Continued occupation of Iraq is 'a crime of international proportions' and a smokescreen for the real objective: privatization of Iraq's oil

HONOLULU, HI - President Bush's announcement that U.S. forces will remain in Iraq beyond his term in office for the "stability and security" of that nation "is a smokescreen to cover the immorality and criminality of the real reason he took us to war and the reason he refuses to end it: oil."

"It is impossible to deny that fact any longer," charged Ohio Congressman and Democratic Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, campaigning in Hawaii today. "This Administration has been relentless in trying to force the Iraqi government to enact a so-called hydrocarbon law that will, in fact, enable multi-national oil and energy corporations to gain control of 200 billion to 300 billion barrels of Iraq's oil with a market value today of around $20 trillion," Kucinich said. "And to facilitate and protect that scheme, he is willing to continue the occupation, keep our brave men and women in the line of fire, and risk an escalation of violence and regional instability."

Kucinich, the only Democratic candidate who voted against the original Iraq war authorization in 2002 and every supplemental funding appropriation since, continued, "This is a crime of international proportions, and it's happening right under the noses of a Congress that won't listen, other candidates for President who don't understand, and the media who are asleep at their desks."

When the President and the Congress and other political leaders discuss Iraq's progress in meeting 18 specific benchmarks, "Let's be honest about it: the only benchmark that really matters to this Administration is the privatization of Iraq's oil under the guise of a proposed law portrayed as revenue sharing. And they are using the might of the U.S. military as leverage to ensure that that benchmark is met."

Earlier this year, Kucinich delivered an unprecedented one-hour speech on the floor of the U.S. House detailing the implications of the proposed hydrocarbon law and chronicling the sometimes-secret discussions and negotiations that led to its drafting.

In that speech, and in meetings with House Democratic leaders and colleagues, Kucinich provided documentation, some dating back to 1999, showing that international oil interests and representatives of the Administration, notably Vice President Dick Cheney, have been strategizing for years about how to open up Iraq's oil industry to exploitation by the world's major oil corporations. He also provided evidence that, for years, top oil company executives have been quietly, sometimes secretly, advising the U.S. government and the evolving government of Iraq on ways to end Iraq's state-controlled oil industry and to facilitate "foreign investment." Those powerful executives, Kucinich said, have been coveting Iraq's oil reserves - the second or third largest in the world - since the country nationalized its oil industry in 1975.

"That's why the President won't bring our troops home. It's exactly what I've been saying for five years: It's always been about the oil," Kucinich said in his comments today.

He continued, "Congress must refuse to consider any additional funding for an immoral and illegal war that is being used to cover up this kind of corruption and criminality. Bring our troops home now, establish an international peace-keeping and security force, and stop trying to hijack an entire nation's wealth."

He added, "Everyone who voted for this war and everyone who voted to continue funding this war should be held accountable for the consequences of those votes. If they didn't know what they were doing, they should admit it. If they don't see what's going on, there is something terribly wrong with their vision and their judgment."