The Times Speaks on “Petroleum-Related Criminal Activity”


Oh boy – more reactionary know-it-all, power-worshipping bullshit over at the “liberal” New York Times. On page one of this Sunday’s Times, we learn about a recent “classified” Bush administration report showing that “the insurgency in Iraq is now self-sustaining, raising tens of millions of dollars a year from oil smuggling, kidnapping, counterfeiting, corrupt charities and other crimes that the Iraqi government and its American patrons have been largely unable to stop.”

According to Times journalist John F. Burns, “the report…estimates that armed groups responsible for many of the insurgent and terrorist attacks across Iraq are raising between $70 million and $200 million a year from illegal activities.” The report, the Times says, is pessimistic about whether “anything can be done to choke off the funds for the insurgency” (John F. Burns, “U.S. Finds Iraq Insurgency Has Funds to Sustain Itself,” NYT, 26 November 2006, sec.1, p.1).

Later in the Times’ article on U.S. allegations regarding the “criminal” origins of Iraqi “insurgency” funding, Times readers garner some interesting and useful information. They learn that $200 million is “less than what it costs the Pentagon…to sustain the American war effort” in Iraq “for a single day.”

We also discover that many outside experts find the White House/Pentagon report to be highly “speculative.” Especially unsubstantiated, outside intelligence specialists feel, is the administration’s provocative claim that the Iraqi “insurgency” has the funds and is moving to “export terrorism from Iraq to the West.”


But what the Times can’t and won’t tell readers is that there is a fundamentally absurd contradiction between (1) the U.S. government’s sense of alarm over an “insurgency” that receives money “from illegal activities inside the country” and (2) the U.S. government’s continuing criminal policy of conducting a monumentally illegal, mass-murderous occupation of a formerly sovereign state. The paper’s allegiance to dominant social and imperial hierarchies and related codes of proper journalistic decorum prevents it from mentioning and dealing appropriately with the fact that the occupation itself is an extraordinarily “illegal activity” (inside the international system as well as inside Iraq).

Also unmentionable for the Times is the right of Iraqis to do what they can to raise funds to support resistance to the unjust, illegal, racist, and imperialist oil invasion of their homeland (God knows that new Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ good Iran-Contra buddies felt justified in using criminally attained funds [including drug proceeds and revenues from the illegal sale of missiles to Iran] to justify their criminal actions against the Nicaraguan Revolution).

At one point in the Times article, Burns quotes the report’s conclusion that “insurgents” have raised money “from petroleum-related criminal activity.” America’s so-called “Operation Iraqi Freedom” could be accurately described as “petroleum-related criminal activity.” But this is the kind of obvious irony and common-sense observation that is not permitted in even (or especially) the leftmost sections of America’s dominant “liberal media.”

Meanwhile, the Times continues to accept the administration’s incorrect use of the term “insurgency.” Webster’s defines an “insurgent” as “a person who revolts against civil authority or an established government.” The U.S. invasion (intimately related to Iraq’s possession of remarkable petroleum reserves) blew up civil authority and established governance in Iraq. It created internal chaos and broad resistance to externally imposed U.S. authority, developments that were widely predicted by those who opposed the initial criminal decision to invade.

As the Times would never acknowledge in an “objective” piece of war reporting, the U.S. has no legitimate reason to be in Iraq in the first place. Policymakers who are serious about cutting off funds for “the insurgency” could start by calling off the invasion and shifting the massive U.S. investment ($200 million a day – the same amount the terrible “insurgency” raises in one year!) in Iraq from military occupation to humanitarian assistance, civil reconstruction, and national reparations.


Significantly, the inherent illegality of the occupation is an explicitly irrelevant issue for the Times’ editors as well. Sunday’s lead Times editorial carries the weighty title “Learning From Iraq.” This telling reflection from the opinion authorities of the nation’s “newspaper of record” praises the U.S. Army for moving away from the obsolete question of the war’s legitimacy and getting down to “a useful project: figuring out why the Bush administration’s plans worked out so badly.” The Times’ editorial board is encouraged by a new Army field manual that will “incorporate the hard lessons learned in Iraq into future military plans,” so “that the size and composition of [a future] American intervention force” is “based on…what is needed” not just to “defeat the organized armed forces of an enemy government” (on its own oil/soil) but also to prevent “insurgency before it [takes] root and spread[s]” (“Learning From Iraq,” New York Times, 26 November 2006, sec. 4, p. 9).

Yes, here’s to the more effective and competent implementation of future illegal imperial “interventions” (invasions and occupations) on the supposedly sovereign soil of “enemy” states! Never mind the monstrous criminality inherent in “the Bush administration’s plans!” This reasoning does not bode well for people living in other “failed states” targeted for potential future U.S. rogue-state “intervention.” Such is the conventional conservative wisdom of elite opinion at dominant “liberal media’s” leftmost newspaper, the New York Times. And there are still Americans with the audacious arrogance to continue wondering “Why They Hate Us.”

Paul Street ([email protected]) is the author of Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2004), Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights Era (New York, NY: Routledge, 2005).

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