Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

(From left) Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, President George W. Bush, and Vice President Dick Cheney. "My investigation into the causes of the war," writes Professor Butt, "finds that it had little to do with fear of WMDs - or other purported goals, such as a desire to "spread democracy" or satisfy the oil or Israel lobbies. Rather, the Bush administration invaded Iraq for its demonstration effect." (Photo: via PRI)

(From left) Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, President George W. Bush, and Vice President Dick Cheney. "My investigation into the causes of the war," writes Professor Butt, "finds that it had little to do with fear of WMDs - or other purported goals, such as a desire to "spread democracy" or satisfy the oil or Israel lobbies. Rather, the Bush administration invaded Iraq for its demonstration effect." (Photo: via PRI)

The Forgotten Plunder of Iraq

Few talk or think about Iraq these days and the media ignores this important but demolished nation.

Eric Margolis

 by Eric Margolis

Victor Hugo said of the devastated Balkans in the 19th century: ‘The Turks have passed by here. All is in ruins or mourning.’

Welcome to modern Iraq.

The British were always masters of efficient imperialism. In the 19th century, they managed to rule a quarter of the Earth’s surface with only a relatively small army supported by a great fleet.

Many of their imperial subjects were so overawed by the pomp and circumstance of British rule that they often willingly cooperated, or at least bent the knee.

Call it colonialism 101. Ardent students of Roman history, the British early on adopted the Roman strategy of ‘divide et impera’, divide and conquer. The application of this strategy allowed the British Empire to rule over vast numbers of people with minimal force.

In my last book, 'American Raj,' I sought to show how the American Empire was using techniques of the British Imperial Raj (raj = rule in Hindi) employed in India to control the Mideast. Now, we are seeing the same strategy in forgotten Iraq.

Few talk or think about Iraq these days; the media ignores this important but demolished nation. Iraq, let’s recall, was the target of a major western aggression concocted by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Britain’s Tony Blair, financed and encouraged by the Gulf oil sheikdoms and Saudi Arabia.

Most people don’t understand that Iraq remains a US-occupied nation. We hear nothing about the billions of dollars of Iraqi oil extracted by big US oil firms since 2003. For the US, Iraq was a treasure house of oil with 12% of world reserves. It was OPEC’s 2nd largest producer.

Recall one of the leading neocons who engineered the invasion of Iraq, Paul Wolfowitz, claimed the US could finance its entire invasion of Iraq (he estimated the cost at about $70 billion) by plundering Iraq’s oil. Today, the cost of the occupation has reached over $1 trillion. Wolfie is nowhere to be seen. Meanwhile, President Trump says the US will grab Syria’s oil fields. Wherever it may be, oil is as American as apple pie.

So where did all the money go? A large amount for corrupt Iraqi politicians and more for the ten plus US bases in Iraq. Perhaps a modest payoff for neighboring Iran, and Iraq’s Shia clergy, or helping finance Iraq and Syria’s ISIS. But that still leaves a huge amount of unaccounted cash from oil plundered by the US. One day we may find out.

In recent weeks, Shia and Sunni Iraqis have been rioting to protest continuing US proxy rule via a Washington-installed puppet regime in Baghdad that, curiously, also has some Iranian support. As of this writing, 120 Iraqis have been shot dead and some 6,000 wounded. This while scores of Palestinians are being killed by Israel in Gaza.

In the Cheney-Wolfowitz’s plan, Iraq was to serve as the principal US military base to control the entire Mideast, Iran and Afghanistan. This didn’t happen because of fierce Iraqi resistance to US-British rule. But the US has still kept some army, marine and, most important, air bases in Iraq. Supposedly ‘independent’ Iraq is not allowed modern air or armored forces and its air space remains under US control. The US troops that were recently sent to Syria came from the Iraq garrison – a small version of Dick Cheney’s imperial dream.

Ever since the 2003 invasion, Iraq has been ruled by a succession of US-appointed figureheads who have proven as corrupt as they are inept. During the war, the US destroyed most of Iraq’s water and sewage systems, causing some 500,000 children to die from water-borne diseases, wrecking much of its industry and commerce, leaving millions of men unemployed. Public services have broken down.

Before the US invasion, Iraq led the Arab world in industry, farming, medicine, education and women’s rights. All that was destroyed by the ‘liberation.’

I was in Iraq in 2001 and 2003 and saw how much it had developed in spite of the draconian rule of Saddam Hussein. I was one of only a few journalists trying to dispute the western lies about Iraq. The dim-witted Iraqi secret police threatened to hang me as a spy – after I revealed their germ warfare plant at Salman Pak had been set up and was secretly run by British technicians.

Today, Iraq is far worse off than during the days of Saddam Hussein. It is being plundered and exploited while its people suffer. So much for ‘liberation.’


© 2021 Eric Margolis
Eric Margolis

Eric Margolis

Eric Margolis is a columnist, author and a veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East. Margolis was featured in a special appearance on Britain’s Sky News TV as “the man who got it right” in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq. His latest book is "American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World."

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

100+ Ultra-Rich People Warn Fellow Elites: 'It's Taxes or Pitchforks'

"History paints a pretty bleak picture of what the endgame of extremely unequal societies looks like," reads an open letter signed by millionaires and billionaires calling for higher taxes on people like themselves.

Jake Johnson ·


South Dakota Voters Sue Over Right-Wing Attack on Ballot Measures

The GOP effort in the state, said one opponent, "is the latest example of the orchestrated and ongoing attack from bad actors across the country on our democratic institutions."

Kenny Stancil ·


Eric Trump Invoked 5th Amendment 500 Times During 6-Hour Deposition

Longtime Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg refused a similar number of questions, citing his right to not self-incriminate.

Jake Johnson ·


Vaccine Apartheid Means Pandemic 'Nowhere Near Over': WHO Chief

"With the incredible growth of Omicron globally, new variants are likely to emerge," warned WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Jake Johnson ·


Senate Dems Propose Talking Filibuster for Voting Rights

"If Senate Democrats can find the political courage this moment requires, they have the tools right now to pass voting rights legislation and save our democracy."

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo