War for Oil 9

The frantic efforts of the US and British governments to persuade Iraq to sign over its oil to Western companies on terms wildly unfavourable to Iraq, happily continue to run into the sands. But it is instructive to those who still try to argue this whole war wasn’t about oil.


Meanwhile, the major oil companies have no desire to step into the bloodbath yet anyway. They are making truly unbelievable profits from the high oil and gas prices the war has engendered.

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9 thoughts on “War for Oil

  • Randal

    "But it is instructive to those who still try to argue this whole war wasn't about oil."

    Have to be a little careful on this, I think.

    It seems to me that saying the invasion was "all about oil" is no more or less accurate than saying it was "all about Israel", or "all about the US mliitary/industrial complex", or even "all about US nationalism". My guess is the war would not have happened if any one of the above elements had not been in place and pushing for war.

    I might add the Bush family personal issue with Saddam as well, although it is difficult to really know how important this was as a motivating factor for GWB personally.

    If you are merely pointing out that oil was a necessary prerequisite for the war to occur, then fine, but if you are seeking to minimise the importance of the other factors I listed, then my own opinion is that you would be mis-directing yourself and your readers.

  • Strategist

    No, Randal, it really is all about oil.

    The other factors you refer to are sub-sets of oil. The US economy, US prosperity, the American way of life, the American dream today: all = oil. UK, ditto.

    Except, perhaps, Israel. OK, it was a little bit about Israel too.

  • Randal

    "The other factors you refer to are sub-sets of oil. "

    You make a valid point, strategist, but I'm not sure I'd go quite as far as "sub-sets".

    Certainly, the American nationalists are partly after the ME to secure exclusive control of important oil producing areas, and certainly some of the mlitary/industrial complex are in fact the same people as big oil, and certainly the Bush personal issues exist because of the oil in the area (doubtless, the US would not have liberated Kuwait were it not for the oil).

    But nevertheless, and overlaps notwithstanding, these are distinct interest groups with their own motives for attacking Iraq over and above oil, and they all played crucial parts in providing the impetus for the invasion. Each group wields huge political influence in the US, as do the Israeli nationalists and Christian fundamentalists.

    The mil/ind types saw huge profits to be made, the US nationalists saw a securing of "respect" and an imposition of American dominance and exceptionalism, Bush saw the opportunity to settle a score. As for Israel, the Israeli nationalists saw a chance to destroy an enemy and perhaps inveigle the US into a long process of destroying all Israel's enemies, and the Christian fundamentalists saw the need to fulfill scriptural requirements to support Israel, and maybe throw in a bit of crusading.

    The above are the main power blocs that made it happen, but if you want to include the influential tendencies that enabled the war politically, you could further add the anti-muslim and anti-religious fanatics of the west, who saw an opportunity to further whip up the conflict between the west and islam that they desperately need and desire. Also the liberal imperialists and democracy ideologues who just wanted to "rescue" the Iraqi people.

    In a different category were the western human rights activists, whose work was used by the other groups to demonise the Saddam regime and build the case for war, but most of whom were ideologically indisposed towards war as a means of achieving this end.

    So, yes, the war would not have happened were it not for oil. But saying it's "all about oil" is an over-simplification.

  • writeon

    It's difficult to overestimate the importance of oil. It really is the blood that keeps the body of our civilization alive and healthy. What concerns me, is that we perhaps/probably have far less oil than we imagine/realize, and that we are heading for very interesting times indeed!

    I do feel sorry for the population of Iraq though. Sorry and deeply ashamed. I believe we can describe our actions in Iraq, loosely, as a modern form of genocide. If genocide occured in Yugoslavia, then Iraq certainly qualifies. It makes me uneasy that we have created a political culture that can ignore the destruction of Iraq, in much the same way as we ignore the destruction of Palestine. Even worse our political leaders suffer virtually no consequences for their destructive and genocidal policies. They retire, in the case of Blair with their heads held high to a standing ovation! How is this possible given the monumental size of their crimes? Given the level of slaughter in Iraq, what does this tell us about the nature of our civilization? Is Blair really a gentleman Nazi? Is he the acceptable face of Fascism?

    Maybe this is too harsh a judgement? I'm only speculating. It just strikes me that there is something fundamentally and structurally wrong with our political/social system, when men like Blair can get off free after such crimes. Basically, I see Blair's career as a sign of the death of democracy as we've known it for most of our lives.

  • Randal

    "when men like Blair can get off free after such crimes. Basically, I see Blair's career as a sign of the death of democracy as we've known it for most of our lives."

    I see it as the triumph of democracy. Blair is the quintessential democratic leader – a smooth-talking professional power-seeker who is capable of lying to people, being found out, convincing them that he meant well, and then successfully lying to them again. In a state, like ours, where virtually all the establishment checks and balances have been swept away or brought under the control of the democratically elected executive, what is there to stop such a man, provided he keeps the support of the interest groups he needs to play the democratic system?

    Does anybody actually believe Blair would not have inveigled himself into power in 1997, no matter what democratic system we operated – PR, first past the post, whatever?

    But I'm certainly with you on the anger about the way our leaders have got away with the Iraq outrage. Blair first and foremost, but all his contemptible cabinet members and ultimately every MP who voted in favour of the war and has not abjectly apologised by now.

    By the way, I did notice something this morning which illustrates the ultimate futility of attempting to use brute force in an occupation situation. Remember Fallujah, which was crushed twice beneath the US jackboot, and subjected to some of the most coercive police state measures imaginable, short (just about) of genocide? It appears Fallujah still resists the occupation:

    Curfew-Bound Fallujah

    On the Boil Again

    If only we could force every British MP who voted for this wretched war to live there for a few years.

  • writeon

    I too think it really is, more or less, all about oil. In fact, the Middle East has been 'all about oil' for most of the last fifty years, and is going to increasingly be 'all about oil'.

    Basically Saudi Arabia has fiddled the books for decades. Saudi has far less oil in reserve in the ground than most of us think. Not only that, Saudi Arabia's greatest fields are declining at an alarming rate. This at a time when demand for oil is surging, especially from China and India. We are heading for a substantial gap between supply and demand. This instability will have profound consequences for our way of life.

    Iraq, which supposedly has vast and as yet untapped reserves, is a key player here. America invaded Iraq in order to open-up these reserves to rapid exploitation and ameliorate the decline in Saudi production with all te

    hat entails. The irony is, that the invasion and occupation of Iraq has had the exact opposite effect! Iraq's production is lower than before the invasion!

    The situation in relation to oil supplies is far more serious than most people and governments acknowledge, in public, at any rate. It would be prudent to begin a radical, government directed, energy conservation programme right now, almost as if Britain was at war and under blockade. We face two crucial threats in the coming decades; severe climate change and a deep and virtually everlasting energy crisis. One can choose which one is the more serious threat to our civilization.

  • Strategist

    Right on, writeon!

    Saudi and a lot of the other oil states (and companies, such as Shell) have been lying about the level of their reserves for years. Absolutely correct. But one quibble: Iraq's case is different – it's not a matter of "supposedly" having vast and untapped reserves, it really does have those reserves and everyone in the oil biz knows where they are.

    Greg Palast (www.gregpalast.com) is very interesting on the "irony" that Bush's war has lead to record high oil prices not cheaper oil. The irony of course is that this has led to record revenues & profits to oil companies and to oil states such as Saudi (as well as to an oilman we lefties like, Hugo Chavez…) So, the failed, disastrous war has actually not been a failure or a disaster at all if you're on the receiving end of the money flowing into Texas.

    Palast is fascinating on the history of the oil companies' attitude to Iraq. His book "Armed Madhouse" tells how back in the twenties the oil companies agreed a cartel arrangement to support the oil price by leaving most of Iraq's oil in the ground. He also unearthed the competing bids for the Iraq invasion put up to the Bush administration by the neocons and by the oilmen. Fascinating reading, and I recommend it to anyone.

    Broadly speaking, Rupert Murdoch's on the record comment something like "if it gets oil down to $30/barrel this war will have been well worthwhile" was the neocons' point of view, whereas the oilmen's view was "whoa, hold on, we make more money when the price is high".

  • ChoamNomsky

    It's really about money, and in the Middle East, that certainly equates to oil. In Guatemala in the 50s it equated to Bananas (hence the coup at the request of United Fruits).

    Oil is not the only money making endeavour though. It was known from the beginning that a war with Iraq would enable the US Government to steal vast somes of money from US taxpayers and transfer it to US Corporations via Iraq.

    The beauty of it is that the US as a whole can even make a loss, since the people making the profits (corporations) and the people footing the bill (taxpayers) are two different entities.

    However, the scheme can't work if foreign companies are the ones who get the money, which explains why countries who did not invade Iraq were barred from bidding for contracts early on. This outrageous move prevented the Iraqis from getting the best deals from companies in the Middle East, and is probably one of the reasons foreign contractors are such a target.

  • Randal

    It's not oil that does all the spadework to make it possible for the White House to get away with costly policies of aggression in the ME. It's the Israeli lobby, primarily, with help from all the other groups I mentioned above, that suppresses dissent in Congress and in the press and media, and keeps the Democrats in line.

    Note that it was the Israeli lobby that forced all the main Democrat Presidential contenders to back away from a resolution requiring the White House to seek specific authorisation before attacking Iran. A person possessed of the least spark of decency and comprehension of world affairs would regard such a resolution as a "no brainer" (as the Americans put it). I don't believe oil alone could have achieved that particular feat, not least because "oil" is not as unified a force in US lobbying terms, except on the most basic core issues – and ME adventures don't count as that.

    I don't in the least minimise the power and influence of the oil industry in the US, but I think others here are implicitly doing just that for the Israeli lobby in particular.

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