I watched Rachel Maddow’s new documentary (“Why We Did It”) on why the U.S. went to war in Iraq in 2003. Her answer was “oil,” which is true enough as far as it goes. But it doesn’t go nearly far enough.
First of all, a matter of style: I found her breathless “now it can be told”—after eleven years—demeanor more than a little annoying. As my fellow Vietnam veteran Daniel Ellsberg said many years ago: “The United States invaded Iraq for three reasons: Oil, Israel, and Domestic Political Advantage.” Former South Carolina Senator Fritz Hollings gave only one reason: “The United States invaded Iraq to secure the state of Israel—and everybody knows it.” Long-time Republican Party analyst Kevin Phillips wrote a rather substantial book on this subject in 2006 entitled American Theocracy: the Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century.
So, in my opinion, Rachel Maddow has come to the party, so to speak, well past midnight with blinders on. Yes, everyone who knew anything worth knowing realized—a decade ago—that oil company profiteers like G. W. Bush and Dick Cheney had Iraqi oil as a main objective in toppling the toothless tin-pot dictator Saddam Hussein. But other religious, political and financial goals had just as much influence on U.S. government policy makers, as noted by Kevin Phillips and many others, including Naomi Klein in her book The Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007).
“‘The best time to invest is when there is still blood on the ground,’ [said] a delegate at the ‘Rebuilding Iraq 2′ conference in Washington, D.C.” [quoting Baron Rothschild]
“The fact that it was hard to find people in Baghdad who were interested in talking about economics was not surprising. The architects of this invasion were firm believers in the shock doctrine—they knew that while the Iraqis were consumed with daily emergencies, the country could be auctioned off discretely and the results announced as a done deal. As for journalists and activists, we seemed to be exhausting our attention on the spectacular physical attacks, forgetting that the parties with the most to gain never show up on the battlefield. And in Iraq there was plenty to gain: not just the world’s third-largest proven oil reserves but territory that was one of the last remaining holdouts from the drive to build a global market based on [Milton] Friedman’s vision of unfettered capitalism. After the crusade had conquered Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe [especially, Russia] and Asia [meaning, China], the Arab world called out as its last frontier.”
So, in sum, Iraq figured simply as one of the last targets for the Privatize-the-World oligarchs who now consider formerly sovereign national governments little more than wholly owned corporate sub-divisions. Yes, oil figured prominently in the mix. But so did obtaining a stranglehold on political/economic ideology and first access to other natural resources, together with gaining control of global financial debt leverage.
But most of all, the Iraq war was a bloody sideshow resulting from the “golden opportunity” to exploit 9/11/2001 so as to keep the world’s masses stunned and reeling from disaster, or just distracted by the news of it, so that the massive looting could take place unnoticed.
“When there’s blood in the streets [because we caused it to flow in torrents] then it’s time to buy everything [at fire-sale prices] that we can’t just steal for free.”
Overall, Maddow’s breathless documentary on the Iraq War was unimpressively one-dimensional. And old news at that.
Michael Murry, a Vietnam Veteran, writer and poet, occupies the Asian Desk for The Contrary Perspective.