Wrangling Over the Spoils of War

April 7, 2003

U.S. and European capitalists keep wrangling over how the spoils of the war against Iraq will be divided up.

On Thursday, April 3, U.S. Secretary of State Powell again reiterated that the U.S. will "take the lead" both in setting up a post-war government in Iraq as well as in the economic "reconstruction" of the country. Although Powell promised "a role" for the U.N., he emphasized that since the U.S. had paid the "political expense... the expense of the money... and the expense of lives as well," it would "play the leading role in determining the way forward."

The Bush administration has made known that its plans call for installing its own post-war government in Iraq, headed by retired Lieutenant-General Jay Garner. Bush is already giving U.S. corporations huge contracts for the reconstruction and administration of Iraq. Last month, the U.S. Agency for International Development began awarding 7 contracts worth nearly $2 billion for rebuilding Iraq, including one to the Halliburton Company formerly headed by Vice President Cheney. Economists estimate that contracts worth as much as $100 billion may eventually be awarded for the "reconstruction" of the country. As a recent report in the Washington Post indicates, the U.S. plans to pay for these contracts by looting Iraq's oil. According to the Post, Bush plans to appoint former Shell Oil Company CEO Philip Carroll to oversee oil exploration, production and sales.

European powers are demanding a share in these spoils of war. Russia, France, Germany and other powers are insisting that the U.N. must oversee and parcel out management of Iraq's oil as well as the contracts for administering and reconstructing the country.

For example, on April 4, Mark Brown, the British director of the UN Development Program, said "We will be pushing to make as international and broad-based as possible the management of humanitarian and reconstruction needs."

Also, the French Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin insisted on a "central role for the UN, which is the source of international legitimacy." Since 1996 France had been the biggest exporter of goods to Iraq under the UN's now-suspended "oil-for-food" program. The French oil monopoly TotalFinaELF has also signed agreements with the Iraqi government on developing two giant oil fields. The French capitalists are concerned about the fate of these and other economic interests.