Foreign Policy, Recommended, World Affairs

The Iraq War Was Not About Oil

Why did the U.S.-led coalition attack Iraq in 2003? Sixteen years after George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech, the answer seems obvious to some: oil of course! When war was waged, this was the widespread view in Jordan (71 percent), Morocco (63 percent), Pakistan (54 percent), Turkey (64 percent), Germany (60 percent) and France (58 percent). After all, the U.S. was the largest oil-consuming nation and Iraq had the second-largest oil reserves in the world. These suspicions are strengthened when we consider how the White House was being run by retired oil executives—Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Bush himself. However, closer examination suggests these factors were a coincidence rather than a conspiracy. The Iraq War was not fought for oil.

Big Oil, Sanctions and Saddam

American oil companies didn’t want to topple Saddam Hussein; they wanted to trade with him. They were prevented from doing so, not by the regime but by the U.S.’s full support for the U.N.’s oil embargo that was imposed on Iraq when it invaded Kuwait in 1990. In 1997, Conoco’s CEO Archie Dunham complained that “U.S. companies, not rogue regimes, are the ones that suffer when the United States imposes economic sanctions.” Halliburton found itself in hot water after whistle-blowers alleged that it had sidestepped sanctions by operating through foreign subsidiaries.

In 1997, 670 companies and trade associations came together to form USA Engage, a lobbying coalition with the explicit aim of campaigning against the sanctions. The organisation was chaired by a Halliburton executive, Don Deline, and after him by Exxon-Mobil’s Manager of International Relations, Robert W. Haines. Although it could be argued that war represented an alternative avenue for Big Oil to get inside Iraq, it was certainly not their preferred path.

Since the State Department, the CIA, the Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute and the Pentagon’s Energy Infrastructure Planning Group all eerily predicted post-war chaos and looting, it is difficult to discern why war would be a sensible, money-making strategy for Big Oil. There was the additional fear that Iraqi forces would set fire to the oil fields in revenge as they beat a retreat. Why risk the destruction and devastation of the treasure? A deal would surely be more desirable?

With American troops building up on the border in March 2003, Saddam made a desperate attempt to cling on to power. His secret service sought out American-Lebanese businessman Imad Hage, who acted as an intermediary, meeting influential White House-advisor Richard Perle. Hage reported that in return for the regime’s survival, ”the U.S. will be given first priority as it relates to Iraq oil.” The offer was rejected.

The situation is best summarized by the Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary S. Becker: “If oil were the driving force behind the Bush Administration’s hard line on Iraq, avoiding war would be the most appropriate policy.”

Iraqi Democracy

It is often considered laughable and ludicrous to claim the U.S. and U.K. cared about bringing democracy to Iraq, given their historical record in the region. On countless occasions, oil interests have trumped human rights. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, with an archaic attitude to women that holds public beheadings and sponsors Islamic terrorism, but where is the outcry or intervention? Since 1945, oil has flowed and arms have been sold, fostering a close connection between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

Nevertheless, the “war for oil” thesis makes even less sense in this context. Given that Saudi Arabia (alongside all the other oil-rich Gulf states with the exception of Kuwait) opposed the war, invading Iraq risked future deals. Leading war proponent and U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was reported to be “more than pleased” that democracy in Iraq would make the Saudis uneasy and was supportive of “rocking the stability of tyrannies in the Arab world.” Such antagonism was antithetical to the interests of Shell and Exxon-Mobil who had made huge investments in the Kingdom’s natural gas.

Cosying up to dictators is not the only reason the motives of the U.S. and U.K. have come under suspicion. It’s also their remarkable double standards and duplicity when it comes to supporting democracy. Iran’s Mohammed Mossadegh was democratically elected but was deposed in a CIA/MI6-backed coup in 1953 after he nationalised the Anglo-Persian oil company (now BP). He was replaced by the Shah who suppressed opposition while guaranteeing Anglo-American business interests.

Although parallels have been drawn between the Iranian incident and the Iraq invasion, this comparison not only ignores the coup’s Cold War context but it equates the overthrow of democracy and installation of a dictatorship with the overthrow of dictatorship and installation of a democracy. Both the Saudi monarchy and the Shah show that Big Oil’s profits are often better protected by a despotism that keeps its people down while passing on money to the West. If an appetite for Iraq’s oil fields was what drove U.S. policy then why not replace Saddam with a compliant strongman who could be controlled? Why insist on elections that would put the power to shape the Iraqi oil industry into the hands of the Iraqi people?

After the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, no major oil company could even consider investing in Iraq. While an unstable underdeveloped country may hand over its resources to multinationals because it’s desperate for investment, the risk is that once a country recovers its government will reject what it sees as an unfair deal. This is known as the Obsolescing Model in international trade. Since elections were not scheduled until December 2005 and a permanent government would not be formed until May 2006, Big Oil would have to wait three years before its representatives could bargain with a government that would be considered sovereign. Only this could allow them to sign contracts that would be protected under international law.

An additional problem Iraq’s parliamentary system posed to the creation of conditions favorable to outside oil companies was legislation from the 1960s that stated any oilfield development contract would have to be approved by a specific new law passed in the Iraqi parliament, potentially stalling or torpedoing new deals.

An even bigger blow to the stability required for a smooth oil agreement was when the December elections in 2005 delivered a decisive defeat for the secular pro-U.S. elements (such as the INA) and a huge victory for Shia Islamist parties, in the form of the United Iraq Alliance (UIA). This group had links to the Islamic Republic of Iran, arch enemy of the U.S. It also included the Sadr Current, the political wing of the Mahdi Army, which had engaged in attacks on Coalition forces. The dominant group was the Da’wah Party, whose founding philosophy forbids the private ownership of oil. From 2005 to 2018, three of Iraq’s four elected prime ministers, al-Jaafari, al-Maliki and al-Abadi, have been drawn from Da’wah.

By 2007, Iraq’s parliament was debating the direction of the oil industry. A plan was put forward to “promote foreign investment and private sector development” of Iraq’s oil, gas and electricity, known as the Hydrocarbon Law. However, this infuriated Iraqis and united them across class, region and religion.

Previously outlawed unions were able to organise oil workers, strike and issue statements declaring that “privatization of oil is a red line that may not be crossed.” The Association of Muslim Scholars (possibly Iraq’s most influential Sunni group) used their new-found free speech to issue a fatwa against the plans, outlining how “oil is the common property of the ummah.” Four hundred and nineteen members of Iraq’s intelligentsia, including diplomats, doctors, engineers, former ministers and lawyers, expressed opposition by signing a petition. Iraqi parliamentarians responded to concerns of their constituents by opposing the proposals.

Ultimately, the post-Saddam order, which gave birth to a thriving democracy and civil society, was a far cry from a playground for foreign oil companies or the “client state” resource colony Noam Chomsky accused the U.S. of invading Iraq to create.

The Spoils of War

The attitudes and actions of oil industry figures to the free-for-all that followed the fall of Baghdad could be cited to infer that they were the hidden hand behind the waging of war after all. Former policy director of BP, Nick Butler, penned an article in the Financial Times: “Perhaps the most useful parting gift that the Coalition could leave… is a practical model for renewal of the oil sector.” Shell employed a special advisor to work on a production and exploration strategy for Iraq from 2004–08. Halliburton won a two-year technical services agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Nevertheless, simply because oil companies sought to take advantage of the situation and cash-in on the chaos (as any business would), doesn’t mean that they were the war’s orchestrators or that the war was fought on their behalf. As Larry Goldstein, president of the Petroleum Industry Research Foundation, said: “If we go to war, it’s not about oil. But the day the war ends, it has everything to do with oil.” In the years before oil companies could sign a binding agreement, they tried to win the favour of the Iraqi Oil Ministry by researching reservoirs and training engineers and specialists. Shell and ChevronTexaco provided such services for free. Such efforts were referred to as “snuggling up” in the Petroleum Economist. Did this pay off?

The preferred path for foreign oil company investment in Iraq was through Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs). To make a healthy return against the enormous capital costs of setting up shop (rigs, pipelines, storage tanks and drilling operations etc.), rather than compensating the state for the oil they take, PSAs label companies as “contractors’ and the state compensates them for the costs of operation. Such agreements generally last between 25 to 40 years, fixing their economic and legal terms. This would insulate investors from Iraq’s dire security situation and protect profits well beyond the withdrawal of troops.

PSAs have been palatable to the Kurdistan Regional Authority. By 2008, they had signed almost 20, the first of which was signed by Hunt Oil—a mid-sized Dallas-based oil company. Ray Hunt, the company’s CEO, is a close associate of George W. Bush. Despite this, such deals have been declared illegal by the Iraqi government. Similarly, although ExxonMobil signed contracts with the Authority, Iraq’s former oil minister said this was a “serious error.” In 2017, the Iraqi army seized Kurdistan’s oil fields, putting any agreements in legal limbo. The region was previously producing around 200,000 barrels per day, which would rank it 10th among the largest oil sovereigns in the world if it was a country. Surely, it would be in the American oil industry’s interests to have an independent Kurdistan? Consistently, the U.S. has supported a unified Iraq.

While the Iraqi people and parliamentarians would have probably preferred 70s-style total nationalisation, the government reportedly and reluctantly conceded that they simply did not have the money ($35-40 billion) to expand oil production. They would have to rely on private sector potential. In two auctions in 2009, oil companies were permitted to “bid” for contracts. However, PSAs were taken off the table. Part of the profitability of PSAs is if the price of oil increases or the cost of production declines, the company gets a share of the increased profits. Instead, what was on offer were fixed fees on each barrel produced, with margins of $1-2 dollar per barrel. This was hardly a bonanza.

What’s more, companies were not given preferential treatment in virtue of their country’s involvement in Saddam’s overthrow. Indeed, companies from nations that were neutral or hostile to the war were given an equal footing to negotiate a price for the prize.

Despite the presence of 200,000 U.S. troops and mercenaries, and despite the American taxpayer subsidising the war to the tune of $1 trillion at this point, only one U.S. company (Exxon-Mobil) walked away with a contract. Such “winnings” were no more impressive than the deals done by Russia’s Lukoil, Norway’s Statoil, Malaysia’s Petronas or Japan’s Japex. Were the bids any better for the Brits? Shell won the development rights of the billion-barrel Majnoon near Basra but this was a joint venture with Petronas. Similarly, BP was only able to secure a successful bid by partnering with the Chinese CNPC. The poor profitability of such deals is demonstrated by how Shell has since sold its stakes and Exxon-Mobil has allegedly sought to do the same.

The biggest beneficiary of the post-war contracts has been China, emerging as the largest buyer of Iraqi oil in 2013. The state-run China National Petroleum Company was awarded the first post-war oil license, the lion’s share of contracts at the auctions and has since acquired additional contracts with the Ministry of Oil. The absurdity of the “war for oil” argument was best articulated by Michael Makovsky, a former Defense Department official in the Bush administration. “The Chinese had nothing to do with the war but from an economic standpoint they are benefitting from it, and our Fifth Fleet and air forces are helping to assure their supply,” he said.

The U.S. and U.K. are Colonial Powers No Longer

Great powers of the past have been driven by resource control, whether that be Indian spices, African slaves or, indeed, Middle Eastern oil. However, trying to claim that the U.S. or Britain in the 21st century is somehow colonial simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Despite the fact that Afghanistan is sitting on $1 trillion dollars worth of rare minerals, the young democracy has also been free to sign extraction agreements with China. Gaddafi already had dealings with BP, yet the West toppled the dictator despite the disruption it caused the company. Donald Trump was a key observer of such developments, decrying in 2011 that “we should be running the oil” in Iraq but “unfortunately Bush didn’t have that in mind.”

While the Iraq War has done little to fuel the profits of American and British oil companies, it has fuelled the conspiracy that Bush and Blair told lies, and hundreds of thousands died, in a vulture capitalist venture. This interpretation of events, which still enjoys widespread currency, has polluted public discourse and sown seeds of distrust, damaging our democracies. Defenders and detractors of the 2003 decision alike should acknowledge that the “blood for oil” narrative is a selective and speculative account.


Tal Tyagi is an independent journalist. Read other selections of his writings here.


  1. The “blood for oil” narrative is a religious faith. Presenting evidence against it will prove futile. Saddam Hussein’s regime was selling oil internationally, and the American-led invasion did not confiscate Iraqi oil.

    But the religious will not allow such facts to sway their faith.

    • Tommy says

      Didn’t the Bush Family decide that Saddam’s payment of $$ to suicide bombers’ survivors inside Israel was a casus belli?

    • Paolo says

      I was surely not religious about it, but on the back on my mind I had the validity of that approximate narrative of events and oil motivations still there, although I admit I have not followed the stand of things in Iraq for many years. This article made me re-examine those notions, and sounds pretty convincing to me that the blood-for-oil story holds weakly to scrutiny. So when I encounter other information on the subject, I will interpret it also in the light of the knowledge I got here.

    • Guy Baehr says

      If it was not about oil, what was it about? This article provides no alternate explanation. Certainly it was not about spreading Democracy and liberating women and girls. Can it be that those who believe it was about oil are committing the error of believing that those who are running our country have no idea what they are doing, are entirely delusional, are personally venal or are spectacularly incompetent? Or all four? If we cling to oil as an explanation, perhaps it is because we cling to the quaint and oddly comforting idea that coherent and discernable explanations of American foreign policy remain possible.

      • Shalagh McCarthy says

        Read Bernard Lewis whose views were said to influence the US govt at the time. Also sheer logic. After USS Cole attack , 9/11 etc…There is a problem. Radical Islam. How to stop Islamism? Change the values and beliefs. Influence the madrassa education system across all Muslim countries. A 100 year project with many different strategies. Invasion and imposed democracy is one method. Start with the country that has provided the west with a viable excuse

      • I scoured the article looking for that alternative explanation. At the time I believed the clash of civilizations justification, still do. That is why I was irate at the Democratic Party delegitimizing Bush by attacking his stance and competence on Iraq.

    • Bob S. says

      Exactly right Charles. The “blood for oil’ narrative isn’t based on reason, so an article like this to counter that narrative using reason is rather pointless as well. Except it serves a political purpose, similar to your comment, it seems. Such political purposes are just as insidious as religion, maybe moreso.

  2. Wells Marvel says

    Are there numbers on, barrel for barrel, how much oil each country got from Iraq post 2003? I didn’t realize until reading this article how sweeping and far back this narrative extends.

  3. Under no realistic assessment could anyone agree with the author that Iraq now has a “thriving democracy and civil society.”
    It is noted in this piece, twice, but almost as an aside, that China is the major beneficiary of all the Western coalition’s loss of blood and treasure. That is the true importance of our invasion of Iraq, both in economic and military areas.

  4. No sane person could look at Iraq today and agree with the author’s statement that the toppling of Saddam gave birth to a “thriving democracy and civil society.”
    It is noted in this piece, twice but in quiet asides, that China has been the true beneficiary of the Western coalition’s loss of blood and treasure, in immediate economic terms which will ultimately translate into military power.

  5. Apologies for the duplication. Sometimes technology is difficult for this old person.

  6. AntonyG says

    The far-left have been obsessed with overthrowing anything and everything relating to—as they see it—Western colonialism. They started in Yugoslavia in the 90’s and then moved their agenda into the Middle East. Responsibility to Protect (R2P) was a neo-Marxist philosophy/policy designed to eliminate pro-Western regimes.

    The same mentality which today views a person like Winston Churchill as a monster came out of academia in the last two decades of the 20th century. A second wave of neo-Marxists began leaving the university system in the late 80’s & early 90’s. They started entering positions of power and influence by the mid 90’s and went on a crusade to overthrow every last vestige of ‘Western imperialism’.

    Tony Blair and his neo-Marxist (progressive) friends had major influence on U.S. foreign policy during the George W Bush presidency which resulted in the invasion of Iraq. The Bush family—being progressives themselves—ensured that the R2P project would continue with the full support of the U.S. state.

    The radical left and radical Islam (primarily the Muslim Brotherhood) have been in full cooperation now for over 1/4 century. The removal of Slobodan Milošević was the first time that this partnership was put into action with the successful elimination of a Western (Christian) leader in favour of the political and cultural interests of the Bosnian Muslim population.

    The post Cold-War era in the West has been completely dominated by neo-Marxists (progressives) with Trump being the only conservative and Christian leader to gain power. The attempted removal of Trump by members of the neo-Marxist elite on both sides of the Atlantic was to fail.

    The R2P project had completely stalled by 2014 resulting in el-Sisi and Assad gaining and maintaining power. Far left support for Iran remained strong while their hatred towards Assad continued to grow as the partnership with Russia really started to pay off. Iran is supported by the far-left because it threw off its ‘colonial oppressors’ decades ago. Syria/Assad is hated by the far-left because it’s seen as a pro-Western nation (backed by the West/Russia) so must be destroyed.

    Russia is now viewed by the far-left as just another bunch of ‘white’ Western Christian colonialists. Their change of mind on Russia goes back to the moment when Putin stood up the the LGBT militant activists during the build-up to the Sochi Olympics.

    • Tin says

      How do all the doings of your “Neo-Marxists” such as Tony Blair, actually relate to the writings of Karl Marx? I only ask because I’m buggered if I can see one. My suspicion is that you actually haven’t a scooby, but enjoy sprinkling your half-baked diatribes with the phrase

      • Jeremy Ashford says

        Your question has already been anwered many times over. Perhaps you need to try harder,
        First take a step back and ask yourself what does Marxism have to do with the writings of Karl Marx.
        Take it from there.

    • Bob S. says

      Unicorns are real. This statement is as real as your many paragraphs AntonyG. Short fables are better than long ones.

  7. Lucas G Pattison says

    Which President invaded a predominately Muslim country under false pretenses, without Congressional or UN authorization, and gave no-bid contracts to Halliburton?
    Bill Clinton, Kosovo, 1998.
    Source: Noam Chompsky, the most-cited man in academia.

    • johnny says

      Kosovo wasn’t a country (and arguably isn’t one today; it’s a mafia territory with NATO support), and Serbia wasn’t and isn’t predominately muslim. Halliburton was involved in Kosovo, albeit through subsidiaries like KBR, they’ve settled a case about overcharging the army a few years later.

    • Paolo says

      Not an expert here, but I can’t find where you gather that the U.S. were not authorized by the U.N. (U.N. was intensively ‘peacekeeping’ there). Nor that a necessary Congress green light was skipped.

  8. Jack B. Nimble says

    Oil is the wrong angle here. Bush et al. were determined to attack Iraq, and they told lies to convince the public and Congress**, the question is, why??? It sure wasn’t oil.


    The present article also clearly demonstrates that the US didn’t benefit–directly or indirectly–in any way by launching this unnecessary and catastrophic war. But did any countries in the region actually benefit from the US actions??? Hint–their names both begin with the letter I.

    • TarsTarkas says

      After 9/11 the Bush administration was extremely jumpy about when the next terror attack would come and from what direction. When it was mentioned to Bush 43 that Saddam had weapons of mass murder, had used them on his own people, had harbored terrorists and was paying the families of bomb martyrs for their ‘sacrifice’, it became an obsession with W to eliminate this festering sore in the Middle East before it became the base for the next attack. It didn’t help Saddam’s cause that he had tried to have W’s father assassinated and had completely trashed the cease-fire agreement which had kept Schwartzkopf from assaulting Baghdad. The people who think the war was for oil are projecting their own attitudes on the situation.

      • Jack B. Nimble says


        I agree that Bush AND the people around him were obsessed with Saddam Hussein. But you need to ask whether his advisors had agendas of their own and manipulated him into war.

  9. E. Olson says

    A good article, which again illustrates that the US has been the most benevolent super power in the history of the world. The biggest example is the US saving of Europe twice in the 20th century, and how much territory and other spoils of war/reparation did the US get for beating the Kaiser and Hitler? Besides some “rights” to some military bases so we could spend money protecting the Europeans from the USSR for decades, I think the correct answer is NADA.

    The US was brutally attacked by Japan in 1941, and after 4 years of bruising war they finally surrendered, and how much territory and other spoils of war/reparation did Uncle Sam get for beating the emperor? Well, the emperor got to keep his job, and the US got some bases to protect Japan from Red China and the USSR, while Japan paid US generosity back by destroying the US steel and car industries with their cheap (but high quality) exports to the US.

    How much of S. Korea does the US own after saving them from N. Korea, China, and the USSR?

    How much of Taiwan does the US own after saving them from China?

    How much of Israel does the US own after saving them from various Muslim neighbor attacks since 1948?

    The Gulf war was not about oil for the US, but about securing the oil supplies of our (deadbeat) European allies who couldn’t protect it themselves since they spend all their money on the welfare state instead of the military (because Uncle Sam always bails them out).

    In fact, you have to go back to the Spanish-American war of 1898 to find the last time the US got any territory or natural resources from their military expenditures, so why the myth persists that the US went into Iraq for oil is a real mystery, unless you consider the Left used to call Bush Jr. Hitler until Trump took over the crown.


    • Geordie87 says

      E. Olson.
      I am an Anglo Canadian and I have to agree with all your points. Europe and Canada have been freeloading on the back of the US for many years. Only the UK stumps up anything like the defence spending required.

      • E. Olson says

        Geordie – The UK is no doubt the strongest in Europe, but they certainly couldn’t retake the Falklands like they did in 1982, and the leadership seems more interested in a “diverse” military rather than an effective force.

    • @E Olson: It was not the US who saved Europe from the nazis, it was the USSR. You know nothing at all about history, making such claims.

      • ga gamba says

        You know nothing at all about history, making such claims.

        That’s quite rich.

        The USSR facilitated German militarization, Nazism, and the invasion of western Europe. It allowed the Germans to secretly remilitarise and train inside the USSR in violation of Versailles, permitting the Germans to evade detection by the 1000 inspectors stationed in the country on the look out for violations. From ’39 to ’41 Stalin hoped to expand communism by supporting with war materials Nazism’s war on western Europe – capitalists killing capitalists. Had Britain come to terms with Hitler in ’40 this would have allowed the Germans to devote its war machine to seize the Caucasus, which would have put Stalin in the no-oil position Hitler was in. Had Stalin lost the Caucasus, and they were briefly held by the Germans in ’42 during operation Fall Blau (Case Blue), that would have been a catastrophe for the USSR. Several senior German war planners recognised that if the Caucasus wasn’t captured by late ’41 it was game over for Germany. Why? Not only did Germany need the oil to sustain the fight, it had too to deny Stalin the same oil. And had the Caucasus been taken by Germany it would have jeopardised Britain’s oil in Iran – this is why US and British forces were sent to Iran and the too-cozy-with-the-Germans shah was toppled. Further, UK and US bombing of Germany, Romania, etc. disrupted the logistics channels, reduced fuel production, and required Germany to keep 82% of its 88mm artillery at home to defend the cities – these guns were phenomenal at killing T-34s. The Luftwaffe was also shifted from the Eastern Front back to homeland defence. Imagine Rommel charging through the Ukraine instead of North Africa. That was millions of men and all that war material in Western Europe and North Africa not pummeling the Russians. Let’s not ignore the US provided more than 200,000 trucks, about the same figure of cars and jeeps, and thousands of locomotives and rolling stock to Stalin. Wars are won on logistics, and with the addition of these the Soviets had superior logistics than the Germans, who still relied on horse and wagon.

        All three allies relied on each other to defeat Nazism, and neither Britain nor the USSR on its own were up to the task. The post-War tragedy was that the Soviets were not tossed out of Eastern Europe, but that’s another issue.

        • Saw file says

          @ga gamba
          All good points.
          And without the UK (Allies, later) controlling the North Sea, the critical ports of Archangel and Murmansk would have been closed to the receipt of critical war supplies and foodstuffs from Canada (The Commonwealth) and eventually the USA, that even along with a terrible disregard for the value of the USSR citizenry, would have enabled the German Army(s) to conquer western Russia.
          Seeing the actions of the USSR on the eastern front (Japanese) during the closing days of the ‘Western’ allies Pacific Campaign is also quite telling.
          In hindsight it’s easy to understand that “it” should have been finalized there and then, but I can’t fault them for not continuing on.

        • Charlie says

          Excellent points. According to Stalin, ” Britain supplied the Time, USA the Resources and the USSR the Blood”. The massive losses of the USSR from June 1941 to mid 1943 were due to Stalin signing a pact with Hitler and ignoring the threat. Without the Commonwealth winning the Battle of Britain bravely assisted by Polish and Czech pilots; keeping Malta occupied and the Atlantic Lifeline open, breaking the German Codes, supplying equipment to the USSR and winning El Alamein, The Nazis would have won. Churchill said Sept to October 1942 were the most critical time of the war. Nazi Germany could have won in the ME and Russia.

          When it came to convoys, some losses were 80%. One convoy of 11 oil tankers from Trinidad, only one survived. Losses were at one ship per hour in the Western part of the Atlantic in late 1941 Convoys such as PQ17 to Murmansk, Operations Harpoon, Vigorous and Pedestal to supply Malta in 1942 were suicide runs. The fuel tanker SS Ohio built by the USA and captained by G Mason GC saved Malta in summer 1942 and probably the war in N Africa

          The USA supplied vast resources, merchant ships and the very dangerous daylight bombing of Germany. By British bombing in day and the USA at night, according to A Speer, kept thousands of guns and planes plus hundreds of thousands of men in Germany and away from the Eastern Front. The bombing of the dams meant vast resources in concrete, construction equipment, engineers and labour were used in repairing rather than increasing the defences of the coastal areas of Normandy and Pas de Calais. Speer said 6 to 7 raids like Hamburg of 1943 would have finished the war. There was a raid by the USAAF which had heavy losses but nearly destroyed the Nazi production of ball bearings. Speer said if the USAAF had returned the next day, the Nazi war production would have been hamstrung.

          To win a war, one first must be prevented from being defeated. From June 1941 to the onset of winter in 1942, gave valuable time for the USSR to dismantle it’s factories and move them to east of the Urals. Hence the importance of Arctic Convoys from June 1941 to mid 1943 to supply the USSR with equipment before their own factories could support their needs.

          Without the actions of the Commonwealth and the USA , the Nazis would have won at Stalingrad and there would have been no Soviet victory at Kursk. If the Nazis had taken the oil fields of the Caucasus in 1942, they would have won the war.

      • Saw file says

        That old trope,
        yet you accuse anyone else of not understanding history.

      • TarsTarkas says

        And without the American convoys bringing mucho supplies to Murmansk the USSR wouldn’t have been able to crush the Nazis, much less drive them off their own soil. Plus the specter of a cross-channel invasion obsessed Hitler so much that he kept the equivalent of half a Army Group sitting idle in France, a force that might well have made the difference during the Case Blue campaign or against Leningrad. The defeat of the Third Reich was a combined operation.

      • E. Olson says

        Holster – Ga Gamba nicely demonstrates why you are wrong, but lets assume you are correct that the USSR is the country that “saved” Europe from the Nazis. If the US (assisted by the UK) hadn’t been pushing against Nazi forces from the West and South (and air) who would have saved Europe from the Russians? Do you think Stalin would have stopped at the Elbe if US forces hadn’t been on the other side? Furthermore, do you think that citizens of postwar Poland, E. Germany, Hungary, Romania, Baltics, and other East Block countries were grateful that the Stalin “saved” them from the Nazis and subsequent “exploitation” by the capitalist West?

    • EK says

      @ E Olson

      I notice all of your examples about the “good” US interventions are more than 70 years old. Besides, the conventional wisdom is that puppet regimes are always better and cheaper than occupations.

      GW Bush attacked Iraq simply because that’s what morons do. I’ve never heard the helping the EU spin before.

      • “GW Bush attacked Iraq simply because that’s what morons do.”

        Your source for that cutting, hard hitting, brilliant analysis? I’m beginning to suspect there is a text out there somewhere titled World History For Dummies.

        • EK says

          Well, if you exclude both oil and naked aggression, idiocy is all that is left. BTW, I don’t exclude naked aggression so I was giving the moron Bush the befit of the doubt.

      • E. Olson says

        EK – what do you mean 70 years old? The US is still defending Japan, S. Korea, Australia, Europe, Israel and most of the free world today. Sea lanes are open because of the US Navy, Putin and China are held in check by the US military.

        • EK says

          Your examples merely reflect the day to day operations associated with running an empire. The only things the US are defending are it’s forward operating bases. Since 1972, the real mission of the US armed forces has been to reduce transaction costs in the global economy for the benefit of the Davos set.

    • Severus Snape says

      Just nitpicking a little, Stalins support for Israel in 1948 was probably a bigger factor than the US in 1948.

      • E. Olson says

        Severus Snape – US support for Israel is what has kept them from losing in 1967, 1973, and various UN inspired boycotts over the years, so it isn’t just about 1948.

    • Heike says

      The US State Department allowed Japan to destroy the American auto industry as a sort of gigantic bribe to stay in our side in the Cold War. State created the global trade order at the end of WWII to bribe up an alliance to fight the Cold War. The Americans subsidized their allies, granting access to the U.S. market and safe sea lanes, and in exchange those allies gave the Americans security deference to battle the Soviets the American way. That it harmed American workers? Who cares about those deplorables? You think Ivy Leaguers give one little shit about the little people?

      Fun fact: Harry Dexter White, the man who created the Bretton Woods economic order, was a Communist spy who colluded with the Russians to harm America.

      Zeihan explains here:

      • E. Olson says

        Heike – thanks for the video link – very interesting. Basically Trump is trying to stop all the US subsidies to cold war allies, but they are finding it hard to give up all those goodies.

    • the gardner says

      E Olson
      The US does have the cemeteries in foreign countries for our soldiers who fell fighting for them.

  10. Northern Observer says

    It just shows you how delusional our elites truly are. Invading Iraq to spread democracy is a real Don Quixote kind of move. It’s like the king of Portugal crusading in Morocco at 10 to 1 odds and getting himself and the entire aristocracy wiped out. It’s nuts, high minded, altruistic, Noble, but fatal and nuts.
    We deserve a better ruling class than this.

    • Foyle says

      I’ve been defending the Iraq war as a humanitarian intervention to friends for 15 years. It’s always been clear that US did not gain financially (even if some individuals did), and if you look at huge numbers Saddam’s regime tortured and murdered every year there has been a significant real saving of life. The real failing of Bush/Blair was their idealism in underestimating how effective the relatively tiny number of sectarian terrorists would be in creating ongoing violence – they had too much belief in the goodwill and hope for a better future from Iraqis and their ability to keep the revolutionary elements in check. Lesson learned, west won’t be trying to end brutal despotism at such high cost again.

      I think the truth is for reinventing a society it takes a generation or more to get everyone believing in the rule of law and peace and rejecting violent elements, and historically this required extremely harsh ongoing suppression of the elements responsible – making all associates/families of terrorists suffer extreme punishments so that guerrillas and terrorists can find no safe harbour, no-one willing to support them. Sippenhaft or kin-liability is the successful model for hegemonic empires to bring new countries into the fold over past 1000’s of years, and is used in essentially all police states, but west is unable to do that given our idealism. That’s unfortunate because while unfair to a few it ends the violence quickly with fewer deaths and provides an environment where respect for benevolent rule of law can be best established. Check Lee Kuan Yew’s discussion of Singaporian occupation by Japanese during WW2 – went from crime ridden and unruly to zero crime in very short order due to capital punishment for all infractions, he said you could leave money in middle of the road in morning and find it still there at end of day. My parents in China in 80’s experienced same in a huge crowd event where they lost all their belongings under surging crowd at start of day and found it at end of day untouched.

      • Farris says

        The problem with the Iraq war was the occupation. The Light foot print, approach, viewing Iraq and Afghanistan as separate and Nation building lacked strategic thinking.
        An example of strategic thinking would have been relocating the air base in Saudi Arabia to a fortified location in western Iraq and constructing a fortified mechanized base in eastern Afghanistan. The troops would retreat into these bases with the admonition should U.S. interests be harmed the bases will take punitive corrective actions. This would also but the squeeze on Iran to encourage better compliance and possibly discourage terrorism within the U.S. Additionally it would also limit troop and civilian interactions. Iraq could have been able to construct its own government under a watchful eye. The bases would function as a de facto Guantanamo Bay for a negotiated number of decades, demonstrating commitment. The Persian Gulf would see regular rotating naval patrols.

      • Paolo says

        That’s a very high-minded measure, going back to sippenhaft. Collective guilt. That’s the epitome of everything we want not to have in our societies. You bring anecdotal evidence that it brings down theft. That seems desirable, instilling mad terror in the mind of all citizens. I don’t think you can bring any evidence of those methods having worked towards the development of a desirable society, but please go ahead and show us. In fact you can draw very precise lines of places where sippenhaft is or was practiced and where prosperity and civilization are or were, and the lack of overlap will show how mad the idea is.

  11. TheSnark says

    No one has been able to come up with a coherent explanation of why we invaded Iraq in 2003. This article debunks the “we invaded to take the oil” theory. If that was the rationale it would have been immoral, but it would at least have made sense.

    Instead we are stuck with theories that have to assume completely irrational behavior on the part of the Bush administration. Installing democracy? That might be nice, but democracy does not grow or thrive on the point of foreign bayonets.

    Because they had “weapons of mass destruction”? Turns out the ‘evidence” was wrong, but in any event Saddam Hussein would not waste them on the US. If he had them he would use them against the Iranians, his mortal, next-door enemy.

    Because the Israelis told us to? Maybe, but then why should be invade a country that does not even border Israel, especially when the Israelis are quite capable of defending themselves. Anyway, the Saudis told us not to.

    Best I can tell is that the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Bolton group had convinced themselves that Hussein was a bad person (admittedly very true), the US needed to overthrow him. and that would set a good example to the rest of the Middle East. 9/11 was a handy excuse, and Bush Jr was gullible enough to fall for it.

    Worst of all, we seem to be watching this movie again…we have Bolton back in the White House steering a gullible president into an artificially-contrived confrontation with Iran.

    • JWatts says

      “That might be nice, but democracy does not grow or thrive on the point of foreign bayonets.”

      It worked in Japan after WW2.

      • TheSnark says

        Japan, as well as Germany, had experience of democracy prior to their take-over by the fascist military and Nazis. Japan also had a recent history of accepting Western ideas. Both also had industrial societies. Iraq had none of that.

        • Charlie says

          I agree with you. To me no convincing explanations has been given for the invasion of Iraq. What has made the situation is the massive decline of Arabists in the UK and USA . By arabists I man someone who has worked in Aran countries for decades, speaks the languages and dialects fluently, understands the Arab mind, character, family and tribal connections. Perhaps the last true arabist was John Glubb, often called Glubb Pasha.

          Beduin trace their family back 5 generations. Consequently, as all relations are personnel in the Arab World one needs to understand the family connection between people going back 5 generations. The dominant facets influencing arab behaviour are pride and honour.

          When the USA invaded Iraq , they wounded Arabic pride and honour by making them impotent. Arabs would rather have S Hussein in place committing mass murder than have him removed by a western Christian USA which demonstrated their impotency to remove him.

          When it comes to Japan and Germany both were ruled by military casts; the Samurai and the Prussian Junkers who represented perhaps 10-12% of the population. The vast majority of merchants, farmers and business people were happy to see the removal of the privileged and protected status oft he Samurai and Junkers and for democracy to be introduced.

          Can any society dominated by personal and tribal relations, with pride and honour being the dominant aspects of peoples characters, where youth defers to age, produce tolerant democratic and free government. The mockery and ridicule used in democratic debate in western countries , especially the English speaking ones, produces such wounded pride and honour in many Arabic and Muslim countries , that the hurt can only healed through the shedding of blood. Therefore can open and free debate take place in many countries without blood being shed which means can democracy exist ?

          The race riots of the 1960s in Singapore – Muslim Malays, Chinese, Tamils- Hindus mainly and Sikhs persuaded L K Yew to impose autocratic rule. LK Yew’s autocratic rule was probably the least worse option. The rise of fundamentalist Islam amongst Malays in Malaysia due to Saudi/Wahabi influences probably increases the likelihood of continuing autocratic rule in Singapore.

          • BrainFireBob says

            9/11, fundamentally.

            There was anxiety about terrorists and their sponsors. Hussein was an obvious target once Afghanistan was targeted.

            I rather think that those who take a “don’t understand” position weren’t adults on 9/11/01. There was a massive wave of what can only be described as “moral panic”.

    • yandoodan says

      Spot on. I was wondering when the author was going to get around to talking about why the war was fought, rather than why it wasn’t.

      Like you, I see it as an attempt at gaining dominant influence over the Middle East — not just controlling resources (we really don’t need ’em, as the author points out), but influencing political forces so much that our word would be law. I suspect that the “resource” Bush wanted to exploit was permission to put up military bases, rather than minerals. In any case, the opposite happened, because it was a botch job led by cheese-pairing incompetents who deceived themselves into thinking their bodily eliminations had no odor.

    • Rudbek says

      I think your “best can tell” answer is reasonably right. I think they overestimated how easy nation-building would be and thought a democratic Iraq in the center of the Middle East would be disruptive in the right way. FWIW, I supported the war at the time (for essentially the same reason), but have since changed my mind.

      Some context generally gets left behind in this discussion that is worth remembering. The U.S. was already mired in Iraq with no clear way out in 2003. The U.S. protected a de facto independent Kurdistan in the North, maintained a no-fly zone in the South (after allowing Saddam to brutally repress an uprising in the South), and enforced a strict embargo. International support for the embargo was swiftly declining and there was no obvious way to get out of Iraq that wouldn’t look like a loss and result in harsh reprisals in the North.

      In hindsight, the invasion was a mistake but given the facts on the ground, the US, UK and French intel establishments telling you Iraq was developing WMD, and the post 9/11 environment – it would have taken a brave and especially insightful political establishment to make a different choice.

      • Peter says

        “the US, UK and French intel establishments telling you Iraq was developing WMD”.

        False. France at that time had already launched a very expensive spy satellite and knew the US claims about WMD were BS. France refused to support the invasion of Iraq.

        • Rudbek says

          Quickly skimming old articles it looks like my memory was influenced by Bush admin sources. More skeptical sources say French intel ‘suspected’ or thought the evidence was ‘ambiguous’. Also, ‘knew the US claims were BS’ is true for the Niger yellowcake story but perhaps not the overall picture. Thanks for the correction.

    • Constantin says

      Because they cannot be discussed publicly, large geopolitical interests are an extremely fertile terrain for speculation and attract ideologues of all stripes who are welded mentally to the idea that a simple cause/effect explanation must justify every observable phenomena. I suspect that the real explanation is infinitely more complex and included the interaction of God only knows how many rapidly evolving and changing circumstances and objectives. I would grant that, communicating with masses clamoring for easily understandable and emotionally supportable narratives, governments of all sorts remain permanently trapped by their own simplified narratives. With some luck, given a couple of decades, a detailed memoir may unveil some of the complexity of the matter, but even then, such revelations remain confined to a small circle of historians and history buffs. I remember watching from afar the irreversible path to war generated by Saddam’s non-compliance with the UN Nuclear inspections. Say what you may about hawks in the White House, but no sane person would deny that the world scene was packed with all sorts of hawks, each with its own motivations and stupidity. In a sense you are correct that we are left with assuming all sorts of irrational motives and behaviors, but we are doing this because we find ourselves inevitably denied the insider strategic data (which would be what one would need to make a fair judgment) and also hopelessly prisoners to our addiction to simple and clear explanations. One can say that it is a form of slow torture for those curious to know and understand. It is like being in a sort of mental exile. Waiting 20 years for glimpse into that cauldron that may chance emerge in a posthumous memoir does not sound like a good solution! LOL
      That being said, I would add that accepting the “kind, post-colonial democracy build” explanation is equally naïve and inadequate with the worst conspiracy theories circulating. It responds to the same need for simplicity and, quite frankly, makes an absolute joke of the what a responsible government should be.

    • ga gamba says

      If he had them he would use them against the Iranians, his mortal, next-door enemy.

      You know that Saddam did in fact use chemical weapons such as sarin and tabun nerve agents and mustard gas, which are WMDs, against Iran, yeah? More than 30 chemical attacks on civilian areas and more than 350 large-scale gas attacks at the battlefront were reported. These weapons were also used against Iraq’s Kurds in the north and the Shi’a in the south.

      After Gulf War I, a UN resolution established UN Special Commission on weapons (UNSCOM). In August 1991 Iraq confirmed it had a biological weapons programme but that it was for “defensive purposes”. In March 1995 a second disclosure to UNSCOM of the biological weapons was made, this time admitting a programme for offensive weapons existed, but that this did not include “weaponistion”. In August 1995 came a third Iraqi admission that the previous admissions were not complete and forthright and that weaponisation was included in the biological programme.

      Here’s the UN report of the chronology of events. One deception after another.

      I figured the “Saddam-didn’t-have-WMDs (in 2003)” narrative would whitewash his use of them in the 1980s and early ’90s, and it appears this indeed happened.

      Well done, activists. You bamboozled TheSnark.

      Maybe, but then why should be invade a country that does not even border Israel

      You know Iraq sent troops to wage war against Israel three times irrespective of borders, right? Who am I kidding? You don’t know this. The first go was the 1948 Arab-Israel War when the Iraqis sent its expeditionary force via Jordan. Iraq was a the only Arab state that refused to sign the ceasefire, so technically a state of war still exists between Israel and Iraq. In the 1967 Six-Day War Iraq sent its army again through Jordan and its air force also participated. In the Yom Kippur War of 1973 Iraq sent its army into Syria after the Israelis repelled the initially successful Syrian invasion. Through the decades Iraq has also supported many different insurgent groups with their war on Israel. Further, neither jets nor ballistic missiles are thwarted by geographical constraints and man-made borders, as was seen in Gulf War I when Iraq fired 42 scud missiles at Israel, which was a non-belligerent.

      • EK says


        Doesn’t Iraq’s association with the United Arab Republic adequately explain it’s actions with respect to Israel between 1948-73?

        The British had quite a run after 1918 in the Near East; it provided a platform for pan Arab nationalism and at the same time fostered the development what became the state of Israel in the very center of what became the United Arab Republic.

      • Western intelligence services believed Saddam still possessed WMDs. So did he. His various underlings were telling him so, and the intelligence services were listening.
        Whether that was a sensible reason to invade, or even whether it was being used as an excuse to cover other reasons is another set of questions, but the WMD line in itself was not mendacious; it was current best understanding.

        And gg’s well referenced account of the process of investigation, and of the vicious activities of the regime over decades, is a healthy reminder of the need to remember what actually happened, not the filtered version.

        Members of my family spent many, many hours in the skies over Iraq preventing Saddam from murdering the Kurds, who were building a pretty decent society in the north. The poor sods in the southern marshlands were not so lucky.

        As for the oil, it was available for sale. No casus belli there.

  12. Jackson Howard says

    9/11 anger lightening rod and Stupidity. Striking at the Saudis was impossible, so they went for someone else. Why Irak though ? Finishing daddy’s work ? I can’t wrap my head around this war.

    What’s for sure is that seeing Bolton playing the same tune on the fiddle again is not reassuring.

  13. The Hang Nail says

    I believe this author is attacking a bit of a straw man here. Despite the fact that even our president says we should extract spoils of war it was never framed as that simple. Yes, the slogans were simplistic but most people understood that the reason we invaded Iraq was not to go in and take their resources, but because they has resources. We couldn’t sit back and let Saddam get rich and then use those resources to destabilize our larger plans. It’s the same reason Iran is such a big enemy. Without oil Iran would be considered a minor enemy. It’s also why we focus heavily on Venezuela and not so much on Bolivia.

    Put differently, without taking oil into the equation it is very hard to figure out what our real intentions were. Was it to weaken Saddam and his brutal ways? To bring Democracy and freedom? That’s what the propaganda said but you have to be naive to believe it. There are plenty of brutal dictators out there that we turn a blind eye to. If not for oil why did we turn on Saddam? O.k., maybe it was because of geopolitical stability. We wanted to keep Iran weak. That is plausible too, but only in the context of an oil saturated region. If this were a set of resource-poor countries we would not have expended the resources we did to invade.

    So yes, oil was and is a big part of the reason we invaded. It was not as simplistic as the plunder thesis lays out, but it is certainly not as simplistic of the converse theory that we did it to spread Democracy either.

  14. dirk says

    The times that European nations went on some war in the Middle East (one time called Near East) are over since the last British-French (was it?)interference in Egypt, with the Suez question ( I remember from my early youth). Of course, that wasn’t the end of it all, with those naive Americans (unlike the former, not colonizers, but colonized, victims thus) it’s now going on and on. Does it matter very much which reasons are mentioned to start a war and to interfere??? -How many divisions has the pope-, I remember from long ago!

  15. Farris says

    In my humble opinion the decision to invade Iraq was 95% political and 5% personal.
    POLITICAL: The U.S. had suffered its greatest attack since Pearl Harbor. The Bush administration would be deemed a failure incapable of protecting the home front should such attacks continue, even on a smaller scale. Afghanistan and Iraq were considered the greatest threats (whether one agrees with Iraq is irrelevant, if that is what the Bush administration believed). The administration further believed if it could engage these threats abroad, this preoccupation would thwart attempted attacks on U.S. soil. Finally the administration and republicans believed that the Clinton administration’s failure to address these threats led to the 9/11 attacks.
    PERSONAL: Bush 41 made an error leaving Sadam Hussein in power. This was an opportunity to address that mistake. Hussein had plotted to assassinate Bush 41. This was an opportunity to secure the safety of the Bush family.

    • E. Olson says

      Farris – I think you have it about right. 9/11 was almost 18 years ago, which means university students today have no memory of that time, and their Leftist professors certainly won’t give them an accurate description. Thus a lack of memory and “revised” memories are leading the public of today to forget how much real fear and anger Americans felt after that attack, and Democrats are very forgetful about how much they wanted revenge and to stop further attacks, which led them to mostly support just about anything that George W. proposed to achieve it. They didn’t start calling Bush Hitler and revising their personal memories of their congressional votes until the post-war occupation started to go badly.

      • Farris says


        I would respectfully add to your comment that the democrats feared Bush and the republicans would be successful like Roosevelt and the Democrats in World War II. This led to the narrative of the Good War (Afghanistan) and the Bad War (Iraq).

    • Heike says

      A proper response to Kuwait would have been to ignore Kuwait entirely and drive on Baghdad. That’s what any competent military authority would have done.

      Saddam was left in power to provide a counterweight to Iran. Nobody has mentioned the fact that Saddam had announced he was going to start selling oil in Euros, which would have threatened the petrodollar. This IMO was the real reason for the invasion.

  16. F says

    Somewhat off topic here, but what army issues soft-point bullets for use in combat, as the article’s illustration suggests? Pretty poor editing.

  17. Garry Coulter says

    Just as a matter of record, the ammunition rounds shown have been illegal in warfare since 1907. All legal military ammunition has a full metal jacket. Now if the target is a moose or a bear, you are all set.

    • Darwin T of BC Humanists says

      The Kurds in the north of Iraq really are thriving and pluralistic and yes democratic. That twenty percent chunk of Iraq shows the way for the rest of the country. Violent overthrows of despotic regimes do not mean Sesame Street appears right afterwards. This will take years and the slow adoption of democratic norms and procedures.

      Saddam and the Ba’athists are gone and that is tremendously good. No one I that I can see is fulminating for them to return, at least no one sane.

      All of us need a democratic experiment there to work. You can’t defeat evil and promote democracy by dipping only your toe in the water. Either you want Iraqi democracy to win out or you do not. If you do not then get thee to a place where your dear leader can order you all the live long day.

  18. lloydr56 says

    I believe this article is fair on the “oil in Iraq” issue. But it’s misleading to suggest that the U.S. inexplicably does noble things all over the world, making them different from any previous empire. They want to intervene in lots of places, all the time, whenever they feel like it. Quite often the language of democracy and nation-building is appealing, and God knows they are willing to burn money, whether from oil or not, and even sacrifice lives, in a country they have “chosen.” It’s doubtful, however, that they really know much about nation-building; they surely have a poor record of success. It’s hard to believe that if you could have told Cheney in 2003 what was going to happen in Iraq, he would see it as anything other than a very limited success. Any other successes? Elliott Abrams can be counted on to bring up El Salvador. Many Americans care enough about “the world” to intervene, but not enough to make a real study of the situation, including whether intervention is a good idea or not. In Iraq they put immense trust in a few “westernized” leaders, including Ahmed Chalabi, but this was a mistake. In Libya and Syria there seem to be no “moderates” to speak of, although Assad may qualify, yet the war goes on. War is better than peace for the Pentagon, and this makes a huge diffference to decision-making in Washington.

  19. Shamrock says

    I don’t think there has to be just one reason. As usual I believe in the maxim, follow the money. The people who made money were the mercenary companies like Blackwater and the arms manufacturing industry from the increased expenditure. As Eisenhower warned, beware of the Industrial-military complex.

    On top of this, I believe there was some personal revenge for dad, from jnr.

    Finally there may have been some element of getting rid of Saddam to get a more acceptable leader to remove the embargoes and someone more open to the US.

  20. Daniel V says

    I think a the recent article here about selective blank slatism might provide some insight into the Bush administration’s thinking and one of the reason behind the war. One the qualities of a selective blank slatist is to see humans as naturally endowed with whatever ideology the blank slatist holds. So feminists would see people as naturally feminists, atheists would see people as naturally atheists, and libertarians (or whatever you want to call the ideology being Bush) would see people as being able to naturally organize into democratic societies without a state.

    Iraq was a prime opportunity to put this idea to the test and one of the first things that was done after the invasion was to wipe out existing civil institutions almost entirely. Even the entire army was sacked and a new one created from trb ground up. The idea here was if you wiped out the state entirely the market would create the best possible one with very little to no intervention.

    So I’d say spreading American ideology was the primary motivation behind the invasion. I’d argue Bush and Co were being fairly authentic and genuine when they talked about being divinely inspired to undertake their crusade.

  21. Carl says

    To say America has gained nothing from its military exploits is wrong. America has gained a world that is better off – for Americans and on average – in almost every measurable way. Please spare me the tedious arguments that only prove what everyone accepts, that the world is not perfect – it’s better than it’s ever been, in part due to American Arms defending freedom of individuals and markets.

    • Harland says

      Warning: this is a neo-con position being advocated here.

  22. Scott says

    Interesting article(s) and well worth reading and thinking about. Especially your idea to “engage more with the ideas of identity, privilege, and structural oppression”. In my view this is not done more often for two reasons. First, those not on the left, like myself, outright reject these claims of “social justice”. Second, engaging can often be suicidal both professionally and socially which reinforces my first point.

    Also, the repeated use you make in your article of “fact” and “factual” when you should really be using the terms “view” or “opinion”. This is an important distinction. Facts are distinct and discrete items, opinions are based on select groups of facts and NOTHING can include all facts.

    Next, identity is often self-imposed in many of the examples you cite. Things like names and language which you claim to be discriminatory are largely choices made by parents and imposed upon their children. I am from humble beginnings yet my parents pushed me to learn, speak and act differently than they did in order to assimilate and increase my chances of exceeding them. It worked at great sacrifice to them. That said, I reject the premise of identity discrimination except at the margins. Sadly, human nature will never change and eliminate this completely and while it would be wonderful if it did, it is far less prevalent than popular culture would have you think.

    Most often, people choose to stand apart, choose to succumb to adversity and choose to be a victim because that is what they are now taught. Did the people living during the depression blame others? No, they worked harder, sacrificed, accomplished great things and got on with life.

    Our true privilege in this country is lack of real hardship or oppression. This gives people the freedom to make both good and bad choices which is as it should be. We should help those who truly need it but also hold people accountable for their actions and choices.

    “Identity” is what you make of it …

  23. AJ says

    It is difficult to take seriously an article which describes the situation in Iraq post invadion as a thriving democracy and civil society. The article makes a strong case that the war was not simply about oil ut makes no case at all about what the war was about.

    My. Own view is that it is easier to say what the war was not about than what is was about because the reason was not primarily strategic but personal.

    The war was certainly not about weapons of mass destruction. I beleive that both the US and the UK believed that Iraq’s capabilities were of no significance before the first gulf war and significantly degraded since then. I believe that they would find some residual capability they could use as an excuse.

    I believe The prime motive was a desire by Blair and Bush to be seen to be seen to have performed a significant and heroic task. Saddam was an ideal target as someone widely reviled and few allies. Israel and the Israeli lobby supported it as part of a general policy of seeking to weaken all other regional powers.

  24. Sean Leith says

    I read the article and all the comments before me, not one of them has a clue.

    9/11 is Pearl Harbor. You know what happened after Pearl Harbor? I am surprised The US didn’t do the same to Muslims.

  25. Andrew Roddy says

    There are still people who stubbornly refuse to realise how benevolent American bombs actually are.

  26. AntonyG says

    The far-left have been obsessed with overthrowing anything and everything relating to—as they see it—Western colonialism. They started in Yugoslavia in the 1990’s and then moved their agenda into the Middle East. Responsibility to Protect (R2P) was a neo-Marxist philosophy/policy designed to eliminate pro-Western regimes.

    The same mentality which today views a person like Winston Churchill as a monster came out of academia in the last two decades of the 20th century. A second wave of neo-Marxists began leaving the university system in the late 80’s & early 90’s and were starting to enter positions of power and influence by the mid 90’s. They would then go on a crusade to overthrow every last vestige of ‘Western imperialism’.

    Tony Blair and his neo-Marxist (progressive) friends had major influence on U.S. foreign policy during the George W Bush presidency which resulted in the invasion of Iraq. The Bush family—being progressives themselves—ensured that the R2P project would continue with the full support of the U.S. state.

    The radical left and radical Islam (primarily the Muslim Brotherhood) have been in full cooperation now for over 1/4 century. The removal of Slobodan Milošević was the first time that this partnership was put into action with the successful elimination of a Western (Christian) leader in favour of the political and cultural interests of the Bosnian Muslim population.

    The post Cold-War era in the West has been completely dominated by neo-Marxists (progressives) with Trump being the only conservative and Christian leader to gain power—Merkel, May, Blair, Cameron, Obama, the Clinton’s & the Bush family are all progressives. The attempted removal of Trump by members of the neo-Marxist elite who now have complete control of intelligence agencies on both sides of the Atlantic was to fail.

    The R2P project had completely stalled by 2014 resulting in el-Sisi and Assad gaining and maintaining power. Far-left support for Iran remained strong while their hatred towards Assad continued to grow as the partnership with Russia started to pay off. Iran is supported by the far-left because it threw off its ‘colonial oppressors’ decades ago. Syria/Assad is hated by the far-left because it’s seen as a pro-Western nation (backed by the West/Russia) so must be destroyed.

    Russia is now viewed by the far-left as just another white Western Christian colonialist nation. Their change of mind on Russia goes back to the moment when Putin stood up the the LGBT militant activists during the build-up to the Sochi Olympics. So nothing to do with Big Oil, neo-cons, a military-industrial complex or any other BS theory. The neo-Marxist tyranny is spiraling. Trump just about managed to survive. Next under attack will be George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

  27. scribblerg says

    We should have taken their oil fields and kept pumping until we got our trillion dollars back…We are the most feckless “empire” in this history fo the world. On another level, this is a great article. It lays out just how badly the Left lies, and how they ignore troves of facts to suit their hatred.

    Fyi, this was mostly knowable at the time of the Iraqi War (something I was very mixed about and after, well, after it changed my politics utterly). At the time, I tried explaining that Cheney and Bush’s motivations were pretty close to what they said publicly. The book, The 2 Percent Doctrine, on how Bush/Cheney formulated post 9/11 national security policy makes clear the following:

    There was every reason to believe that Saddam had a number of WMD initiatives under way. Even his own people mostly believed it. When Saddam was asked by a legendary FBI interrogator who got him to open up, he said that it was to scare Iran. Not threaten the U.S. There was also every reason to believe he’d use those weapons or would provide them to one of numerous terrorist organizations he had some kind of relationship with.

    I’m not an apologist for Bush. But his calculus was a simple in one sense: What level of risk of WMD being used against the U.S would we tolerate? How sure did we need to be to act? Put yourself in the POTUS seat for a moment, you are Commander in Chief, you are the final decision maker on security policy. What is your tolerance? 50% Really? You think you should expose the U.S. to a coinflip’s chance of WMD attack? Are you high?

    They decided that we had almost no tolerance for that kind of risk. “2%” was the way it was stated. They also did have a larger agenda of changing the middle east and trying to shove it towards Democracy, but these were secondary considerations and would have not driven the war.

    • Heike says

      The idea that Iraq – nationalists – were going to give WMD to Al Qaeda – Islamists – to attack America was completely absurd and a non-starter. It was a complete lie made up to justify the invasion, and our media went along with it and failed to debunk it publicly.

      • scribblerg says

        @Heike – You are obviously under-informed and kind of rabid. Note I did not say Saddam was going to give WMD to Al Qaeda. My comment was broader and based on Saddam’s career of dalliances with many Islamist terrorists. He also clamped down on them at times. You seem to be unaware that there was at least one active terrorist (not Al Qaeda) org with a training camp in Iraq at the time which later merged with Al Qaeda. You also seem to be unaware that Saddam paid money to Hamas terrorist martyrs etc. and had offered safe haven to many terrorists over the years.

        You also seem to be blithely unaware of the special level of evil and inhumanity of Saddam Hussein. The late Christopher Hitchens said it best, here’s a quick video summarizing the unimaginable terror and horrors Saddam visited on his own people. Do you doubt he’d do less to his enemies?

        People like you are who this author is decrying. Unwilling to let go of your political beliefs and partisan mythology despite the facts. There were three separate investigations of the Iraq war and how/why the WMD call was wrong. The Iraq Survey Group may have been the best one. What was most scary is how wrong our intelligence was, once again. But what came out is that there was zero political pressure applied to the intel community, and the intel community was very sure Saddam was a WMD threat. The CIA director at the time told Bush famously, “It’s a slam dunk”. Why do these facts not matter to you?

        A fact based person would support an utter overhaul of our intelligence operations and abilities based on the Iraq war. As well, we can also discuss that unwise move of starting two wars at once, and how the focus on Iraq destroyed our efforts in Afghanistan. Bush and Cheney were wrong – not evil. Not dishonest.

        I get it, you could never accept that. Got it – that’s on you. Grow up and stop being a hack.

    • Charlie says

      scribbleberg. What is ignored is the lack of quality of humint. The various intelligence agencies lacked the people to answer some basic questions.
      1. Does Iraq contain people who have the ability to construct WMD?.
      2. Has Iraq constructed WMD?
      To answer these questions , the intelligence agencies needed actually working on the proposed programmes and ability to assess information received. Western agencies appear to have been hoodwinked by the agent ” Curveball “.

      In WW2 MR Jones led Britain’s scientific intelligence and appears to have done a far better job than those employed today. In WW2, there was the vital question of how far have the Nazis progressed in building an atom bomb? The threat was because some of the best atomic scientists were German constructing an atom In Germany there were Heisenberg, Schrodinger Hahn, and Strassmann and N Bohr lived in occupied Denmark. At no time did the USA and UK identify I those leading the Iraqi WMD programme.

      Perhaps one of the most honest comments after 9/11 was by Robert Baer , the former CIA officer. He admitted that by 2001, the CIA had only one Pashtun speaker left. All the expertise on Afghanistan obtained between 1979 and 1992 had been lost. It is not just having people who speak languages, it is understanding how people, think, feel and perceive the World. In any dictatorship it is important to understand how the leaders relate to each other emotionally. Decisions are often based upon emotions. If one looks at the Nazi rule, much time and effort was spent on mediocre people justifying their jobs and similar positions probably occurred in Iraq.

      What is not asked is ” Do the intelligence agencies have sufficient numbers of competent people who adequately understand how those who threaten us perceive the World and what motivates them ? Satellites cannot read peoples minds and predict their actions, only exceptional intelligence officers.

      Perhaps the greatest fear of western intelligence agencies is that they employ many people who are a waste of money and this secret could become public knowledge.

  28. Bill Haywood says

    This article attacks an argument that almost no scholar makes. “It was the oil companies doing” is the crudest version of the claim that the war was about oil. The author is correct — individual oil companies did not drive the war. The initiative came from Neocons within the state, who were pretty clear on their objectives. The war was a demonstration of and reinforcement of American strategic dominance over the oil region. I don’t know of anyone who makes the vulgar claim of oil company conspiracy, certainly not the lone source the author mentions — Chomsky.

    In the article cited, Chomsky clearly describes Washington’s interest as strategic domination of a resource region — not payoffs for particular companies. What Chomsky actually wrote: “Establishment of a US client state in Iraq, and a base for long-term military deployment (as is now being implemented), would greatly enhance US dominance over this “stupendous source of strategic power” and ensure that the wealth from this great “material prize” would flow into the preferred hands. That is understood by the more astute policy analysts and planners. One of them, Zbigniew Brzezinski, pointed out that if the invasion of Iraq succeeded, the US would gain “critical leverage” over its industrial rivals in Europe and Asia. He was reiterating the observations of one of the most important of the early post-war planners, George Kennan, who advised that control over Middle East oil would provide the US with “veto power” over industrial rivals.”

    Controlling the oil flowing to Japan and Europe gives Washington great advantages in world power. This is universally understood by well-informed observers of all political orientations. The present author rebuts an empty argument that is not made by even one commentator cited by the author. The Neocon origins of the war is well demonstrated in a great variety of works that the author could have consulted.

    • INH5 says

      In addition to this, basic supply and demand means that if Iraqi oil is sold to anyone, oil prices everywhere will drop, which is good for the US economy as a whole even if individual oil companies don’t especially benefit. And the problem with buying oil from Saddam is that he had a history of invading neighboring oil-rich countries and financially supporting terrorist groups (though not, as claimed during the run-up to the war, Al Qaeda – he generally supported secular groups that were enemies of his enemies), so giving him money could threaten to destabilize the entire region.

      Replacing Saddam with a US-friendly strongman, meanwhile, would have looked really bad and made the international backlash even worse, possibly even to the point of provoking economic sanctions. The Neocons thought that a democratic Iraq would naturally be pro-Western and friendly to the US, allowing the world to access Iraqi oil while only strengthening the US’s hand in the region. They were catastrophically wrong, but that was the plan.

    • Heike says

      So we needed to invade and conquer a country that had done nothing to us, in order to control their resources and threaten others?

      That is an astoundingly evil and imperialist aim. Add exterminating the population and it’s what Hitler wanted from WWII.

    • Boiling Frog says

      Bill, you nailed it. The proximal cause was Saddam abandoning the petrodollar (as was Gaddafi of Libya before his overthrow/death), but planning, rationale, etc. was already in place by the neocons under the auspices of the Project for the New American Century.

    • scribblerg says

      Gigging. So, how do you reconcile that with the U.S. achieving energy independence? Which nations were/are dependent on mideast oil? Hint: Not the U.S., even back then. We always had alternative sources. Back then it was Japan, China, Europe that were so dependent on the region. Not the U.S.

      Chomsky is easy to dismiss as a serious geopolitical thinker based on his active bias against the U.S. and the West, as well as his ignoring the incredible evil of the Left. He first demonstrated this when he denied the Killing Fields of Pol Pot in Cambodia and hasn’t stopped since. Citing him means you aren’t informed or objective, or in step with nonpartisan analysts of the reality of mideast politics.

      Brzezinski hasn’t ever been right about anything wrt foreign policy. Go review his record, you’ll see I’m correct. He subscribes to the “chaos” model of geopolitics, and accordingly, he misses what’s actually going on on the world. He doesn’t understand Islam at all, fyi.

      Question: Did you even know what the “chaos” model was before my comment? Did you know Zbig was a promoter of it? Do you realize how badly such a theoretical model of geopolitics has failed to predict anything? My guess is you don’t. The only remaining question is why you comment on subjects you don’t understand?

  29. Pingback: Why did America invade Iraq? | The Unrecorded Man

  30. Will says

    I agree that oil is too convenient an explanation for the war. That said, I’ve yet to hear any tenable explanation for the war, for or against. (Talk of WMD, democracy, terrorism, revenge, are not tenable.) Certainly the most inexplicable international event of my lifetime.

  31. peterschaeffer says

    This is a subject (oil) that I have some knowledge of. I worked for oil companies for around 5 years. I worked around the oil business for decades. Even as a kid, I obsessively studied petroleum geology.

    In my opinion, the invasion of Iraq was not “for oil”. But oil was definitely a factor involved. After all, the U.S. has not launched similar invasions of other countries where no oil was present. I see five factors as having driven the decision to invade Iraq, two of which are directly related to oil.

    Saddam was determined to get his hands on an atomic bomb. We were determined to stop him. Eventually (had he not been toppled) he would have succeeded. It would have taken a while, but sanctions would have faded over time. Nuclear technology can be purchased on the black market (thank you Pakistan). With enough oil money and time, he would have gotten what he wanted.
    The U.S. (and the rest of the world sotto voce) has always been fearful of letting any one power control the Middle-Eastern oil fields. To be blunt, if the ME shuts down, the world shuts down. The rest of the world can not (and will not) let that happen. The tacit agreement is that ME countries can get immensely rich from oil as long as the oil flows without material hindrance. Anyone (and I do mean anyone) who threatens to close the Straits of Hormuz can expect war without limit.

    Saddam wasn’t willing to play by the rules. His invasion of Kuwait marked him as a menace to humanity. He should have been docile and contrite after the first Gulf War. He wasn’t.

    The Bush people were (in this respect left-wing) Blank Slatists. They believed that if democracy works in Kansas then it will work just as well in Baghdad. That’s crazy thinking, but was a common view in the Bush administration. Of course, Blank Slate thinking was/is hardly limited to the Bushies.
    The Bush people seemed to actually believe that terrorism (as in 9-11) was a consequence of ‘a lack of democracy’. The obvious solution was for the U.S. to invade Iraq, establish a model democracy in Iraq and let the Iraqi example inspire the rest of the ME. That sounds pretty crazy now. It was just as crazy back then. However, it was also a bedrock Neocon conviction. Apparently, Bush read a book by Natan Sharansky and believed it.
    Supposedly, many people in the Bush administration believed that the U.S. could establish large, permanent bases in Iraq and then use them to influence the region. Of course, that was also an absurd idea

    • Paolo says

      No expert on geopolitics here, but I disagree with your use of ‘blank slate’ thinking here. Blank slate theory of the human mind entails that everything is cultural and learned in our tendencies, as opposed to tendencies being (partly) innate. It does not entail that those tendencies can very swiftly be modified by changing culture and re-training, i.e., by bringing Kansas culture to Baghdad.

      • peterschaeffer says

        Paolo, I tend to agree with you. Having read Pinker’s book (“The Blank Slate”) he was specifically referring to the prevailing “intellectual” wisdom that all human behavior is culturally determined with no maningful genetic influences.

        I was using the phrase ‘Blank Slatists’ to refer to the Bush notion that Iraq was fertile soil for democracy, no different than Kansas. In other words, the culture of Iraq was/is just as amenable to democracy as the culture of Kansas.

        So specifically, (as in nature vs. nurture) my using of the phrase “Blank Slate” was wrong. More abstractly, the Bushies thought that democracy would work as well in Iraq as it had in Japan after WWII. A crazy idea.

    • EK says

      @ peter…

      “That’s crazy thinking, but was a common view in the Bush administration.”

      I was also the common view of the Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II and Obama administrations.

      At some point you have to observe that the people making these statements are not stupid and that the spreading democracy shtick is just propaganda concocted for the sole purpose of consolidating their power, rewarding their friends, punishing their enemies and enriching themselves while destroying democratic-republicanism in the US and the world.

      Of course Bush II didn’t make Baghdad into Kansas but he went a long way towards making Kansas into Baghdad by hiring people like John Brennan, Michale Hayden, James Clapper, James Comey, and Robert Mueller and by declaring a state of permanent war and by stampeding the Patriot Act through Congress.

  32. Jean Levant says

    From a place which had no skin in the game, attacking Iraq after 9/11 events, on the ground of dubious claims, though Iraq and Sassam had no links to Bin Ladden, was really a very very strange idea. Irrational and blinded are some of the terms that spontaneously come to mind and there are the most gentle ones. Are you really so naive people in the US to think wars are about bringing democracy?! Are you still more naive to believe you are better people than any other?! History is useful in this regard.

    • Boiling Frog says

      Jean, especially when considering we were attacked on 9/11 by fundamentalist Islamist extremists, and downtown Baghdad was the only place in the entire region one could sit outside and order a glass of wine.

      • scribblerg says

        Yeah, just don’t spill that wine on the page of a newspaper with a pic of Saddam on it. You could be arrested just for that in Iraq, or worse. They might just take your daughter instead, rape her, video it and then deliver it to you and stand there while you watch it. Just to show you who’s boss.

        You know nothing of Saddam’s Iraq.

  33. Cynical Old Biologist says

    The Second Gulf War was most definitely about oil as I explained in a very well-supported (with links) comment but which did not appear after submission. So, after some hours, I copied in the comment again at which time this site told me that a duplicate comment existed but it was still not visible. So what are the posting rules? What particular kinds of free thought are permitted?

    • Heike says

      Any comment with more than three links gets put in the moderation queue. Moderators might or might not get around to reviewing the queue in a few days.

      It sucks because Leftists dismiss any argument without sources, and dismiss many sources once they are provided (unless they come from a source they agree with, and the best you’ll get is “well some sheeple might believe that but it’s still B.S.) Thus the common heavily sourced HTML comment might as well not have been written.

    • peterschaeffer says

      COB, Don’t take it personally or ideologically. Lots of comments get stuck in the system. Below Heike explains some of the reasons why. Politics has nothing to do with it.

    • scribblerg says

      Don’t bother with the links, the war was not about oil directly in any meaningful way. Whatever you post will be hackery and biased agitprop, not valid geopolitical analysis. This article is written to debunk partisan hacks like you.

      • Cynical Old Biologist says

        Thanks for the information Heike. Scribberg, as a scientist I am used to supporting my arguments with evidence, hence the links. Also, why take ages to write a long detailed post when someone has already done the time-consuming work of putting the facts together somewhere else? Maybe some commenters here have nothing better to do with their time hence the essays longer than the original articles.

        • Cynical Old Biologist says

          OK Heike, I will put your theory to the test, even thought the old post only had three links, I have removed one and a bit of text and we will see if it gets through:

          I suppose the only reason we are seeing this article now is because the accusations are starting to be made that the USA wants Maduro out of Venezuela so that the US oil companies can take over the nation with the world’s largest remaining oil reserves (although it is heavy oil and difficult to produce and refine).

          But oil was a very large factor in what happened to Iraq. In his 1999 speech to the Institute of Petroleum in London, then Halliburton chairman and CEO Dick Cheney described the reality of oil depletion and how the remaining large reserves were still in the Middle East but that the western oil companies had difficulty with access:

          Then in 2000/2001 Vice-President Dick Cheney drew up maps with oil companies for exploitation of Iraq’s oil fields before the Second Gulf War. This article is very telling regarding the open admissions that the invasion of Iraq was about oil:

          Of course the Second Gulf War was about control of the world’s oil supplies – its energy lifeblood. But articles like this one by Tal Tyagi are interesting more for the motivation behind them than for any deepening of understanding of the Second Gulf War or subsequent conflicts.

          • scribblerg says

            So when Bill Clinton first made announced regime change as U.S. policy wrt Iraq in 1998, was he doing it for oil? Hint: This simple fact derails your entire juvenile hypothesis. Now your job is to show how Bill Clinton wanted Iraq oil too. If you cannot do that, “science” dictates you reject your hypothesis.

            Care to be bound by your own reasoning? Or will you fudge the data to save face, as many faux, hack scientist do these days?

  34. ga gamba says

    Many here are wondering if it wasn’t oil, what then did the US have to gain? Military bases adjacent to Syria and Iran. “That’s it?!” Yep. The opportunity to disrupt the balance of power, buttress allies, put adversaries on the back foot, and torment their leaders’ sound sleep.

    I’m not arguing the merits or demerits, this is simply a statement of what it is and the reasoning behind it.

    When most nations think of their defence they think of securing their immediate borders. Do so with a competent military force, strong fortifications, make good use of geographic barriers, if any, or, if you’re lucky, establish and maintain good relations with neighbouring states. Once that’s taken care of, and you have the resources to do so, you look further afar at choke points and rivals’ positions.

    Securing maritime choke points is next on the to-do list because the majority of trade passes through these. You want to keep your supply lines open whilst denying those to the enemy.

    The world’s most important trade corridors include the Panama Canal, the Turkish and Danish Straits, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, the Suez Canal, and the Straits of Malacca, Gibraltar, and Hormuz. The US and its principal allies control wholly or in part all of these or have forces in close proximity. If you’re thorough you can even position influence shapers over secondary choke points like the Sunda Strait.

    You may even try to influence and control entire seas and oceans. Diego Garcia hosts one of America’s most important overseas bases because it sits in the centre of the Indian Ocean, the regularly navigated ocean that is geographically furthest from the US – the island is about 9300 miles from NYC and 10,500 miles from LA. Closer to home the US has layer upon layer of defence an adversary would have to penetrate using conventional weapons platforms.

    You look at redundancy and speculate on the what ifs. “What if we lose our two airbases in Turkey?” “What if Italy denies us the right to launch air strikes from Naval Air Station Sigonella?” Sure, your aircraft supercarriers may sail most anywhere, but these voyages still take several days. Safer to have established bases in a few countries of a region hosting forces that can respond almost immediately.

    What you have established is a global network of en route infrastructure. This is especially true for the Air Force’s ability to have a logistics and a transportation chain that allows forces and their equipment to travel around the world quickly. With dispersed forces you must have dispersed, flexible, overlapping, and redundant support channels. Many of these bases are stand-by hot sites, ready and able to receive large numbers of personnel and equipment in short order and send them forward – links in the network of reception, staging, onward movement, and integration. (BTW, Ike’s interstate highway programme was initially paid for by the Pentagon to link all the Air Force bases. It’s your fuel taxes that sustain and expand it. That it led to the great all American road adventure is a knock-on benefit [or consequence, if you see things in such a way].)

    The US articulated a specific doctrine of “strategic denial” that argued that no withdrawal should be made from any base that could potentially be acquired thereafter by a rival. An example of the consequence of not adhering to this is the Philippines. Do you think the Chinese would have built all those islands in the South China Sea had the US remained at Subic Naval Base and Clark Air Field (after clearing it of Mt Pinatubo’s ash and pumice)? When a vacuum is created, as it was in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the Baltics, we see it will be filled (by NATO in those states).

    A country like Singapore looks at the globe and realises a great deal of its finished-good exports and almost all of it oil imports as well as much of its other resources including food flows through several locations under US influence. Security on the cheap is a persuasive reason for amicable relations. “Sure, you may station a naval detachment here and your aircraft carrier is welcome to visit – we have dock reserved for it. We’ll even participate in war games with you. Intel sharing? Okie dokie.”

    You may have noticed many of these overseas assets scattered about are to project naval and air power. They’re great at knocking out command and control centres, destroying the infrastructure, and crippling the economy (if need be), but generally they don’t seize territory and topple governments. That takes ground forces. No one wants an adversary’s highly lethal army on their border.

    Syrian military leaders would have to shift attention and resources from Israel and the Golan Heights to its eastern border. Barring the Strait of Hormuz, most of Iran’s bases are already in the west and north of the country, but having the 800-lb gorilla next door would likely require the government to increase defence spending, further straining an economy already under stress. For Iran, which bought US and allied-built weapons systems prior to the revolution, it was especially hamstrung obtaining replacement parts. For the US, its intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance activities against both would be much easier to accomplish from inside Iraq. Both would also have to contend with sustained support (training and matériel) for domestic opposition forces operating under US protection.

    I reckon the common man in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia thinks of what resources the US is trying to seize because he fails to appreciate what a game changer it is having a disproportionately potent military next door and flexing its might – the blessing of having an enemy far beyond the horizon. (Yes, Australia had its moments fearing Japan prior to the Battle of the Coral Sea and Sukarno worried the country for a while). The invasions they fret over are the destitute in unseaworthy boats and inner tubes floating ashore in search for work picking fruit and foreign billionaires buying the plum properties and pricing the locals out of the market. Talk to an elderly Pole to learn what it’s like to live under the shadow.

    And the importance of oil? It would provide the Iraqi government the funds to self support without leaning heavily on the US for economic aid.

    • EK says


      A good summary of what is really going on.

      The US is trying to maintain an enormous global logistical tail in order to support it’s military frontiers around Russia and China. But if the tail is cut anywhere there is nothing to back it up. The 7th Fleet is a hazard to navigation in Far East, the Army, Marines and Air Force are almost completely committed and are borderline exhausted. The US has no draft and few trained reserves. The Maginot Line comes to mind.

      • scribblerg says

        What a bizarre way to attack concern for mass illegal immigration via every scam imaginable. One can be concerned about unmanaged immigration and threats from abroad. They are not mutually exclusive.

  35. dirk says

    Yes, why Iraq? Oil? Of course not. Central miltary bases, as Ga G. thinks (an old idea from Naomi Klein a.o.), maybe! But first of all the question: would it have been possible or likely without 9/11? Don’t think so. Above, Tars, Jackson, Farris and Sean mention 9/11 and/or Pearl Harbour. OK, but 9/11 was not an attack of a nation. It was an attack of terrorist pirates, with strong roots in the Arab world. This asks for a firm strike back, otherwise: US the laughing stock of not only the Arab world, also of China and Russia. But where and what? Syria, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia? I,m not a strategist of the Pentagon, but can imagine the gatherings and deliberations there, where can you strike most effectively, with the least physical and world image damage , also after the succesful Gulf War against Saddam? There you are, the generals chose for Iraq! And, as we say in the NLs, a stick to hit the dog is always easily found: the mass destruction weapons, whether real or virtual, not that important.

  36. “Despite the fact that Afghanistan is sitting on $1 trillion dollars worth of rare minerals,”

    It isn’t. It’s sitting on possible deposits which, when mined, purified and shipped could be sold for $1 trillion. To get to their current value, being sat upon by Afghanistan, we’ve got to deduct the costs of mining, purification and shipping.

    A useful estimate of those costs being more than $1 trillion. Which is why the minerals are being sat upon by the country, not mined and sold.

  37. C Clay de Blagbourne says

    The presence of our troops in the lands of Mecca and Medina, which were postured to protect our Gulf allies against threats from Saddam, were a lightning rod for extremists. Removing Saddam allowed us to remove our troops from Saudi Arabia.

    • ga gamba says

      Yet the US had forces stationed at Dhahran, KSA continuously from 1946-1962. In 1963, when faced with a threat of an Egyptian attack, Kennedy sent jet fighters to protect the kingdom. US military trainers were stationed there for decades as part of the 1977 Military Training Mission Treaty. And let’s not forget that the British were there during WWI; T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia) working with the Arabs to overthrow Ottoman rule.

      In 1979 French commandos aided the Saudi military fighting insurgents in Mecca comprised of theological students from Medina who had seized Masjid al-Haram, Islam’s holiest site. That was infidels not only in city where they are banned, but tramping around in the most sacred mosque to boot. The siege lasted two weeks. The insurgents were outraged by the encroachment of impure Western ideas and the people’s mindless imitation of these as well as innovations in Saudi society to the detriment of true Islam. Seizing the mosque, they proclaimed the messiah had returned and Saudis must overthrow the monarchy.

      From the peak deployment of 600,000 personnel in KSA for Gulf War I, about 24,000 US forces were still in the theatre after Saddam’s surrender. The number dropped to about 5000, mostly Air Force personnel. For Gulf War II almost all foreign army personnel were deployed to Kuwait, and the land invasion was from there.

      One of America’s six forward-deployed weapons depots, called Army Prepositioned Stocks (APS), is at Arifjan, Kuwait. Water landing craft are stored Kuwait Naval Base. A second Southwest Asia APS is at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar. These were established long before 2003.

      With the Saudis putting all kinds of restrictions on US Air Force activities at Sultan Air Base during Gulf War II, it redeployed to Qatar.

      Let’s look at Bin Laden’s timeline. In the late 1970s he fell in with the Muslim Brotherhood. At the time the group was strongly influenced by Egyptian fundamentalist scholar called Sayyid Qutb. To put it bluntly, Qutb hated any Muslim who stood in the way of the creation of the Muslim caliphate where shari’a law reined supreme. His enemies ranged from the secular pan-Arabist Nasser of Egypt to the conservative and far more religious Saudi monarch. What appears to be forgotten is the reign of King Faisal from ’64 to ’75 was one of liberalisation. Girls allowed to attend school. The establishment of universities teaching a non religious curriculum. Tens of thousands of Saudis being sent to the West to pursue advanced educations. The introduction of television. Films screened. This left the fundamentalists reeling. Faisal was assassinated by a nephew to avenge his brother’s death attacking the nation’s TV broadcast studio. To men like Qubt, the territories of Islam were governed by corrupt, Westernised dictators and monarchs whose spiritually bereft and ignorant ways could only be compared to those of the pagan Arabs who pre-dated Mohammed and the revelation of the Koran. Qutb was the chief developer of jihadi doctrines that legitimised violent resistance to regimes that claim to be Muslim, but whose implementation of Islamic doctrine was judged to be imperfect.

      Bin Laden forged an alliance with radical Islamist groups in Egypt and elsewhere, organizing al-Qaeda (first called al-Qaeda al-Askariya, the “military base”) in August 1988 in Pakistan – two years prior to Gulf War I. One of his cohort was his mentor Abdullah Azzam, who also was influenced by Qutb. Soon bin Laden and Azzam split over the direction of a-Qaeda. Azzam wanted to wage war on Israel; bin Laden had grander ideas. Fourteen months after co-founding al-Qaeda Azzam was assassinated, leaving bin Laden solely in charge. Thereafter al-Qaeda’s mission was worldwide jihad. Meaning what? Rid Muslim countries of what it sees as the profane influence of the West and replace their governments with fundamentalist Islamic regimes. When he returned to KSA from the Afghan war in 1989, bin Laden gave speeches accusing the Saudi monarchy of being corrupt, cruel, and un-Islamic.

      So, yes, it is true bin Laden denounced western troops in KSA as a sacrilege, yet this was not the eureka moment that transformed bin Laden. He had long been on that path. Troops in the Muslim holy land was just another incident of many that demonstrated to bin Laden why the Saudi monarch was illegitimate.

      Bin Laden’s primary target was the Saudi monarchy, and his attacks against the US were designed to sever the relationship. Without US support, he surmised, the monarch could be toppled. Bin Laden deliberately chose Saudis to perpetrate the 11 September attacks because not only was it easier for Saudi citizens to get US visas, he knew from that point forward many Westerners would see Saudi Arabia and its monarch is an enemy, He was right. I constantly read pundits and readers’ comments stating KSA is that and the US ought to cease dealing with the Saudis. These people are playing right into bin Laden’s hands; wittingly or not they’re advancing al-Qaeda’s cause.

  38. Mark says

    Project for a New American Century think-tank from late 1990s outlined a geopolitical strategy that advocated ways to achieve Pax Americana in the 21st century. In “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” they name the emergence of regional bullies/superpowers as something to be avoided at all costs. DPRK, Iran, Iraw were specifically named, so this is why post 9-11, our ‘new Pearl Harbor’ handed us the justification to declare them the Axis of Evil. Wolfowitz, once, in a speech,named numerous ex post facto justifications for the Iraq war, but bottomline it was part of a geostrategic projec advanced by neo-Conservative elements that for good and/or for ill have strived for a world order based on Western precepts. Geostrategic plans DO matter, and BRI is not the only one out there. The think-tanks influential enough to guide US policy are deeply concerned with ways to guarantee American supremacy.

    • peterschaeffer says

      Mark, I do think the “Project for a New American Century” played a significant role in the invasion of Iraq. Of course, they were crazy. The 21st Century already belongs to China and Chinese ascendancy was obvious from the 1990s onwards.

  39. Boiling Frog says

    Mark, exactly. Had the Bush-43 admin done all their pre-invasion planning to ‘spread democracy’, someone might have mentioned the outcome would resemble the Balkans post-Tito: The dictator keeping the lid on ancient hatreds goes way, and violence boils over.

  40. GL says

    “The Pentagon’s New Map” by Thomas P. M. Barnett is the best explination that I’ve seen for our post 9/11 involvement in the middle east. You could argue it’s all bunk, but those in power were at least in part convinced.

  41. anton says

    It was about oil, i.e., the petrodollar.

  42. berzerker says

    Weak, weak, weak argument. Just because these companies didn’t succeed in acquiring lucrative extraction rights/deals doesn’t mean they weren’t trying to do so. Corporate greed was obviously a huge motivator…

    ‘ Leading war proponent and U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was reported to be “more than pleased” that democracy in Iraq would make the Saudis uneasy and was supportive of “rocking the stability of tyrannies in the Arab world.” ‘

    If it wasn’t about oil AT ALL then there must have been another cause(s)… at least you name dropped Perle and Wolfowitz. Too bad you didn’t have the guts follow through…

  43. LondonBob says

    It was a war fought for Israel, they spread misinformation through our media and buy our politicians.

  44. Cluebat says

    I believe the decision to expand the war into Iraq was predicated on the belief that the oil wealth in Iraq was being used to further developments of WMD by the “Axis of Evil”. Nuclear weapons technology in particular, was being developed by North Korea, possibly bankrolled by oil payments from Iraq and Iran. The war certainly wasn’t for the glory of empire. What sort of empire would go deeply into debt conquering an adversary, only to pass the administration of the territory over to the conquered peoples? Purple thumbs put that canard to rest, in my mind. There was a bit of anxiety about the possibility of Iraq becoming vassal to Iran, but I see no evidence of that. The two populations may share cultural values, but Iraq seems to maintain a healthy level of independence.

  45. Bush wanted ‘Iraq is going Nuclear’ to be true, so badly, he let himself be fooled. Why did he want it to be true?
    Because Saddam had tried to off his daddy and his head had been filled with neo-con claptrap.

    In the end we committed the second biggest Grand Strategic blunder in the last 100 years, by destroying the only inveterate enemy, who was a hard power prop that shared a contiguous border with Iran.

  46. TheSnark says

    Several commentators above say that the US military supported the decision to invade Iraq. That is not true. The military as a whole was strongly opposed, they knew very well that they would be opening a horrendous can of worms. They, along with their counterparts at the State Department (as well an everyone with any real experience and knowledge of the Middle East) advised against it.

    However, the White House and the Pentagon political appointees overrode them. The military was given the order, and like good soldiers they obeyed.

    • dirk says

      Strongly opposed, Snark, are you sure? And how do you know?

      Nevertheless, interesting, and remembers me on a similar case in the NLs. The generals advised strongly against the political wish to assist with a freedom mission in so called Safe Haven Srebrenitsa, because knew that the so called stronghold could not be defended properly, however, the politicians decided differently, with horrendous results. A minister-president that had to leave office, and the biggest trauma imaginable for years on our national emblem.

  47. mitchellporter says

    As with their plotting in Arabia, the very borders of modern Iraq were defined by the British empire with an eye on the oil, with the intent of keeping it out of Persian and Russian hands. The conspiring and fighting to control Middle East oil only intensified with the development of the 20th century world capitalist economy. America replaced Britain as the Saudis’ big brother, Russia kept trying to reach the Gulf – the invasion of Afghanistan was a Plan B after the communists failed to win in Iran – and Saddam Hussein hoped to make Iraq the nucleus of an autonomous Arab superpower.

    The Bush-Clinton new world order was built on the 1991 military and ideological defeat of Iraqi Arab nationalism and Russian communism; democracy and the market were to be victorious worldwide, and Zionism within the Middle East. But the nature of the resistance simply shifted, to Islamic jihad and asymmetric warfare. The atomic, biological, and chemical warfare capacity that Iraq developed for use against Iran and Israel, could be covertly supplied to Al Qaeda for its new war of attrition, against America. Other “rogue states” could do something similar, in pursuit of their own agendas.

    These fears were already at work in the 1990s, before 9/11. There was an overt and covert struggle to disarm Iraq, and to replace Saddam Hussein with someone less menacing. Look up a 1997 New York Times column by Maureen Dowd, entitled “Anthrax, Shmanthrax”. The US Secretary of Defense went on TV to say, what if Iraq used terrorists to spray weaponized anthrax over Washington, rather similar to what Colin Powell said to the UN Security Council five years later. The only difference was that in the years in between, mass-casualty terrorism and weaponized anthrax had now shown up in America, albeit in separate events.

    Here lies the dark heart of everything; but we are not permitted to see into it.

  48. Oscar Alx says

    I suppose you have to ask what is the raison d’etre of the USA.

    they serve their banks and the military industrial complex (MIC), the latter, which increasingly also owns health and pharma
    life-support system for Israel

    The methodology applied is loosely as spelled out in the works of Zbig Brzezinski. Thus the Iraq war with its enormous price tag was simply there to funnel money towards the MIC and in addition get rid of Iraq as a threat to IL and in addition get troops close to Syria and Iran. The permanent unrest in the region, also enhanced by the conquest, leads to substantial, ongoing sales for the MIC

  49. Ian Mitchell says

    I can see how the US always puts self-interest first. In the Iraq War, it may not have been about Iraq’s oil, but control of who got to buy it. I also think the history of how oil got to be sold in US dollars, should be read before you consider the forays into the Middle East.

  50. Andres says

    Even if the results were not what they expected, that doesn’t disprove their rationale for the war. Any ex-post “proof” of the reasons/motivations for the war given in this piece is not valid: the fact that someone didn´t achieve their objectives is no proof they didn´t pursue those objectives. Anyone, even the US under bright minds like G.W. can blunder.

    But let´s assume, for the sake of argument, the results speak validly and are able to reveal the intended goals of the Irak invasion. Which were those goals/objectives then? What did they succeed in doing?

    Of course, I don´t believe there was a single reason, e.g. “the oil”, to invade Irak, and any such reduction is so simplistic, that attacking it becomes quite easy, it’s just killing another straw man. The problem is, there are a few other credible alternatives to explain the reasons/motives for the Irak invasion, unless one wants to believe in the truthfulness of G.W. and Colin Powell with their “WMD and ties to Al Qaeda”. Nevertheless, this piece doesn’t provide any alternative theory on why they invaded Irak.

    So, sorry, but this piece, proves nothing. As far as I understand, grabbing the oil was one of the reasons, even if they failed miserably at their attempt.

  51. scribblerg says

    There is no case to be made for oil being the motivation – it doesn’t exist. It’s sort of like Trump’s alleged collusion with Russians wrt the election – didn’t happen. Accordingly, there is no valid evidence for either hypothesis. And at this point? 16 years later? Such an assertion can easily be dismissed as wild hyperbole and agitprop by an informed person. You sound like a 9/11 Truther to someone who studied geopolitics seriously.

    Fyi, scientists are often the most ridiculous people to discuss politics with. They seem to believe they can bootstrap their way through complex topics such as geopolitics without studying them carefully. Some questions for you: How many books have you read on the the Bush admin and its decision to go to war? How many lectures have you listened to by the policymakers themselves? Have you even read the Iraq Survey Group report?

    I don’t care how many articles you link from Think Progress or Mother Jones. There is an entire industry on the Left offering a Chomeksyesque demonizing view of the U.S. nonstop. They aren’t interesting. They aren’t serious. Informed people dismiss such dreck. But please, carry on, you are a scientist, so you must be right. Lol.

  52. Ozsurfer says

    It was based on the fear of a covert alliance between Iraq and al queda. They didn’t trust Saddam with potential for WMDs-real or not- forming some sort of alliance with al queda. This existential threat was there as long as Saddam was in power, even if he never did form an alliance. Al queda’s presence changed everything.

  53. Matt says

    George Bush told us the reason why: It was strategic. If you want to drain the swamp then you have to start somewhere. Iraq was the most logical place to start at the time.

  54. David Franklin says

    Let me get this straight.

    Virtually all the important figures in the Bush administration, starting with the President himself, had ties to the energy industry. Cheney had been the CEO of Halliburton, and had frequently used his foreign-policy connections to advance the interests of the corporation. Karl Rove and Scooter Libby had been shareholders in Enron, and crafted a national energy policy that served the interests of the oil industry: removing restraints against fracking, gutting environmental regulations, cutting tax rates for energy corporations. Bush himself, a failed oil man, received more financial support for the oil industry than any previous presidential candidate in history.

    And the oil industry was pretty clear about what they wanted: “Iraq possesses huge reserves of oil and gas-reserves I’d love Chevron to have access to,” said Kenneth Deer, the CEO of Chevron in 1998. And after the 2003 invasion, western oil companies such as ExxonMobil, BP and Shell, who had previously been shut out of Iraq, received contracts worth tens of billions of dollars for the Iraqi oil fields.

    What’s more, in the run-up to the Iraq War, Halliburton was awarded $7 billion in no-bid contracts, and after the invasion Halliburton and its subsidiary KBR were granted billions more in government contracts for reconstruction and military services.

    But no, the Iraq War had nothing to do with oil.

  55. Krishan Pahal says

    Its business only to some and faith to others.

  56. Pingback: The Iraq War: Not Fought For Oil – taltyagi

  57. There is a simpler explanation for the reasons for and outcomes of the Iraqi wars: weakness.

    If the US had been at the top of its imperial game, they would not have needed Saddam as a proxy to do in the Iranians. Even if they had, Saddam would never have tried on the Kuwait invasion on in the first place. But even if he had, the US wouldn’t have had to take Arab alliances on their terms, which included not invading Iraq and removing Saddam then and there. And even if they had acceded to such terms, Saddam wouldn’t have maintained the post first war stand off in anticipation that the US would blink first.

    By the time the old imperial bull got round to finishing the job that should never have been one in the first place, Iraq was in such a mess, nobody was going to be able to control the post second war variables, because essentially Saddam could only hold out by wrecking his own country in the belief that the US needed the oil more than his regime did…weakness….

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