[Marxism] Re Tariq Ali on the U.S. election

Ilyenkova at aol.com Ilyenkova at aol.com
Sun Aug 8 19:06:33 MDT 2004

T>TA: We're talking about the government which took the United States 
>to war. Had Gore been elected, he would have gone to war in 
>Afghanistan, but I doubt he would have gone to war in Iraq. This is 
>very much a neocon agenda, dominated by the need to get the oil and 
>appease the Israelis.<

ariq is just off-base in seeing the US decision to invade Iraq as driven 
solely by the neocon/likudnik toadies of Israel. Certainly, the 
Bush/Wolfowitz/Perle axis had its own agenda, and pushed hard for it thru the 90s. However, the 
putative subjective motives of the Bush gang pale in significance when weighed 
against the geopolitical costs to American capitalism in its global struggle 
with its imperialist rivals, of not moving decisively to take possession of 
Iraqi oil. As John Chapman points out in the following Guardian article, if 
Hussein's move towards the Euro had spread, the threat to the U.S. dollar would 
have threatened the underpinnings of American global dominance. Imagine, oil 
trading for the more highly valued Euro: As the dollar plummets in value, and the 
Euro-dollar overhang threatens a run on the dollar; Asian exports to US 
markets fall as the dollar drops. Hard currency reserves needed by Asian central 
banks to fund the US debt start drying up. Now the IMF's feared US double 
deficit (budget and payments) becomes a real problem....etc., etc.

WMD was the rationale for invading Iraq. But what was really driving the US 
were fears over oil and the future of the dollar 

John Chapman
Wednesday July 28, 2004
The Guardian 

There were only two credible reasons for invading Iraq: control over oil and 
preservation of the dollar as the world's reserve currency. Yet the government 
has kept silent on these factors, instead treating us to the intriguing 
distractions of the Hutton and Butler reports. 
Butler's overall finding of a "group think" failure was pure charity. 
Absurdities like the 45-minute claim were adopted by high-level officials and 
ministers because those concerned recognised the substantial reason for war - oil. 
WMD provided only the bureaucratic argument: the real reason was that Iraq was 
swimming in oil. 

Some may still believe the eve-of-war contention by Donald Rumsfeld that "We 
won't take forces and go around the world and try to take other people's oil 
... That's not how democracies operate." Maybe others will go along with 
Blair's post-war contention: "There is no way whatsoever, if oil were the issue, 
that it would not have been infinitely easier to cut a deal with Saddam." 

But senior civil servants are not so naive. On the eve of the Butler report, 
I attended the 40th anniversary of the Mandarins cricket club. I was taken 
aside by a knighted civil servant to discuss my contention in a Guardian article 
earlier this year that Sir Humphrey was no longer independent. I had then 
attacked the deceits in the WMD report, and this impressive official and I 
discussed the geopolitical issues of Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and US unwillingness to 
build nuclear power stations and curb petrol consumption, rather than go to 

Saddam controlled a country at the centre of the Gulf, a region with a 
quarter of world oil production in 2003, and containing more than 60% of the world's 
known reserves. With 115bn barrels of oil reserves, and perhaps as much again 
in the 90% of the country not yet explored, Iraq has capacity second only to 
Saudi Arabia. The US, in contrast, is the world's largest net importer of oil. 
Last year the US Department of Energy forecast that imports will cover 70% of 
domestic demand by 2025. 

By invading Iraq, Bush has taken over the Iraqi oil fields, and persuaded the 
UN to lift production limits imposed after the Kuwait war. Production may 
rise to 3m barrels a day by year end, about double 2002 levels. More oil should 
bring down Opec-led prices, and if Iraqi oil production rose to 6m barrels a 
day, Bush could even attack the Opec oil-pricing cartel. 

Control over Iraqi oil should improve security of supplies to the US, and 
possibly the UK, with the development and exploration contracts between Saddam 
and China, France, India, Indonesia and Russia being set aside in favour of US 
and possibly British companies. And a US military presence in Iraq is an 
insurance policy against any extremists in Iran and Saudi Arabia. 

Overseeing Iraqi oil supplies, and maybe soon supplies from other Gulf 
countries, would enable the US to use oil as power. In 1990, the then oil man, Dick 
Cheney, wrote that: "Whoever controls the flow of Persian Gulf oil has a 
stranglehold not only on our economy but also on the other countries of the world 
as well." 

In the 70s, the US agreed with Saudi Arabia that Opec oil should be traded in 
dollars. American governments have since been able to print dollars to cover 
huge trading deficits, with the further benefit of those dollars being placed 
in the US money markets. In return, the US allowed the Opec countries to 
operate a production and pricing cartel. 

Over the past 15 years, the overall US deficit with the rest of the world has 
risen to $2,700bn - an abuse of its privileged currency position. Although 
about 80% of foreign exchange and half of world trade is in dollars, the euro 
provides a realistic alternative. Euro countries also have a bigger share of 
world trade, and of trade with Opec countries, than the US. 

In 1999, Iran mooted pricing its oil in euros, and in late 2000 Saddam made 
the switch for Iraqi oil. In early 2002 Bush placed Iran and Iraq in the axis 
of evil. If the other Opec countries had followed Saddam's move to euros, the 
consequences for Bush could have been huge. Worldwide switches out of the 
dollar, on top of the already huge deficit, would have led to a plummeting dollar, 
a runaway from US markets and dramatic upheavals in the US. 

Bush had many reasons to invade Iraq, but why did Blair join him? He might 
have squared his conscience by looking at UK oil prospects. In 1968, when North 
Sea oil was in its infancy, as private secretary to the minister of power I 
wrote a report on oil policy, advocating changes like the setting up of a 
British national oil company (as was done). My proposals found little favour with 
the BP/Shell-supporting officials, but Richard Marsh, the then minister, pressed 
them and the petroleum division was expanded into an operations division and 
a planning division. 

Sadly, when I was promoted out of private office the free-trading petroleum 
officials conspired to block my posting to the planning division, where I would 
surely have advocated a prudent exploitation of North Sea resources to reduce 
our dependence on the likes of Iraq. UK North Sea oil output peaked in 1999, 
and has since fallen by one-sixth. Exports now barely cover imports, and we 
shall shortly be a net oil importer. Supporting Bush might have been justified 
on geo-strategic grounds. 

Oil and the dollar were the real reasons for the attack on Iraq, with WMD as 
the public reason now exposed as woefully inadequate. Should we now look at 
Bush and Blair as brilliant strategists whose actions will improve the security 
of our oil supplies, or as international conmen? Should we support them if 
they sweep into Iran and perhaps Saudi Arabia, or should there be a regime change 
in the UK and US instead? 

If the latter, we should follow that up by adopting the pious aims of UN 
oversight of world oil exploitation within a world energy plan, and the 
replacement of the dollar with a new reserve currency based on a basket of national 

· John Chapman is a former assistant secretary in the civil service, in which 
he served from 1963-96 

johnharoldchapman at hotmail.com 

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