By Rowan Wolf
Many people have been saying that the invasion (and occupation) of Iraq is about oil. I believe that there is more than oil involved, but certainly oil was a driving motivator. Now we can add Alan Greenspan to the list of those who reinforce that claim. Greenspan writes in his new book The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World:
‘I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.’
Yes, it is sad indeed, “politically inconvenient” or not, that we invaded, decimated, and continue to occupy a nation to control its oil reserves. Or to perhaps be a bit more specific, to turn over control of that oil to private oil corporations.
How much is it costing? Well there are the measurable costs, such as $10 Billion a month, or the almost 3,800 U.S. troops that have given their lives, or the almost 38,000 U.S. troops who are casualties, or the 144 who have taken their own lives. But all of that pales in magnitude to the estimated 1.2 million Iraqi’s who have died as a result of the U.S. invasion and the dominoes that has set falling.
According to a recent poll by Opinion Research Business (ORB), it is estimated that 1,220,580 Iraqi’s have lost their lives as a direct consequence of the conflict since 2003. Almost 50% of the households in Baghdad have lost at least one family member.
ORB notes that the murder rate in Iraq now exceeds the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. The poll also revealed the displacement of Iraqi’s. While roughly 52% are displaced within Iraq, 48% have crossed into Syria or Jordan with the majority going to Syria.
Oil has often been a bloody business, and it continues to get more so as the resource becomes scarcer. Now we have word from the horse’s mouth that peak oil is on the way. Lord Oxburgh, former CEO of Shell oil predicts oil prices at $150 a barrel with production peaking within the next 20 years. Oxburgh was interviewed by the Independent. He is scheduled to address the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO) meeting in Ireland this week. In the Independent interview he stated:
“We may be sleepwalking into a problem which is actually going to be very serious and it may be too late to do anything about it by the time we are fully aware.”
The argument against oil being the motivator for the invasion of Iraq has been that Iraqi oil production has shrunk dramatically since the invasion. And indeed this is true. However, there is as much (if not more) profit from restricting the flow of oil as there is in increasing the flow of oil. All one has to do is to look at the major oil company profits since the “instability” in Iraq has manifested itself in the market. Namely record profits one quarter after another. The continued U.S. armed presence in Iraq, has been linked to Iraq’s “government” making headway on Iraq’s oil. Namely, that it approves highly biased PSAs (Production Sharing Agreements) put in place by the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority shortly after the collapse of Hussein’s government.
Recognizing the centrality of oil in the Iraq occupation, Oil Change International has started an fundraising campaign to Support Iraqi Resistance to the Oil Law. The also have a number of informational and local action links that I recommend. I highly applaud and support their efforts. They have a sad but true short video on the issue called Addicted to Oil.
Increasingly, the people of the United States are calling for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. This weekend there was a march in Washington D.C. of almost 100,000 people calling for withdrawal and for the impeachment of George W. Bush. Approximately 200 protesters were arrested. Across the country there have been marches, demonstrations, and campaigns to inform our elected representatives. To date, those representatives have shown more talk than action on the issue. It is critically important – both for the people of Iraq as well as the people of the United States – to continue applying pressure to representatives and the White House. However, it is also critically important to recognize the driving forces in the current occupation – controlling increasingly scarce oil resources.
All too often, recognition of this central issue gets expressed as “ending our dependence on foreign oil. No. We need to end our dependence on oil. There are not adequate reserves in the United States to meet the continued U.S. levels of consumption. This was acknowledged by Shell President John Hofmeister. We need (and the world needs) to refoot our life styles and our expectations. The cost of the path we are on is simply too high.