A Crude Approach

The Bush Administration has treated with scorn, accusations that its invasion and occupation of Iraq were motivated by the drive to control Iraqi oil. Yet, the evidence – both historical and current – continues to mount in support of that theory.

Starting with World War I and the proliferation of machines fed by fossil fuels nations began to realize the dire need to capture and control sources of oil, both as a means of fueling their own war machines and as a means of denying their enemy the precious resource. The dynamics of oil supply and demand would shape entire military campaigns as well as the food chain among nations. Strategically and literally war was being fueled by oil.

Between 1914 and 1917, the U.S. share of world oil output grew from 65 to 67 percent of a much larger production. Between 1940 and 1945 it rose from 63 percent to some two thirds of a nearly doubled world output at war's end. The Middle East by contrast, produced less than 5 percent in 1940 and not much more in 1945…By 1975 oil was becoming a critical factor to the CIA, where George H.W. Bush took over…By 1980, the United States produced under 20 percent of world petroleum output and had to import 30 percent of its needs. By 2000, the U.S. share of production had shrunk further and 50 percent of U.S. consumption had to be imported. …Leverage would continue to swing to the Middle East with Gulf producers alone expected to provide 54 to 67 percent of world oil exports in 2020….A careful listener could almost hear the war drums….Cheney and his chief of staff, Lewis Libby, had already participated in drafting a 2000 report for the project for a New American Century that called for taking over Iraq – this well before 9/11 – as part of a larger, oil-minded Pax Americana. (American Dynasty, Kevin Phillips, pp 254–255, Viking 2004)

A study of the Bush family demonstrates a multi-generational history of connections to oil, the intelligence community and the military institutions of America. This triad would see its ascendancy in the 20th century, with two world wars sending the demand for petroleum, intelligence assets and military spending soaring. The century would see a parallel rise in Bush family political and personal fortunes, the most notable of which were the father/son Presidencies.

Was it mere coincidence that both Bush Administrations made control of Middle East oil resources a priority? Under a cloak of WMD, terrorism and the need for democracy, Bush the son would exceed his father's creeping approach with an undisguised invasion and occupation of Iraq. If you think that the invasion was not about oil, consider that as part of pre-war preparations, "The (U.S. Army's) land forces command printed 100,000 maps of southern Iraqi oilfields, which the Marines were to secure." (New York Times, October 20, 2004.)

Operation Desert Storm was undertaken in part we were told to prevent Saddam Hussein from driving oil prices over $25.00/barrel. Today Saddam is gone and oil has topped $60.00/barrel.

The Taliban's rejection of American overtures for the establishment of an oil pipeline through that central Asian nation is documented. Their demise through U.S. and British invasion followed shortly.

Enter China. In the battle for control of oil, there is perhaps no greater threat to neocon plans for global domination than China. As manufacturing shifts steadily away from the United States and steadily into China's hands, more petroleum is required to drive the great Chinese machine. No industrialized nation would be complete without a major military to carry out its goals, and China is no exception. Commensurate with China's industrial growth is a major expansion and upgrading of its military – a fact which has not escaped the attention of neocon plotters. As noted, large militaries simultaneously increase demand for, and serve as a means of securing, oil supply. China's growth will put exponential pressure upon the world oil supply.

Consider China's recent bid for the purchase of UNOCAL, a fully diversified American oil company. The bid sent shockwaves through the Beltway and led to concerted efforts to defeat China's bid. Why? Acquisition of UNOCAL would not give China control of world oil markets. Its symbolism was more significant than its impact.

U.S. military forces and private mercenaries were assigned to protect the oil fields, oil companies' investments and their employees. Determined to deny the invaders the spoils of their invasion, insurgents have routinely targeted oil facilities for destruction and have engaged in deadly attacks upon the mercenary armies hired to protect the investment. China was one of many nations which opposed the invasion and has refused to provide troops for the occupation.

Whether the motive was primarily to secure petroleum for American consumption at controlled prices or as future leverage over growing global competitor China, the role of oil in the occupation of Iraq is a crude reality.

July 26, 2005