"It would have been one thing to put the United States at the head
of a coordinated, international effort to reduce dependence on carbon fuels;
it is quite another to send American forces around the world – from Colombia
to Uzbekistan, from Angola to the Persian Gulf – to oblige the world to
meet an American demand for almost half the world’s oil supplies."
Godfrey Hodgson Oil and
Why did the US (and it's few allies including Britain and Australia) attack
Why does it matter today?
Did the US and its allies attack to prevent a mad tyrant from developing weapons
of mass destruction that could have been used - maybe by al-Qaeda terrorists
- in another attack on America or on Iraq's neighbours? Or did the US initiate
a preemptive, defensive war because the Bush Admin at least thought that Saddam
had WMDs and was preparing to use them?
There were no WMDs. And there was enough knowledge of the relative danger posed
by a very much weakened and puny Iraq and enough evidence available before the
war about Iraq's WMD potential to remove any excuse for a preemptive defensive
Plus there is substantial evidence that members of the Bush Admin had been
planning aggression in Iraq for at least a decade for a host of powerfully tempting
reasons and that possible danger from WMDs and links to al-Qaeda was deceitfully
exaggerated to provide minimal legitimization for a 'defensive war' under international
and US law within the closing window of UN sanctions from the first Gulf War.
What then were the real underlying reasons for aggression in Iraq? And, removing
the fig-leaf of self-defense, why does it matter to Americans and the rest of
us global citizens now?
Any time a governmental policy is developed and implemented there are a host
of reasons that can be sorted out on hierarchical scales. Policy formulation
has domestic political roots and must fit into global scale socio-economic contexts.
Policy formulation is path dependent to some degree because governments inherit
well established policy paths and is always to some degree influenced by the
unique personalities involved and by the unique temporal situation .
Aggression in Iraq was never for any one reason and cannot be completely understood
as even the product of the Bush Admin alone. Dismissing even a mistaken belief
in WMDs, informed opinion worldwide has postulated a wide variety of self-interested
reasons for aggression. These reasons can be grouped from global, longer term,
geo-strategic scales through global, intermediate time scales down to local,
US domestic election or even money-raising for election considerations:
Control of Iraq to control both Iraqi oil and the Middle East oil producing
region has differing tempting benefits over time. Economic opportunities for
Halliburton et el and maximizing Iraqi oil production are immediate benefits.
Continuation of a century old policy of control of the flow of oil from the
Middle East and some degree of potential influence on other economic players
- China, Japan and Europe - would be intermediate term benefits.
And rapidly increasing in importance is control of Iraq to facilitate military
control of the world's only remaining source of cheap, conventional oil in the
coming peak oil endgame
Don't ever discount the temptation of any major corporate business opportunity
this quarter; but, of course, consider the possibilities of coercing Chinese
or European economies in the coming decades; and the Vice-Pres and energy czar
needs an answer to his question of where the corporate global economy is going
to get its needed extra 50 million barrels a day in 2010.
Israel; oil in Euros / dollar as Achilles heel; the military-industrial complex
need to demonstrate and fine tune shock and awe; the electoral power of a Commander-in-chief;
the Bush family / Saddam antipathes - there were many very tempting reasons
for regime change in Iraq besides the bounteous low hanging fruit of Iraqi oil
or even control of Iraq in order to control the oil rich Middle East.
Recently prominent American dissidents James Howard Kunstler and Noam Chomsky
combined all of these myriad policy variables into their own unique way of simply
telling the story of aggression in Iraq.
James Kunstler is the world's foremost critic of the non-negotiable American
lifestyle: " It is a living arrangement which has no future. It
represents the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world".
Here is his way of telling the America
and Iraq story:
"You’ve got 3 or 4 major players, or blocs of players, in the
world who are liable in one way or another to contest for the remaining oil
in the world. Most conspicuously, perhaps, you have the US and China. Now, most
of the oil in the world – over two-thirds of the remaining oil in the
world – happens to be in the Middle East and Central Asia. China can walk
into many of these places if they want to, and I dare say sooner or later they
may. Are we going to engage the Chinese army in a land war, in a land locked
former Soviet Republic? That’s not an adventure we can feel confident
about, and I would doubt we would do that. We are now engaged in Iraq, in occupying
an unfriendly nation. My view of the war is not like my fellow registered Democrats’
view of the war. I think it was something, given our lifestyle in America, it
was something that we basically had to do, to set up a police station in the
Middle East to ensure that we could continue buying this resource. We didn’t
go over there to steal their oil. I think that’s really not true. But
we were certainly very worried about being able to continue buying it from Iraq
and Saudi Arabia, so we set up this police station, over in Iraq, which was
the best candidate because it was between two of the most crucial players there:
Iran and Saudi Arabia. And we set up this police station to modify their behavior,
and influence their behavior. And for a few years it sort of worked, but that’s
also a project we can’t feel very confident about, and we have to ask
ourselves how long can we occupy these unfriendly countries, and the answer
probably is not forever. And what happens when it’s no longer possible,
when we’ve bankrupted ourselves, or exhausted our military, or demoralized
our military, or are not able to enroll soldiers voluntarily. I think sooner
or later, we may have to withdraw into the Western Hemisphere, and when we do
what happens to our access to two-thirds of the remaining oil? These are very,
very troubling questions. I imagine they are thinking about these things in
the Pentagon, and the intelligence agencies, but we’re certainly not talking
about them in the newspapers."
Noam Chomsky is the dean of American dissidents; the most articulate, the best
prepared, informed and persistent voice telling the real story of America during
the past four decades. Here is part of his recent take on America in Iraq from
a new book length interview: A Hated Political Enemy:
"The New York Times rather honestly called Iraq the Petri dish test
case for the new doctrine announced in the National Security strategy which
basically comes down to a dismantling of international law and institutions
and a very brazen announcement that the US intends to dominate the world by
force and to do so indefinitely and to destroy any potential challenge to its
"That has precedents but no precedent that I know of as a statement
of national policy except for cases we'd rather not think about. Which is why
it caused plenty of shudders in the foreign policy elite here as well as around
the world. And Iraq was a test case that shows how it is done. Why Iraq? Well,
you pick a country that's first of all defenceless - you don't want to attack
anybody that can defend themselves, that would be ridiculous - and also worth
controlling. No point in attacking Burundi, which is also defenseless but who
"On the other hand Iraq has the great advantage of being both defenseless
and disarmed, and also very valuable. Its got the second largest energy reserves
in the world. With the United States firmly implanted right in the middle of
the energy producing center of the world, it increases enormously the leverage
for global control. So Iraq was the perfect test case for the military."
Slightly differently nuanced appreciation of using American military power
to seize control of Iraq.
Kunstler's version is the realpolitik, reasonable, Red State excuse for a cynically
illegal war. America as policeman - an American policeman acting in God-ordained
self-interest, not constrained by anybodies rule of law.
Chomsky's story is much darker. Iraq is a premeditated step in a radical plan
of world domination. The question of illegality isn't just war, murder and occupation
in Iraq, but the dismantling of international law and institutions in the creation
of a global American empire.
What does it matter? Why does it matter what the reasons for war are now with
the war a fait accompli?
What do you expect to happen if the policemen where you live break the law
in their own self-interest? What happens when the rule of law is dismissed by
the heavily armed?
Russia and China have nuclear weapons. American action in Iraq sent a strong
signal. Lamentably under-appreciated in America is how Bush Admin aggression
in Iraq has made the world a much more dangerous place - closer to a final nuclear
world war than any time since the Cuban crisis in 1962.
In seizing Iraq the Bush Admin chose the resource war path for us all. Iraq
was a preemptive rejection of international cooperation in these next key decades
during which a transition from a fossil fuel economy must be made.
The enemy isn't the Islamic world or even the militant Islamic fundamentalists
but the "3 or 4 major players, or blocs of players, in the world
who are liable in one way or another to contest for the remaining oil in the
world" (and other key industrial civilization resources that will
also be severely depleted by burgeoning human populations with powerful technologies).
This is why Bush Admin motivation and planning for aggression in Iraq is so
important today. This is why the war's legality is still so important 21/2 years
after victory was declared. This choice of who Americans are and what the world
will be like in the first decades of the 21st century was not made by the American
people or even their elected representatives but by a small group within the
This is why telling the true story about America and Iraq is so important.