The war-for-oil meme has been around for a long time, since even before the Iraq war. I remember hearing it from my students in the middle east in 2000.
It didn’t make any sense to me then. I mean, you could make an argument for the Europeans’ interest in the middle east back before WWI as an oil issue. It was pretty clear at the time that Germany was becoming more and more militant and that war was in the offing. Whoever won the war would need access to oil. If England had been cut off from strategic oil supplies during World War I, who knows what the world would look like today. But in the context of today’s world, the war-for-oil thing just didn’t make any sense. For one thing, less than 20% of our oil comes from Saudi Arabia. For another thing, most of the Middle East oil sales supposedly go to India and China. So the only real effect of Middle East oil sales is to raise or lower the world price of oil. And the price has been going up mostly because of increased demand from India and China, which are growing both in terms of population and in terms of expectations that go with an increased level of industrialization.
So whenever I heard the “war for oil” thing, I just thought it was another one of those Arab street rumors that are based on manipulation and paranoia. Then when Alan Greenspan repeated the rumor, everyone took notice. Still, no one could explain what it was about. So if Alan Greenspan repeats a silly street rumor isn’t it still just a silly street rumor?
But now the missing piece has been found, and it fits perfectly. According to Bill Moyers and Michael Winship:
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, 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.
That’s it. No-bid contracts.
And then we find out there were secret meeting in the White House between Dick Cheney and oil companies, lobbyists, and CEO’s soon after Bush took office.
The meetings are 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.
Right about now, someone is going to point out that Osama bin Laden was once on the CIA payroll, and trot out the conspiracy theory that Bush, and Cheney, et al were behind bin Laden and 9/11.
The war for oil conspiracy theory is looking better and better. Maybe it’s time to look at the 9/11 conspiracy theories again too.