Claiming the Prize: War Escalation
Aimed at Securing Iraqi Oil
by Chris Floyd, Information Clearing
The reason that Bush insists that "victory"
is close at hand is because Iraqi ministers are likely to approve
a new law opening the door to their oil reserves.
I. The Twin Engines of Bush's War
The reason that George W. Bush insists
that "victory" is achievable in Iraq is not because
he is deluded or isolated or ignorant or detached from reality
No, it's that his definition of "victory"
is different from those bruited about in his own rhetoric and
in the ever-earnest disquisitions of the chattering classes in
print and on-line. For Bush, victory is indeed at hand. It could
come at any moment now, could already have been achieved by the
time you read this. And the driving force behind his planned "surge"
of American troops is the need to preserve those fruits of victory
that are now ripening in his hand.
At any time within the next few days,
the Iraqi Council of Ministers is expected to approve a new "hydrocarbon
law" essentially drawn up by the Bush Administration and
its U.K. lackey, the Independent on Sunday reports.
The new bill will "radically redraw
the Iraqi oil industry and throw open the doors to the third-largest
oil reserves in the world," say the paper, whose reporters
have seen a draft of the new law. "It would allow the first
large-scale operation of foreign oil companies in the country
since the industry was nationalized in 1972." If the government's
parliamentary majority prevails, the law should take effect in
As the paper notes, the law will give
Exxon, BP, Shell and other carbon cronies of the White House unprecedented
sweetheart deals, allowing them to pump gargantuan profits from
Iraq's nominally state-owned oilfields for decades to come.
This law has been in the works since the
very beginning of the invasion -- indeed, since months before
the invasion, when the Bush Administration brought in Phillip
Carroll, former CEO of both Shell and Fluor, the politically-wired
oil servicing firm, to devise "contingency plans" for
divvying up Iraq's oil after the attack.
Once the deed was done, Carroll was made
head of the American "advisory committee" overseeing
the oil industry of the conquered land, as Joshua Holland of Alternet.org
has chronicled in two remarkable reports on the backroom maneuvering
over Iraq's oil: Bush's Petro-Cartel Almost Has Iraq's Oil and
The U.S. Takeover of Iraqi Oil.
According to senior Bush minions talking
up the plan for what is not a surge but a long-term escalation
of urban warfare that the U.S. ground commander in Iraq says will
likely last for years, Bush's new "stratergery" includes
"benchmarks" that the natives must meet to keep in favor
with their colonial master. One of the most prominent of these
is the demand that Iraq "finalize a long-delayed measure
on the distribution of oil revenue." As we can see by the
Independent stories quoted here, that benchmark should be done
and dusted within weeks.
From those earliest days until now, throughout
all the twists and turns, the blood and chaos of the occupation,
the Bush Administration has kept its eye on this prize. The new
law offers the barrelling buccaneers of the West a juicy set of
production-sharing agreements (PSAs) that will maintain a fig
leaf of Iraqi ownership of the nation's oil industry -- while
letting Bush's Big Oil buddies rake off up to 75 percent of all
oil profits for an indefinite period up front, until they decide
that their "infrastructure investments" have been repaid.
Even then, the agreements will give the Western oil majors an
unheard-of 20 percent of Iraq's oil profits -- more than twice
the average of standard PSAs, the Independent notes.
Of course, at the moment, the "security
situation" -- i.e., the living hell of death and suffering
that Bush's "war of choice" has wrought in Iraq -- prevents
the Oil Barons from setting up shop in the looted fields. Hence
Bush's overwhelming urge to "surge" despite the fierce
opposition to his plans from Congress, the Pentagon and some members
of his own party.
Bush and his inner circle, including his
chief adviser, old oilman Dick Cheney, believe that a bigger dose
of blood and iron in Iraq will produce a sufficient level of stability
to allow the oil majors to cash in the PSA chips that more than
3,000 American soldiers have purchased for them with their lives.
The American "surge" will be
blended into the new draconian effort announced over the weekend
by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki: an all-out war by the
government's Shiite militia-riddled "security forces"
on Sunni enclaves in Baghdad, as the Washington Post reports.
American troops will "support"
the "pacification effort" with what Maliki says calls
"house-to-house" sweeps of Sunni areas. There is of
course another phrase for this kind of operation: "ethnic
The "surged" troops -- mostly
long-serving, overstrained units dragooned into extended duty
-- are to be thrown into this maelstrom of urban warfare and ethnic
murder, temporarily taking sides with one faction in Iraq's hydra-headed,
multi-sided civil war.
As the conflict goes on -- and it will
go on and on -- the Bush Administration will continue to side
with whatever faction promises uphold the "hydrocarbon law"
and those profitable PSAs. If "Al Qaeda in Iraq" vowed
to open the nation's oil spigots for Exxon, Fluor and Halliburton,
they would suddenly find themselves transformed from "terrorists"
into "moderates" -- as indeed has Maliki and his violent,
sectarian Dawa Party, which once killed Americans in terrorist
actions but are now hailed as freedom's champions.
So Bush will surge with Maliki and his
ethnic cleansing for now. If the effort flames out in a disastrous
crash that makes the situation worse -- as it almost certainly
will -- Bush will simply back another horse. What he seeks in
Iraq is not freedom or democracy but "stability" --
a government of any shape or form that will deliver the goods.
As the Independent wryly noted in its
Sunday story, Dick Cheney himself revealed the true goal of the
war back in 1999, in a speech he gave when he was still CEO of
Halliburton. "Where is the oil going to come from" to
slake the world's ever-growing thirst, asked Cheney, then answered
his own question. "The Middle East, with two-thirds of the
world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately
And therein lies another hidden layer
of the war. For Iraq not only has the world's second largest oil
reserves; it also has the world's most easily retrievable oil.
As the Independent succinctly notes: "The cost-per-barrel
of extracting oil in Iraq is among the lowest in the world because
the reserves are relatively close to the surface. This contrasts
starkly with the expensive and risky lengths to which the oil
industry must go to find new reserves elsewhere -- witness the
super-deep offshore drilling and cost-intensive techniques needed
to extract oil form Canada's tar sands."
This is precisely what Cheney was getting
at in his 1999 talk to the Institute of Petroleum. In a world
of dwindling petroleum resources, those who control large reserves
of cheaply-produced oil will reap unimaginable profits -- and
command the heights of the global economy.
It's not just about profit, of course;
control of such resources would offer tremendous strategic advantages
to anyone who was interested in "full spectrum domination"
of world affairs, which the Bush-Cheney faction and their outriders
among the neocons and the "national greatness" fanatics
have openly sought for years. With its twin engines of corporate
greed and military empire, the war in Iraq is a marriage made
II. The Win-Win Scenario
And this unholy union is what Bush is
really talking about when he talks about "victory."
This is the reason for so much of the drift and dithering and
chaos and incompetence of the occupation: Bush and his cohorts
don't really care what happens on the ground in Iraq -- they care
about what comes out of the ground.
The end -- profit and dominion -- justifies
any means. What happens to the human beings caught up in the war
is of no ultimate importance; the game is worth any number of
And in plain point of fact, the Bush-Cheney
faction -- and the elite interests they represent -- has already
won the war in Iraq. I've touched on this theme before elsewhere,
but it is a reality of the war that is very often overlooked,
and is worth examining again. This ultimate victory was clear
as long ago as June 2004, when I first set down the original version
of some of the updated observations below.
Put simply, the Bush Family and their
allies and cronies represent the confluence of three long-established
power factions in the American elite: oil, arms and investments.
These groups equate their own interests, their own wealth and
privilege, with the interests of the nation -- indeed, the world
-- as a whole. And they pursue these interests with every weapon
at their command, including war, torture, deceit and corruption.
Democracy means nothing to them -- not
even in their own country, as we saw in the 2000 election. Laws
are just whips to keep the common herd in line; they don't apply
to the elite, as Bush's own lawyers and minions have openly asserted
in the memos, signing statements, court cases and presidential
decrees asserting the "inherent power" of the "unitary
executive" to override any law he pleases.
The Iraq war has been immensely profitable
for these Bush-linked power factions (and their tributary industries,
such as construction); billions of dollars in public money have
already poured into their coffers. Halliburton has been catapulted
from the edge of bankruptcy to the heights of no-bid, open-ended,
The Carlyle Group is gorging on war contracts.
Individual Bush family members are making out like bandits from
war-related investments, while dozens of Bush minions -- like
Richard Perle, James Woolsey, and Joe Allbaugh -- have cashed
in their insider chips for blood money.
The aftermath of the war promises equal
if not greater riches. Even if the new Iraqi government maintains
nominal state control of its oil industry, there are still untold
billions to be made in PSAs for drilling, refining, distributing,
servicing and securing oilfields and pipelines.
Likewise, the new Iraqi military and police
forces will require billions more in weapons, equipment and training,
bought from the U.S. arms industry -- and from the fast-expanding
"private security" industry, the politically hard-wired
mercenary forces that are the power elite's latest lucrative spin-off.
And as with Saudi Arabia, oil money from the new Iraq will pump
untold billions into American banks and investment houses.
But that's not all. For even in the worst-case
scenario, if the Americans had to pull out tomorrow, abandoning
everything -- their bases, their contracts, their collaborators
-- the Bush power factions would still come out ahead. For not
only has their already-incalculable wealth been vastly augmented
(with any potential losses indemnified by U.S. taxpayers), but
their deeply-entrenched sway over American society has also increased
by several magnitudes.
No matter which party controls the government,
the militarization of America is so far gone now it's impossible
to imagine any major rollback in the gargantuan U.S. war machine
-- 725 bases in 132 countries, annual military budgets topping
$500 billion, a planned $1 trillion in new weapons systems already
moving through the pipeline. Indeed, the Democratic "opposition"
has promised to expand the military.
Nor will either party conceivably challenge
the dominance of the energy behemoths -- or stand against the
American public's demand for cheap gas, big vehicles and unlimited
consumption of a vast disproportion of the world's oil.
As for Wall Street -- both parties have
long been the eager courtesans of the investment elite, dispatching
armies all over the world to protect their financial interests.
The power factions whose influence has been so magnified by Bush's
war will maintain their supremacy regardless of the electoral
[By the way, to think that all of this
has happened because a small band of extremist ideologues -- the
neocons -- somehow "hijacked" U.S. foreign policy to
push their radical dreams of "liberating" the Middle
East by force and destroying Israel's enemies is absurd. The Bush
power factions were already determined on an aggressive foreign
policy; they used the neocons and their bag of tricks -- their
inflated rhetoric, their conspiratorial zeal, their murky Middle
East contacts, their ideology of brute force in the name of "higher"
causes -- as tools (and PR cover) to help bring about a long-planned
war that had nothing to do with democracy or security or any coherent
ideology whatsoever beyond the remorseless pursuit of wealth and
power, the blind urge to be top dog.]
As I noted earlier this year:
Bush and his cohorts have won even if
the surge fails and Iraq lapses into perpetual anarchy, or becomes
an extremist religious state; they've won even if the whole region
goes up in flames, and terrorism flares to unprecedented heights
- because this will just mean more war-profiteering, more fear-profiteering.
And yes, they've won even though they've
lost their Congressional majority and could well lose the presidency
in 2008, because war and fear will continue to fill their coffers,
buying them continuing influence and power as they bide their
time through another interregnum of a Democratic "centrist"
-- who will, at best, only nibble at the edges of the militarist
state -- until they are back in the saddle again. The only way
they can lose the Iraq War is if they are actually arrested and
imprisoned for their war crimes. And we all know that's not going
So Bush's confident strut, his incessant
upbeat pronouncements about the war, his complacent smirks, his
callous indifference to the unspeakable horror he has unleashed
in Iraq -- these are not the hallmarks of self-delusion, or willful
ignorance, or a disassociation from reality. He and his accomplices
know full well what the reality is -- and they like it.
Chris Floyd is an American journalist.
He is the author of the book, Empire Burlesque: The Secret History
of the Bush Regime. He has been a writer and editor for more than
20 years, working in the United States, Great Britain and Russia
for various newspapers, magazines, the U.S. government and Oxford