More Hubris

By Thomas Vincent

Walter Pincus' recent article in The Washington Post about the Commerce Department's actions in Iraq brings to mind one of the Ethical Spectacle's mission statement goals; namely to examine what commonly used words and phrases really mean as opposed to what they appear to mean. Pincus reports that:

... the Commerce Department is seeking an international legal adviser who is fluent in Arabic "to provide expert input, when requested" to "U.S. government agencies or to Iraqi authorities as they draft the laws and regulations that will govern Iraq's oil and gas sector."
What Gall.

Suppose you inherited a large sum of money, say a million dollars. Now imagine foreign soldiers kick down the door to your house, plonk themselves in your living room with their feet up on your coffee table and announce they are going to appoint a bureaucrat to come in and "advise" you how to spend your money... but only if you request it.

This is hubris writ large. As Pinkus points out, as a founding member of OPEC, Iraq is hardly a neophyte when it comes to disposing of it's own oil. Does the administration really think Iraq needs - or even wants - its help? Moreover, do they really think the world believes our intentions are honorable, vis a vis Iraq's Oil? If not, why bother with this type of subterfuge? The unwritten message in the Commerce department's creation of a "legal advisor" is obvious: "You can do whatever you like with your oil... provided we approve. Again from Pincus:

Based on the Commerce proposal, the United States has decided that Iraq needs a U.S.-funded expert who will be responsible "to review draft [Iraq] subsoil laws and draft subsoil regulations to ensure their compliance with international legal standards" and share his or her conclusions with U.S. agencies "or with Iraqi authorities."
It seems somewhat ironic that an administration who has been so cavalier in its attitude towards the legality of its unilateral actions - such as invasions, torture and military tribunals - should suddenly feel the need to ensure "international legal standards" when it comes to the task of divvying up another country's oil assets. Is anyone really fooled into thinking that "compliance with international legal standards" in this case means anything but "compliance with the desires of large multinational oil companies."

One good acid test for political double speak is to play what I call the "reversal game". For example, how would you feel if your slain loved ones were dismissed as "collateral damage". In this case if another country announced they were appointing an international "advisor" to review our "subsoil laws and regulations" to help ensure they "comply with international legal standards", would we think the action justified?

I have little problem with the Neo-con agenda for achieving hegemony in the Middle East. I don't agree with it but I think I understand the reasoning behind it. What I detest is when speech writers, bureaucrats and policy wonks try to use concepts such as international legal standards to mask their true intentions. It's not just disingenuous. It's dangerous. It's also an insult to the world's intelligence. You can dress that wolf up in Grandma's nightie all you like but it's not going to fool anyone, certainly not the Iraqis.