Are Labor Unions Terrorists?
05/03/07 ( www.mountainsentinel.com
) Two recent news stories, taken together, could signal an ominous turn in the invasion of Iraq. The first story
appeared on the Time website on February 28th. It discusses Iraqi opposition to government plans to privatize the oil
industry and sell it off to foreign investors under very lucrative terms.
The new law would allow foreign companies to cut long-term deals for exploration and development. This is the first time
foreign oil companies will be allowed to have a stake in Iraq's energy wealth since 1972, when the oil industry was
While the potential profits for oil companies is enormous, they will also have to deal with resistance fighters (yes,
the media persists in calling them insurgents) blowing up pipelines and equipment and murdering contractors. Over the
long years of strict sanctions, the oil infrastructure had deteriorated to the point that the oil fields were being
damaged by harmful drilling practices.
Prior to the invasion, a U.N. report in June 2001 said that Iraqi oil production capacity would fall sharply unless
technical and infrastructure problems were addressed. And former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan warned of a possible
"major breakdown" in Iraq's oil industry if spare parts and equipment were not forthcoming. Prior to the invasion,
the US blocked any attempts to remedy these problems.
Solving these problems will require major investment from a consortium of international oil companies. It will take at
least a decade to double output, providing there is no further damage done. It will take at least $7 billion worth of
investment to bring Iraq back to its 3.5 million b/d production level. Pushing past that level to 5.5 million b/d will
require at least $20 billion of investment. These estimates were made prior to the invasion, and so do not
incorporate additional costs due to more recent damages.
It would appear that the company poised to enjoy the largest short-term profit from the rebuilding and policing of the
Iraqi oil infrastructure would be Dick Cheney's Halliburton.
After the long Iraq-Iran War, two previous incursions led by the US, more than a decade of harsh sanctions, and finally
this latest invasion and civil war, the Iraq economy and infrastructure are in a shambles. Virtually the only source of
income that Iraq has with which it can repair all of this damage comes from its energy wealth. And now the government is
poised to give the greatest percentage of this wealth to foreign investors.
Dissatisfaction with the new law has been expressed by some politicians. Yet it is to be wondered what they can do to
stop legislation the details of which are being kept secret from parliament until time for a vote. Interestingly enough,
the entire deal was known to US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, who discussed it during a trip to the region in July of
The strongest opposition to the new law comes from the Iraq unions. Hassan Jum'ah Awwad Al-Asadi, head of Iraq's
Federation of Oil Unions, has stated that if the law is not redraw to protect Iraqi interests, then the unions will stop
production. He has explicitly warned foreign oil companies against coming to Iraq under the guise of production-sharing
At a December 14th meeting, senior officials of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers, the Federation of Oil Unions,
the Federation of Workers' Councils and Unions in Iraq, the Kurdistan General Workers Syndicate Union and the Iraqi
Kurdistan Workers Syndicate Union met to discuss their opposition to the new oil law. In a joint statement, the unions
likened the new law to a red line that they would not allow to be crossed.
And this is where the second news item mentioned at the beginning of this essay gains added importance. According to
labor sources, twice in the past week, US and Iraqi forces have raided the headquarters of the General Federation of
Iraqi Workers (GFIW), the country's largest national trade union. They destroyed furniture and confiscated a computer
and fax machine. One union security officer was arrested and later released unharmed. No reason has been given for
If Iraqi labor remains opposed to the privatization of Iraqi resources, will they increasingly become a target of
coalition and Iraqi forces? Trade unionists in Iraq have long been victims of violence and assassination. Members of the
Iraqi Federation of Worker's Trade Unions (IFTU) have been targeted in particular for assassinations and kidnappings,
due to their strong stance against privatization and rigged elections.6
Should Iraqi unions back up their position against the new oil law by bringing Iraq oil production to a halt, is there
any doubt that the violence against them will escalate. The raid on GFIW headquarters indicates that US forces would
take action against striking workers. It is likely that in such a situation, the unions will be denounced as a hotbed of
terrorists, and they will probably be accused of having ties to Iran and Syria.
If this happens, then the US public and US soldiers need to be aware that these are not terrorist insurgents we are
fighting against, but workers struggling to protect their livelihood and their country. Should the invasion and
occupation lead to an overt military campaign against striking unions, then this venture will be shown up for what it
truly is: a conquest of fascist imperialism.
1 Troubles for the Iraq Oil Deal, Walt, Viviane. Time.com, February 28th, 2007. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1594388,00.html
2 Iraq Country Analysis Brief. EIA, October 2002. http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/iraq.html
4 Iraqi Unions Reject Foreign Control of Oil. People's World Weekly Newspaper, December 21st, 2006. http://www.pww.org/article/articleview/10326/1/352/
5 Iraq: raid on trade union offices. Labourstart, March 1st, 2007. http://www.labourstart.org/cgi-bin/solidarityforever/show_campaign.cgi?c=202
Disunity Threatens Iraqi Labor's Resistance to Occupation, Bacon, David. US Labor against the War, December 31st, 2005. http://www.uslaboragainstwar.org/article.php?id=9558
Dale Allen Pfeiffer is a science journalist, a geologist, a novelist, and a noted authority on energy and related
geopolitical issues. His 2003 article, Eating Fossil Fuels, has been read by hundreds of thousands throughout the world,
and has been proclaimed as one of the most important journalistic pieces of the decade. His follow-up articles, Learning
from Experience; North Korea and Cuba, have also been widely read. Recently, information provided by Mr. Pfeiffer has
been used in presentation before the US Congress, and the French and Australian Parliaments. His epic novel, Giants in Their Steps
, has been praised as a compelling portrayal of human compassion and bravery, and a poignant plea for the protection of
our remaining wilderness.