Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What the Iraq War is About

Paul Craig Roberts has been wrestling with our incomprehensible foreign policy since he left the Reagan administration way back when. He's been very busy writing articles critical of the this administration since they took power, and rightly so. Now he's published an article (What the Iraq War is About) in which he proclaims that the "real reason" we're in Iraq is not for the oil, but to support Israel. Period.

Well, I'll go along with that to a limited extent, and no doubt the Israel lobby - as represented by the neoconservatives - has been more vocal than anyone of the perceived need to crush Iraq on the way to crushing Iran, but there are a few problems with PCR’s analysis of the Iraq situation as detailed in his latest article. First, it is based on a highly simplified explanation which is not actually held by any reputable majority; he trots out a series of strawmen and arrives at an unsupported conclusion as a consequence.

The key strawman is here:

“Why does the Bush regime want to rule Iraq? Some speculate that it is a matter of "peak oil." Oil supplies are said to be declining even as demand for oil multiplies from developing countries such as China. According to this argument, the U.S. decided to seize Iraq to ensure its own oil supply. This explanation is problematic.”

[This is only problematic if it were the only argument put forward by “some.” Even as a stand-alone explanation, this idea has a good deal of merit, but the “some” who advocate this explanation (leaving aside the all-too-noisy "Elders of Zion" fan club) actually only cite it as one part of a more complex argument. PCR knows this but ignores the several alternate theories, as they would distract from his thesis here.]

“Most U.S. oil comes from Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela.“

[This fact is irrelevant (red herring) to the real purpose of the Iraq war, although in point of fact, Mexico’s Cantrell field went peak about 1981 [].

“The best way for the U.S. to ensure its oil supplies would be to protect the dollar's role as world reserve currency.“

[From a purely economic viewpoint, this is no doubt true, but again, irrelevant. Classic red herring follows.]

“Moreover, $3-5 trillion would have purchased a tremendous amount of oil. Prior to the U.S. invasions, the U.S. oil import bill was running less than $100 billion per year. Even in 2006 total U.S. imports from OPEC countries was $145 billion, and the U.S. trade deficit with OPEC totaled $106 billion. Three trillion dollars could have paid for U.S. oil imports for 30 years; $5 trillion could pay the U.S. oil bill for a half century had the Bush regime preserved a sound dollar.”

This analysis is a kettle of fish, as we all know that the Neocons projected the cost of the war to be “about $50 to $60 billion,” which would be paid for by “Iraq itself” through the expropriation of Iraq’s oil. The fact that the costs of the occupation have escalated so wildly is due to the fact that Neocons – and let’s not forget Donald Rumsfeld - can plot like crazy, but they know zero about combat – or warmaking.

And while the Iraq oil fields were indeed allotted to various oil companies - both foreign and domestic - during the Cheney energy conferences, the consensus of the oil companies themselves was that it is was more profitable to leave the oil in the ground, with the oil itself nationalized. The oil companies couldn’t give a shit less how much oil is under the sands of Iraq, because unpumped oil is oil that is withheld from the market, leaving the oil actually on the market in limited supply, and thus more expensive. This follows the prime directive of profitability in any commodity: limited supply demands higher prices.

So, the war for Iraq was indeed partially “about the oil,” but there are other US strategic factors at play, specifically National Security Policy, which the Pentagon has implemented under a program dubbed “Full Spectrum Dominance” (and here). This last is the explanation for the huge US embassy in Iraq; it’s not the embassy for a single country, but rather the regional forward headquarters of an imperial network of hardened “enduring bases,” not only in Iraq, in which there are 14 absolutely huge and impregnable bases, but of the B-1 bomber base in Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, lend-lease bases in Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Kuwait, to name just a few. This particular region is not called “US Central Command” for arbitrary reasons. There is an on-going but dubious war in Afghanistan, threats of sending special forces into Pakistan, and our recent nuclear agreements with India, no details of which fit into any Zionists plots, but do fit into the imperialist plans of the Anglo-Saxon oligarchs (read central bankers and representatives of the military-industrial complex) who actually run the global economy in tandem with similar elements in Great Britain, and to a lesser extent, the central bankers of Europe.

Iraq was (in part) a Bronx cheer to China, and to a lesser extent Russia, in response to Unocal (now Chevron-Texaco) losing the Afghan pipeline some fifteen years ago to a Chinese consortium, as well as another step towards Full Spectrum Dominance; payback and profits for the oil corporations, and big profits for the bankers, who make their money by making the loans that fund the purchase of oil futures – which is what is actually sold on the commodities markets.

After the fall of the Shah of Iran, Israel was for a long time the United State’s sole ally in this crucial geostrategic region and thus has been uncritically supported by the powers that be, just as we have supported dictators and monsters throughout our history, as long as they serve our economic purposes. In this regard, it’s helpful to remember that we bought his oil and supplied the arms (including WMD and the means to manufacture same) to Saddam Hussein in his eight-year war with Iran.

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