New British documents just uncovered prove that oil really was a central motivator for the war in Iraq (even though that many already thought this is well-illustrated). As Paul Bignell reports over at The Independent, “Plans to exploit Iraq’s oil reserves were discussed by government ministers and the world’s largest oil companies the year before Britain took a leading role in invading Iraq, government documents show.” The documents also shed light on the machinations going on inside the US. While the drumbeat to war was hammered on the one hand by economic motivations (oil), the other was certainly beaten by the trend of US conservatives to recast “rogue dictators” as (one of) the new central enemies of America.
Emphasizing getting their “fair slice” of the oil prospects in a “post-Saddam” Iraq, the documents certainly don’t do any favors for England’s government. But, they also illuminate what was going on in the Bush-Cheney White House: “The papers show that Lady Symons agreed to lobby the Bush administration on BP’s behalf because the oil giant feared it was being “locked out” of deals that Washington was quietly striking with US, French and Russian governments and their energy firms.” Deals were being cut which would determine certain “freedoms” for some.
But, all of this should also be placed in the context of a post-Cold War world wherein the central foil to the US hero was vanquished and needed a replacement. While his book is longer than it needs to be and lacks any sort of original overarching thesis, Julian Zelizer’s The Arsenal of Democracy: The Politics of National Security—From World War II to the War on Terrorism does an excellent job at tracking the shift in conservative foreign relations strategy. Simply put, they swapped “communists” and the Soviet Union for “terrorists” and “rogue dictators” (e.g. Saddam Hussein, Kim Jon-Il, etc.). Although, Zelizer fails to produce critical analysis of why some dictators (the Saudi royal family) are cool with G.W. and friends.
But, in any case, it might be hoped that more documents will be revealed in time to further put to bed such questions about oil and the war for I’m sure many will still dismiss these articles out of hand without properly considering them. If anyone is interested in learning about exactly what went on, you could check out the excellent 2-part episode of PBS’s Frontline, “Bush’s War” (an awesome resource on many subjects).
P.S. Speaking of deniers in history, everyone should jump over to read an op-ed produced by my advisor concerning the 150th Anniversary of the US Civil War. I see similar denial developing in relation to Bush, et al.