An all but unpublicized factoid whisked past our eyes recently, whizzing in one ear and out the other leaving virtually no impression of its passage. But this little bit of news may have been the most important economic event of the last few months, with the largest forthcoming consequences. The BBC News reports:
Iraqi oil production is above the levels seen before the US-led invasion of the country in 2003, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).The IEA said Iraqi crude production is now running at 2.3 million barrels per day, compared with 1.9 million barrels at the start of this year.
Well, who knew! For a long time now, ever-rising oil prices have been blamed on the Bush invasion of Iraq and the destruction of its oil-producing infrastructure amid the chaos we see there. Iraq sits atop one of the world's largest oil reserves, which is certainly a good reason for it not to fall into the hands of Islamists; but as nice as it is not to have it be controlled by mullahs, it would be even nicer to be able to have it pumped and sold in an organized, orderly, free-market way. The infamous oil-for-food scandal brought about by UN corruption and collusion with Saddam Hussein was exactly the wrong way to accomplish that; booting out Saddam was all very well, but oil production requires not only stability and security, but technology and know-how.
Which is where Vice President Cheney's old cronies at Halliburton come in. Halliburton is one of the world's largest oilfield-services firms, providing everything from rigs and drills to helicopters and logistics. So, while it may be an Exxon oil field, odds are that many of the hard-hat crew putting things together are actually employees of Halliburton. This is a somewhat finicky and specialized field, and requires astronomically enormous amounts of capital to even be a player, so there aren't really too many companies with this sort of expertise.
And Iraq was not only a major technical challenge, given the desperately worn-out status of most of its infrastructure after decades of sanctions; it has also been what amounts to an active war zone since the invasion. Not even your ordinary Texan is willing to venture his nose into that particular wringer regardless of pay grade.
But despite all this, Halliburton did take the contracts to renew Iraq's ability to produce oil. As you might expect, the roar of fury from the left was deafening; everything from false accusations that Cheney personally would profit from the government contracts; to FBI investigations of bid-rigging; and even Congressional calls for an investigation of the remaining ties between Cheney and the company he once ran. Regardless of the amounts paid, could it be worth the corporate risk - politically, financially, even risk to life and limb of employees?
Yet today, silently, in a whisper so faint it can hardly be heard, we see the end result: Dick Cheney's friends at Halliburton have achieved what once seemed impossible, and earned their pay. Iraq is now producing more oil than it did under Saddam Hussein, and we can reasonably expect the volume to go uphill from there.
Thanks to Dick Cheney's close association with Halliburton, and doubtless his influence in its obtaining contracts to overhaul Iraq's much-abused oil infrastructure, the Vice President will be leaving a slimy, black legacy - that is to say, slimy and black in a good way. Black gold! Texas tea! And we surely need all we can get.