Once Aryan Skynet Goes Live It Doesn't Matter Who Pulled The Switch
History’s bigger and more convenient lies enjoy an endless shelf life, it would seem. The liberal wisdom according to which Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was targeted for regime change in 2003 at the behest of American Big Oil interests is one of the twenty-first century’s classic examples. Fahrenheit 9/11 filmmaker Michael Moore used the occasion of President Obama’s appointment of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense in 2013 to remind the readership of The Huffington Post that, “back in 2007, Chuck Hagel went totally crazy and told the truth about our invasion of Iraq.” “People say we’re not fighting for oil,” Hagel had said. “Of course we are. […] We’re not there for figs.”1
The “blood for oil” libel, a popular one among liberals, is one of those conspiracy theories that even the “Fake News”-averse government-media complex has no scruples about perpetuating. Oil was a “prime motivator” for the Iraq War, Newsweek informed its readers as recently as this past summer2. “Yes, It Was Blood for Oil,” American Herald Tribune’s Richard Behan concurred just a couple of weeks ago, citing such smoking guns as the fact that, already in 2001, Dick Cheney’s National Energy Policy Development Group “was studying maps of Iraqi oil fields, pipelines, refineries, tanker terminals, and undeveloped exploration blocks.”3
The fact of the matter is that if Chuck Hagel, Michael Moore, or any other celebrity or cabinet appointee “went totally crazy and told the truth” about the Iraqi adventure undertaken by the U.S. and Britain, his remarks would fall so far afield of acceptable political discourse in this country that he would likely find himself without a job within the minute. “Contrary to the view of most American progressives that oil, and specifically the interests of Big Oil, is the primary mover, there is no evidence that the major US oil corporations pressured Congress or promoted the war in Iraq or the current confrontation with Iran,” challenges veteran leftist foreign policy analyst James Petras in his 2006 book The Power of Israel in the United States. “To the contrary,” he continues, “there is plenty of evidence that they are very uneasy about the losses that may result from an Israeli attack on Iran.”4 “Through its all-out campaign in the US Congress and Administration,” Petras further charges, “the US-Jewish-Israeli lobby has created a warlike climate which now goes counter to the interests of all the world’s major oil companies including BP, the UK-based gas company, SASOL (South Africa), Royal Dutch Shell, Total of France, and others.”5
“If Iraq was invaded for oil, then the US was remarkably negligent in securing the prize,” smirks Muhammad Idrees Ahmad in his excellent 2014 study The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War.
In 2006, the new Iraqi government was already reviving Hussein-era deals with China. In late 2009, with over 200,000 US troops and mercenaries present, Iraq awarded its first major post-war oil concessions – and the biggest winners were Norway, France, China and Russia. Of the eleven contracts signed, only one was secured by a US company, Exxon Mobil, as part of a consortium with Royal Dutch Shell. By November 2011, Exxon too was in negotiations with Shell and Russia’s Lukoil to sell its shares. Exxon’s attempt to sign a separate contract with the Kurdish regional government in 2011 was peremptorily rejected by the Iraqi central government. The only sector in which US companies triumphed was oil services – but in that sector the US has always enjoyed a virtual monopoly, invasions or no. By 2013, China had emerged as the largest buyer of Iraqi oil and one of the biggest investors in its oil sector. The irony did not escape one of the war’s biggest enthusiasts. “The Chinese had nothing to do with the war,” said Michael Makovsky, the neoconservative former Pentagon official, “but from an economic standpoint they are benefitting from it, and our Fifth Fleet and air forces are helping to assure their supply.”
Yet the “war for oil” argument retains a powerful grip on popular imagination. After all, hasn’t oil figured centrally in US relations with the Middle East? Hasn’t the US engineered coups in oil-rich states in the past? Hasn’t it asserted its right, and demonstrated its will to intervene militarily where its “vital interests” are at stake? Hasn’t Iraq one of the world’s largest oil reserves? Wasn’t the president of the United States a former oilman and his deputy [i.e., Dick Cheney] the head of a major oil services company? Wasn’t one of the war’s very first combat operations a Navy commando raid on Iraq’s two offshore oil terminals? Weren’t the first locations that the US and UK forces seized during the invasion Iraq’s oil installations? Didn’t the US spare troops after the fall of Baghdad to protect the oil ministry even as Iraq’s ancient heritage was plundered unimpeded? Haven’t oil companies made record profits in the years since the invasion?
For all its prima facie plausibility, the “war for oil” thesis is selective in fact and speculative in argument.6
This construction of events, Ahmad explains, “ignores the fact that these companies were being held back not by Saddam Hussein but by US-imposed sanctions.” Hussein was eager for peaceful commerce with America’s Big Oil interests, the feeling being very much mutual:
Indeed, for nearly a decade, the industry had been lobbying for an end to sanctions and resuming relations with Hussein, who was eager to do business. In 1996, Texaco, Conoco, Mobil and Halliburton joined 670 other companies and trade associations to form USA Engage, a lobbying coalition that worked closely with the US Chamber of Commerce to fight the sanctions. They lost the battle to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which successfully expanded the embargo with the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA), a bill partially drafted by AIPAC’s director of foreign policy issues Steven Rosen. The oil industry’s battle to repeal the bill continued well into the next decade (and efforts to repeal succeeding bills targeting Iran continue to this day). In May 2001, according to Business Week, a proposal to ease sanctions again pitted “powerful interests such as the pro-Israel lobby and the U.S. oil industry against each other”. In 1998, Cheney had disparaged the “sanctions happy” policy of the Clinton Administration; it was hurting US businesses. Cheney had no compunction about doing business with Iraq; he had overseen $23.8 million in sales to the country between 1998 and 1999. Cheney’s successor at Halliburton shared his view. In an 18 April 2001 letter to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Halliburton’s director of government affairs Donald A. Deline complained that because of the sanctions “American farmers, workers, and companies have sacrificed without any progress toward U.S. foreign policy objectives.” Conoco CEO Archie Dunham likewise protested that “US companies, not rogue regimes, are the ones that suffer when the United States imposes economic sanctions.”
The oil industry is aware that it can no longer rely on destabilising military adventures to open new markets. Since the 1970s, it has relied on agreements with host governments for its operations. Belligerence on the other hand has only jeopardized investments and brought uncertainty to future projects. Bush’s withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty resulted in US oil companies losing major contracts in Russia. ILSA kept them out of the lucrative Iranian and Libyan markets. Meanwhile, European competitors such as Total, Gazprom and Petronas were able to dominate the market unchallenged. On 15 March 1995, when Clinton issued Executive Order 12957 banning US companies from developing Iran’s oil reserves, Conoco lost $1 billion worth of contracts that Total then picked up for a bargain.
The industry was also hurt by the pronounced pro-Israel tilt ushered in by the Bush Administration. The neoconservatives’ hostility towards the Saudis alarmed oil companies, in particular Shell and Exxon Mobil, which had made huge investments in the Kingdom’s natural gas. US companies for the first time lost major contracts to European competitors in 2001, mainly due to the then Crown Prince Abdullah’s anger over US indifference towards the Palestinians. […] The architects of the Iraq war presented oil security as one of the war’s objectives, but oil companies were worried “about the short-term danger and the supposed long-term benefits of intervention”. They dreaded burning oilfields, saboteurs and political chaos interrupting supplies. Shares fell as the war approached.7
“Oil companies no doubt gained from the price hikes following the invasion of Iraq,” Ahmad concedes. “This,” however, “makes Big Oil no more responsible for launching the war than Iran or Venezuela, which also reaped in windfall profits.”8 If the 2003 invasion of Iraq – engineered by Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and other Jewish advocates of Israeli primacy who fastened their mosquito beaks into American foreign policy, as Ahmad documents throughout the highly recommended The Road to Iraq – proves anything, it is that Big Israel trumped Big Oil. The corpses of 5,000 Americans prove it.