Thinking the unthinkable
So, we now see that there’s about to be one heck of an oil deal between some US companies and Iraq (emphasis added):
Four Western oil 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.
Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP — the original partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company — along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies, are in talks with Iraq’s Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq’s largest fields, according to ministry officials, oil company officials and an American diplomat.
The deals, expected to be announced on June 30, will lay the foundation for the first commercial work for the major companies in Iraq since the American invasion, and open a new and potentially lucrative country for their operations.
The no-bid contracts are unusual for the industry, and the offers prevailed over others by more than 40 companies, including companies in Russia, China and India. The contracts, which would run for one to two years and are relatively small by industry standards, would nonetheless give the companies an advantage in bidding on future contracts in a country that many experts consider to be the best hope for a large-scale increase in oil production.
There was suspicion among many in the Arab world and among parts of the American public that the United States had gone to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract. The Bush administration has said that the war was necessary to combat terrorism. It is not clear what role the United States played in awarding the contracts; there are still American advisers to Iraq’s Oil Ministry.
Anyone care to guess whether the US will wind up building and staffing the oft-discussed world’s largest embassy in Iraq, along with those “permanent” military bases, regardless of who wins the upcoming presidential election?
Surely this is all just some sort of wacky, leftist fantasy, right? I mean, there’s no chance that the US, with an executive branch headed by oil men and members of the Project for a New American Century (i.e. the neocons), could have looked at the world oil situation and said, “It will cost a lot in blood, money and international prestige, but we have no choice but to keep someone else from monopolizing that oil (and natural gas).” If that were the case, then surely some reputable news outlet would have had the courage to say something like this, even months before the war began (emphasis added):
The American campaign to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, even as al-Qaida’s terrorism thrives around the world and the national economy falters, has many people in America and abroad asking: What’s really motivating Washington to take on Saddam? His record of perfidy and willingness to inflict damage beyond his borders is a matter of record. For many, particularly in post-9/11 America, that is argument enough. But others believe that Saddam and his lust for ever more powerful weaponry is only part of the story. Largely missing from the debate is a simple fact: Iraq sits atop the world’s second-largest reserves of oil — a resource that translates into hundreds of billions of dollars and enormous economic power.
Within America, street protests accusing the administration of yearning to launch an “oil war” occur occasionally, but they pale in comparison to the vehemence of that charge in foreign capitals and newspapers. In European and Asian capitals, and in the restive Muslim world in particular, an “imperialistic quest for oil,” as Saddam himself frames it, is taken by many to be the ultimate goal of American policy toward Iraq. Even friendly Arab nations see it so. Al Ahram, the government-controlled newspaper of record in Egypt, led its editorial page recently with a piece by Palestinian-American Professor Edward Said, who wrote:
“Second to Saudi Arabia, Iraq has the largest oil reserves on earth, and the roughly 1.1 trillion dollars worth of oil — much of it already committed by Saddam to Russia, France and a few other countries … is a crucial aim of U.S. strategy.”
No reputable analyst denies the windfall that might result for Western energy firms and the economies they power from an extended American occupation of Iraq. While Iraq’s political landscape is complex and potentially explosive, many see a post-Saddam Iraq as an opportunity to ensure that Iraq’s vast potential as an oil supplier, long retarded by Saddam’s aggression and U.N. sanctions, can be used to stabilize or even lower world oil prices for decades to come.
“It is not necessarily easy, but the scenario exists whereby Britain and the United States, by handling Iraq’s oil resources a certain way, could carve out the ultimate ‘strategic petroleum reserve,’ ” says Dr. F.J. Chalabi, a former Iraqi deputy oil minister who left in 1976 and now runs an energy consulting firm in London. “It is certainly feasible.”
Such speculation about long-term American motives is bolstered by the deep ties between senior Bush administration officials, including the president and vice president, and the energy industry.
Among the facts that raise eyebrows:
The president, vice president and national security adviser all claim a stunning pedigree. Bush is a former director of Harken Energy Corp.; Cheney served as chief executive officer of Halliburton Energy Services Corp.; and National Security Council Director Condoleezza Rice served on the board of directors of Chevron, which later named a super-tanker after her.
Financial disclosure forms reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity, a non-partisan watchdog group, report that the top 100 officials in the Bush administration have the majority of their personal investments, almost $150 million, in the traditional energy and natural resource sectors. For instance, Rice holds $225,000 worth of Chevron stock in a blind trust.
Cheney’s commission on energy policy, which submitted a report last year recommending that the United States “conduct an immediate policy review toward Iraq” that includes “military … assessments.”
Added to all this is a key geo-political fact of the post 9/11 world: America’s deep displeasure with Saudi Arabia, currently America’s largest oil supplier in the Middle East and the nation that, by and large, controls the world’s oil markets through its own enormous reserves and its lock on the internal politics of the oil cartel, OPEC — the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Oh wait–someone did. That long quote is from the MSNBC article Oil after Saddam: All bets are in, published November 7, 2002, just over 4 months before the war started. Follow the link for even more detail, and see this page for links to all 5 articles in the series.
So, which is it? Did the US go to war to enrich the oil companies? Or did we do it because Bush and Cheney saw peak oil and the growing oil appetites of China and India looming far too soon for a comfortable transition away from oil, and took the only steps they could see to ensure a supply of oil to the US? (And let me remind everyone yet again of Matt Simmons’ exchange with Bush, in which Simmons asked him what he thought of his (Simmons’) writings and speeches about peak oil, and Bush told him to keep doing it.) Who said there has to be only one reason? Why isn’t it possible that Bush and Cheney saw a “need” to do the unthinkable to Save The Country, and if it meant vast profits for their friends in the oil business, well, that was just a bonus?
And couldn’t this be what Bush is referring to when he talks about being judged kindly by history? Could he really be saying, “Once peak oil has the world by the short hairs, Americans will be thankful I started this war and kept the Chinese from monopolizing Iraq’s oil”?
It’s all too plausible, even for someone like me who deeply believed that the country he loves and has lived his entire life in could never do such a thing. Where are those WMD’s, anyway? Where are the infamous unmanned drones that US Senators were told could reach the US to deliver WMD’s? Why should we think that a country that had no role in the War on Terrorism in 2003 had to be invaded and all but destroyed? As the official reasons for this invasion dissolve, one by one, we’re left with the following inescapable facts:
- The US went to war over oil in this region in 1991. Surely you don’t think the First Gulf War was over fig exports, right?
- The US started a war in 2003 with Iraq, a country that was no threat to us.
- The costs of the war will be many, many thousands of lives lost or irreparably harmed, plus trillions of dollars in the long run, once the US rebuilds its worn-down military and takes care of its wounded for the rest of their lives.
- The US shows no signs of leaving Iraq, regardless of how the November elections turn out. (Who here thinks that we’ll completely withdraw our military forces and leave civilian oil workers in the middle of that mess we’ve created?)
- Western oil companies are about to strike a no-bid, and likely extremely profitable, contract to extract Iraqi oil.
- If peak oil is coming very soon, it could make a huge difference in the US’ outlook to have access, even at very high market prices, to Iraq’s oil and natural gas.
At some point, no matter how frightening or abhorrent or shameful or unthinkable reality is, whether it’s the imminent dangers of peak oil, global warming, and ocean acidification, or our own dawning awareness of the awful reasons for military action, we have to recognize that reality is utterly indifferent to our desires and preconceived notions.
 And lest anyone try to tell me the blame for the mysteriously missing WMD’s belongs to the US intelligence agencies, I respectfully suggest you do your homework first. As a start, try Googling “seymour hersh stovepiping” and see how the US intelligence apparatus was misused.
 Do not think, even for a second, that I’m in any way suggesting that this was the only course of action open to the US or that it was anywhere near being the best option.
Link to original post
Other Posts by Lou Grinzo
The Energy Collective
- Rod Adams
- Scott Edward Anderson
- Charles Barton
- Barry Brook
- Dick DeBlasio
- Simon Donner
- Big Gav
- Michael Giberson
- James Greenberger
- Lou Grinzo
- Tyler Hamilton
- Christine Hertzog
- David Hone
- Gary Hunt
- Jesse Jenkins
- Sonita Lontoh
- Jesse Parent
- Jim Pierobon
- Vicky Portwain
- Tom Raftery
- Joseph Romm
- Robert Stavins
- Robert Stowe
- Geoffrey Styles
- Alex Trembath
- Gernot Wagner
- Dan Yurman