Was the Iraq War About Oil All Along? Gore Vidal on Dreaming of War: Blood for Oil (2003)
Significant opposition to the Iraq War occurred worldwide, both before and during the initial 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States, United Kingdom, and smaller contingents from other nations, and throughout the subsequent occupation. People and groups opposing the war include the governments of many nations which did not take part in the invasion, and significant sections of the populace in those that did.
Rationales for opposition include the belief that the war is illegal according to the United Nations Charter, or would contribute to instability both within Iraq and the wider Middle East. Critics have also questioned the validity of the war’s stated objectives, such as a supposed link between the country’s Ba’athist government and the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, and its possession of weapons of mass destruction “certified” by the Niger uranium forgeries. The latter was claimed by the United States during the run-up to the war, but no such weapons have since been found.
Within the United States, popular opinion on the war has varied significantly with time. Although there was significant opposition to the idea in the months preceding the attack, polls taken during the invasion showed that a majority of US citizens supported their government’s action. However, public opinion had shifted by 2004 to a majority believing that the invasion was a mistake, and has remained so since then. There has also been significant criticism of the war from US politicians and national security and military personnel, including generals who served in the war and have since spoken out against its handling.
Worldwide, the war and occupation have been officially condemned by 54 countries and the heads of many major religions. Popular anti-war feeling is strong in these and other countries, including the US’ allies in the conflict, and many have experienced huge protests totalling millions of participants.
Critics of the invasion claimed that it would lead to the deaths of thousands of Iraqi civilians and soldiers as well as Coalition soldiers, and that it would moreover damage peace and stability throughout the region and the world.
Another oft-stated reason for opposition is the Westphalian concept that foreign governments should never possess a right to intervene in another sovereign nation’s internal affairs (including terrorism or any other non-international affair). Giorgio Agamben, the Italian philosopher, has also offered a critique of the logic of preemptive war.
Others did accept a limited right for military intervention in foreign countries, but nevertheless opposed the invasion on the basis that it was conducted without United Nations’ approval and was hence a violation of international law. According to this position, adherence by the United States and the other great powers to the UN Charter and to other international treaties to which they are legally bound is not a choice but a legal obligation; exercising military power in violation of the UN Charter undermines the rule of law and is illegal vigilantism on an international scale. Benjamin B. Ferencz, who served as the U.S.’s Chief Prosecutor of Nazi war crimes at the Nuremberg Trials following World War II, has denounced the Iraq War as an aggressive war (named at Nuremberg as “the supreme international crime”) and stated his belief that George W. Bush, as the war’s “initiator”, should be tried for war crimes.
There was also skepticism of U.S. claims that Iraq’s secular government had any links to Al-Qaeda, the Islamic fundamentalist terrorist group considered responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Some expressed puzzlement that the United States would consider military action against Iraq and not against North Korea, which claimed it already had nuclear weapons and had announced that it was willing to contemplate war with the United States. This criticism intensified when North Korea reportedly conducted a nuclear weapons test on October 9, 2006.
There was also criticism of Coalition policy by those who did not believe that military actions would help to fight terror, with some believing that it would actually help Al-Qaeda’s recruitment efforts; others believed that the war and immediate post-war period would lead to a greatly increased risk that weapons of mass destruction would fall into the wrong hands (including Al-Qaeda).
Both inside and outside of the U.S., some argued that the Bush Administration’s rationale for war was to gain control over Iraqi natural resources (primarily petroleum). These critics felt that the war would not help to reduce the threat of WMD proliferation, and that the real reason for the war was to secure control over the Iraqi oil fields at a time when US links with Saudi Arabia were seen to be at risk. “No blood for oil” was a popular protest cry prior to the invasion in March 2003.
War ‘Moralisers’ Need to Look in the Mirror
Friday 8th January 2015
Critics of Corbyn’s Stop the War links weren’t so talkative when thousands were dying in illegal wars they backed, writes SOLOMON HUGHES
THE anti-Corbyn crowd like insinuating Jeremy is somehow morally deficient.
We could call it McFadden’s manoeuvre. Because Corbyn is anti-war, imply he is pro-terrorist, and so morally suspect.
Indeed, after Labour MP Pat McFadden tried embarrassing Corbyn by prompting David Cameron to make some grandstanding remarks about terrorism, the Prime Minister replied that he had the “moral and intellectual clarity that is necessary in dealing with terrorists,” which implied Corbyn lacks it.
In the run-up to Christmas there was also a lot of noise from the moan zone where the Labour right and media “political commentators” meet about Corbyn going to Stop the War’s Christmas dinner, with suggestions the organisation is “disreputable” or not “moral.”
This made me worry a lot about moral decline. Not of Stop the War, but of the complainers.
That’s because so many of them supported the Iraq intervention — and the Afghan adventure, and the Libyan disaster. Which really were moral dark zones. Whereas Stop the War consistently opposed these human disasters.
If I had given any time or energy trying to make the Iraq “intervention” happen, I would spend a long time looking in the mirror before I accused anyone who opposed it of moral failure.
The important thing to understand is that the Iraq disaster wasn’t a single event, a one-off mistake or an accident that just happened. It was made of many repeated terrible choices that led to death, torture, poverty and corruption, day after day, year after year.
First there were the lies. The “WMD” hoax wasn’t one fib. It was a complicated and entirely imaginary conspiracy theory, pretending Saddam might — or already had — helped al-Qaeda. This absurd web of lies was spun through multiple dossiers and briefings, using faked and forged materials. A British-US lie machine pumped out this rubbish over time.
After the deception come the deaths in the war itself. There are no accurate figures for the deaths, only estimates.
The “moral” warmongers didn’t count Iraq casualties, because in their calculations, Iraqis just didn’t count.
Perhaps 40,000 Iraqis — mostly soldiers, but also civilians — died in the initial invasion from March to May 2003.
That’s a lot of death based on lies.
But the real catastrophe spun out in the years after the invasion, during the occupation. In these years, the “moral” warriors who backed the war had repeated opportunities to see, criticise and try to change the horrible logic of the occupation. They deliberately turned their heads from these problems. If Iraq was a “mistake,” it is one the supporters of the war made again and again, year after year.
The Coalition Provisional Authority — the joint Britain-US occupying body — didn’t bring democracy or self rule to post-Saddam Iraq. Instead, it handed key parts of the economy to Western firms with links to US and British politicians. These companies were paid vast amounts of Iraqi cash to get water, electricity and essential services running. They took the cash, and spread more of it around in corrupt ways, but failed to fix water or power.
The occupiers then handed political power to hand-picked, unelected cronies, who added to the mismanagement.
Proper security and police forces were broken up and replaced with militias and for-hire Western-run mercenary firms. Special laws written by the occupiers gave these trigger-happy mercenaries immunity from prosecution for misbehaviour.
Iraqi’s were angry about polluted water, lack of electricity for their fridges, air conditioning and lights and soaring unemployment. They demonstrated. So Western troops shot unarmed protesters dead.
Unsurprisingly this mismanagement and violence led to insurrections in Iraq. So the allies went for a divide-and-rule policy, stoking sectarian conflict. This included the “Salvador Option” — US and British backing for secret sectarian torture and assassination squads in Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of people died in the conflict started by the occupation — killed directly by allied troops, by the various mercenaries and militia, or by the increasingly sectarian insurgents.
So over years the Iraqi scene became a mixture of cheating, incompetence, sectarianism and violence — a nightmare which consumed many lives. Those who castigate Corbyn and Stop the War for “moral” reasons were largely silent on this unfolding disaster.
Those who supported the war, claiming it would be a liberation, had a special responsibility to address this ugly scene. It is a duty they almost all shirked. As supporters of the war and friends of the government, their voice could arguably have had more effect on stopping the crimes of the occupation. But they were silent.
On the scale of human ills I think the Iraq disaster was smaller than Vietnam, but much larger than Ronald Reagan’s contra wars, although it shared features with both.
One irritating instrument often wielded by those who see disgrace in Stop the War is the “moral compass.” It sounds like an imperial adventurer’s device, handily tucked in the safari jacket between a Bible and some pipe tobacco. The implication is that morality is a simple matter — just head north for goodness. But in the real world a compass is useless without a map showing the complex terrain. Those who claim to be “straightforward” are likely to charge off into the swamps of immorality.
By itself the Iraq war was a moral dark zone. The final irony is that out of this grim disaster rose the very terrorism we now face. Iraq was bad enough by itself, but Islamic State was born in the anarchy and ruins of the occupation, gaining arms, territory, recruits and money in the ruins we made.
So the next time we hear this moaning about a fake “morality,” we should say — look in the mirror.