KICK THAT BARREL
by Mike Ferner
In a town awash in irony, this particular example of it couldn’t have been more striking.
On February 22, in Washington, D.C., former Marine Corps Sergeant and Iraq War vet, Adam Kokesh, kick-rolled a 55-gallon oil drum lettered “Hands Off Iraqi Oil” across K Street – an avenue that has become synonymous with the power of corporate lobbyists.
Kokesh, former Army National Guard Sergeant Geoff Millard, and former Army Private Marc Trainer, in the center of a knot of demonstrators, took turns kicking the barrel up 16th Street towards Lafayette Park, adjoining the White House, for a protest sponsored by U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW), Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), and Oil Change International.
The protest and an earlier news conference at the Institute for Policy Studies was called to bring public attention to the Oil Law passed by the Iraqi Cabinet one year ago and now waiting approval by Parliament.
Citing a letter USLAW sent yesterday to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and George Bush, Gene Bruskin, co-convenor of USLAW, said that under Paul Bremer, the man Bush put in charge of running Iraq right after the invasion, the Hussein administration laws were wiped off the books – except for Law 150 and Law 151 which prohibit Iraqi workers from organizing unions in the public sector, some two-thirds of the nation’s economy.
“For there to be freedom in Iraq,” Bruskin said, “working people have to have representation. And not just on labor contracts but on social policy.” He pledged the continuing support of USLAW, whose member organizations represent some three million U.S. workers, to Iraqi oil workers and their union, the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions.
Kokesh, who said his time in Iraq taught him that “we are making enemies faster than we can kill them,” called the U.S. presence in Iraq a military and an economic occupation, and that they are “inherently tied.”
Trina Zahller, representing Oil Change International, stated, “No law passed under the U.S. occupation can have legitimacy. Iraqi oil is not a resource for the oil companies, it is for the Iraqi people.”
She said her group’s position is that there should be an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq; that no oil law or long term contracts law be passed under the U.S. occupation; and that international oil companies should be prohibited from owning Iraqi oil. She added that the pending Oil Law provides that currently operating fields stay under Iraqi control, but that future profits from “undiscovered” oil – estimated at 50 percent of all Iraq’s oil – be controlled by oil corporations.
Maintaining its tradition of largely ignoring events critical of U.S. policy in Iraq, U.S. corporate news outlets were conspicuously absent from yesterday’s news conference and protest. United Press International, Talk Radio News, Voice of America and a D.C. television station were the only U.S. news media present. Representing the international press were Reuters; Agence France Press, one of the world’s top newswires; Telesur, a TV network serving much of Latin America; Al Jazeera; and the Japanese newspaper, Akahata.
Ferner is an independent journalist and author of “Inside the Red Zone: A Veteran For Peace Reports from Iraq.”