It Was Oil, All Along
by: Bill Moyers and Michael Winship
www.truthout.org/, June 28, 2008
Oh, no, they told us, Iraq isn't a war about oil. That's cynical
and simplistic, they said. It's about terror and al-Qaeda and
toppling a dictator and spreading democracy and protecting ourselves
from weapons of mass destruction. But one by one, these concocted
rationales went up in smoke, fire and ashes. And now the bottom
line turns out to be ... the bottom line. It is about oil.
Alan Greenspan said so last fall. The
former chairman of the Federal Reserve, safely out of office,
confessed in his memoir, "Everyone knows: the Iraq war is
largely about oil." He elaborated in an interview with The
Washington Post's Bob Woodward, "If Saddam Hussein had been
head of Iraq and there was no oil under those sands, our response
to him would not have been as strong as it was in the first Gulf
Remember, also, that soon after the invasion,
Donald Rumsfeld's deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, told the press that
war was our only strategic choice. "We had virtually no economic
options with Iraq," he explained, "because the country
floats on a sea of oil."
Shades of Daniel Plainview, the monstrous
petroleum tycoon in the movie, "There Will Be Blood."
Half-mad, he exclaims, "There's a whole ocean of oil under
our feet!" then adds, "No one can get at it except for
No wonder American troops only guarded
the Ministries of Oil and the Interior in Baghdad, even as looters
pillaged museums of their priceless antiquities. They were making
sure no one could get at the oil except ... guess who?
Here's a recent headline in The New York
Times: "Deals With Iraq Are Set to Bring Oil Giants Back."
Read on: "Four western companies are in the final stages
of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them
to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization
as Saddam Hussein rose to power."
There you have it. After a long exile,
Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP are back in Iraq. And on the
wings of no-bid contracts - that's right, sweetheart deals like
those given Halliburton, KBR and Blackwater. The kind of deals
you get only if you have friends in high places. And these war
profiteers have friends in very high places.
Let's go back a few years to the 1990's,
when private citizen Dick Cheney was running Halliburton, the
big energy supplier. That's when he told the oil industry that,
"By 2010 we will need on the order of an additional fifty
million barrels a day. So where is the oil going to come from?
While many regions of the world offer great oil opportunities,
the Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil and the lowest
cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies."
Fast forward to Cheney's first heady days
in the White House. The oil industry and other energy conglomerates
were handed backdoor keys to the White House, and their CEO's
and lobbyists were trooping in and out for meetings with their
old pal, now Vice President Cheney. The meetings were secret,
conducted under tight security, but as we reported five years
ago, among the documents that turned up from some of those meetings
were maps of oil fields in Iraq - and a list of companies who
wanted access to them. The conservative group Judicial Watch and
the Sierra Club filed suit to try to find out who attended the
meetings and what was discussed, but the White House fought all
the way to the Supreme Court to keep the press and public from
learning the whole truth.
Think about it. These secret meetings
took place six months before 9/11, two years before Bush and Cheney
invaded Iraq. We still don't know what they were about. What we
know is that this is the oil industry that's enjoying swollen
profits these days. It would be laughable if it weren't so painful
to remember that their erstwhile cheerleader for invading Iraq
- the press mogul Rupert Murdoch - once said that a successful
war there would bring us $20-a-barrel oil. The last time we looked,
it was more than $140 a barrel. Where are you, Rupert, when the
facts need checking and the predictions are revisited?
At a Congressional hearing this week,
James Hansen, the NASA climate scientist who exactly twenty years
ago alerted Congress and the world to the dangers of global warming,
compared the chief executives of Big Oil to the tobacco moguls
who denied that nicotine is addictive or that there's a link between
smoking and cancer. Hansen, whom the administration has tried
again and again to silence, said these barons of black gold should
be tried for committing crimes against humanity and nature in
opposing efforts to deal with global warming.
Perhaps those sweetheart deals in Iraq
should be added to his proposed indictments. They have been purchased
at a very high price. Four thousand American soldiers dead, tens
of thousands permanently wounded, hundreds of thousands of dead
and crippled Iraqis plus five million displaced, and a cost that
will mount into trillions of dollars. The political analyst Kevin
Phillips says America has become little more than an "energy
protection force," doing anything to gain access to expensive
fuel without regard to the lives of others or the earth itself.
One thinks again of Daniel Plainview in "There Will Be Blood."
His lust for oil came at the price of his son and his soul.
Bill Moyers is managing editor and Michael
Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program
Bill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday nights on PBS. Check local
airtimes or comment at The Moyers Blog at www.pbs.org/moyers.
Editor's Note: This Bill Moyers comment
on America's oil policy was presented on Friday 27 June 2008 on
Bill Moyers Journal. Other portions of the program can be viewed