A decade-long and unnecessary war
Greed for oil pushed us into Iraq
Ten years ago.
I find it hard to believe it’s been a full decade since the beginning of the Iraq War, one of the longest and most unnecessary wars in American history. Future historians will place it alongside other dubious conflicts like the Mexican and Spanish-American wars of the 19th century. Both were naked land grabs. The Mexican conflict was instigated by the southern states to expand their empire of slavery ever westward. The War of 1898 occurred during the Age of Empire. Not wanting to be left out, we manipulated the explosion of the battleship “Maine” into a casus belli, that gained us the Philippines.
The war in Iraq followed the same thread, only this time instead of land, we coveted the black goo that runs the engine of our society.
I’ve always considered the Iraq War to be former vice-president Dick Cheney’s secret energy policy. As someone with deep ties to the oil industry, he’s always had his eyes on that ball. Speaking to the London Institute of Petroleum in 1999, Cheney, then CEO of Halliburton observed, “By 2010 we will need on the order of an additional 50 million barrels a day. So where is the oil going to come from? While many regions of the world offer great oil opportunities, the Middle East with two thirds of the world’s oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies.”
That “prize” was never in jeopardy until Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990. Before then, Saddam was our good buddy, receiving billions from American taxpayers for fighting against Iran, our common foe throughout the 1980s. He only became a “Madman” and a “Monster” when he messed with our oil. That is the message American governments have sent to other world leaders, hidden beneath the flowery words about freedom and democracy. You can be an evil, murderous tyrant as long as you leave our oil unmolested.
Iran learned this cynical lesson in 1953 when the democratically elected Mohammed Mosaddegh tried to nationalize his nation’s oil industry. The CIA, with the collusion of British Petroleum, engineered a coup which put the brutal autocrat Reza Shah Pahlavi onto the throne. Our American values were, thus, violated as we replaced an elected leader with a king. The ghost of Thomas Jefferson must have spun in his grave.
History-deficient Americans do not remember this. The Iranians, on the other hand, never forgot. It should always be remembered that the past influences not only the present, but the future as well.
For his part, Mr. Cheney and his cadre of neo-conservatives decided that Saddam had to go. Using market research, they found that September was a great month to sell stuff and so in September 2002, they began to sell a war. If you access any video from the period between then and the war’s beginning in March 2003, you will hear only one phrase, endlessly repeated: Weapons of Mass Destruction. Of course, there weren’t any and even if there were, they posed no direct threat to the United States. Undeterred by reality, so-called “facts” were cherry-picked or manufactured by the Bush administration to support their case. An official who questioned the veracity of Cheney’s spurious charges had his CIA-employed wife outed, an act of treason that went unpunished. Right-wing news hacks, urged on by the government, even tied Saddam to the 9/11 terrorist attacks even though there was no truth to such a connection.
Not that it mattered. Lies and wishful thinking abounded in the months leading up to the invasion. We were assured that Iraq oil profits would pay for the war. We planned to destroy, then rebuild Iraq into a paradise with free health care and all the other benefits Republicans would deny their fellow Americans.
Instead, this misadventure cost American taxpayers several trillions of dollars and tarnished our world standing. The “liberal” media offered not so much as a squeak of protest.
Protest there was but this war demonstrated the futility of the peace movement. I and millions of others attended vigils, prayed, wrote poems, sent bags of rice to the White House and did everything short of immolating ourselves to prevent this travesty from happening. On Feb. 15, 2003, the largest mass anti-war protest ever took place around the world. All to no avail.
Eventually Saddam Hussein would have succumbed to the Arab Spring and met the same fate as that of Mubarak, Gaddafi and Assad. Otherwise, he would have been contained by sanctions and no-fly zones. Greed for oil was the sole excuse for this unfortunate exercise in superpower folly. If Dick Cheney had any shame, he would spend the remainder of his days visiting the families of American service personnel killed and maimed by his war and beg their forgiveness. Unfortunately, with oil prices rising, some Americans might think it’s perfectly fine to kill other people in order to lower the price of gasoline.
Daniel A. Brown has lived in Franklin County since 1970 as an artist, writer, amateur historian and photographer. He is a frequent contributor to The Recorder and welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.