TODAY, much of the world is convinced that the Bush administration
covets Iraq's oil. "Blood for Oil" signs appear in dozens of languages around
This is a serious charge. Even in the Bay Area, where many are skeptical of
the Bush administration's motives, we don't want to believe our nation would
invade another country for its oil.
Americans are not like that, we tell ourselves. We are a moral people. We
are a democracy, a nation ruled by law, governed by noble ideals.
Even at the height of the anti-war movement in the late 1960s, no one ever
accused the United States of sending half a million men to Vietnam in order to
grab their tin and tungsten. Everyone knew that Vietnam -- right or wrong --
was an ideological war, an effort to contain communism.
Why, then, do so many people believe that oil plays such an important role
in influencing American foreign policy?
In part, it is because recent reports in the national media have observed
that U.S. and British oil firms, which currently do not have Iraqi oil
contracts, stand to benefit from a post-Hussein, American-friendly government.
But it is not only the United States and Great Britain who stand accused of
coveting Iraqi oil. Right now, the Turks are poised to fight the Kurds over
the oil fields in Northern Iraq. France and Russia, moreover, have threatened
to veto a U.N. resolution not only to contain U.S. power, but because each
fears losing lucrative contracts negotiated with the current Iraqi regime.
France, Russia and China also worry that in a post-war Iraq, an American-
friendly government would reward U.S. friends -- Exxon Mobil Corp. of Irving,
Texas or Royal Dutch/Shell of London -- with lucrative oil contracts. In
addition, an interim government will award some $3 billion to $5 billion to
the oil-service industry. Among those who have bid for such contracts are
Fluor Corp., the Bechtel Group Ind. and Halliburton Co., which Dick Cheney ran
before he became vice president. The Pentagon has already awarded the Houston-
based company, Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton Co., a
multimillion-dollar contract to develop a plan for fire-fighting operations in
Iraqi oil fields.
You may ask, but isn't disarmament the real goal? Indeed, it is. In a 1998
letter to then-President Bill Clinton, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and
Richard Perle, now the most outspoken hawks in the Bush administration --
wrote that "if Saddam does acquire the capability to deliver weapons of mass
destruction . . . a significant portion of the world's supply of oil will be
put at hazard. The only acceptable strategy is . . . to undertake military
action, as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing
Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of
American foreign policy."
Clinton did not follow their advice. But George W. Bush, a Texas oil man
whose inner circle has become reckless with dreams of American power, has now
made the removal of Hussein the goal of our new pre-emptive war policy.
This is why many people now feel that American strategic concerns are too
influential in shaping our foreign policy. Most Americans would prefer to
believe this impending war is about spreading democracy throughout the region.
But a classified State Department report, disclosed to the Los Angeles Times,
now disputes Bush's claim that ousting Hussein will spur democratic reforms in
Our nation, add critics, would not be bribing and threatening other
countries and preparing to violate international law if Iraq's major export
All foreign policy is based, to some degree, on access to strategic
resources like oil. Now it is up to the American people to judge why our
country is going to war -- before this administration discredits our nation's
democratic principles and unleashes great human suffering, here and abroad.
©2003 San Francisco Chronicle