Outrageous Bush Executive Order on Iraq Oil Must Be Investigated
President Bush has issued an Executive Order, so far completely unreported, that purports
to grant broad legal immunity to oil companies operating in Iraq. The Order is, on its face, outrageous, and should be investigated.
Executive Order 13303, issued on May 22, 2003, claims to be essential to Iraqi reconstruction efforts. A cursory reading of the Order indicates
that its real purpose is to protect oil companies by giving virtual impunity for any activities undertaken relating to Iraqi
This Order, with broad language that seems to sweep aside federal statutes, including the
Alien Tort Claims Act, has received no public attention. It has been brought to light by a researcher with the Sustainable Energy and Environment Network (SEEN).
Under this Order, an oil company complicit in human rights violations, or one that causes
environmental damage, would be immune from lawsuits. The language of the Executive Order is so broad that it might as well
have been written by lawyers for Halliburton, ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco.
In 13303, President Bush declares a national emergency as the basis for protecting the Development
Fund for Iraq (an entity intended to fund reconstruction efforts with oil proceeds, overseen by an international board including
World Bank officials) as well as all Iraqi petroleum, petroleum products, interests, proceeds, and contracts related to Iraqi
petroleum. Claiming that interference with Iraqi petroleum, petroleum products, and interests therein jeopardizes reconstruction
efforts in Iraq, EO 13303 offers a wide range of protections to certain persons, entities and assets associated with the Iraqi
oil industry. The document is apparently intended as a sweeping grant of immunity to individuals, corporations, agencies and
others involved in Iraqi oil sales, marketing, or other oil-related activities.
The Order provides protection at both the front endthe activities that generate the oilas
well as the backthe profits and proceeds that ensue. U.S. companies engaged in petroleum-related work in Iraq are purportedly
given broad immunity from suits for environmental damage, workplace harms, contractual disputes, and numerous other wrongs.
For example, a U.S. oil company benefiting from human rights abuses, no matter how egregious, apparently falls within the
Orders immunity from suit. Similarly, the Order purports to protect any assets derived from Iraqi oil from judgment, garnishment,
or any other seizure in U.S. courts. For example, if a corporate entity or an individual engages in criminal activity in the
U.S., its assets traceable to Iraqi oil are protected by this order. The list of situations in which a person or corporation
could get away with, if not murder, then at least millions, is endless.
The title of the EO, Protecting the Development Fund for Iraq and Certain Other Property
in Which Iraq Has an Interest, is a sham. This EO may be about Iraq, but its also about the oil industry exclusively. (Remember
the Administration has claimed that the Iraq war had nothing to do with oil?) There is nothing at all about protecting humanitarian
organizations, communications, computer or electrical companies, or other industries that are critical to Iraqs reconstruction.
EarthRights International is joining SEEN and the Government Accountability Project in investigating the legitimacy of this Order. We call on Congress to investigate
EO 13303 immediately.