out in a way that could mislead. MG Gardner and his operation are excellent, and I'd bet their concern was merely to ensure that all proper procedures were followed. I never witnessed any desire on the part of TF-134 to run Iraq's business, and certainly not to insert its own policy considerations for those of its sovereign counterparts.

1/08/2007 11:17:00 PM  

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