07 July 2008

The Iraq War Was About Oil, All Along

Well, it seems one no longer has to feel like a nut. All of the officially proffered reasons for invading Iraq turned out to be lies. We've known that for quite a while. But why, then? Any time someone suggested that maybe the invasion was was driven by a quest for oil the politicians and the respectable press would reply tsk, tsk, tsk ... if they replied at all. How crude (pardon the pun) and unsophisticated we must be to think such a thing! Now it seems as though it is possible to state the plain truth aloud: The Iraq War was About Oil, All Along. The lesson? When the official lies seem especially, stunningly unbelievable, they probably are. And then you should look for a simple alternative explanation.

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Anonymous Dawei_in_Beiijng said...

If the war was really just about access to Iraq's oil, which I don't personally believe, then the war planners sure did drop the ball! With a barrel now going for $143 and counting, America is facing a grave energy crisis that is threatening the entire economy. Just look at the airlines and staple American companies like GM, they're tanking. I know that terms like "crisis" and "threat" are tossed around like nothing, but this energy crisis, in conjunction with all the other hardships we're facing, i.e., inflation, a credit crisis, a weakening of the dollar, etc, is very, very real. Just think about how radically different the world is today from just eight years ago. Just think how much America's position has been weakened in the global economy in just a decade. If Americans don't get a grip on reality, it may be too late. Amazingly, though, the idiots are still out there, in the shopping malls, buying Jordan sneakers and iPODS, as if everything is normal.

07 July, 2008 22:13  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...


What was the war about? I doubt it was solely about oil. I also figure that BushCo might've been deluded about WMD, Hussein's al-Queada links, and so forth. But that would have to be really significant delusion. And it hardly seems better than the mis-calulation re: oil prices that you mention.

A lot of that mis-calculation would result from exogenous factors, no?

08 July, 2008 10:04  
Anonymous Dawei_in_Beijing said...

I buy into the argument Ron Suskind makes in his book The One Percent Doctrine, which goes roughly like this: after 9/11, the U.S. wanted to make a grand display of its military power, in order to make the emphatic point that attacking its soil would bring about severe consequences. The administration, then, identified Iraq as the perfect stage for this display, because they believed that Saddam was a menace with WMDs, whose time was up. They also saw in Iraq a secular country which they thought would welcome democratization. I'm sure oil figured into this equation, too, but it wasn't the foundation for the war, as Moyers suggests.

Regarding oil prices, yes, the sharp increase is due to a host of exogenous factors -- increased global demand, a weak dollar, speculation, the conflict in the Niger Delta, the Iranian problem, and so on. That's my point, though. If the U.S. really attacked Iraq for cheap oil, where is it? It seems to me the U.S.'s energy problems are getting worse, not better. The last I checked, Americans were sending $700 billion a year of their money to foreign oil producers. That's $700 billion dollars a year that could remain inside the U.S. if someone could come up with a home grown alternative! We can't keep exporting our wealth like this, while depending on, and enriching, Saudi Arabia. This is an untenable and dangerous situation.

08 July, 2008 15:46  
Blogger Tom White said...

The danger of using high oil prices to counter the argument that oil was not a reason the Bush administration invaded Iraq assumes that the greater good of getting cheap energy to the American people was a motivation. Which is false. This is a war for profit (as most wars are), and only a tiny fraction of people will reap the financial rewards. These people happen to be in high places in business and government and are gaining wealth to the detriment of the rest of the population, whether they be American or Iraqi.

The fact that the insurgency has fought harder and longer than expected was something the administration probably didn't quite forsee in their arrogance and belief in military superiority but the fact remains that U.S. companies are moving in on Iraqi territory. Troops will be there indefinitely (believe it) and the aim is to create a state in which business can make money (for the owners) and the military can establish a base. Best believe $140 a barrel is good for the boss of Exxon as soon as that oil gets pumped from the Iraqi oil fields by an Exxon pump and 10 000 troops on the border with Iran is a desirable situation if you are in the business George and Dick are in.

09 July, 2008 21:02  
Blogger Tom White said...

Also, democratization as a justification for war? You only have to look at the countries with corrupt regimes and dictatorial rule that the US has NOT invaded to realise how much bullshit that excuse was. And I am sure, to date, that no WMD or programs on a scale that could seriously threaten the US have ever been found in Iraq. Ever.

Iraq has oil, is in a territorially strategic location and was a dictatorship with few international allies. It's not hard to figure out the motivations given the characters and personal histories or those who conceived of and authorised the invasion.

09 July, 2008 21:13  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...


The oil story, from my perspective, has to do precisely with profits that American Oil companies can reap. There might be a second factor - insuring access to oil for military purposes (planes and tanks and hummers all need fuel). The two are clearly related since the American companies can make big money selling fuel to the DoD.

All of that said, it might be too, that the invasion also was driven by ideological enthusiasm. It is difficult to sort all those factors out since, corporate and military types easily convince themselves that what they do must be in the public interest.

09 July, 2008 21:16  
Anonymous Dawei_in_Beijing said...

Nice try. Unfortunately, Tom, conspiracy theories such as yours are casually tossed about because of ignorance about basic market economics. Increasing the prices of commodities like oil, puts a huge strain on businesses, especially big corporations who use tremendous amounts of energy to run their operations. You see, when sudden price increases take effect, and the company isn't hedged, i.e., has no forwards, and futures contracts, they can be wiped out overnight. This is what is happening today in industries that are highly dependent on oil, e.g., airlines, and trucking, and shipping companies. What's more, as oil prices increase, it triggers a rise in the prices for EVERYTHING else. Why? Because it takes a lot of oil to make just about everything. This, as a consequence, puts huge pressures on consumers, whose income suddenly is stretched thin, and forces spending to come to a screeching halt. And when consumers don't consume, Tom, you have no economy, period. Under this environment, no one wins -- even Exxon gets killed. Some facts: 1)in June Exxon sold their entire retail gas station operation because they couldn't afford to hold on to them. 2) the price for exploration, and drilling, has soared in the last few years because of rising energy costs. So, even though American oil companies are reporting record earnings (read: earnings NOT profits), most of the money is going right back into the business. Do you watch the markets? If you did you'd know that today every American energy company across the board closed down. The only people sitting pretty right now are the petro dictatorships. Venezuela, Iran, Libya, Russia, etc. State owned monsters like Gazprom and Citgo are reaping the benefits of selling gas and oil on the free market to the West! So the U.S. went to war with Iraq so Putin and Chavez can sell us oil at $140 a barrel? Get real.

If the war was about oil, yes, it would have been securing very cheap oil for the American people, because that's what greases our economy and keeps us wealthy. It's in our NATIONAL INTEREST. Going to a war which results in a $140 barrel, crippling consumers, and American companies, and, in turn, throwing us into a recession is not something any strategist would sign on for, neocon or not.

09 July, 2008 21:50  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Tom: Just an historical note. The US as a long history of claiming to wage war to, as Woodrow Wilson claimed, 'make the world safe for democracy'

Dawei: I actually do not think Tom is giving a conspiracy theory. There is a well documented group in the administration who were intent on going to war. Some of the factors he notes (e.g. international isolation, lots of oil, etc. hardly seem to presume a conspiracy. And, as the Moyers story points out there were lots of oil types in the White House on a regular basis.

This may not be the entire story. But it seems to me to be a reasonable part of it.

09 July, 2008 22:58  
Anonymous Dawei_in_Beijing said...

Jim, I agree that oil was definitely a factor in convincing some high level folks to go to war, but not in the sense that Tom is arguing. I don't believe oil companies conspired with the administration to wage a war so their stock value will go up. I do, however, think that some in the U.S., alarmed that rising China and India are becoming major competitors for oil, had in their mind the idea that this war would allow the U.S. to secure cheap and free flowing oil for itself and its allies. That's what Greenspan suggested in his book when he said that securing oil supplies for the U.S. economy was a factor in the Iraq war, and that cheap oil was of utmost importance to civilization. So, again, I stress that the primary idea was to secure cheap oil for the economy at large, because that is in our strategic national interest. That some people in oil companies may get rich was not a motivating factor.

09 July, 2008 23:09  
Anonymous Dawei_in_Beijing said...

One more point. The idea that the U.S. couldn't possibly have wanted democracy in Iraq because they support dictatorships elsewhere, and have done so in their history is misguided. U.S. strategists don't think of foreign policy as one-size-fits-all. There are areas in the world where the U.S. would welcome democratization, while support authoritarianism in others -- it depends on what the national interest calls for. In Eastern Europe, for example, the U.S., in conjunction with its NATO allies, has done a superb job of smoothly transitioning former Soviet satellite states into democratic market economies. Why? Because we, and Europe, wanted those states to join the Western sphere of influence, and get away from under Russia's thumb. The national interest in this case called for a weakening of Russia's sphere of influence via Eastern Europe's democratization, and that's exactly what we did. Yes, during The Cold War we supported many unsavory regimes as we competed with the Soviets for global dominance. And yes, today we are friendly with many of the "Stans" and Saudi Arabia, and it's not because we admire the robes. We need oil, period. If we cut our ties with these guys, China enters the picture immediately, so we have to stick with them no matter what they do to their people, as fucked up as that sounds (although we did draw the line at Darfur, cutting off ties to the Sudanese. Guess what, China didn't). Global politics between great powers is a nasty business and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

09 July, 2008 23:57  
Blogger arda zekaç said...

recently, noam chomsky wrote an article about this oil deal over the invasion, too: http://countercurrents.org/chomsky100708.htm

22 July, 2008 19:09  

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