Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
November 28, 2007

On Motives for War on Iranq

There is still a lot of musing about the reasons for the War on Iraq. I have struggled with the question for quite some time, but finally feel to get a grip on an answer. Let's review the ongoing discussion:

In the London Review of Books Jim Holt argues: It’s the Oil, and that the war is a success:

The costs – a few billion dollars a month plus a few dozen American fatalities (a figure which will probably diminish, and which is in any case comparable to the number of US motorcyclists killed because of repealed helmet laws) – are negligible compared to $30 trillion in oil wealth, assured American geopolitical supremacy and cheap gas for voters. In terms of realpolitik, the invasion of Iraq is not a fiasco; it is a resounding success.

In the libertarian Taki Patrick Foy does neither agree with the oil argument, nor does he see assured success:

The ongoing humanitarian crisis of the Middle East, decades in the making, is not driven by oil. Politicians in Washington do not spend their waking hours thinking about oil. They think about votes, campaign contributions, a good press, and about the next election. That is what they are fixated upon, and what makes them vulnerable.
[The war] was launched in the grip of a self-induced hysteria and for dishonest domestic political considerations unrelated to foreign policy as such. The oil is there. A logical impulse would be to go after it and secure it. The problem is, the Dollar and the U.S. economy, not to mention the U.S. military, may go bust before the oil comes on line. That catastrophic scenario would be more or less in accordance with al-Qaida’s long term calculations.

Misreading Foy, Xymphora rallies against the oil argument with his usual anti-zionist screed:

Of course, the lite Zionists are desperate to fool Americans into thinking it was about the oil, as the truth is too dangerous to Israel.

In my view all three are wrong. Robbing oil was not the primary reason for the war. Domestic politics may have been the driving force behind some war votes in congress, but they were not a motive for launching the attack. The neocons might have a dual loyalty towards the U.S. and Israel, but they are America firsters - primary example: John Bolton.

The best founded and sourced argument I agree with is The Reasons for Regime Change in Iraq by Jeremy R. Hammond in the Yirmeyahu Review. He expands on it in his Atlantic Free Press piece The Path Towards War With Iran.

In the first essay Hammond concludes:

In the end, there is really no need to speculate about the reasons for the Iraq war, as policy-makers have quite openly and explicitly stated their reasons for desiring regime change since the end of the first Gulf War in public documents. The war was not fought to suit Israel's interests, but to suit the interests of the U.S. as perceived by policy-makers in Washington. Israeli and U.S. interests may coincide at times, but the ultimate objective, repeatedly declared, is U.S. global hegemony, which necessitates military preeminence and guaranteeing access, by force if necessary, to Middle Eastern oil.

The expanded argument (which also holds for Iran):

Saddam Hussein had for too long successfully defied the U.S. and thus threatened U.S. credibility as the global superpower.
Like any good mafia don, credibility was at stake and the U.S. had to take action to set an example. This motive is easily identifiable amongst documents written by current policy makers, such as the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance draft, The Project for a New American Century's "Rebuilding America's Defenses" document, or the U.S. National Security Strategy announced early on by the Bush administration.
That this is the true purpose of U.S. policy should not come as all too surprising, particularly when policy makers have openly declared their intention of establishing global dominance with a focus on the energy-rich Middle East.

Dominance and its credibility is the primary ambition that feeds the Ledeen Doctrine:

"Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business."

Control over access to oil is only an instrument to keep the dominant status of 'sole superpower', not a motive. Israel is a sideshow in the dominance game. A parasite useful as a domestic politics tool, as well as as thorn in the Arab side.

So it is dominance. But what is behind the pursuit of dominance and how is it argued?

Its advocates and propagandists see it vindicated by the obvious and certain rightness of 'spreading freedom', i.e. Manifest Destiny.

Well-meaning, idealistic and unhistorical as many Americans are, they fall for this marketing phantasm again and again. The man on the street believes in F.D. Roosevelt's Four Freedoms: freedom of speech and worship, freedom from want and fear. Spreading those can do no harm, only good. It is even an evangelical mission (on which one can spend many more words).

The American people have (a systematically indoctrinated) Imperial Amnesia and avidly support expansionist adventures in the name of 'spreading freedom' until the consequences hit back - from the Philippines in 1898 over Vietnam to Iraq in 2002. Hence the majority in support of the war up to 2006.

But 'freedom' is a tricky concept and easy to misunderstand. When Bush speaks of 'spreading freedom' he has something very different in mind than FDR and Joe Sixpack.

In the 2002 National Security Strategy the robber baron class explains its view of 'freedom':

The concept of "free trade" arose as a moral principle even before it became a pillar of economics. If you can make something that others value, you should be able to sell it to them. If others make something that you value, you should be able to buy it. This is real freedom, the freedom for a person—or a nation—to make a living.

Ledeen's "we mean business" = Free trade = a moral principle = real freedom.

F.D. Roosevelt's Freedom from Want morphed into Freedom to want then into a Right to want and even an expectancy of a Right to get (Bernanke put anyone?).

The military-economic relation of an expansionist 'security strategy' and the pure economical view of 'freedom' is not coincidental. In the moral continuum, greed like conquest belongs to the dimensions of domination (video, 3min). (In a slightly related context DeAnander touches that theme elsewhere.) I'll write more on this in another piece.

If one follows the 'free trade' definition of 'freedom', the 'freedom' to 'make and sell' and to 'buy' requires a balance between these two basic doings. Otherwise it will vanish.

As the U.S. current account and trade deficits show, that balance was lost in the mid 1980's. Then, in its costly pursuit of dominance (Reagan's Star Wars), the U.S. started to neglect 'make and sell' but continued to 'buy' by drawing on its superpower credit cards from the rest of the world (Reaganomics).

Empires that need to drag on the outer world to feed themselves are not sustainable. At a point, people of the outer world will simply stop paying and the costs to make them pay become unbearable.

As the War on Iraq shows, even superpower credit cards, the moral credits as well as the economic ones, are not without limit.

The usual hope of an empire is to make the colonies pay for their occupation. As Wolfowitz told Congress in 2003:

“The oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years. Now, there are a lot of claims on that money, but… ”

The war was not about oil, but Iraqi oil was expected to pay for being raped and dominated. Either directly or by buying U.S. weapons, or, or, or ... There is only one funny issue. Colonies never pay for their occupation.

Already 230 years ago, when times went by much, much slower, a smart Scot had that figured out and gave some good advice:

The rulers of Great Britain have, for more than a century past, amused the people with the imagination that they possessed a great empire on the west side of the Atlantic. This empire, however, has hitherto existed in imagination only. It has hitherto been, not an empire, but the project of an empire; not a gold mine, but the project of a gold mine; a project which has cost, which continues to cost, and which, if pursued in the same way as it has been hitherto, is likely to cost, immense expense, without being likely to bring any profit; for the effects of the monopoly of the colony trade, it has been shown, are, to the great body of the people, mere loss instead of profit.

It is surely now time that our rulers should either realise this golden dream, in which they have been indulging themselves, perhaps, as well as the people; or, that they should awake from it themselves, and endeavour to awaken the people. If the project cannot be completed, it ought to be given up. If any of thee provinces of the British empire cannot be made to contribute towards the support of the whole empire, it is surely time that Great Britain should free herself from the expense of defending those provinces in time of war, and of supporting any part of their civil or military establishments in time of peace, and endeavour to accommodate her future views and designs to the real mediocrity of her circumstances.

Posted by b on November 28, 2007 at 18:41 UTC | Permalink


b, submit your blog posts for the post of the Chair of Political Studies/Current Affairs at the best university in Hamburg. Forget engineering, your analytical skills, together with your wider take on interlocking issues, are best used elsewhere to a wider audience than the Barflies that lurk here.

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Nov 28 2007 19:27 utc | 1

PS: I would love to see a Billmon response.......... Mr Montgomery?

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Nov 28 2007 19:35 utc | 2

wonderfully done. quite coincidentally, a friend sent me an article that ties into this discussion. It is about a couple of software geeks who developed web-centric warfare. From what I read, they are not cold hearted capitalists but a couple of good christians who found a better way to wage warfare efficiently.

worth a look, you don't have to agree but it does make the outcome of Iraq seem likely to go the way the US wants it to.


Posted by: dan of steele | Nov 28 2007 20:31 utc | 3

@DoS - sorry, lame - the article, well written as Noah Shachtman does them, is on how Network Centric Warfare, an idiotic concept to begin with to anybody who has studied past and present wars, lost its hype and how PsyOps and social engineering backed with lots of $$$s can now win the War on Iraq.

Sorry, that's dumb and racist. It assumes that Iraqis are stupid. I haven't seen any indication of that. They'll take the money until a better opportunity arrives. And arrive it will.

Posted by: b | Nov 28 2007 20:54 utc | 4

Rob Perry on The 'Triumphant' Neocons

Citing signs of military progress in Iraq, America’s neoconservatives are reasserting their vision of the United States as an imperial power that can reshape the Muslim world in a way favorable to the interests of Washington and Tel Aviv.

While an open-ended occupation of Iraq and renewed belligerence toward other unfriendly Muslim countries might be appealing to the neocons, the notion of endless war at whatever the cost has lost much of its allure to the American people.

As the U.S. dollar sinks, as domestic needs go unmet, as investors from Abu Dhabi bail out Citigroup and as communist China gets a stranglehold on U.S. debt, the neocon dream of an imperial America bestriding the world as a military colossus looks less and less sustainable.

More and more Americans also are growing leery of other tradeoffs implicit in the neocon plan for an imperial system – the acceptance of an all-powerful Executive, the elimination of inalienable rights for individuals, and the eradication of the Republic as envisioned by the Founders.

Posted by: b | Nov 28 2007 21:31 utc | 5

I certainly do not agree with the approach the US is taking. My disgust with US imperialism started when Reagan invaded Grenada. Before that I was really quite unaware of what was happening in the world and was having a lot of fun wasting my life away with wine, women and song.

What I suspect is that the occupation will work however. Most people only want to be able to live their lives without too much danger. whether it is the new boss or the old boss doesn't really count to a lot more folks than we like to consider. In the article you can see where thousands of young Iraqi men signed up to become jailers of their own people. being a policeman gives you power, it matters not who gave you the badge, once you have it people have to do what you say. that is very important for too many people. the second step is to get a buy in from the PTB in Iraq. Once they are onboard life can return to normal. If none of this is possible, the US is most likely willing to go along with the system that Israel is using against the Palestinians. No one can come to Iraq's aid, not Iran nor Saudi Arabia. They know all too well that any interference will bring bombs raining down on their cities and factories and infrastructure. Iraq has been isolated from the rest of the world, much like Gaza and the West Bank.

our idealism and outrage at injustice is not really doing anything for the Iraqis. They will have to get the best deal they can. We (US citizens) are also quite powerless to change the course of events in Iraq as no candidate with a chance of winning the presidency is willing to go on record and say there will be a complete withdrawal of all military from Iraq during their administration, so we can't even vote our way out of there.

it may be dumb but it is hardly racist. we would happily treat English, Germans, Spanish, and French the same way if they had something we wanted. From the limited knowledge I have of the great wars here in Europe, the US was not particularly kind to the Germans during the wars and the occupation after WWII was not all a bed of roses either. as movie mafia hit men often tell acquaintances they are about to assassinate, "it's business, nothing personal"

Posted by: dan of steele | Nov 28 2007 21:47 utc | 6

Ledeen: "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business."

You'd think somewhere along the way someone might have stood up and pointed out that shit-kicking the weak isn't a demonstration of strength.

Posted by: mats | Nov 28 2007 22:21 utc | 7

It seems a quiet time in war, in Iraq, primarily because the Iraqis have gone quiet. Many will see that as an acceptance of the defeat the first article claims. Is it really or has the world via it's centrally controlled mass media fallen for a little legerdemain?

Remember rule number one of conjuring is distraction and that is what the world's media was concentrating on this past summer in Iraq, the distraction of the 'surge'. A good conjurer does something so unexpected while the bulk of the audience is distracted that even the few sceptics who refuse to be distracted are looking elsewhere.

So what did the Bushco regime do while everyone was looking in the wrong place?

It did something it swore it would never do, it paid off the Ba'athist resistance, the 'terrorists'.

They were paid to stop shooting for a while by

- a not hunting them anymore,

- b giving them access to some of the trough the quislings had been snout and fetlock deep in for years past, and most importantly it bought them off with

-c not forcing the issue on the stupid, greedy and hopelessly unenforceable 'oil laws'.

amerika will have to settle for total hegemony on the Kurdish oil, something it could have had without any of this carry on long before when the kurds had their independent state in all but name from 1991. In fact even that will be subject to Turkey's 'pleasure'.

The success of the surge has been claimed by pointing out that the internecine violence decreased this summer past.

But in fact that the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad's suburbs had all but finished by March '07 (as Petraeus and prolly BushCo knew) so all the increased security had to do was come down on the tit-for-tat violence stemming from the cleansing, the end of the actual cleansing per se had made that an achievable target.

Syria has even come to the party. In return for a seat at talks where the return of Golan was put on the agenda, Syria closed the border for a month (beginning October 3), to Iraq's poorest refugees, turning/sending approx 60,000 refugees from Iraq back.

That arrangement will last about as long as it takes for Israel to go back on it's word ie (within days of the close of the mis-begotten piece sorry - 'peace' conference.)

We know from so many other such deals (eg post soviet afghanistan) that amerika will turn off the funding faucet for Iraqi tribes asap. There is no liklihood of those funds getting kick backed thru Washington so that sort of dead money is never given away for long.

This is a particularly sensitive issue, with the reality of the failure to secure control of Iraq's and Iran's oil having hit the financial markets, amerika and her accomplices are about to undergo the 21st century equivalent of a recession.

Of course no one actually comes out and says that but the signs are all there, plunging US$, markets in disarray - up and down like a whore drawers, but generally trending downwards.

Those in the know were tipped off about what was coming. So called financial industry leaders began toppling like dominos. Quietly at first by two speeding, to a crescendo by three and four - five showed the disease had spread outwards. In fact it had actually gone world wide some time before complete with taxpayer funded bailout and corruption because of course they don't lose anything.

Instead the economists who are little more than over-educated junk bond salesmen try and talk the market up by pointing to all the differences between the current situation and previous times of financial failure. Of course the present circumstances are unlike anything which has occurred previously. If it was the same these greed-heads would know what to do. There wouldn't be a problem.

As far as BushCo are concerned, they will spend what little the amerikan taxpayer imagines are their resources that are remaining, staving 'off the collapse of their ME adventure until the 'anything for power dems grab the poisoned chalice in December 08.

It amuses me greatly that some dem supporters can't understand why the Iraqi resistance would let this happen. How can they just let BushCo walk off and allow their dems to cop the shit sandwich.

Well to the Iraqis, one amerikan pol looks a helluva a lot the same as another, the dems didn't exactly oppose the rape and pillage of Iraq, now did they?

And we can be sure that as times get tougher for those amerikans who are about the only ones totally effected by the rise in oil prices, since the plunge in the US dollar value has insulated most others from the worst, That rebuilding Iraq will become a fucking unpopular sell.

Any ethical obligations old lefty dems may feel will go out the window, and that will make an Iraqi government's co-operation with amerika a tough ask. Especially under the new arrangements timed to begin with BushCo's demise .

It won't happen overnight of course, but the shiny new bases may even be gone by 2012 and the dems will never be allowed to forget that - we can write the headlines that fauxnews msnbc and co will use now, words like cowardice and sellout and spineless will feature large. The meme won't be to dirty the dems as much as it will be to 'inform' the ignorant amerikan worldview for yet another adventure in a generation's time.

Whether or not the bases will still be there - little islands of americana which will be spying on Iraqis with their hi tech garbage yet able to do little lest they get flicked down the road.

IMO they won't be able to control Iraq much less Iran's oil supply.

But things won't be rosy for Iraqis either. Muqtada al-Sadr will re-appear eventually and take control of the joint. He's using his time to get a couple of quick degrees - all ready to become supreme leader on Sistani's demise. The Ba'athists will have either a challenge or an opportunity depending on how they play off the amerikans fear of 'Mockie'.

What a fucking mess, the chaos caused by amerikan greed and stupidity will reverberate for years, and I can't help feeling that if the greedheads had showed some patience and just let Iraq ride, they would have eventually got control of the oil.

USuk had enough power through the pre-2003 UN resolutions to keep others - especially China, at bay.

Of course the same goes for Israel, they will come to regret frittering their only real strength, the sympathy their situation had with ordinary amerikans, on a pointless and impossible to achieve attempt at wiping Palestine and Palestinians off the map.

Just as amerika will never again have the total power in had in early 03, Israel will never again be able to win the same unqualified approval of amerikans they could before the 06 butchering of Beirut.

I'm sure that the slight drop off of MoA posts is due in part to a feeling that they won, the bastards. This is of course exacerbated by the onset of winter - the dreaded 'seasonal affective disorder' or SAD, but from down here, where admittedly the summer is gracing us with an early start, lifting and SADness we may have felt, the cup seems more than half full.

Remember that it's not losing that worries the elites, the greed-heads feeding off the rest of us, after all it's not as if they ever have to pay the price of a loss, they leave that to the shit-kickers they exploit with their lies.

No as long as they can make it seem like they haven't lost, they believe they can retain their hold over those they seek to oppress (in this case the public of the 'west'), so all of the deaths and misery in the ME have been to support one central lie, that they won a war that was always going to be unwinnable for them.

The empire will pay for it's callous disregard of innocent human existence in Iraq and the rest of the ME. Those of the empire will pay in greater measure and for longer than those they subjected to their sadistic invasion.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Nov 28 2007 23:53 utc | 8

"If others make something that you value, you should be able to buy it"
Usually knownw as "stealing"...

Worth noting about your comment about imperial economics, that fact that the US is going Rome's route: giving up hard-earned limtied resources of gold to buy luxury from China, which ends up with an impoverished Western empire.

The Scot was dead right about the econimic sinkhole that America was for UK, most notably the huge cost of the war and conquest of the French colonies. Britain was so in debt that it eventually decided the colonies should pay a bit of the cost of their past and current defense. The colonies, being as grateful as ever, decided their own defense costs were none of their business and told king George to get lost.

Now, more to the point, I quite agree with your analysis. It is a show of force of an empire that tries to keep its standing and all-powerful place in the universe. It needed to kick some underling, and chose to pick a weak one. That's where things get interesting, because when you lose against a weakling, you look even worse after that - picking and losing a fight against the weak shows your just a loser and a jerk. The complete mess of the US occupation has done more against US military credibility than anything else in the last 35 years.
Then, clearly, several different causes concurred, some groups wanting war for some reason, others for other reasons, and at some point in time, all these sometimes conflicting interests wanted at the same time to move against Iraq. With Bush himself, the apocalyptic and the pro-Israel angle may have played a role in his decision, not only the mere "we're the top dog and we'll crush that uppity Arab" - though the religious angle may have been used to convince him to go against Iraq by people who wanted to go there for imperial reasons and didn't care about Israel or end-times.

Posted by: CluelessJoe | Nov 29 2007 0:02 utc | 9

Debs: maybe someone in Iraq has actually read about Arminius.

Posted by: CluelessJoe | Nov 29 2007 0:08 utc | 10


think you are absolutely correct about the 'silence' in iraq & the contingent melancholy of living in the west

history teaches us clearly - that when those who rule from the roll of dollars think they are close to victory - they are really at the dawn of their own defeat

i think the precise organisation of that defeat is in discussion - in these hours in the towns & villages of iraq & decsions being taken by the people of iraq

the puppet regime in the green zone has bever sounded more like its antecedent - thieu, diem or a marcos. or more close to home the deluded & dangerous shah of iran

the empire's defeat is being written in these hours

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Nov 29 2007 0:45 utc | 11

Great analysis B. I wonder where the next big push will be in a generation. I think in space. Regime change on the moon. We can't let those dirty commies/muslims/... have it.

Posted by: PeeDee | Nov 29 2007 0:52 utc | 12

in a realists' update of mackinder's heartland theory, kissinger reportedly once said

Who controls the food supply controls the people; who controls the energy can control whole continents; who controls money can control the world.

Posted by: b real | Nov 29 2007 5:51 utc | 13

The reason that US elites motives are so hard to understand is that they, like most rulers, have fundamentally different values and ways of looking at things than normal people.

In order to get into a position of power, you have to really want power. No-one spends their whole life working 16 hours a day to get to the top of the political, coroparate or military ladder without an unquentable thirst for power to drive them.

Put a normal person in charge of government and they'll start wondering how they can fix up healthcare and roads and stuff. Put a person who dreamed of power their whole life in charge of government and they wonder how they can get more power. That's the way they think. More power. Always more power. Give them a billion dollars and they spend it on getting power. That's what they are.

That's why the kings and queens in medieval Europe spent all their time fighting each other instead of developing up their kingdoms. Why anyone would want to do something else, like improve the education system was literally incomprehensible to them.

The elites of the US already control America. They're looking for more power as automatically and unquestioningly as a junkie looks for a fix. That's what they do. Iraq lets them control the world by holding a knife to the world's oily black blooded heart at no cost because its of someone else's billions and other people's lives.

Doing this is so logical to them they almost don't have to think about it. Its gives them so much power, so much leverage that its hard for them to understand why someone would not do it.

Posted by: swio | Nov 29 2007 7:16 utc | 14

Once again...

Saddam was selling the lowest priced oil in the world. He controlled OPEC profits.
He controlled OPEC profits, but he also pissed off the Israelis, more importantly.

Right before GWI, oil was below $12 a barrel. Right before GWII, thanks to Oil for Food, oil was below $15 a barrel. Saudi quite openly stated they could make a decent profit at $25 a barrel, but not below. GW2 went quite well for them, destroying Iraq infrastructure and temporarily spiking oil. Since August, when the credit-con bubble blew up and a hot-alpha bubble of an oil-con started rising, they've done extremely well. So Iraqi oil production is now and will remain for all foreseeable future:

1) limited to break below the global supply:demand gap;
2) priced at market, instead of at cost-plus.

George Bush gave an important clue. Forget history, we'll all be dead. 30T BBL's of oil in the ground, or 60 gazillion, doesn't matter. What matters is the price-point.
Duhh. It's about controlling the production rate of Iraqi oil below a threshold. The PSA's are just dime-bag baaksheesh to grease the skids. The big profits belongs to the oil sheiks, and to their sycophants in la Casa Blanca.

Tonight word is spreading DHS will announce discovery of a "derringer cell phone". Now everyone will be required to have their cell phone scanned at airport security. What they're scanning isn't powder residue, they're scanning your cell phone SIM's. Once they have that, all your personal data that's been intercepted and recorded for years, will be permanently tied to you by your cell ID. Then they'll have all your bank accounts and passwords tied to the birth records from your passport RFID scan.
The moment after they scan your cell phone SIM, Chertoff owns your ass, and now with this false-flag 'cell-gun' op, they have pretext for "reasonable search and seizure".

Come to pappa!

Welcome to the gulag, comrade! Would you like boiled turnips with your cabbage soup?

Posted by: Schmellow Yellow | Nov 29 2007 7:27 utc | 15

Nice analysis, and obviously correct in so far as it goes, but fundamentally flawed precisely because it looks for "The REASON!!!" for the war in Iraq. I'm convinced that you need to look at these things in a wider way.

Among the things that made the war in Iraq seem like a good idea to the Bush regime are the challenge that Saddam's Iraq posed to US hegemony, the eventual control of oil assets by a compliant regime, replacing an Israeli enemy with an ally, opportunities for siphoning off cash to friends and family and the expected dividends in domestic politics and Bush's place in history. It's not one thing, it's lots of factors all pushing in the same way - even the price of the war in terms of US casualties was expected to be negligible for those who believed in the supernatural powers of the US military.

All of these factors, and others, had different weightings for the different players in the US. Put together they became an unanswerable argument for the arrogant fools in the Whitehouse who believed their own propaganda about creating reality.

The reason that Iran hasn't happened yet is that the PNAC crowd can't get the coalition they need in place within the administration to make it happen. They're not the only players.

Posted by: Colman | Nov 29 2007 8:46 utc | 16

Hammond, (as Holt) takes the trouble to quote the PNAC's statement;

In 1998, PNAC wrote a letter to President Clinton stating that "American policy toward Iraq is not succeeding" and that U.S. "strategy should aim, above all, at the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power." The reasons are given[...] would make it difficult "to determine with any reasonable level of confidence whether Iraq does or does not possess" weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Were Saddam to actually have a WMD capability, "a significant portion of the world's supply of oil will all be put at hazard." Concerns over WMD, though real, are secondary to concerns over access to oil.[4]
In that you can't run a proper empire if you don't (have the freedom to) control the energy supply (of the imperial assets). Can there be any doubt that the mainspring of the Iraq escapade clockwork is indeed the oil? Sure, there are other moving parts to the clock - the slow moving gears of the american psyche, its exceptionalism, religiosity, and its gullibility that enable these periodic flirtations with empire building. Especially when they interface with the faster moving (and more easily deniable) gears of exploitation under the pretense of goodness, liberation, and big daddyism. Throw in a liberal dose of monetary lubricant in the form of a highly developed military industrial complex dependent on its parasitic political influence into every nook and pocket of the house on the hill - and you have a narcissistic and baroque self serving clockwork that could care less about its apparent function, telling what time it is.

And unfortunately, it's time thats at issue in Iraq. Time, or more precisely, MORE time, is the only constant in U.S. policy in Iraq over the last, almost 5 years. Considering all the differing and shifting justifications for the U.S. presence in that country, the biggest lie has always been that the the ultimate mission is for the U.S. to leave, be it training the Iraqi military, security, or tamping down sectarian conflict. Flying in the face of those goals is the unabated continuance of permanent military bases, the mega-embassy, and the oil legislation (and failing that, the special deal between Maliki and Bush to give preference to U.S. companies) - all of which inflame anti-occupation sentiment and are contrary to creating stability - so that we could actually leave. Bottom line is the U.S. will do anything, anything including arming its, and its puppet governments enemies, in order to create dependency, in order to stay. Forever. In the forsaken belief that the oil will begin pumping before the literal and figurative blood is all pumped out.

All in all the standard historic demise of empire.

Posted by: anna missed | Nov 29 2007 9:57 utc | 17

to begin to understand the whys behind the invasion of Iraq, its instructive to look at the means, ends, motives & thinkings that drive the way corporate America works. And pretty much every narrative on the modern American mega-corporation applies. In other words the USA govt as a humongous giant corporation, in this case with a massive support apparatus in every possible resource-sphere that matters. With the possible exception of knowledge-of-history (by the occasional CEO & board) as observed by Nelson Mandela.

and whenever its possible to do so, the temptation to go for the all-out play that yields a fat quarterly dividend may be too strong to resist for the modern mega-corporation. The biggest pay-offs of course are those that crush, incapacitate or at least pacify competitors & enemies alike.

and if the invasion of Iraq had gone as planned, a new play would have been drawn up for the next quarter and on & on. Why stop when your on a roll. Why leave anything on the table. Why spare an enemy who might come back to haunt you.

another interesting question is what goal would be enough to satisfy. Probably something like ultimate global uncontested & unhindered domination. Forever. Otherwise for a few generations is good for now.

Posted by: jony_b_cool | Nov 29 2007 10:46 utc | 18


no * sherlock.

that's what the internet tells me too, no insult intended --- "ultimate global uncontested & unhindered domination."

We've seen it coming a long time, "we've been waiting such a long time, for today ..."

What to do?

I protested in NYC in the cold, before Iraq invasion. Women, men and children in the cold using our cellphones to find which avenues were clear to walk 50 blocks uptown to then walk 50 blocks down towards the UN. Boxed in by portable fences, yet each block had radio speakers repeating the speeches on the stage. Not very people-powered.

Advantage NYC (Giuliani and crew).

I haven't felt the call to another protest, although there have been many.

What say you?

Posted by: jonku | Nov 29 2007 11:36 utc | 19

anna missed, I will read your comment.

You always nail it.

Posted by: jonku | Nov 29 2007 11:41 utc | 20


eyes wide open now too. Theres no going back to the farm. Yet.

Posted by: jony_b_cool | Nov 29 2007 13:24 utc | 21

Sorry if this has already been posted, but probably worth another look. Link is to the Bill.


`From House Bill H.R. 1955 "The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill (H.R. 1955) last month, by a vote of 404 to 6, that says the Internet is a terrorist tool and that Congress needs to develop and implement methods to combat it."

H.R. 1955: Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007

(3) The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens.


Posted by: ww | Nov 29 2007 13:57 utc | 22

Wrong thread, meant to be on open. Sorry

Posted by: ww | Nov 29 2007 13:58 utc | 23

excellent post B.

Yes, dominance. But dominance is based on strategic calculations. The US did not invade Tibet or Zimbabwe to kick ass (etc.) Anyhow, as is known, I lean towards control of resources arguments, yet as has been said here many times before, the different interpretations are not mutually exclusive. When I go on about Kosovo, it is not only because 15% of Kosovars live in CH, but because:

The line from the break up of Yugoslavia and generally speaking Western-NATO dominance (Kosovo will not become independent as even the main players -Albright etc - show in their last letter pleading for that very thing, see link) is direct.

Yugoslavia was a success; the (now) enclave in the EU will end up by being absorbed, and the first step was helpless, fractioned, and still warring ‘statelets’ or groups. Bosnia has 3 PMs and three parliaments. Kosovo has none (so to speak.) This is too many or not enough. Und so weiter. Regime change with a vicious vengeance.

Moving on: the article uses the expression ‘mafia don’. And that hits another important strand. In world politics today, almost wherever you look, you find old fashioned frames of reference or interpretation collapsing, left and right no longer matter, nations are taken over by elites of one kind or another, democracy becomes a fractured shell, etc. etc.

Hillary and Giuliani don’t diverge markedly in their foreign policy positions (to repeat, G will be the next president..), and the opposition is rather with Paul/Kucinich, who are from different ends of the spectrum; both hark back to traditional values, models and aspirations.

Mafia type systems thrive as a cancer or parasite on another system - be it functioning ‘democracy’, constituted society with a rule of law, etc. They cannot function in a vacuum as they feed on what exists; and they can’t govern, know it, and avoid it. That is their very nature. That, imho, explains the kind of hallucinatory double layered world we live in now: on the one hand, nations, votes, economy, business as usual, competition for resources, NGOs, etc., which absolutely has to be kept up as a working system; on the other, a weird dystopia that ppl try and dope out, fit into traditional schemes, but also decry and despair about without ever making a system break.

The main scam is the ‘terrorist’ one. Think mafia. Terrorist actions are implemented or organized by those who benefit from them. They are carried out to garner political clout, position, control, financial advantage.

The meme of crazed religiously motivated terrorists propelled (sic) by hate and the valiant defenders of the vulnerable people, of the old order, of the rule of law, etc. is a world wide mafia type scam.

Eg. The linked article from the village voice gathers together a lot of old news, about Giuliani’s links to ‘terror’ and his money making from that status. People are not stupid - as a careful reading of that article will reveal - they know that money has to be shunted to ‘terror’ experts to protect one from ‘terror.’> letter albright etc. from a blog,barrett,78478,6.html/5> g’s ties to terror, village voice

Posted by: Tangerine | Nov 29 2007 18:10 utc | 24>Michael Schwartz cuts to the catch-22 on topic - why the U.S. has no intention on leaving anytime soon - yeah, its the oil:

[...] So surge "success" doesn't mean withdrawal – yes, some troops will come home slowly – but the rest will have to embed themselves in Iraqi communities for the long haul. This situation was summarized well by Captain Jon Brooks, the commander of Joint Security Station Thrasher in Western Baghdad, one of the small outposts that represent the front lines of the surge strategy. When asked by New Yorker reporter Jon Lee Anderson how long he thought the U.S. would remain in Iraq, he replied, "I'm not just blowing smoke up your ass, but it really depends on what the U.S. civilian-controlled government decides its goals are and what it tells the military to do."

As long as that government is determined to install a friendly, anti-Iranian regime in Baghdad, one that is hostile to "foreigners," including all jihadists, but welcomes an ongoing American military presence as well as multinational development of Iraqi oil, the American armed forces aren't going anywhere, not for a long, long time; and no relative lull in the fighting – temporary or not – will change that reality. This is the Catch-22 of Bush administration policy in Iraq. The worse things go, the more our military is needed; the better they go, the more our military is needed.

Posted by: anna missed | Nov 30 2007 9:41 utc | 25

If others make something that you value, you should be able to buy it. This is real freedom

and if you can't, then stealing it is justifiable.

Right to get = freedom

Posted by: annie | Nov 30 2007 18:29 utc | 26

badger has an excellent new post up.

Posted by: annie | Nov 30 2007 20:46 utc | 27

Wonderful post B, and great comments.

IMO, however, your analysis turns into more of an economic historical context... with which I whole-heatedly agree & greatly appreciate the discussion. I do think your reasoned expose makes a better case for ignorant-dumb-ass-texan-idiot than any kind of geo-political hegemonic ambitions (although in some cases, no doubt, the 2 run together).

Be that as it may, I tend to agree w/Coleman @ 16 re. subject @ hand:

(...)Among the things that made the war in Iraq seem like a good idea to the Bush regime are the challenge that Saddam's Iraq posed to US hegemony, the eventual control of oil assets by a compliant regime, replacing an Israeli enemy with an ally, opportunities for siphoning off cash to friends and family and the expected dividends in domestic politics and Bush's place in history. It's not one thing, it's lots of factors all pushing in the same way - (...)

And I still would add to that the AIPAC players... too many of 'em in the planning w/little upside for US (because any sane person would have known it would turn out as it has.). Fools like Bush are easy prey to be made proxy(s) for those w/the guile of W's zionists.

Posted by: jdmckay | Dec 5 2007 7:04 utc | 28

Tangerine, you think Guliani will be next Pres?? Try this - link. Elites won't let a corrupt transvestite take over now. He's not powerful enough to cover up all those photos. Repugs have bankrupted the country. Bankers insisting on someone they trust. Why do you think they'd let Gul. take over?

Posted by: jj | Dec 5 2007 9:26 utc | 29

re: the oil motivation... thinking about this last night I remembered Empty Wheel's post quoting a nearly entirely ignored Bush statement from:

Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush
by Robert Draper.

From EW:

Aside from the boorishness of discussing more war with bread crumbs all over your chin, Bush's pathetic simplification of our relationship with Iran--in a monologue he calls "strategic thinking"--is pretty alarming, even coming from Bush.

"The job of the president," he continued, through an ample wad of bread and sausage, "is to think strategically so that you can accomplish big objectives. As opposed to playing mini-ball. You can't play mini-ball with the influence we have and expect there to be peace. You've gotta think, think BIG. The Iranian issue," he said as bread crumbs tumbled out of his mouth and onto his chin, "is the strategic threat right now facing a generation of Americans, because Iran is promoting an extreme form of religion that is competing with another extreme form of religion. Iran's a destabilizing force. And instability in that part of the world has deeply adverse consequences, like energy falling in the hands of extremist people that would use it to blackmail the West. And to couple all of that with a nuclear weapon, then you've got a dangerous situation. ... That's what I mean by strategic thought.

Okay. The Iranian issue is the strategic threat facing this generation of Americans. As opposed to, say, China? Because, while I don't advocate bombing the shit out of either of them, I guarantee you that China's rise is a much more direct threat to the American way of life than Iran is right now.

And Bush's reason for focusing on Iran is truly disconcerting.

Iran is promoting an extreme form of religion that is competing with another extreme form of religion.

First of all, what is the "another extreme form of religion" that Bush has in mind? I presume he's referring to Sunni Islamic fundamentalism, and not, say, Christian Dominionism or heavily-armed but usually moderate Israeli Judaism. But if I'm right, then why does he see the solution to this clash to be a focus on Iran? I mean, aren't the Sunni extremists the ones who attacked us? Why then, when that threat is still pressing, does Bush see Iran as the generational threat here?

The answer, of course, comes at the end of that sentence.

like energy falling in the hands of extremist people that would use it to blackmail the West.

Kind'a lends credence to oil motivation thinie IMO, w/a not-to-be-discarded-as-snark confluence w/my earlier alterior motivation: ignorant-dumb-ass-texan-idiot.

Posted by: jdmckay | Dec 5 2007 20:02 utc | 30

from a lengthy analysis at jinsa online

Protecting America’s Far-Flung Oil Supply

Indeed, protecting the Persian Gulf’s oil installations has been an active mission of the U.S. Central Command naval forces as well as coalition forces maritime security operations (MSO) in the region. In a September 19 interview with the Washington Times, Vice Admiral Kevin J. Cosgriff, the commander of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, said, “Security in that region writ large, but especially maritime security, is the foundation for regional stability, regional prosperity, and arguably a larger global economic stability, if you think in terms of just safeguarding the free flow of oil and other energy.”

The U.S. Coast Guard, too, is patrolling the seas that are home to vital oil installations. “We have very young officers commanding patrol boats in the Persian Gulf right now defending the offshore oil rigs,” Admiral Thad Allen, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, told the Journal of Homeland Security in an October 16, 2006 interview. One Coastguardsman was killed, along with two sailors, while attempting to board and search an explosives-laden fishing dhow headed for the Khor al Amaya Oil Terminal (KAOOT) and al Basra Oil Terminal (ABOT) on April 24, 2004. The Coastguardsman was the service’s first combat fatality since Vietnam.

The incident was an attempt by insurgents to penetrate the “ring of steel” that surrounds the oil terminals in the North Arabian Gulf, as Royal Navy Cmdr. Steve Dainton, the captain of HMS St. Albans, described the coalition maritime security forces to the American Forces Press Service in May 2006. The St. Albans is part of Coalition Task Force 158 (CTF-158), whose primary mission is to provide around-the-clock protection for Iraq’s oil platforms, which were first secured by U.S. Navy SEALS and Polish Special Forces in 2003. CTF-158 now includes ships from Great Britain, Australia, and the United States. Iraqi marines and U.S. sailors are on constant patrol on the platforms themselves, in addition to ships and helicopters that patrol the perimeter, roving patrols, and being able to call on other U.S. Navy assets, including land-based personnel, Marine Brig. Gen. Carl B. Jensen told the American Forces Press Service in May 2006.

Maintaining the security of these installations remains one of the most crucial missions for the U.S.-led coalition forces, top naval commanders reiterated to India eNews on August 30. “The country needs revenue and it could only come at the moment through these oil platforms so we have to protect them,” Captain Ian Middleton said. Middleton is commanding officer of the Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Anzac, whose country will assume the next command of the task group.

Posted by: b real | Dec 7 2007 3:21 utc | 31

michael klare: Iraq and Climate Change

Why is the Iraq War so closely tied to our failure in addressing climate change?

Let’s begin with the obvious: the war is primarily being fought by the United States, the world’s leading producer of climate-altering “greenhouse” gases and the one country whose leadership is required for genuine progress toward solving the climate change problem. But instead of providing such leadership, the United States has been totally embroiled in conducting a losing and debilitating war.

Overcoming the global warming problem won’t be easy. In fact, it may prove the most difficult challenge humanity has ever faced. Its successful management will require a total transformation in the way we power and organize our cities, industries, farms, and transportation systems. This, in turn, will require the full attention, imagination, ingenuity, and determination of our leaders, scientists, engineers, farmers, and industrialists.
It’s hardly surprising, then, that the White House has devoted little sustained attention to the global warming issue and come up with few meaningful proposals for addressing it.
But, of course, this is just the beginning of the problem. What, after all, is the Iraq War all about? Pundits and historians will no doubt argue about this for decades to come, but few in the end will dispute the conclusion of former Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan that, at root, it was about the control of Middle Eastern petroleum. “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil,” he wrote in his 2007 memoir, The Age of Turbulence.

This fact is not unrelated to global warming: In essence, the war is intended to ensure America’s continued access to Middle Eastern oil, and access to Middle Eastern oil is essential to sustain America’s reliance on oil to fuel its economy, and this reliance, in turn, accounts for America’s largest share of greenhouse-gas emissions.
Iraq matters in this calculation not because it (currently) supplies that much of our oil but because it represents the culmination of a 50-year U.S. effort to dominate the Persian Gulf region as way of ensuring that this country will have access to adequate supplies of petroleum to make up for any shortfall in domestic output. At one time the United States was self-sufficient in oil production but, as that fortunate era drew to a close in the years after World War II, American leaders concluded that it was necessary to ensure that the country controlled an alternative, overseas source – and the Persian Gulf (with two-thirds of the world’s known petroleum reserves) was selected for this purpose. Because the Gulf area is inherently unstable for a variety of historical, demographic, and political reasons, it has long been American policy to rely on military force to protect U.S. access to the region’s energy supplies. The Iraq War is only the most recent of a series of U.S. military interventions intended to achieve this objective.
In the end, therefore, the Iraq War is the natural result of a White House effort to perpetuate the nation’s addiction to petroleum at any cost – an addiction that is responsible for an ever-increasing outflow of climate-altering greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Posted by: b real | Dec 7 2007 18:46 utc | 32

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