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March 24, 2008

Will Someone Be Honest? We Invaded Iraq for Oil


Since we’ve been in Iraq for five years now, can we start being honest about why we invaded?


What excuses have we heard in the last five years? They’re a dizzying bunch, including things like unconventional weapons and democracy in the desert. Unfortunately, events in reality have exposed them all as myths, and the real reason is something that most of us refuse to acknowledge.


That real reason is access to Iraq’s oil. Five years ago, the only people talking about that were Ann Coulter – who said that war for oil was a perfectly acceptable thing – and anti-war protestors dismissed as hopelessly naïve. It wasn’t crude that we invaded for, we were told, it was really because Saddam had once used mustard gas on the Kurds and possessed a fleet of unmanned balsa wood gliders that were poised to gas the good citizens of Omaha.


There are very good reasons the nation would wage war in the name of oil. Oil runs the American economy, from making sure that Wal-Mart shelves are full of cheap, plastic crap to providing fertilizer for Iowa’s corn. It also makes it possible to live in the suburbs, half-an-hour from work. In short, it’s not an exaggeration to say that oil is the lifeblood of America. And if that is true, it is entirely sensible that a nation would go to war over it.


Unfortunately, no one is being very honest with the American people, which is why the Iraq war is today a misadventure over desert democracy rather than the serious, earnest conversation that it should be. While Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama obfuscate about how quickly they’d bring the boys back home, John McCain talks glowingly about the need for sacrifice in the name of Iraqi democracy.


What none of them are expressing is the reality of the situation – an abrupt departure of American ground troops from Iraq would make it more difficult for the American government and its corporate partners to procure the resource vital to continue the American way of life.


This is why you hear lots of talk about solutions for American energy independence that border on the fantastic. It’s also the only thing that makes sense in handing over millions in subsidies to corn farmers for ethanol. Without an alternative to oil, the American economy is sunk, and the corn farmer is just the latest and greatest gimmick we’ve deluded ourselves into thinking will rescue us.


This is no wild conspiracy theory. Oil, as anyone capable of fogging a mirror understands, is a finite substance. That means – again, understandable to anyone capable of fogging a mirror – that it will run out. And there are signs that most of the world’s biggest oil fields are headed for declining production, which means that simply getting it out of the ground will require an increasing amount of effort.


On top of that, the United States’ most successful export has been its own lifestyle, especially to economies that are robustly growing in places like China and India. That means the people of China and India want to make oil the blood of their own national economies.


When you throw in the simplest application of supply and demand, you come away with higher prices for oil, which would – if you’re looking forward five or 10 years back in 2003 – leads you to Iraq’s untapped reserves of oil, currently estimated as the highest anywhere in the world.


Failure to acknowledge this has led to a failure of the American people to have an actual adult conversation about Iraq and the future. The issue of Iraq has been distilled to two basic positions that simply ignore what’s at stake – precipitous withdrawal because we’re doing no good there versus a long-standing presence with hopes to establish a stable desert democracy. This flawed focus is apt to result in ripples that touch our way of life, and a continued failure to square a finite supply of oil with a lifestyle predicated on pretending to the contrary.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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