On May 24, the U.S. Congress voted to continue the war in Iraq. The members called it “supporting the troops.” I call it stealing Iraq’s oil — the second largest reserves in the world.

The “benchmark,” or goal, that the Bush administration has been working on furiously since the United States invaded Iraq is the privatization of Iraq’s oil. Now they have Congress blackmailing the Iraqi Parliament and the Iraqi people: no privatization of Iraqi oil, no reconstruction funds.

This threat could not be clearer. If the Iraqi Parliament refuses to pass the privatization legislation, Congress will withhold U.S. reconstruction funds that were promised to the Iraqis to rebuild what the United States has destroyed there.

The privatization law, written by American oil company consultants hired by the Bush administration, would leave control with the Iraq National Oil Company for only 17 of the 80 known oil fields. The remainder (two-thirds) of known oil fields, and all yet undiscovered ones, would be up for grabs by the private oil companies of the world (but guess how many would go to United States firms — given to them by the compliant Iraqi government).

No other nation in the Middle East has privatized its oil. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Iran give only limited usage contracts to international oil companies for one or two years. The $120 billion “Support the Troops” legislation passed by Congress requires Iraq, in order to get reconstruction funds from the United States, to privatize its oil resources and put them up for long-term (20- to 30-year) contracts.

What does this “support the troops” legislation mean for the United States military? Supporting our troops has nothing to do with this bill, other than keeping them there for another 30 years to protect U.S. oil interests. It means that every military service member will need Arabic language training. It means that every soldier and Marine would spend most of his or her career in Iraq. It means that the 14 permanent bases there will get new Taco Bells and Burger Kings!

Why? Because the U.S. military will be protecting the U.S. corporate oilfields leased to U.S. companies by the compliant Iraqi government. Our troops will be the guardians of U.S. corporate interests in Iraq for the life of the contracts — for the next 30 years.

With the Bush administration’s “support the troops” bill and its benchmarks, primarily Benchmark No. 1, we finally have the reason for the U.S. invasion of Iraq: to get easily accessible, cheap, high-grade Iraqi oil for U.S. corporations.

Now the choice is for U.S. military personnel and their families to decide whether they want their loved ones to be physically and emotionally injured to protect not our national security, but the financial security of the biggest corporate barons left in our country — the oil companies.

It’s a choice for only our military families, because most nonmilitary Americans do not really care whether our volunteer military spends its time protecting corporate oil to fuel our one-person cars. Of course, when a tornado, hurricane, flood or other natural disaster hits in our hometown, we want our National Guard unit back. But on a normal day, who remembers the 180,000 U.S. military or the 150,000 U.S. private contractors in Iraq?

Since the “surge” began in January, over 500 Americans and 15,000 Iraqis have been killed. By the time September 2007 rolls around for the administration’s review of the “surge” plan, another 400 Americans will be dead, as well as another 12,000 Iraqis.

How much more can our military and their families take?

Ann Wright served 29 years in the U.S. Army and U.S. Army Reserves and retired as a colonel. She served 16 years in the U.S. diplomatic corps in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Micronesia and Mongolia. She resigned from the U.S. Department of State in March 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. This article originally appeared at truthout.org and is reprinted with the author’s permission.