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Commentary: War with Iraq about Oil

By Walter Simpson

Buffalo, NY – Have you noticed that mainstream news coverage of the U.S. rush to war against Iraq never mentions oil? The Bush Administration has provided the script and the news media is following it.

We're told it's about Saddam Hussein's violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions -- though the Bush Administration could care less about the U.N. and its resolutions.

We're told it's about Hussein's links to Al Qaeda but Bush has provided no evidence to support that claim.

We are told this war is about fighting evil and promoting freedom and democracy. But this argument strains credulity when we consider all the dictators the U.S. has supported and still supports. We even supported Saddam Hussein when he was a paid CIA assassin in the 1960s and when he began his reign of terror as Iraqi dictator in the 1970s and 1980s.

We are told we must disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. But other countries have these weapons and we are not preparing to attack them.

We are told this war is about self-defense. But how can it be that when we attack another country it's self-defense? That may be Bush gospel but the rest of the world begs to differ.

Let's go back in time 12 years to the first Gulf War. George Bush Senior told us that we had to remove Iraqi troops from Kuwait because Saddam Hussein was evil incarnate - though he had been our ally. Then Bush Senior said the war was about promoting freedom and democracy - even though Kuwait knew and still knows little of either. When that ran thin, Bush Senior told us we had to fight to save U.S. jobs - a rather costly strategy for economic health. The old man would never admit it was about oil - even though it was obvious. We never would have fought that war if Kuwait's major export had been broccoli. We did it because there was a lot of oil in Kuwait and we weren't about to allow anyone to block our easy access to it.

That was Gulf War I. It's the same though more so with Gulf War II. The deception continues though George Junior has a better PR machine and the American electorate is easy prey after 9/11.

Never before has an Administration been so closely linked to the oil industry. Bush family wealth is directly tied to oil. Troubling connections with Saudi oil money go back years. In 1979, George Junior's first oil company, Arbusto Energy, was bailed out by a Houston family friend who at the time was the U.S. business representative of the bin Laden family. Later, in 1987, Bush Junior's failing Harken Energy was bankrolled by a Saudi businessman with close ties to the scandal-ridden Bank of Commerce and Credit International which used Mideast oil money to buy political favor.

Vice President Dick Cheney was CEO of Halliburton, the largest U.S. oil services company, which through subsidiaries did $73 million in business with Saddam Hussein's Iraq during the 1990s. Both Bush and Cheney have been more than aware of the importance of Afghanistan and surrounding countries as pipeline routes for Caspian Sea oil.

Bush Commerce Secretary Donald Evans began his career roughnecking on an oil rig and ended up as CEO of an oil and gas exploration company. Bush National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice has had the dubious honor of having an oil tanker named after her when she was a Director of Chevron, the second largest U.S. oil company.

For the record, about 2% of world oil reserves lie within U.S. territory yet we consume 26% of the world's annual oil production. Even though global oil production may begin to decline within the next couple decades, the Bush energy plan projects substantial increases in U.S. oil consumption and imports in the years ahead. Where are we going to get all that oil? 65% of world oil reserves are in the Middle East. Iraq's known oil reserves number 112 billion barrels, the second largest in the world.

The largest known oil reserves are in Saudi Arabia, a country whose commitment to U.S. interests is now in doubt. Yes, they keep the oil flowing but they also are channeling oil dollars to Islamic extremists and terrorists.

Adding all this up is not difficult.

Regime change in Iraq means using U.S. military might to gain control of Iraqi oil reserves while letting the other Middle East oil despots know who is boss. This is the dirty secret. Another oil war.

We are poised to spill blood for oil -- to put gasoline in our gas tanks and dollars in oil company coffers. Or should I say coffins? But does it make sense to sacrifice thousands of lives and risk setting off an Arab explosion of hate against the U.S. -- for oil? Does it make sense to threaten the use of nuclear weapons -- for oil? Don't wait until you hear this on Meet the Press. Let's start talking about it now.

Listener-Commentator Walter Simpson is energy officer at the University at Buffalo.