The Iraq war was not for oil 6

Jonah Goldberg, writing at Townhall, lists among Chuck Hagel’s many disqualifications for an appointment as Defense Secretary, his wrong-headed belief that the Iraq war was a war for oil. (The whole article is worth reading.)

The Iraq war … was according to Hagel a war for oil.

This belief is prevalent all over the world and needs to be debunked. This thorough debunking job comes from the excellent Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy:

When the US-led coalition invaded Iraq in 2003, one of the most common perceptions was that the primary motive behind the war was the country’s significant oil reserves.

According to a 2002 Pew Poll, 44 per cent British, 75 per cent French, 54 per cent Germans, and 76 per cent Russians were greatly suspicious of US intentions in Iraq and bought into the “blood for oil” narrative. … Only 22 per cent of Americans believed that the Bush administration’s policy was driven by oil interests.

At the time, experts pointed out that this argument was deeply flawed and a lazy mantra of the war opponents.

While Iraq has the second largest oil reserves in the world, its output in the early 2000s was modest and accounted for only 3 per cent of total global productivity. Due to the geology of the oilfields and, above all, the poor infrastructure destroyed by years of war, Saddam’s negligence, and the sanctions regime, Iraq had the lowest yield of any major producer, amounting to just 0.8 per cent of its potential output.

By the end of 2011, the US had spent almost $802bn on funding the war and, as the Centre for Strategic and International Studies pointed out, Iraq had additional debts of over $100 billion.

On top of that, the US only imports 12.9 per cent of its oil from the Middle East. 8.1 per cent is provided by Saudi Arabia.

In other words, invading Iraq was an extremely expensive undertaking for the US-led coalition with no guarantee or prospect of considerable profitability.

As Daniel Yergin argued at the time: “no US administration would launch so momentous a campaign just to facilitate a handful of oil development contracts and a moderate increase in supply-half a decade from now.” …

10 years after the invasion of Iraq, who is profiting most from the country’s oil reserves? The US? The UK? No. PetroChina, Russian Lukoil, and Pakistan Petroleum – fierce opponents of the war.

On the other hand, as Germany’s leading weekly news magazine DER SPIEGEL reported this week, “America has not a single, significant oil deal with Baghdad” anymore.

EXXON is moving out of Iraq and PetroChina has taken the lead in the auction of West Qurna – one of the largest oil fields in the world – with Russian Lukoil as a potential competitor. If the Chinese bid is successful, the country will account for 32 per cent of total oil contracts in Iraq.

The “blood for oil” conspiracists owe President Bush an apology.

An apology to President Bush? Over a mis-ascription of motive for the Iraq War? It won’t happen, of course. But at least the truth is on record.

  • secularsquare

    I guess it goes to show that if a president and Congress cannot articulate a clear justification for going to war against another nation, it increases the likelihood that others will imagine more sinister–or more stupid–explanations.

  • rogerinflorida

    if the US were to take a purely self interested view and invade a country for it’s oil reserves, that country would be Canada.

  • Jack

    Both wars in the Middle East were self-sacrificial altruistic wars. They are a classic case of sacrificing to your enemies out of a sense of guilt. President Bush, who is both a Christian and a moderate Leftist – ie a Christian Leftist, used some hawkish rhetoric and dressed up Iraq and Afghanistan with some superficial pro-self-defense jargon, but at root his wars were about sacrificing American lives, blood and treasure to attempt to befriend the Islamic world. Iraq and Afghanistan are not real wars in any historical sense. They are not being fought for victory over a hostile enemy for the purposes of defending America and the West.

    But the Left, which is a philosophy of egalitarianism and altruism fused into a secular civic religion, sees any action which even so much as hints at egoism or self interest or strength as the essence of pure evil; just look at their view of gun ownership. Thus they saw our Middle East engagements as some version of American imperialism which is a joke. If we were really a strong, dominant nation, we would have confiscated the ME oil fields and made them American property. But can you see ANY Republican doing that let alone a meek Christian man like President Bush? Once again we see the Left emotionally intimidating the Conservatives with accusations of what should be our normal policy. “The Conservatives are a bunch of free market ideologues” – I wish. “The Conservatives are a bunch of Islam hating war mongers” – I wish. The “Conservatives want to do away with the welfare state and turn back the 20th century” – I wish.

    The Conservatives want to do none of those things. Most of them are watered down versions of Leftists themselves; ie George Bush.

    • Jillian Becker

      Jack – I agree with, and applaud, every sentence you’ve written here.

  • Actually, it WAS for oil, just not for the US. China is reaping all of the benefits. (this story, among others)

    • Jillian Becker

      Thanks for the link, Andrew Tabar.

      Our point is that oil was not President Bush’s reason for making war on Saddam Hussein.

      China is a beneficiary of the war – gets the oil – but China did not wage the war.