Independent news has never been so important.

Did you know that you can get Democracy Now! delivered to your inbox every day? Sign up for our Daily News Digest today! Don't worry, we'll never share or sell your information.

Operation Oily Immunity: Bush Quietly Moves to Protect U.S. Oil Interests in Iraq

Media Options


The Institute for Policy Studies and Government Accountability Project are calling on Congress to investigate and repeal an executive order signed by President George W. Bush that they say gives sweeping powers to U.S. oil companies operating in Iraq. [Includes transcript]

Click here to read to full transcript

On May 22 Bush signed Executive Order 13303 that, the group say, could place U.S. oil and gas corporations above the law for any activities “related to” Iraqi oil.

“In other words, if ExxonMobil or ChevronTexaco touch Iraqi oil, it will be immune from legal proceedings in the US. Anything that could go, and elsewhere has gone, awry with U.S. corporate oil operations will be immune to judgment: a massive tanker accident; an explosion at an oil refinery; the employment of slave labor to build a pipeline; murder of locals by corporate security; the release of billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The President, with a stroke of the pen, signed away the rights of Saddam’s victims, creditors and of the next true Iraqi government to be compensated through legal action. Bush’s order unilaterally declares Iraqi oil to be the unassailable province of U.S. corporations,” write IPS researchers Steve Kretzmann and Jim Vallette in their recent article “Operation Oily Immunity.”


AMY GOODMAN: You are listening to Democracy Now! Speaking of Iraq, during the initial assault on Baghdad, soldiers set up forward bases named Camp Shell and Camp Exxon. Those soldiers knew the score even if the Pentagon’s talking points dismissed any ties between Iraqi oil and their blood. That’s the beginning of the piece by Steve Kretzmann and Jim Valette that appeared on called Operation Oily Immunity. Jim Valette, of the Institute for Policy Studies, joins us on the telephone right now. Can you talk about the Bush executive order that you have written about here?


AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us.

JIM VALETTE: Great to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the executive order?

JIM VALETTE: Sure. I mean, this is yet another Bush effort on behalf of the U.S. corporations to seize control of Iraq’s oil and perhaps the most far reaching. Back in May, May 22nd, the United Nations kind of bent into U.S. demands to establish this development fund for Iraq, to somewhat legitimize the U.S./U.K. occupation of Iraq. This development fund was ostensibly designed to supply the humanitarian needs, meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. And in order to fund the development fund, it earmarks the revenues from sales of Iraqi oil to go directly into this oil fund.United Nations had a clause in there that provides immunity, legal immunity, for oil revenues from the sale of Iraqi oil to the point of sale. That’s designed to have a continuous flow of revenues from the sale of Iraqi oil into this development fund. But we’ve seen hours after the United Nations passed this resolution, bush signed an executive order 13303 which goes much, much farther than the U.N. resolution. On many, many counts. The Iraqi resolution halted the immunity to the point of sale. Once the oil is sold, the revenues are there for the development fund’s Coffers. Bush went further, he went through the whole lifetime of that oil, once the title passes hands, it’s still immune, as long as it’s handled by U.S. corporations. So once it’s on a tanker, once in the U.S. marketplace, once it’s at the gas pump, it’s still immune from any kind of accountability for anything that happens associated with the handling of that oil. And we’ve seen around the world what happens when corporations are extracting oil from the rest of the world and all the human rights disasters, the ecological disasters that can occur.

AMY GOODMAN: You say in your piece, in other words, if ExxonMobil or Chevron/Texaco touch IRAQI oil, they will be immune from legal proceedings in the U.S. Anything that could go and elsewhere has gone awry with U.S. corporate oil operations will be immune to judgment. Massive tanker accident, an explosion in oil refinery, employment of slave labor to build a pipeline, murder of locals by corporate security, release of billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Just some of the examples that you give.

JIM VALETTE: Those are some of the things that we’ve seen routinely now. And what we have seen is the bush/Cheney regime is more interested in protecting the ability of corporations to do these things, to extract oil no matter what the consequences are for people on the ground or for the environment. The U.N. resolution, for example, had a clause that said ecological spills are not covered by this immunity. Well, he conveniently did not include that clause in the executive order. And very significantly he also applied this executive order only to oil that’s handled by U.S. corporations. So that effectively cuts, strips away any sort of similar immunity for other countries.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for joining us. We’ve been talking to Jim Vallette who is with the Institute for Policy Studies. I.P.S., what is your group calling for?

JIM VALETTE: We’re calling for the repeal of executive order 13303. It seems to have no basis in law or in morality. >> For more information on the executive order 13303 you can go to SEEN stands for Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, of the Institute for Policy Studies. Jim Valette, thanks for being with us. You are listening to Democracy Now! When we come back, we’ll speak with an Iraqi who returned to IRAQ, became a part of the U.S. appointed council, the Iraq Reconstruction Council. And then resigned. We’ll find out why. Stay with us.

Related Story

StorySep 17, 2020Daniel Ellsberg Warns U.S. Press Freedom Under Attack in WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange Extradition Case
The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

Non-commercial news needs your support

We rely on contributions from our viewers and listeners to do our work.
Please do your part today.
Make a donation