The War Was About Oil, After All

At least in part. In the run-up to the Iraq war, many protesters brandished signs declaring, “No War for Oil!” The response from those pushing for the war was typically that this was a childish and silly admonition. And of course, the precise economic reasoning involved in much of this dissent was indeed faulty: Often leftists assume that the U.S. wages war for the strength of the overall economy, which in fact suffers in war, as opposed to narrow interests, which indeed prosper in war.

Yet it turns out all those young people shouting in the streets were probably more correct than those respectable voices in the mainstream press pushing for war. In the case of the UK, anyway, newly exposed memos demonstrate that oil was one of the major motivations behind the government’s support of the invasion, reports The Independent. In particular:

Over 1,000 documents were obtained under Freedom of Information over five years by the oil campaigner Greg Muttitt. They reveal that at least five meetings were held between civil servants, ministers and BP and Shell in late 2002.

The 20-year contracts signed in the wake of the invasion were the largest in the history of the oil industry. They covered half of Iraq’s reserves – 60 billion barrels of oil, bought up by companies such as BP and CNPC (China National Petroleum Company), whose joint consortium alone stands to make £403m ($658m) profit per year from the Rumaila field in southern Iraq.

As with practically all other modern wars, the motivation given is rarely the same as the main motives of those behind the scenes. Economic interests in particular have long weighed heavily on the West’s foreign adventures, and certainly the United States is no exception. If not for the desire of favored businesses to capture markets, harm competitors, seize resources, and other such economic goals that are often so much easier accomplished when the costs are socialized rather borne internally, it is difficult to imagine the last century of war transpiring nearly the way that it did. There were other motivations behind the Iraq war—some of them simply misguided, but many of them nefarious—and yet the thirst to control oil appears to have been a clear leading factor behind the support for the Iraq war coming from Britain, America’s greatest ally in this conflict.

Anthony Gregory is a former Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and author of the Independent books American Surveillance and The Power of Habeas Corpus in America.
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