Alan Greenspan vs. Naomi Klein: who has rights to Iraq’s oil?

Former US Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan famously spills the beans in his new memoir, The Age of Turbulence: “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.” (London Times, Sept. 16) On her blog Sept. 25, Arianna Huffington lauds leftist icon Naomi Klein for calling out Greenspan on this point in a Sept. 24 interview with him on Democracy Now: “Are you aware that, according to the Hague Regulations and the Geneva Conventions, it is illegal for one country to invade another over its natural resources?” (Contrast Ann Coulter‘s “Why not go to war just for oil? We need oil! What do Hollywood celebrities imagine fuels their private jets? How do they think their cocaine is delivered to them?”)

The problem is that, as we have noted, Klein has engaged in clueless cheerleading for the very jihadi “insurgents” who seek to exterminate Iraq’s legitimate civil resistance, which is organizing to oppose the US oil grab. We have not heard that she has retreated from this self-contradictory and morally bankrupt position. And she has certainly done nothing to loan support for Iraq’s civil resistance.

Why is that? Naomi?

See our last posts on Iraq, the struggle for Iraq’s oil and the struggle for the world’s oil.

  1. down the memory hole
    In the Washington Post‘s major story on Greenspan’s remarks, overpaid regurgitator-of-conventional-wisdom Bob Woodward states, “little evidence has emerged to support” the view that invading Iraq had anything to do with oil.

    (Though to some extent, Woodward is merely setting up what will follow: flaunting his access to secret documents which in fact constitute precisely such evidence.)

    No evidence publicly available, Bob?

    I don’t get paid a dime to follow what’s happening in Washington, nor do I have extraordinary access to inside info. Yet I find it surprising that any presumably-intelligent person could have missed certain signs…

    Like the fact that after overthrowing Saddam, we didn’t bother to guard gigantic stores of weapons (now being used by Iraqi insurgents to build IEDs to kill U.S. military personnel), because we were too busy securing Iraq’s oil ministry?

    Or, perhaps one might remember on the eve of the war, when Dubya personally addressed the Iraqi people. What was the first thing he said?

    Was it, “Please don’t fight our boys in uniform, because they’re coming to liberate you”?

    No. It was somewhat different, and quite emphatic.

    What Bush found most important to tell Iraq was, “DO NOT destroy the oil fields.”

  2. Oil is not the reason for the Iraq war
    Scapegoat for the Iraq War
    As if we didn’t already have too many excuses and too few facts over the real reasons for the invasion of Iraq, we now have Alan Greenspan blaming everyone’s favorite scapegoat – oil. He states in his new book “The Age of Turbulence”:
    “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil. Thus, projections of world oil supply and demand that do not note the highly precarious environment of the Middle East are avoiding the eight-hundred pound gorilla that could bring economic growth to a halt ….. Until industrial economies disengage themselves from, as President George W. Bush put it, “our addition to oil”, the stability of the industrial economies and hence the global economy will remain at risk.”
    That such a statement could be made by someone with the stature and influence of Alan Greenspan is extremely troubling. Like so many of our policy makers, he has little understanding of oil, and seems unwilling to confront the actual causes of the Iraq war.
    To examine how unlikely it is that the Iraq war was “largely about oil”, we need to look at the original ideas behind the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, which have been around since the mid-1990s. One of the early advocates for invading Iraq was a group of neoconservatives who called themselves the Project for a New American Century, who articulated their ideas in a letter to the Clinton Administration in 1998. According to the neoconservative theory, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the establishment of a democracy in Iraq would create a domino effect that would transform the Middle East by causing other countries in the region to rise up against their dictatorial leaders and elect governments that are friendly to American interests. Neoconservatives associated with PNAC also devised a plan they termed “Clean Break” advocating that the Israeli government under Netanyahu support the removal of Saddam Hussein. All of this occurred at a time when oil prices were very low, indeed, as the press was writing about a world awash in oil. There was certainly no oil shortage at that time that would motivate starting a war. Of course the Clinton Administration had no interest in invading Iraq. Then September 11 happened and in the aftermath, the Bush Administration was easily persuaded to invade Iraq based on the misleading case for the war that ultimately prevailed.
    Clearly, oil was not the first priority or even a high priority for the neoconservatives who originally pushed for the war.
    Second, it wasn’t necessary to invade Iraq in order to access its oil. Oil companies, for better or worse, would have been quite able to deal with Saddam Hussein’s government to develop and produce Iraq’s oil fields had it been legal. It certainly wasn’t true oil companies were somehow behind the war so that they could take over Iraq’s oil fields. Oil companies operating in foreign countries do not own the reserves so changing the government would not allow them to own Iraq’s oil. They produce oil for the host government for a fee, usually paid in oil barrels. Thus, for each barrel they produce, they receive a certain portion of it, which varies depending on the country and the project.
    Thus, to claim that the invasion of Iraq was about oil is ridiculous. That is not to say that oil was not a factor in the Bush Administration’s decision to go to war since the US government was unwilling to lift the sanctions as long as Saddam was in power. But the invasion certainly wasn’t necessary for oil companies to gain access to the oil and sell it into the global market.
    Mr. Greenspan goes on to express his fear that that the global economy could suffer if/when oil becomes scarce and expensive. This is a valid concern and is one that we should take action on before it becomes a crisis. If we wait, scarcity and ever increasing oil prices will create major disruptions to the world economy. However, there are far more cost-effective ways to deal with potential oil shortages than to start a war. There are many new technologies that can be brought to bear as well as certain lifestyle changes that can reduce our oil consumption, such as better fuel economy standards for cars, public transport systems, and alternative fuels. These programs would not wreck the economy if conducted over a reasonable period of time, and they could even help by creating many new high-value jobs. Thus, it certainly isn’t necessary to go to war over oil and in reality, the Iraq war has burdened our economy with huge costs that will have to be repaid, making it more difficult for the US to reduce its dependence on oil.
    If America is to learn anything from the fiasco of the Iraq war, we must not look for scapegoats such as oil to blame. Let’s determine once and for all the real causes of the war. Let’s examine the role of the neoconservatives and their supporters in the Bush Administration and blame the erroneous ideas behind the Project for a New American Century, the false intelligence emanating from the Pentagon and other sources. The real politically inconvenient elephant in the room is this group of influential people who were so determined to invade Iraq that they mislead the American people in order to do so.

    1. Excuse you?
      We are amazed at how entrenched this bizarre misreading of recent history is becoming. The PNAC document explicitly identified control of the strategic Persian Gulf oil resources as key to “maintaining global US pre-eminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests.” Did you read that? “US pre-eminence.” Not protecting Israel.

      Yet somehow even when the targets of their obsessions plainly state the obvious political reality, the conspiratorially-minded remain blind to what is in front of their very eyes: the criticality of the resource which runs the world economy and is the ticket to world power.

      Greenspan is right: oil is the 800-pound gorilla. Your cabal of Zionists are the scapegoat, even if they are happily playing along.

      We have demolished your pathetic arguments elsewhere.