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Black gold fuelled the Iraq War Twenty years on, America still can't answer the oil crisis

Oil set ablaze outside in Qayyarah (YASIN AKGUL/AFP via Getty Images)

Oil set ablaze outside in Qayyarah (YASIN AKGUL/AFP via Getty Images)


March 13, 2023   7 mins

Even before the conspicuous absence of weapons of mass destruction shattered the pretext for the Iraq War, it was haunted by black gold. Whether oil motivated George W. Bush and his advisers’ decision to invade was part of the bitter political contest preceding the “shock and awe” attack on 23 March 2003. At the centre of these accusations stood Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney, the former CEO and Chair of the Board of Halliburton, the large American oil services company that received a contract to repair Iraq’s oil infrastructure in the same month the war began.

Cheney’s involvement appeared to repeat a familiar story about the American military-industrial complex. Four decades earlier, a Halliburton subsidiary, Brown & Root, made large donations to President Lyndon Johnson before securing contracts on a naval construction programme in South Vietnam. Ironically, one of Brown & Root’s critics was a young Donald Rumsfeld, then a Republican Congressman, but in 2003 Bush’s defence secretary and a vocal cheerleader for the war.

Knowing that the oil charge coming from across the Atlantic made it harder for him to win the battle of public opinion in Britain, Tony Blair directly tried to defuse it in a Newsnight interview with Jeremy Paxman:

“Let me just deal with the oil thing because… the oil conspiracy theory is honestly one of the most absurd when you analyse it. The fact is that, if the oil that Iraq has were our concern, I mean we could probably cut a deal with Saddam tomorrow in relation to the oil. It’s not the oil that is the issue — it is the weapons, which is why the UN resolutions have gone over 12 years in relation to the weapons and why we’ve actually allowed Iraq to export oil.”

Yet the Halliburton allegations were a distraction from the actual reasons why Iraq was an oil war — not that Bush and Blair dared present it as such. After post-invasion Iraq descended into civil war, Bush came close to spelling out those motivations when, in his 2006 State of the Union address, he said: “we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world”. In that moment, Bush might have been mistaken for Jimmy Carter. Indeed, since the origins of the oil problem that the Iraq War was conceived to address lie in the Seventies, he was necessarily Carter’s energy heir. Then, the United States became the world’s largest oil importer after decades of near self-sufficiency. Unfortunately from its perspective, it acquired a direct interest in supply from the Middle East just as British imperial power crumbled in the region and post-colonial energy nationalism took hold.

Iraq was always tangled up in Washington’s ensuing geopolitical problems. The Ba’athist government ­— on this issue directed by Saddam Hussein — had nationalised all the foreign oil companies. During the Seventies, Iraq was also an ally of Moscow. Wanting to guard against Soviet influence in the Persian Gulf, but not wanting militarily to replace Britain, the Nixon administration made Saudi Arabia and Iran the guarantors of American energy security in the region. But the Iranian revolution in February 1979, followed by first the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and then the Iran-Iraq War, overwhelmed this strategy while sending oil prices soaring until new output from Alaska and the North Sea appeared. In this maelstrom, Jimmy Carter made a major strategic change in American foreign policy that has never yet been reversed. Under the Carter Doctrine, the United States became publicly committed to using military force in response to “an attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf”.

This did not mean that American presidents would necessarily embrace a military approach to American foreign oil dependency in the Middle East. To the contrary, they still much preferred sanctions against hostile regimes and the use of regional proxies, rendering Bush’s 2003 war a radical departure in method. In the Eighties, Iraq became one of those surrogates when the Reagan administration provided support to Saddam’s regime to defeat Iran. But after its territorial ambitions in Iran were vanquished, Iraq again became a problem, even as the Cold War with the Soviet Union ended. In responding to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait with war, George Bush senior acted on the Carter doctrine. But in deciding to stop in January 1991 at pushing Iraq out of Kuwait, and relying on sanctions on Iraq’s oil exports — policed by the US air force patrolling the Gulf — to contain a Saddam-led Iraq, he bequeathed his successors a strategic contradiction around that doctrine.

Sanctions on Iraq — on top of those in place on Iran and Libya — constrained the supply of oil out of the Persian Gulf, the defence of which was the Carter Doctrine’s whole raison d’etre. While this tension caused few problems in the Nineties, when oil supply was abundant and prices low, in the early 21st century it became an altogether different proposition. Now, output from Alaska and the North Sea was declining, while fears about the rate of depletion at the world’s largest oil field, Ghawar, in Saudi Arabia, were mounting. Meanwhile, China’s accelerating consumption, on the back of much higher growth after Beijing’s accession to the World Trade Organization, constituted a concurrent demand shock.

Undoubtedly, the George W. Bush administration was well versed in oil matters. In his second week in office, Bush set up an Energy Task Force headed by Cheney. The subsequent Cheney Report declared that the United States faced an “energy crisis” arising from the “fundamental imbalance” between the supply and demand for oil. The report concluded by recommending that the administration review the sanction regimes and make moves to reopen the Middle East to foreign energy investment.

Seen in these terms, the Iraq War did possess a strategic logic. Iraq had large, under-utilised oil reserves. Since all Iraq’s major fields are onshore, its production and capital costs are lower than anywhere other than Saudi Arabia and Kuwait; while compared with Venezuela, another historical under-producer, Iraq’s crude is easy to refine. Releasing that potential supply meant both regime change and attracting the international oil majors back into the country. Contrary to Blair’s deflection, there was no prospect of Iraq becoming a top-tier oil producer without technologically modernising the Iraqi oil industry. In the entire period since nationalisation began, Iraq had only once managed a yearly average of more than 3 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude output, while the years of war and sanctions had left the sector’s infrastructure dilapidated. By contrast, Russia’s output in 2003 was 8.5 million bpd and Saudi Arabia’s 10 million.

The oil rationale for the war appears to have been deemed publicly inadmissible, even as the Cheney Report implicitly had made it clear. In his memoirs, the former chair of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan wrote: “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq War is largely about oil.” After facing criticism, he backtracked, claiming that it was a personal remark about why, as a central banker worried about oil prices, he had advocated for military action within decision-making circles. Absent was the brutal language about the gap between public discourse and energy manoeuvrings abroad that ends Sydney Pollack’s 1975 film Three Days of the Condor. There, the covert-operations CIA character explains to the idealistic Robert Redford character why he saw no reason to ask voters whether they supported a plot to seize Middle Eastern oil fields:

“Ask them when they’re running out. Ask them when there’s no heat in their homes and they’re cold. Ask them when their engines stop… You want to know something? They won’t want us to ask them. They’ll just want us to get it for them.”

In Beijing, there were few doubts that the war was oil-motivated. Almost immediately after Saddam fell, the Chinese President, Hu Jintao, signed an agreement with Putin to build China’s first oil pipeline with Russia. For the Chinese leadership, a world in which the United States was willing to wage war for an oil objective was one in which it needed to reassess Chinese oil security a decade after it became an oil importer. This fear crystallised in what Hu identified as the Malacca Dilemma: China’s vulnerability to an American naval blockade in the narrow Malacca Straits, through which all China’s oil imports from the Persian Gulf and Africa pass. If Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative is a hedge against the Malacca Dilemma, its strategic intent lies in the conclusions an earlier Chinese leader drew about Washington’s response to its own post-self-sufficiency oil predicament.

Yet as an attempt to militarise Washington’s Middle-Eastern oil problem, the Iraq War was also largely a failure. Iraq’s oil production in 2005 was around 20% lower than in the first year of George W. Bush’s presidency. Indeed, it did not surpass that 2001 total until 2010. Although the Iraqi government then boasted that the sector could raise production to 12 million bpd within six to seven years, it has never yet been higher than 4.8 million bpd. As for the return of the Western majors, the Iraqi government took until 2007 to draft a hydrocarbon bill setting out a legal framework for foreign investment, and then could not get the Iraqi parliament to pass the legislation. When, in 2010, it did finally award contracts, it gave access to non-Western firms as well as the majors. Notably, on Iraq’s largest field, Rumaila, the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation became an equal partner with BP.

The country’s post-2003 political instability, at times fuelled by anger at the return of the international oil companies, has been nearly entirely un-conducive to those firms trying to transform Iraq’s oil industry. Forced by the Iraqi government to choose between its contracts with the Kurdistan regional government and its operations in southern Iraq, ExxonMobil was left to join forces with the publicly listed arm of China National Petroleum Corporation, PetroChina, on one of the two large West Qurna fields. After Isis seized control of part of Iraq in 2014, attacks on oil infrastructure became common. Even after the American military return to Iraq in 2014 allowed Baghdad to re-establish full territorial control by the end of 2017, Iran’s influence has grown.

In a near-perfect absurdity, considering the Iraq War’s purposes, most of the Western oil companies have, in recent years, either left or reduced their operations, while the Iranian Oil Ministry has set up an office in downtown Baghdad and Chinese firms are ascendant. Indeed, it was in part because PetroChina prevailed over ExxonMobil in their West Qurna partnership that the American major has sold its stake. Eventually, it fell to the American shale boom to make economic restitution for the Iraq War’s failure. Through the 2010s, the world economy relied not so much on oil from the international oil companies in southern Iraq, but that pumped by independent firms in Dakota and Texas: by 2019, US crude production was two-and-a-half times Iraq’s.

But the oil legacy of the Iraq debacle has not gone away. American shale output can no longer grow quickly enough to compensate for the stagnation in production elsewhere. When Joe Biden travelled to Riyadh last summer to meet Mohammed Bin Salman, he was in part asking the Saudi Crown Prince to allow Iraq to supply more oil in an attempt to bring prices down, even as, post-pandemic, Iraq has still not matched its output in August 2019 and the Iraqi government had said it wants oil to cost above $100 per barrel.

For now, Washington is offsetting the affordable supply problem by selling large volumes of oil from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve. But it cannot do so indefinitely. When it stops, it will again have to address the world’s oil problem without the illusion that it can remake the Middle East by war.


Helen Thompson is Professor of Political Economy at the University of Cambridge and co-presenter of UnHerd’s These Times.

HelenHet20

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Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago

The US and Canada have plenty of untapped oil reserves, but Biden and Trudeau keep blocking projects. The Willow oil
Project in Alaska has been approved, but protestors are still trying to shut it down and Biden appears fine with that. Shutting down the Keystone pipeline from Alberta to Texas was one of his first executive orders two years ago. The World Bank won’t approve funding for projects in Africa. Ideology has long trumped energy security in the west and consumers will pay for it.

R Kays
R Kays
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

“Climate Variation Over Time” should be analyzed and engaged as a very long-term strategy to diversify viable sources of energy (both renewable and semi-renewable).

Fundamental tenants of this strategy:

– it is “party agnostic”
– it spans multiple administrations
– it is codified in a publicly accessible “Energy Constitution”

Last point is essential. The “Constitution” contains goals, objectives, milestones, and retrospectives. It is measurable. It is both “doctrine “ and “scorecard.”

Most important: Each successive administration is accountable for its logical, sustainable management, execution, and reporting (PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY).

SUMMARY
“We” must — as a matter of sanity and survival — discard the myopic, ideologically driven, fruitless posturing and reckless management of Climate Fringe Madness (“THE WORLD WILL END IN 12 YEARS!!!”) vis-à-vis Greta, AOC, et al.

This is achievable.

Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Ironic reading today about how US military misadventure prompted the China-Russia oil pipeline. Following the China / Saudi / Iran agreement brokered recently, somebody has decided to wake the US president and tell him about it. Biden admin has now (reportedly) approved Alaska oil drilling project. Quite a turnaround.
All this is secondary to the canonisation of St Crispsalesman in the UK press of course.

Last edited 1 year ago by Dustin Needle
Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago
Reply to  Dustin Needle

I read about the willow approval. I’m stunned actually. He did the right thing.

Wm. Brown
Wm. Brown
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

For the wrong reason. Ie: re-election hopes.

Wm. Brown
Wm. Brown
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

For the wrong reason. Ie: re-election hopes.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago
Reply to  Dustin Needle

I read about the willow approval. I’m stunned actually. He did the right thing.

James Stangl
James Stangl
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Indeed. When the author states that US domestic production can’t increase quickly enough, it’s a self-inflicted problem courtesy of the current Biden regime. The USA and Canada could be both energy self-sufficient and exporters. Ask Trudeau and Biden why not.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
1 year ago
Reply to  James Stangl

Under Trump the US did become energy self sufficient.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
1 year ago
Reply to  James Stangl

Under Trump the US did become energy self sufficient.

R Kays
R Kays
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

“Climate Variation Over Time” should be analyzed and engaged as a very long-term strategy to diversify viable sources of energy (both renewable and semi-renewable).

Fundamental tenants of this strategy:

– it is “party agnostic”
– it spans multiple administrations
– it is codified in a publicly accessible “Energy Constitution”

Last point is essential. The “Constitution” contains goals, objectives, milestones, and retrospectives. It is measurable. It is both “doctrine “ and “scorecard.”

Most important: Each successive administration is accountable for its logical, sustainable management, execution, and reporting (PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY).

SUMMARY
“We” must — as a matter of sanity and survival — discard the myopic, ideologically driven, fruitless posturing and reckless management of Climate Fringe Madness (“THE WORLD WILL END IN 12 YEARS!!!”) vis-à-vis Greta, AOC, et al.

This is achievable.

Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Ironic reading today about how US military misadventure prompted the China-Russia oil pipeline. Following the China / Saudi / Iran agreement brokered recently, somebody has decided to wake the US president and tell him about it. Biden admin has now (reportedly) approved Alaska oil drilling project. Quite a turnaround.
All this is secondary to the canonisation of St Crispsalesman in the UK press of course.

Last edited 1 year ago by Dustin Needle
James Stangl
James Stangl
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Indeed. When the author states that US domestic production can’t increase quickly enough, it’s a self-inflicted problem courtesy of the current Biden regime. The USA and Canada could be both energy self-sufficient and exporters. Ask Trudeau and Biden why not.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago

The US and Canada have plenty of untapped oil reserves, but Biden and Trudeau keep blocking projects. The Willow oil
Project in Alaska has been approved, but protestors are still trying to shut it down and Biden appears fine with that. Shutting down the Keystone pipeline from Alberta to Texas was one of his first executive orders two years ago. The World Bank won’t approve funding for projects in Africa. Ideology has long trumped energy security in the west and consumers will pay for it.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
1 year ago

Yes, of course the Iraq war was all about oil. Ever since Winston Churchill converted the Royal Navy from coal to oil, Middle Eastern oil has been a strategic problem.
But frack, baby frack changed all that. Except that now our exalted rulers are capping oil wells so we can enjoy the moral preening of NetZero, baby.
If we went back to frack, baby frack — even in Britland: imagine that! — all our problems would disappear.

Robbie K
Robbie K
1 year ago

If we went back to frack, baby frack — even in Britland: imagine that! — all our problems would disappear.

Our immediate problems perhaps, but it will only compound future ones, baby.
It’s only a matter of time before fracking becomes a reality, the temptation will be too great. Economic protectionism will always win over climate change policy.

Keith Merrick
Keith Merrick
1 year ago
Reply to  Robbie K

‘…but it will only compound future ones, baby’.
Naughty.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
1 year ago
Reply to  Robbie K

Yet under fracking Trump, the US first met its Kyoto commitments. Unless you believe that fracked fuel is somewhat oilier and gasier than what is taken out in more conventional methods.

Keith Merrick
Keith Merrick
1 year ago
Reply to  Robbie K

‘…but it will only compound future ones, baby’.
Naughty.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
1 year ago
Reply to  Robbie K

Yet under fracking Trump, the US first met its Kyoto commitments. Unless you believe that fracked fuel is somewhat oilier and gasier than what is taken out in more conventional methods.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

You’re not a businessman. UK fracking is a busted flush.

Robbie K
Robbie K
1 year ago

If we went back to frack, baby frack — even in Britland: imagine that! — all our problems would disappear.

Our immediate problems perhaps, but it will only compound future ones, baby.
It’s only a matter of time before fracking becomes a reality, the temptation will be too great. Economic protectionism will always win over climate change policy.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

You’re not a businessman. UK fracking is a busted flush.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
1 year ago

Yes, of course the Iraq war was all about oil. Ever since Winston Churchill converted the Royal Navy from coal to oil, Middle Eastern oil has been a strategic problem.
But frack, baby frack changed all that. Except that now our exalted rulers are capping oil wells so we can enjoy the moral preening of NetZero, baby.
If we went back to frack, baby frack — even in Britland: imagine that! — all our problems would disappear.

Saul D
Saul D
1 year ago

In 2035 Europe and the US will phase out the internal combustion engine for new cars (ie 12 years time) which will reduce the demand for oil in the West. Oil producing countries are unlikely to stop production. Instead they’ll look for new markets, most likely Asia and Africa. Since the phase out will be on regulatory, rather than economic grounds, it’s entirely probable that continued access to ICE and fossil fuels will give an economic advantage to any countries with lower restrictions on the use of oil. Large companies will move to low cost production countries, and it makes sense for any vehicle manufacturer to move their ICE production or production skill to Asia or Africa where sales are still possible. Add to this the fracturing of the dollar hegemony and China’s emergence as a superpower, and Europe, and possibly the US, become less economically attractive or competitive.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago
Reply to  Saul D

Your logic is correct. Net zero will be the final nail in the coffin of western industrialization. You can already see it; manufacturers that need natural gas are leaving Germany.

The real twist will be the stark reality that no one is phasing out ICE cars anytime soon. Dimwitted politicians can pass all the laws they want today, but reality will kick them in the teeth. There simply won’t be enough electricity available in 10 years to power a fleet of EVs.

The really intriguing insanity will be the wasted billions car manufacturers are spending on EV production today. Ford has committed $50 billion and GM another $35 billion to build EVs. They are shutting down ICE lines to build EVs that no one will buy.

What will be their reaction when legislatures say oops we screwed up and roll back their EV laws? These companies are wasting billions to become regulatory compliant, for regulations that can’t possibly be implemented.

Nothing illustrates the collective madness that has gripped the west more than net zero. It will literally lead to the downfall of the west – or more optimistically – the death of progressiveness that fuels this self-destructive ideology.

Emre S
Emre S
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Very good points on both comments. The ideological element in the push for EVs is surprisingly powerful that it can bend the Western world against use of cheap energy. This is especially surprising given what gave the Western world global dominance was making use of better energy sources: first the steam engine with coal, and then Middle Eastern oil. As the “global south” block gains access to cheaper energy in relative terms, it’ll give them a strategic advantage. The only thing left to counter that in the West will be AI – enter the chip wars. AI itself will be transformative like the nuclear weapons if not even more significantly: how do you control something that’s more intelligent than yourself?

Emre S
Emre S
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Very good points on both comments. The ideological element in the push for EVs is surprisingly powerful that it can bend the Western world against use of cheap energy. This is especially surprising given what gave the Western world global dominance was making use of better energy sources: first the steam engine with coal, and then Middle Eastern oil. As the “global south” block gains access to cheaper energy in relative terms, it’ll give them a strategic advantage. The only thing left to counter that in the West will be AI – enter the chip wars. AI itself will be transformative like the nuclear weapons if not even more significantly: how do you control something that’s more intelligent than yourself?

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago
Reply to  Saul D

Your logic is correct. Net zero will be the final nail in the coffin of western industrialization. You can already see it; manufacturers that need natural gas are leaving Germany.

The real twist will be the stark reality that no one is phasing out ICE cars anytime soon. Dimwitted politicians can pass all the laws they want today, but reality will kick them in the teeth. There simply won’t be enough electricity available in 10 years to power a fleet of EVs.

The really intriguing insanity will be the wasted billions car manufacturers are spending on EV production today. Ford has committed $50 billion and GM another $35 billion to build EVs. They are shutting down ICE lines to build EVs that no one will buy.

What will be their reaction when legislatures say oops we screwed up and roll back their EV laws? These companies are wasting billions to become regulatory compliant, for regulations that can’t possibly be implemented.

Nothing illustrates the collective madness that has gripped the west more than net zero. It will literally lead to the downfall of the west – or more optimistically – the death of progressiveness that fuels this self-destructive ideology.

Saul D
Saul D
1 year ago

In 2035 Europe and the US will phase out the internal combustion engine for new cars (ie 12 years time) which will reduce the demand for oil in the West. Oil producing countries are unlikely to stop production. Instead they’ll look for new markets, most likely Asia and Africa. Since the phase out will be on regulatory, rather than economic grounds, it’s entirely probable that continued access to ICE and fossil fuels will give an economic advantage to any countries with lower restrictions on the use of oil. Large companies will move to low cost production countries, and it makes sense for any vehicle manufacturer to move their ICE production or production skill to Asia or Africa where sales are still possible. Add to this the fracturing of the dollar hegemony and China’s emergence as a superpower, and Europe, and possibly the US, become less economically attractive or competitive.

Elliott Bjorn
Elliott Bjorn
1 year ago

”The fact is that, if the oil that Iraq has were our concern, I mean we could probably cut a deal with Saddam tomorrow in relation to the oil. It’s not the oil that is the issue — it is the weapons,”

No, do not really fallow the article….. and I know a bit about the region. The A leads to B which leads to C, and then to D, and so to E, the writer tells is pure fiction………

The writer either cannot explain the story, or it is just chaos, which I think may closer fit chaos. I think Bush was hoist by his own petard ….

To do the oil thing he invented the story of how America Morally, for Democracy and Decency, Must invade to crush the tyrant, and then when there must help the poor people of Iraq ‘Build Back Better’.

But then he had sold this idiocy to the Americans – and so turned it all over to pre-woke Liberal Left MSM – and it all fell apart. He sold the thing as Freedom and Safety – and the war and sanction machine he loosened meant he had to appear doing this…

But Bush is remarkably stupid and culturally arrogant, and he put the worst man in all the West – Paul Bremmer, in charge of the rebuilding – and Lost the Peace. And let in every crazy Camp-fallower in…and disbanded their Police and defeated Army, and fired all the Bathist who were the Technocrats who made things work….

How did we lose Iran in 79? The Iranians Likes us – sheer cultural arrogance did it. Same in Iraq, amazing the same did not happen in KSA, but there they left the King. And Afghanistan? They had nothing to do with anything.

I think that there was no actual cold calculating Goal of Oil, it was just a sort of ‘Why Not’. And wile we are there…..

They wanted oil, and also to being American values to Iraq, and Syria, and Iran, and so on, like Afghanistan, as a sop to the voters and Lefties.

And they wanted to go tyrant hunting in the Levant….. and all kinds of things – they wanted to teach the Sunnis to not be Salafist, and the Shia to be more inclusive….They wanted Women to be Western Women and Muslims to be Protestant acting…but the Muslims like being Muslim…

The idiot Bush – instead of saying – ”see that black goose? Grab that one, it is the oil, it is the good one’. Instead He set every weird NGO- NSA- CIA- DOD- UN- UK – Petro Lobby,- Lefty MSM, – radical Fem Congress Women – University Prof, loose to all grab their goose – and the melee resulted in utter Chaos – and so it went, and still goes.

it was just a SNAFU because it was not just ‘For the Oil‘ It was Mission Creep beyond all understanding of mission creeping…..

And P.S. this strategy is being adopted all over again in Ukraine, but the harms will be a thousand times worse. Bush was stupid beyond belief – till Biden came along to set the bar so low it is a negative height..haha. and the cynical Bush Admin are Nothing to the cynical Biden admin…..

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
1 year ago
Reply to  Elliott Bjorn

I think you touch on an important point here – it wasn’t just a resource war. Bush and especially Blair were driven by a powerful ideology that told them that Western values had prevailed post 1989 and that the tide of history was on their side.
The reason Blair in particular ignored the overwhelming majority of the British public who were against UK involvement was because he felt sure the unfolding of events would vindicate him.

Sam Hill
Sam Hill
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

Indeed – and this critical point was, in my view, seriously under-appreciated at the time by those that opposed the war. The arguments at the time against the war seemed to rest on accusations of ‘lies’ or on quaint legal nicety. There was a near-total failure to realise the liberal interventionist ideological drivers.
Indeed arguably if there had been an open acknowledgement that Iraq was a resource war I suspect that some people would somehow have actually been able to more easily reconcile that in their heads than the idea of a war of liberal ideology that was supposedly waged in their name.
That war was wrong politically. The morals and the law are beside the point. It was wrong because it is not for liberals to spread their thinking at the point of a gun in league with intergovernmentals. It was not wrong because of , ‘lies.’ If they had looked up and said, ‘OK, fair dos – we are spreading liberal democracy by military means because we think it is a good idea,’ that would not have made what followed right.
Similarly, the arguments about a ‘legal war’ are to my mind bunk. That war would not have been made somehow better or more legitimate if the people doing the shooting had been wearing blue helmets. Indeed I would suggest that just about the only thing worse than the war we had would have been a war given the veneer of faux-acceptability by the legal profession’s finest. There was something very unsettling about the view of some lawyers at the time, arguing that the war was wrong because the lawyers said so. Tacit in that of course is the ideas that lawyers can therefore legitimately decide on matters of war and peace. The lawyers should absolutely have stuck their noses out of business that is 100% for voters and those they elect.
That war was wrong politically – as a matter of power and interests of the demos. It was wrong politically because it was ideological.
That war would not have been made better by , ‘truth.’ It would not have been made better because lawyers and the UN said so. And that war would have been wrong even if there had been WMD.
What was left in Iraq (and the wider region) was beyond words. What was left in the UK is a festering sore where there is just zero trust in anything. It’s hard to imagine how Blair could have been any worse.

Last edited 1 year ago by Sam Hill
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Sam Hill

“It’s hard to imagine how Blair could have been any worse.”
HE COULDN’T.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
1 year ago
Reply to  Sam Hill

Not forgetting Campbell and the dodgy dossier and all of that nauseating ‘f**k Gilligan’ machismo that ultimately led to David Kelly’s suicide. A really sordid affair.
I can’t stand Campbell’s attempts to rehabilitate himself with the British public – the droning on about his depression, the craven behaviour of the Beeb in giving him airtime. If he had any decency or conscience he’d keep himself behind closed doors.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

No! He would have ‘done the decent thing’, and good riddance to him!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

No! He would have ‘done the decent thing’, and good riddance to him!

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
1 year ago
Reply to  Sam Hill

Excellent points.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Sam Hill

“It’s hard to imagine how Blair could have been any worse.”
HE COULDN’T.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
1 year ago
Reply to  Sam Hill

Not forgetting Campbell and the dodgy dossier and all of that nauseating ‘f**k Gilligan’ machismo that ultimately led to David Kelly’s suicide. A really sordid affair.
I can’t stand Campbell’s attempts to rehabilitate himself with the British public – the droning on about his depression, the craven behaviour of the Beeb in giving him airtime. If he had any decency or conscience he’d keep himself behind closed doors.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
1 year ago
Reply to  Sam Hill

Excellent points.

Sam Hill
Sam Hill
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

Indeed – and this critical point was, in my view, seriously under-appreciated at the time by those that opposed the war. The arguments at the time against the war seemed to rest on accusations of ‘lies’ or on quaint legal nicety. There was a near-total failure to realise the liberal interventionist ideological drivers.
Indeed arguably if there had been an open acknowledgement that Iraq was a resource war I suspect that some people would somehow have actually been able to more easily reconcile that in their heads than the idea of a war of liberal ideology that was supposedly waged in their name.
That war was wrong politically. The morals and the law are beside the point. It was wrong because it is not for liberals to spread their thinking at the point of a gun in league with intergovernmentals. It was not wrong because of , ‘lies.’ If they had looked up and said, ‘OK, fair dos – we are spreading liberal democracy by military means because we think it is a good idea,’ that would not have made what followed right.
Similarly, the arguments about a ‘legal war’ are to my mind bunk. That war would not have been made somehow better or more legitimate if the people doing the shooting had been wearing blue helmets. Indeed I would suggest that just about the only thing worse than the war we had would have been a war given the veneer of faux-acceptability by the legal profession’s finest. There was something very unsettling about the view of some lawyers at the time, arguing that the war was wrong because the lawyers said so. Tacit in that of course is the ideas that lawyers can therefore legitimately decide on matters of war and peace. The lawyers should absolutely have stuck their noses out of business that is 100% for voters and those they elect.
That war was wrong politically – as a matter of power and interests of the demos. It was wrong politically because it was ideological.
That war would not have been made better by , ‘truth.’ It would not have been made better because lawyers and the UN said so. And that war would have been wrong even if there had been WMD.
What was left in Iraq (and the wider region) was beyond words. What was left in the UK is a festering sore where there is just zero trust in anything. It’s hard to imagine how Blair could have been any worse.

Last edited 1 year ago by Sam Hill
Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
1 year ago
Reply to  Elliott Bjorn

Thank you. I don’t agree with everything you say but you have a very unique, compelling way of putting across your points. One small request, the accepted format for writing an unfinished or open sentence is by three dots(…) as far as I know, not 2 or 5. I sthat clear?
……

James Kirk
James Kirk
1 year ago

Ellipsis even.

James Kirk
James Kirk
1 year ago

Ellipsis even.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
1 year ago
Reply to  Elliott Bjorn

Liberal Imperialism was Clinton’s legacy. He just carried it out on a smaller scale.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
1 year ago
Reply to  Elliott Bjorn

I think you touch on an important point here – it wasn’t just a resource war. Bush and especially Blair were driven by a powerful ideology that told them that Western values had prevailed post 1989 and that the tide of history was on their side.
The reason Blair in particular ignored the overwhelming majority of the British public who were against UK involvement was because he felt sure the unfolding of events would vindicate him.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
1 year ago
Reply to  Elliott Bjorn

Thank you. I don’t agree with everything you say but you have a very unique, compelling way of putting across your points. One small request, the accepted format for writing an unfinished or open sentence is by three dots(…) as far as I know, not 2 or 5. I sthat clear?
……

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
1 year ago
Reply to  Elliott Bjorn

Liberal Imperialism was Clinton’s legacy. He just carried it out on a smaller scale.

Elliott Bjorn
Elliott Bjorn
1 year ago

”The fact is that, if the oil that Iraq has were our concern, I mean we could probably cut a deal with Saddam tomorrow in relation to the oil. It’s not the oil that is the issue — it is the weapons,”

No, do not really fallow the article….. and I know a bit about the region. The A leads to B which leads to C, and then to D, and so to E, the writer tells is pure fiction………

The writer either cannot explain the story, or it is just chaos, which I think may closer fit chaos. I think Bush was hoist by his own petard ….

To do the oil thing he invented the story of how America Morally, for Democracy and Decency, Must invade to crush the tyrant, and then when there must help the poor people of Iraq ‘Build Back Better’.

But then he had sold this idiocy to the Americans – and so turned it all over to pre-woke Liberal Left MSM – and it all fell apart. He sold the thing as Freedom and Safety – and the war and sanction machine he loosened meant he had to appear doing this…

But Bush is remarkably stupid and culturally arrogant, and he put the worst man in all the West – Paul Bremmer, in charge of the rebuilding – and Lost the Peace. And let in every crazy Camp-fallower in…and disbanded their Police and defeated Army, and fired all the Bathist who were the Technocrats who made things work….

How did we lose Iran in 79? The Iranians Likes us – sheer cultural arrogance did it. Same in Iraq, amazing the same did not happen in KSA, but there they left the King. And Afghanistan? They had nothing to do with anything.

I think that there was no actual cold calculating Goal of Oil, it was just a sort of ‘Why Not’. And wile we are there…..

They wanted oil, and also to being American values to Iraq, and Syria, and Iran, and so on, like Afghanistan, as a sop to the voters and Lefties.

And they wanted to go tyrant hunting in the Levant….. and all kinds of things – they wanted to teach the Sunnis to not be Salafist, and the Shia to be more inclusive….They wanted Women to be Western Women and Muslims to be Protestant acting…but the Muslims like being Muslim…

The idiot Bush – instead of saying – ”see that black goose? Grab that one, it is the oil, it is the good one’. Instead He set every weird NGO- NSA- CIA- DOD- UN- UK – Petro Lobby,- Lefty MSM, – radical Fem Congress Women – University Prof, loose to all grab their goose – and the melee resulted in utter Chaos – and so it went, and still goes.

it was just a SNAFU because it was not just ‘For the Oil‘ It was Mission Creep beyond all understanding of mission creeping…..

And P.S. this strategy is being adopted all over again in Ukraine, but the harms will be a thousand times worse. Bush was stupid beyond belief – till Biden came along to set the bar so low it is a negative height..haha. and the cynical Bush Admin are Nothing to the cynical Biden admin…..

Keith Merrick
Keith Merrick
1 year ago

It would have been much cheaper for America simply to buy oil off Iraq than to invade it and try to remake it in America’s image. Unless you believe that the Bush administration was too stupid to make that calculation, I don’t know why this theory is still doing the rounds.

Keith Merrick
Keith Merrick
1 year ago

It would have been much cheaper for America simply to buy oil off Iraq than to invade it and try to remake it in America’s image. Unless you believe that the Bush administration was too stupid to make that calculation, I don’t know why this theory is still doing the rounds.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

“Black gold fuelled the Iraq War”.

Complete nonsense Ms Thompson as you very well know!
The defence of Israel has always been the paramount aim of US Foreign Policy. Israel felt rightly (or perhaps wrongly) that Iraq and Saddam ‘Insane’ represented an existential threat to their very existence and HAD to be removed, by “hook or by crook”.

Once you understand that very simple fact, the whole of Middle Eastern politics become ‘as clear as mud’.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago

Well I think you have a good point.
As I understand it the majors were not supporters of the invasion. They saw little opportunity in Iraq and a great deal of harm being done to their wider interest in the Middle-East as, indeed, turned out to be the case.

Paul Hendricks
Paul Hendricks
1 year ago

Indeed.

James Stangl
James Stangl
1 year ago

She seems to have conveniently forgotten the Scud missles that Saddam targeted Israel with.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago

Well I think you have a good point.
As I understand it the majors were not supporters of the invasion. They saw little opportunity in Iraq and a great deal of harm being done to their wider interest in the Middle-East as, indeed, turned out to be the case.

Paul Hendricks
Paul Hendricks
1 year ago

Indeed.

James Stangl
James Stangl
1 year ago

She seems to have conveniently forgotten the Scud missles that Saddam targeted Israel with.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

“Black gold fuelled the Iraq War”.

Complete nonsense Ms Thompson as you very well know!
The defence of Israel has always been the paramount aim of US Foreign Policy. Israel felt rightly (or perhaps wrongly) that Iraq and Saddam ‘Insane’ represented an existential threat to their very existence and HAD to be removed, by “hook or by crook”.

Once you understand that very simple fact, the whole of Middle Eastern politics become ‘as clear as mud’.

Reginald Duquesnoy
Reginald Duquesnoy
1 year ago

Refreshingly clear. A cat is a cat, and a conspiracy is a conspiracy.For a long time “white man speak with forked tongue” and may I add, a cloven foot. The Yanks have pushed the art of hypocrisy and double speak to its asymptotic and infantile limit, which makes it all the more so easy to decipher: asymmetric lies boomerang every time following the iron law of unintended consequences. Would be hilarious, were it not for the sordid body count.
Sick(!) transit gloria mudi…

Reginald Duquesnoy
Reginald Duquesnoy
1 year ago

Refreshingly clear. A cat is a cat, and a conspiracy is a conspiracy.For a long time “white man speak with forked tongue” and may I add, a cloven foot. The Yanks have pushed the art of hypocrisy and double speak to its asymptotic and infantile limit, which makes it all the more so easy to decipher: asymmetric lies boomerang every time following the iron law of unintended consequences. Would be hilarious, were it not for the sordid body count.
Sick(!) transit gloria mudi…

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
1 year ago

The “war for oil” rationale needs work. Why? Because, no one would have had to go to war to get Iraqi oil on the market.
The essay seems to point out that commercializing Iraqi oil resources would have required nothing more than getting some competent people in there to do it.
Those people may been Chinese or French or Russian or American or whatever. Either way, getting Iraqi oil into global markets would have been the ultimate result. No one had to go to war to get Iraqi oil on the market.
The essay does point out that the Chinese may have been worried about being cut off. The Japanese were cut off in 1941. It’s no accident that they seized oil fields in the Dutch East Indies. The Germans anticipated being cut off and made a point of figuring out how to synthesize oil from coal. Is the suggestion that one motivation for the war was to put the squeeze on China?
I elaborate on some these points here, for folks who may be interested:
https://dvwilliamson.substack.com/p/whos-afraid-of-oil-and-wheat-prices
Who’s Afraid of Oil and Wheat Prices?
ï»żLogistics put the “Global” in “Global Markets.”

Last edited 1 year ago by Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
1 year ago

The “war for oil” rationale needs work. Why? Because, no one would have had to go to war to get Iraqi oil on the market.
The essay seems to point out that commercializing Iraqi oil resources would have required nothing more than getting some competent people in there to do it.
Those people may been Chinese or French or Russian or American or whatever. Either way, getting Iraqi oil into global markets would have been the ultimate result. No one had to go to war to get Iraqi oil on the market.
The essay does point out that the Chinese may have been worried about being cut off. The Japanese were cut off in 1941. It’s no accident that they seized oil fields in the Dutch East Indies. The Germans anticipated being cut off and made a point of figuring out how to synthesize oil from coal. Is the suggestion that one motivation for the war was to put the squeeze on China?
I elaborate on some these points here, for folks who may be interested:
https://dvwilliamson.substack.com/p/whos-afraid-of-oil-and-wheat-prices
Who’s Afraid of Oil and Wheat Prices?
ï»żLogistics put the “Global” in “Global Markets.”

Last edited 1 year ago by Chauncey Gardiner
Tim Cross
Tim Cross
1 year ago

Having worked in Washington prior to the invasion, I was then in Baghdad from Apr 2003 until the summer working in the post-war US ‘HQ’. In all my time in both places no-one mentioned oil. Major General (Retd) Tim Cross.

Tim Cross
Tim Cross
1 year ago

Having worked in Washington prior to the invasion, I was then in Baghdad from Apr 2003 until the summer working in the post-war US ‘HQ’. In all my time in both places no-one mentioned oil. Major General (Retd) Tim Cross.

Thor Albro
Thor Albro
1 year ago

Yes, yes, oil was a justification, along with WMD, spreading democracy to the benighted Middle East, and several other reasons. But the prime mover, the deep emotional driver, was that post 9/11 the Arab world had not yet paid the blood-price for what they did to New York.
The invasion of Afghanistan was too easy. The entire Taliban army was destroyed within a few minutes by B-52 bombers, and al Queda dispersed into the mountains. Our hackles were high (at least in the U.S.) and there was a craving for vengeance. Iraq was a prime target for the military we had spent so many $trillions to make the world’s most lethal.
Really, how many wars are begun or waged for rational, strategic or carefully planned reasons? I love hearing all this post-orgy analysis.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
1 year ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

So odd. Iraq was a secular state and nothing to do with 9/11 or the Saudi backed terrorists.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
1 year ago
Reply to  Thor Albro

So odd. Iraq was a secular state and nothing to do with 9/11 or the Saudi backed terrorists.

Thor Albro
Thor Albro
1 year ago

Yes, yes, oil was a justification, along with WMD, spreading democracy to the benighted Middle East, and several other reasons. But the prime mover, the deep emotional driver, was that post 9/11 the Arab world had not yet paid the blood-price for what they did to New York.
The invasion of Afghanistan was too easy. The entire Taliban army was destroyed within a few minutes by B-52 bombers, and al Queda dispersed into the mountains. Our hackles were high (at least in the U.S.) and there was a craving for vengeance. Iraq was a prime target for the military we had spent so many $trillions to make the world’s most lethal.
Really, how many wars are begun or waged for rational, strategic or carefully planned reasons? I love hearing all this post-orgy analysis.

Rachel Taylor
Rachel Taylor
1 year ago

The article asserts that the purpose of the war was to secure oil supply. But the only evidence provided to support this is that people were likely to be interested in the effect of the war on oil supply. That is a very different thing. I don’t see that it is necessary to suppose any other motivation than to get rid of Hussein. It may have been foolish, it may have been disastrous in other ways, but that does not mean it was about something else.
Suppose the war had been entirely successful, the WMD had been found, and post-war Iraq entirely peaceful. Would we then say that the purpose was to secure the oil supply? I doubt very much that the US went to war knowing that the WMD did not exist but thinking they made a good excuse.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago
Reply to  Rachel Taylor

I think Blair’s speech at the time was a justification – the corruption of the oil for peace sanction evasion. The wrong folk were getting richer. The WMD was only used because the public needed to get properly afraid. And Iraq was trying to reassemble its nuclear program, or creating the appearance of that. And of course the backdrop of the “nasty” French and Germans and their commercial interests in Iraq who wanted those sanctions gone.
Sadly, the WMD became a millstone around the war justification that doomed the planners when little was discovered. Seems Iraq did a good job of deception on the CIA types. But the sanction evasion could have been resolved exposing the corruption that might have revealed important players.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago
Reply to  Rachel Taylor

I think Blair’s speech at the time was a justification – the corruption of the oil for peace sanction evasion. The wrong folk were getting richer. The WMD was only used because the public needed to get properly afraid. And Iraq was trying to reassemble its nuclear program, or creating the appearance of that. And of course the backdrop of the “nasty” French and Germans and their commercial interests in Iraq who wanted those sanctions gone.
Sadly, the WMD became a millstone around the war justification that doomed the planners when little was discovered. Seems Iraq did a good job of deception on the CIA types. But the sanction evasion could have been resolved exposing the corruption that might have revealed important players.

Rachel Taylor
Rachel Taylor
1 year ago

The article asserts that the purpose of the war was to secure oil supply. But the only evidence provided to support this is that people were likely to be interested in the effect of the war on oil supply. That is a very different thing. I don’t see that it is necessary to suppose any other motivation than to get rid of Hussein. It may have been foolish, it may have been disastrous in other ways, but that does not mean it was about something else.
Suppose the war had been entirely successful, the WMD had been found, and post-war Iraq entirely peaceful. Would we then say that the purpose was to secure the oil supply? I doubt very much that the US went to war knowing that the WMD did not exist but thinking they made a good excuse.

D Walsh
D Walsh
1 year ago

It wasn’t really about oil. The neocons wanted to destroy Iraq, so they did. The neocons wanted to destroy Syria, so they did. The neocons wanted to destroy Lybia, so they did, the neocons want to destroy Russia, but I think they will fail

Next up war with Iran

The neocon thirst for blood is unquenchable

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  D Walsh

Makes no sense. You have not explained why they picked on Iraq, Syria or Libya. Why not 3 other random countries ?

D Walsh
D Walsh
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

It’s not random. If you understand the neocons

Check the early life section

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  D Walsh

I haven’t got a clue what the “early life section” is. So I think I’ll give that a pass.
Or you could just answer the question. It should only need one or two sentences.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

What D Walsh wants you to do is to check the ‘early life section’ of Wikipedia for prominent US neoconservatives. You will find that many of them are Jewish. D Walsh doesn’t want to state that openly. Once you have discovered this, you will immediately put 2 and 2 together to make 5, and blame the Jews for everything. Hope this helps!

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

What D Walsh wants you to do is to check the ‘early life section’ of Wikipedia for prominent US neoconservatives. You will find that many of them are Jewish. D Walsh doesn’t want to state that openly. Once you have discovered this, you will immediately put 2 and 2 together to make 5, and blame the Jews for everything. Hope this helps!

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  D Walsh

I haven’t got a clue what the “early life section” is. So I think I’ll give that a pass.
Or you could just answer the question. It should only need one or two sentences.

D Walsh
D Walsh
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

It’s not random. If you understand the neocons

Check the early life section

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  D Walsh

Makes no sense. You have not explained why they picked on Iraq, Syria or Libya. Why not 3 other random countries ?

D Walsh
D Walsh
1 year ago

It wasn’t really about oil. The neocons wanted to destroy Iraq, so they did. The neocons wanted to destroy Syria, so they did. The neocons wanted to destroy Lybia, so they did, the neocons want to destroy Russia, but I think they will fail

Next up war with Iran

The neocon thirst for blood is unquenchable

Iris C
Iris C
1 year ago

American Presidents need the backing of rich and influential companies and individuals in order to get elected and so find themselves in the pocket of those with personal and questionable aims. It is not surprising, therefore, that they prove to be corrupt in office, as described in this article.
.
.

Iris C
Iris C
1 year ago

American Presidents need the backing of rich and influential companies and individuals in order to get elected and so find themselves in the pocket of those with personal and questionable aims. It is not surprising, therefore, that they prove to be corrupt in office, as described in this article.
.
.

James Madison
James Madison
1 year ago

Iraq without oil, is Ethiopia. Few care. But the Iraq War was not about oil supply from Iraq, it was about the false belief Saddam would use oil for a “nuclear” gun in order to extort and control supply from the region, possibly ruining some fields.

James Kirk
James Kirk
1 year ago

I doubt oil was the deciding factor. If Iraq had left Kuwait alone, if Iraq had not threatened Israel with Scuds…
I asked an Egyptian ‘in the know’ at the time. He thought Saddam Hussein’s thuggish existence had a silver lining, that Iraq was a result of British machinations after WW1 and only a dictator could keep Sunni, Shia, Kurds and Turkmen from each other’s throats. Iraq was a west supported buffer against Iran’s fundamental Islam. It was never a happy democracy but I doubt it’s any happier now. I’m sure the huge powerful US military was running out of justification for its existence after the Soviet Wall came down and the attendant damage to employment and influence back home was a factor. No surprise that 9/11 conspiracies abound.