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April 13, 2007

John Pilger

Yes, it's all about oil.

One question I've never been able to get a sensible answer to from those who hold this view.

If the invasion of Iraq was all about getting the oil off the Iraqis, why in hell are we still paying for the oil?

Having invaded and taken control, why aren't we just loading up the ships and taking it?

April 13, 2007 in Idiotarians | Permalink

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Comments

I was under the impression that that was what we were either already doing; or at least trying to do. The oil is presumably meant to be going somewhere. Which might explain why the insurgents are so keen to disrupt the flow.

Tim adds: Err, no. We're paying for it. Cash on the barrel.

Posted by: far2old4this | Apr 13, 2007 10:34:37 AM

The argument isn't about the US *stealing* the oil, which would obviously never be politically possible, but securing future access to it. By installing a friendly government and maintaining military bases in the region it would mean preferential (or at least not unfair) treatment to the US in future contracts, when the world's oil supply runs increasingly short. It would also allow an oil supply to the West in case some catastrophic Islamic revolution occurred in Saudi Arabia.

Posted by: tjm | Apr 13, 2007 11:25:28 AM

Wasn't the same theory given for re-capturing the Falklands?

Posted by: Kit | Apr 13, 2007 11:57:08 AM

Tim adds: Err, no. We're paying for it. Cash on the barrel.

Err, I was attempting to make the point that was so much better made by tjm.

Also, the insurgents want to keep the oil in the Mid-East, or at least increase the price to de-stabalise the west. I guess *stealing* said oil would upset them even more.

Posted by: far2old4this | Apr 13, 2007 12:22:31 PM

Where's Tim Newman when you need him to educate people on the oil industry?

Tim adds: In Sakhalin?

Posted by: Andrew Paterson | Apr 13, 2007 12:56:37 PM

I'm thinking that Pilger got hold of entirely the wrong end of the stick, at least by way of accounting for the initial motivation for the Iraq invasion in terms of real politicks. Possible investment opportunities in Iraq oil fields was a more distant prospect and contingent on how grateful the Iraqis felt toward their American liberators. This documented train of evidence seems pretty compelling to me:

"CRAWFORD, Texas — Paul O'Neill, President Bush's Treasury secretary in the first two years of his presidency, says the Bush administration was planning to invade Iraq long before the Sept. 11 attacks and used questionable intelligence to justify the war."
http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2004-01-11-oneill-iraq_x.htm

"(CNN) -- The Bush administration began planning to use U.S. troops to invade Iraq within days after the former Texas governor entered the White House three years ago, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill told CBS News' 60 Minutes. . . "
http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/01/10/oneill.bush/

"WASHINGTON — The White House's former top anti-terrorism adviser says President Bush ignored warnings about al-Qaeda and ordered him to find a link between the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and Iraq. . .

"Clarke also wrote that National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice appeared never to have heard of al-Qaeda until she was warned early in 2001 about the terrorist organization and that she 'looked skeptical' about his warnings. . .

"As early as Sept. 12, 2001, Clarke says, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld urged bombing Iraq despite repeated assurances from intelligence officials that the threat emanated from Afghanistan.

"'Rumsfeld said there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan. And there are lots of good targets in Iraq,' Clarke said on Sunday's 60 Minutes. I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with it.'"
http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2004-03-20-clarke_x.htm

Posted by: Bob B | Apr 13, 2007 1:27:56 PM

[continued]

"Reuters (WASHINGTON) - At least $8.8 billion in Iraqi funds that was given to Iraqi ministries by the former U.S.-led authority there cannot be accounted for, according to a draft U.S. audit set for release soon.

"The audit by the Coalition Provisional Authority’s own inspector general blasts the CPA for “not providing adequate stewardship” of at least $8.8 billion from the Development Fund for Iraq that was given to Iraqi ministries.

"The audit was first reported on a Web site earlier this month by David Hackworth, a journalist and retired colonel. A U.S. official confirmed that the contents of the leaked audit cited by Hackworth were accurate. . .

"One of the main benefactors of the Iraq funds was the Texas-based firm Halliburton, which was paid more than $1 billion out of those funds to bring in fuel for Iraqi civilians.

"The monitoring board said despite repeated requests it had not been given access to U.S. audits of contracts held by Halliburton, which was once run by Vice President Dick Cheney, and other firms that used the development funds."
http://www.notinourname.net/war/funds-missing-19aug04.htm

"In particular, Mr Waxman says proper accounting procedures were ignored when large sums of Iraqi cash were handed over by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) - the US-led body that ran Iraq immediately after the war - to get Iraqi ministries functioning again.

"'I think we're looking at a huge scandal. The CPA handed over $8.8bn in cash to the Iraqi government even though that new government had no security or accounting system.

"'No one can account for it. We don't know who got that money," Mr Waxman said."
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6129612.stm
http://edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/meast/01/30/iraq.audit/

USD 8.8 billion is an awful lot of money to go missing. By other accounts, much of it was shipped by air freight in crates of Dollar bills.

Posted by: Bob B | Apr 13, 2007 1:30:10 PM

Have you ever considered attending some sort of basic English comprehension class, Tim? It might make your "idiotarian" category less self-descriptive.

Pilger does not say the Iraq War "was all about getting the oil off the Iraqis". He says, "[t]he main reason was oil." He allows for other reasons as well.

But that misrepresentation is minor compared with your main point: that if Pilger were right, we would not be paying for Iraqi oil. We would, you claim, be "loading up the ships and taking it".

It has already been pointed out that this scenario is deeply implausible. So why did you attribute it to Pilger, based on an article in which he says something entirely different?

O'Neill was shown a Pentagon document entitled Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts, which outlined the carve-up of Iraq's oilfields among the major Anglo-American companies. Under a law written by American and British officials, the Iraqi puppet regime is about to hand over the extraction of the largest concentration of oil on earth to Anglo-American companies.

What he says about oil is confined to preferential oil contracts. His assertions in this regard come from O'Neill's book. Nobody, as far as I know, has contradicted O'Neill's story. Presumably that's why you ignore what he said and attack a straw man instead.

Posted by: StuartA | Apr 13, 2007 1:38:32 PM

even if it were about getting the oil for "free" ,a little number crunching led me to believe that "free" oil is costing the US 125 bucks per gallon(war costs)
and we are paying 60 bucks on top of that
a few more invasions at that price...well lets just hope there are no more..

Posted by: embutler | Apr 13, 2007 2:14:57 PM

Because paying for the oil & $1 trillion on top to run the place turns out to be cheaper than stealing the oil & paying $2 trillion to keep the lid on a place where EVERYBODY is actively shooting at us.

Of course Hitler or Clinton/Tudjman would just have got rid of the population & obtained peace that way. Whatever one thinks of the neocon's idiocy (& I do) they aren't that bad.

Tim adds: But if it's about the oil, why didn't we not spend the trillion and just buy it?

Posted by: Neil Craig | Apr 13, 2007 3:24:47 PM

By installing a friendly government and maintaining military bases in the region it would mean preferential (or at least not unfair) treatment to the US in future contracts, when the world's oil supply runs increasingly short.

The world's oil supply is likely to run short sometime in the next 80-100 years. It's a bit of a gamble that the US can install a government for that length of time given that no Middle East government has been in power more than a decade or two.

Posted by: Tim Newman | Apr 13, 2007 3:51:55 PM

Under a law written by American and British officials, the Iraqi puppet regime is about to hand over the extraction of the largest concentration of oil on earth to Anglo-American companies.

I've been reading about how Anglo-American oil companies are about to benefit from the Iraq war since June 2003. But the key word here is about. Talking about what is about to happen is easy, because you don't need to supply any evidence. But despite these claims, to date no American or British oil company is operating in Iraq, and I have not seen any jobs advertised on the oil and gas recruitment sites to suggest that any large American or British projects are kicking off there any time soon.

Besides, Pilger is talking about the extraction of the oil. Under a PSA, the company which does the extraction doesn't own the oil: the government with whom the agreement is signed does.

Posted by: Tim Newman | Apr 13, 2007 4:00:56 PM

I've been reading about how Anglo-American oil companies are about to benefit from the Iraq war since June 2003. But the key word here is about. Talking about what is about to happen is easy, because you don't need to supply any evidence.

Pilger did supply evidence: O'Neill's book. The fact that the invasion and occupation have been a disaster does not alter the invaders' intentions. Whether or not these oil companies are now "about to benefit" is irrelevant to Pilger's point.

Posted by: StuartA | Apr 13, 2007 4:52:03 PM

Bob B - "USD 8.8 billion is an awful lot of money to go missing. By other accounts, much of it was shipped by air freight in crates of Dollar bills."

I'm glad you've touched on that already because for a while now I've seem to have held a rather lonely view on why we went to war and it's more to do with laundering money than grabbing oil.

American (and coalition) taxpayers give money to the government, government takes money and buys bomb from arms company we'll say Raytheon. They take their bomb and blow up a school/hospital/key piece of infrastructure in act of shock and awe. They then pay another company maybe Haliburton(in a closed tender scenario) to rebuild the infrastructure and again they pay Raytheon to build another bomb. Repeat this ad infinitum and suddenly you've transferred half a trillion dollars from the taxpayers to a few of your buddies companies and except for the initial invasion it's all perfectly legal.

Whether this scenario or the oil grab was the primary reason I don't know, maybe they thought they were equally good reasons to kick off a war. The difference though would be that in a war for oil all the chaos death and destruction would be an unfortunate side effect. In a war to launder arms and construction money, the death and destruction would be the whole point.

Posted by: magnusw | Apr 13, 2007 6:40:25 PM

This sheds a bit more light on the billions of Dollars for reconstruction that went missing in Iraq:

"At the beginning of the Iraq war, the UN entrusted $23bn of Iraqi money to the US-led coalition to redevelop the country. With the infrastructure of the country still in ruins, where has all that money gone? Callum Macrae and Ali Fadhil on one of the greatest financial scandals of all time. . . "
http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/dfi/2006/0320awash.htm

Posted by: Bob B | Apr 13, 2007 8:47:48 PM

And some more illumination:

"Paul Bremner, former head of the US led civilian administration in Iraq was quizzed by a Congressional committee which is investigating allegations of fraud. Mr Bremner defended his decision to send billions of dollars in cash to Baghdad during the years 2003 to 2004. These funds originally came from Iraqi oil revenue and frozen assets.

"Much of the money sent by Bremner went missing and can still not be tracked to this day. When questioned by Henry Waxman, the democratic Chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Mr Bremner answered; 'that he had done his best to kick-start Iraq's economy.'

"Henry Waxman asked,' who in their right mind would send 360 tons of cash into a war zone?.' He added, 'But that is exactly what our Government did. There is no way of knowing whether the cash which totals $9 billion and flown over on pallets from the US would end up in enemy hands.'"
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/143983/paul_bremer_sending_billions_of_cash.html

Posted by: Bob B | Apr 13, 2007 10:28:35 PM

Thank you Bob, that's an interesting read.

To expand on my earlier point I'd just like to quote a bit of Orwell, it's not a direct parallel but I hope you'll see the relevance...

"The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. Even when weapons of war are not actually destroyed, their manufacture is still a convenient way of expending labour power without producing anything that can be consumed. A Floating Fortress, for example, has locked up in it the labour that would build several hundred cargo-ships. Ultimately it is scrapped as obsolete, never having brought any material benefit to anybody, and with further enormous labours another Floating Fortress is built."

In the Iraq case I'm not sure we could say it's directly about using labour or destroying surplus as Orwell sees it, but the underlying point about destruction, about creating a cycle in which only a few people at the top of the pile benefit seems relevant.

The arms companies produce a product which is useless without a war, there's only so much training and target practice you can do so the demand is limited, low demand, low prices, limited profits. Start destroying everything you produce and need it replaced in short time periods and the profits become almost unlimited.

Posted by: magnusw | Apr 13, 2007 10:34:25 PM

The arms companies produce a product which is useless without a war, there's only so much training and target practice you can do so the demand is limited, low demand, low prices, limited profits.

The biggest arms build-up in history was carried out during the final decade of the Cold War with barely a shot fired. Demand was high, prices were high, profits were high, yet there was no war.

Where does that leave your theory.

Posted by: Tim Newman | Apr 13, 2007 11:05:05 PM

Pilger did supply evidence: O'Neill's book.

Yes, I saw that, especially the bit which says:

O'Neill was shown a Pentagon document entitled Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts, which outlined the carve-up of Iraq's oilfields among the major Anglo-American companies.

Sadly, someone having briefly seen an unidentified document, with nobody else having seen it, does not constitute evidence.

Whether or not these oil companies are now "about to benefit" is irrelevant to Pilger's point.

WTF?!! Pilger explicitly said:

Under a law written by American and British officials, the Iraqi puppet regime is about to hand over the extraction of the largest concentration of oil on earth to Anglo-American companies.

And now you're saying that whether or not these oil companies are now "about to benefit" is irrelevant to Pilger's point?! This seems to be the very point he is making!

Posted by: Tim Newman | Apr 13, 2007 11:15:01 PM

Thanks, magnusw, for the quote from George Orwell.

A quote from the first of the current series of Reith Lectures on "Bursting at the Seams" by Jeffrey Sachs seems an especially response in the context:

"How can we choose, as we do in the United States, to have a budget request this year of $623 billion for the military - more than all the rest of the world combined - and just $4.5 billion for all assistance to Africa and think that this is prudent?"
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/reith2007/lecture1.shtml

I guess the arms industry in the US is suitably impressed with the performance of the Bush administration.

Posted by: Bob B | Apr 13, 2007 11:49:11 PM

And now you're saying that whether or not these oil companies are now "about to benefit" is irrelevant to Pilger's point?! This seems to be the very point he is making!

The timing of the putative handover of extraction rights is irrelevant to intent, which was, I maintain, Pilger's central point.

Tim adds: Which brings me back to my original question. "Extraction rights" are not as vluable as you seem to think. Theoil companies will still be paying Iraq for the oil. If it was really about taking the oil then those contracts would be a gifting, not just an opportunity to pump and purchase, would they not?

As for the "access" argument, look, oil is fungible. it doesn't matter who buys Iraq's oil. As long as it's actually pumped up the global price will be exactly the same whether China, Japan or the US buy it.

Saying that the Iraq war was to get the oil just doesn't make economic sense.

Posted by: StuartA | Apr 13, 2007 11:57:05 PM

The timing of the putative handover of extraction rights is irrelevant to intent, which was, I maintain, Pilger's central point.

If the timing of the putative handover of extraction rights is irrelevant to his point, why does he mention them at all? And given that in mentioning them he makes an erronous statement, doesn't this call into question the accuracy of the rest of his points, specifically the exact content of an unidentified document which someone else saw on which Pilger's entire point rests?

Posted by: Tim Newman | Apr 14, 2007 6:05:28 AM

Tim Newman - "The biggest arms build-up in history was carried out during the final decade of the Cold War with barely a shot fired. Demand was high, prices were high, profits were high, yet there was no war.

Where does that leave your theory."

That's an interesting point Tim. I think in the eighties they could at least use the threat of a war to create an arms race which itself created obsolescence. Such a situation didn't exist in 2001, we had reached 'the end of history' no serious threat existed and the need for spending on arms was probably close to an all time low. Spending as a percent of GDP fell from 5.2-3% during the nineties and has now gone back up to 4% or so. The president's own website proudly states spending has gone up 41% since 2001

http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2006/overview.html

Maybe they could have manufactured a threat and arms race with China, but would that have been worth more or less than current good relations with China?

And remember that defence spending is only one side of the coin. A lot of the stuff they blow up has to be rebuilt, firms like Bechtel and Halliburton getting nice multi billion dollar contracts.

I know it all sounds a bit like some crazy conspiracy theory, but then every theory as to why the war was started is a conspiracy theory because, let's face it, nobody believes we went there to save the Iraqi people from Saddam or because of WMD.

Posted by: magnusw | Apr 14, 2007 10:00:46 AM

If the timing of the putative handover of extraction rights is irrelevant to his point, why does he mention them at all?

Pilger is talking about invading Iran. He is talking about US intentions in this regard. He mentions what he believes were the intentions behind invading Iraq in making his case. That is the relevance.

And given that in mentioning them he makes an erronous statement, doesn't this call into question the accuracy of the rest of his points, specifically the exact content of an unidentified document which someone else saw on which Pilger's entire point rests?

No, Pilger's "entire point" does not rest on O'Neill's testimony. How could his "entire point" &mdash in an article primarily about an attack on Iran — rest on a document dating from before the Iraq War?

No, the document isn't "unidentified". Pilger gives its name in the quotation you gave above.

And no, "nobody else having seen it" is not an accurate summary of its status. You can look at it here. It was released by the US government in 2003. By your logic, this "erroneous statement... call[s] into question the accuracy of the rest of [your] points", so I would presumably be well-advised to ignore anything else you say.

Posted by: StuartA | Apr 14, 2007 12:24:19 PM

No Tim W, your "original question" was why, if the war was all about oil, we weren't simply loading up and stealing it. It has been explained to you why not. You have in fact moved to an entirely different question.

Posted by: StuartA | Apr 14, 2007 12:25:50 PM