Wednesday, May 30, 2007

End Iraq War with third branch of government: the courts

Today, tobacco companies are paying for anti-smoking commercials on TV, and reimbursing states for the cost of taking care of cancer patients. Is this the result of bold legislative action?


Far from it. It is the result of a class action lawsuit.

Something similar happened after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Were the corporate officers who decided that single hull tankers are okay thrown in prison? No. But a few years ago, I got a nice five figure check for not being able to work as a commercial fisherman that summer, and I’d already gotten one twice as big the summer of the spill. A class action lawsuit took the pound of flesh that the executive branch was too cowardly or corrupt to take through criminal charges.

We should do the same to big oil over the occupation of Iraq, and charge them for the cost of the war, the cost of our military presence in the Gulf, intelligence operations, support for puppets to enforce oil company wishes, and of course the cost of the consequent acts of terrorism. We should sue them for conspiracy or RICO, to use our military for private gain by influencing our government to commit economic war crimes as defined by the Geneva and Hague Conventions.

Going after corporations in court for crimes committed outside the United States is not without precedent. In Sinaltrainal v. Coca-Cola, a Columbian union sued Coca-Cola for hiring paramilitaries to kill union members. Killing people to improve profits—does that sound familiar? Come to think of it, the Iraqis could use the underlying law too, the Alien Tort Statute, that allows people in foreign countries to sue American corporations for inciting human rights violations, or violations of treaties overseas. It was used in precisely this way against Unocal for using forced labor in Burma. Unocal was forced to settle.

We should at least ask for millions for every vet killed or maimed over there, and could fairly demand oil companies repay the cost of the war to the American taxpayers.

Even if the lawsuit wasn’t won, the discovery process alone would be valuable: the judge would ask for information on the Cheney Energy Task Force, and it would be hard to deny it without admitting war was on the agenda. If the lawyers for the plaintiffs get those documents, the oil companies may suddenly be quite willing to point out that they didn’t ask for exactly what Bush did, that they just wanted a coup, or a quick in and out decapitation strike and installation of a more compliant dictator.

The other fact that might come out in a lawsuit is that our military presence in the Gulf has nothing to do with our “security” and everything to do with who pumps the oil and profits from it.

I used to believe that we needed a presence in the Gulf so no one could cut off the oil and blackmail us.

However, Greg Palast gave evidence that this war was about keeping oil prices HIGH because Saddam might have produced too much when sanctions came off. This seemed to be confirmed by a DSM when Bush sent assurances to Putin that a successful Iraq War would not be allowed to drive oil prices down.

OPEC themselves have some difficulty keeping prices up--the higher the market price, the more members are tempted to "cheat" and sell more, which drives prices back down. When OPEC tried to do this through production quotas for member states based known reserves, member countries reserves magically doubled overnight.

The only ones who seem to really like high prices are the oil companies--high prices mean the same or higher profits for less work.

And they have figured out that the way to keep prices up is to choke supply by keeping a country off the market, like Iraq, or limiting physical production or refining.

We have seen the latter here in the US where oil companies haven't built new refineries for decades and shut existing ones down for "repairs" at just the right time to constrict supply as demand is going up--like during summers.

The war has nothing to do with increasing our supply.

If we got within spitting distance of winning a case like this, big oil might tell the Bushies or their stooge of the moment to pull back from Iraq, so that they won’t run up a bill big oil might eventually have to pay.

And even conservative appointed judges can show a degree of independence on the bench unthinkable for an elected official groveling for a corporate donation--judges have actually been known to call black black and white white, which would be torture for a democrat if the public knew black was black but the Chamber of Commerce told them to say black was white.

The downside of trying to set things right with the courts is it will take a long time. But since we have seen with the Democrats bill giving Bush money to continue the Iraq War, our elected “representatives” in Washington, DC represent us in name only, our other options will take a while too.

We should continue to march and demonstrate, and try to strongarm politicians into having a conscience, but we should also aim a little higher, and knock the strings out of the hands of Pinocchio’s Gepetto, big oil.

OIL motive for IRAQ WAR resources

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