This made me laff

Who gets the oil?

Once Iraq is liberated, who’ll control their massive oil assets? New York Times columnist Bob Herbert asks this question, and cites the Wall Street Journal — who you figure ought to know — to provide a few clues:

It’s not unpatriotic to say that there are billions of dollars to be made in Iraq and that the gold rush is already under way. It’s simply a matter of fact.

Back in January, an article in The Wall Street Journal noted: “With oil reserves second only to Saudi Arabia’s, Iraq would offer the oil industry enormous opportunity should a war topple Saddam Hussein. But the early spoils would probably go to companies needed to keep Iraq’s already rundown oil operations running, especially if facilities were further damaged in a war. Oil-services firms such as Halliburton Co., where Vice President Dick Cheney formerly served as chief executive, and Schlumberger Ltd. are seen as favorites for what could be as much as $1.5 billion in contracts.”

Indeed, Halliburton division Kellog Brown & Root has already won a Pentagon contract to assess and rehabilitate any war-related damage to Iraq’s oil infrastructure. It probably makes sense to hire them, though; they’ve been working alongside Saddam Hussein for years, as a quick glance through the financial pages showed a reporter for the Village Voice:

Halliburton goes back a long ways in Iraq, providing Saddam with equipment to repair his antiquated oil machinery. According to a Financial Times report in 2000 the business was done through consortia and overseas subsidiaries “to avoid straining relations with Washington and jeopardizing their ties with President Saddam Hussein’s government in Baghdad.”

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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