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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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April 21, 2004

Stealing Iraq's oil?

A reader objects to a line in my column that said, “We are not in Iraq to steal the oil.” She writes, “You must be kidding. That's one of the primary reasons we're there! If not to steal it outright, certainly to control it.”

Here is part of my reply:

"The oil market is international, with an international price. 'Control' of Iraqi oil boils down to two decisions: Are you going to sell it? And who gets the money from it? Iraq is going to sell it. We are not going to steal the oil; we just couldn't get away with that.

The remaining question is who gets the money from it. Some of it may get administered by a U.S. authority for a while, and some of it paid to Halliburton, but Halliburton will have to perform a service for it. Maybe there will be some funny business, but there won't be room for some grand theft of Iraqi assets.

Remember that oil is a flow, and most of the asset remains in the ground. The money from that flow mostly will go into the pockets of the Iraqi government. It's not going to end up in the U.S. Treasury."

I’ll add that clearly, the U.S. government wants to put the Iraqi oil into friendly hands. So oil is a part of the story. But when people talk about it, they so often talk as if the U.S. went there to take the oil. I don’t think that is true. We are there, however, to remake Iraq into something that pleases us, and that is what I focused on in the column.

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Posted by Bruce Ramsey at April 21, 2004 04:51 PM



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