Before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, discussion of Iraqi oil was largely taboo in the American mainstream, while the “No Blood for Oil” signs that dotted antiwar demonstrations were generally derisively dismissed as too simpleminded for serious debate. American officials rarely even mentioned the word “oil” in the same sentence with “Iraq.” When President Bush referred to Iraqi oil, he spoke only of preserving that country’s “patrimony” for its people, a sentiment he and Great Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair emphasized in a statement they issued that lacked either the words “oil” or “energy” just as Baghdad fell: “We reaffirm our commitment to protect Iraq’s natural resources, as the patrimony of the people of Iraq, which should be used only for their benefit.”
That May, not long after the President declared “major combat” at an end in Iraq, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz did point out the obvious — that Iraq was a country that “floats on a sea of oil.” He also told a Congressional panel: “The oil revenue of that country could bring between 50 and 100 billion dollars over the course of the next two or three years. We’re dealing with a country that could really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.”
But his relatively obscure comments, as well as his oil-based miscalculations, passed largely unnoticed in the mainstream. Had Iraq then produced a significant percentage of the globe’s toys rather than possessing the planet’s third largest oil reserves, the pre-war media would undoubtedly have been chock-a-block full of worried discussions about our children and the coming video drought; on the other hand, that there might have been any significant connections between the motivations of top administration officials planning an invasion and global oil flows or the garrisoning of the oil heartlands of the planet was clearly a laughable thought. It didn’t matter that our Vice President, when the CEO of a major energy firm, had worried quite publicly about global energy supplies, that our President had failed in the oil business, and that our national security advisor had once had a Chevron double-hulled oil tanker, the Condoleezza Rice, named in her honor. Now, it turns out that, among the simpleminded was former Federal Reserve head Alan Greenspan.
Middle Eastern expert Dilip Hiro, whose newest book Blood of the Earth: The Battle for the World’s Vanishing Oil Resources, focuses on oil and blood as well as recent the geopolitics of Iraqi oil (pp. 137-148), considers Greenspan’s recent oil statement in the context of the historical record. Tom
How the Bush Administration’s Iraqi Oil Grab Went Awry
Greenspan’s Oil Claim in Context
By Dilip Hiro
Here is the sentence in The Age of Turbulence, the 531-page memoir of former Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan, that caused so much turbulence in Washington last week: “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.” Honest and accurate, it had the resonance of the Bill Clinton’s election campaign mantra, “It’s the economy, stupid.” But, finding himself the target of a White House attack — an administration spokesman labeled his comment, “Georgetown cocktail party analysis” — Greenspan backtracked under cover of verbose elaboration. None of this, however, made an iota of difference to the facts on the ground.
Here is a prosecutor’s brief for the position that “the Iraq War is largely about oil”: