The American Petrocracy

Well, it has finally happened. The Conservative “It really was a war for oil” faction has gone public. They’ve come out of the closet so to speak. Of course, this group brings more historical facts to the table than the left does.

Kevin Phillips for The American Conservative writes:

Few lies have wound up injuring Americans more—in everything from automobile gas tanks and winter heating bills to diminished U.S. global standing—than a rarely revisited three-year-old fib-fest involving George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Tony Blair. Since World War I, history is clear: the British and Americans have been pre-occupied with only one thing in Iraq—oil. Yet in 2003, as their troops again disembarked, the pretense was all about good and evil, democracy and freedom. The disastrous outcome of the unacknowledged Middle Eastern mission, the struggle for petroleum, has rarely been discussed.

Part right. It has been discussed, but the emotionally based, America hating, left-wing communist types.

In the run-up to war, from Alberta to Texas, oilmen gossiped about the centrality of oil. Meetings of petroleum geologists buzzed about the so-called “peak oil” forecast that a dangerous top in global production was only a decade or two away. Specialized publications guesstimated how much taking over Iraqi oil could mean for profits and Exxon and Chevron. Polls of ordinary citizens from Europe to Latin America and the Mideast produced similar findings: people thought the invasion was about oil.

Yeah, and most conservatives didn’t deny that fact. The only people that denied it were members of the Bush Admin, interesting observation eh?

The cynic will say, yes, but why could Bush and Rumsfeld not talk a little bit about oil just as the first Bush had prior to the Gulf War? Strategically, there were major differences. In 2003, there was no Kuwait to liberate as a justification for tangling with Saddam. This time it was a flat-out invasion to topple Saddam and take control. Admitting that oil was a principal motivation would have lost the public-relations battle not just in the Middle East but around most of the world. The administration had to have some larger, more noble rationale, and the war on terror offered a broad umbrella. At every opportunity, officials of the Bush administration, not least the president himself, tried to tie Saddam Hussein to terrorism and, indirectly, even to 9/11.


But here is where it gets very interesting.

This will strike many as an exaggeration, but the phenomenon is an important one. Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals noted in 2003 that since the break-up of the USSR, “evangelicals have substituted Islam for the Soviet Union. The Muslims have become the modern-day equivalent of the Evil Empire.” According to University of Wisconsin historian Paul Boyer, by the 1990s many prophecy believers saw Saddam as the Antichrist or his forerunner, partly because Saddam was rebuilding the ancient evil city of Babylon. The Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye fictionalized the Rapture-Tribulation-Armageddon sequence so successfully that it sold a whopping 60 million copies in book and tape form. Most of the readers were Bush backers.

Politically, this confronted the White House with both a strategic dilemma and a parallel opportunity. On the plus side, the huge chunk of Bush voters would want to view the U.S. attempt to topple Saddam Hussein in terms of the war of good versus evil. Weapons of mass destruction were a prop but collateral to the larger biblical context. Invading Iraq would evoke that context because Saddam was one of the evil ones—maybe the Evil One, given his Babylon tie-in. Toppling him could aspire to biblical interpretation. Aiding Israel was also biblically vital. Bush had already carved out a related, overarching “good versus evil” posture with his heavily religious post-9/11 rhetoric.

The minuses were fewer but cautionary. It was fine for the White House to criticize the United Nations because the international body was a favorite whipping post among the high-octane preachers given to quoting the Book of Revelation. Oil, however, wasn’t part of the biblical prophecy framework. In LaHaye’s series, petroleum was a minor strategic gambit of the Antichrist, not the business of the good guys. Oil’s increasing centrality was a bad sign on the websites of omen-counters like

Well, we knew it was just a matter of time before the Evangelicals lost favor with the traditional Conservative base.

Heres the crux of the matter:

If the Americans and British did act substantially for oil—and that seems highly likely—then it is fair to judge the Iraqi failure by oil-policy yardsticks and outcomes. The quick summation, obviously, is that whereas oil was selling at roughly $30 a barrel in 2002 as the White House was plotting its invasion and occupation, by late 2004 it cost a more painful $40 per barrel. By the time the operation was marking its third anniversary this spring, petroleum was flirting with $75 a barrel.

Read the whole thing.


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