Dec 03 2002

The oil and military Industries behind Bush

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 04RCN @ 1:36 pm

Matt Siegfried, a socialist and trade unionist activist from Detroit, examines the motivation behind the US government’s obsession with war against Iraq.

This article originally appeared in Fourthwrite.

The United States is on the verge of war with Iraq. A section of the Bush administration, reflecting a section of the US ruling class, has long been pursuing an assault on Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein. It will come as no surprise to anyone that this group is intimately associated with the oil and, to a lesser extent, the military industries.

Dick Cheney, Vice-President, former Defence Secretary and chief of the Halliburton Corporation, is the main representative of these interests in the Bush administration. Halliburton, at a nominal value of over 18 billion dollars, is the largest oil supply company in the world. Giant oil corporation, Chevron-Texaco, has named one of its tankers after Condoleeza Rice, Bush’s National Security Advisor! If Chevron-Texaco needs parts in Nigeria or new oil wells in the Arctic wilderness, then Halliburton is there. The runways that launch U.S. bombing sorties on Afghan wedding parties and the prisoner camp at Guantanamo, in occupied Cuba, were both built by Halliburton.

This is not a conspiracy, nor is it a coincidence – it is how US capitalism works. The government sees its primary role to defend and extend US corporate interests. There is a constant revolving door between government and business. This, of course, is not a uniquely American reality but one shared with all the capitalist governments of the world. Utilising the bellicose mood of the post-September 11th political atmosphere, the US right wing has made a concerted effort to win the government to launching a new Gulf War.

The hawks have been in the ascendancy since last spring, though not without contradictions and real opposition from parts of the ruling class, government and military, who fear some of the consequences of a new war. These consequences include the prospect of a jump in oil prices and the inflationary pressure that would affect the already troubled economy; the further destabilisation of a region already seething from the
War on Terrorism, continued sanctions on Iraq and US patronage of Israel; and strains on an increasingly active volunteer army’s resources, to name but a few.

Old and new enemies

Some of them want revenge for their failure to dislodge Saddam Hussein in the last war and all the attempts made over the last decade to isolate and replace him. This looks and sounds a bit like the red-faced rage of the school-yard bully whose attempts at intimidation go unheeded. He can not remain a bully if others refuse to be bullied. Another motivation is that the US administration has little to show for its War on Terrorism. Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden have, so far, been unwilling to offer up their corpses for a trophy photo. Though the imperialists have clearly made many gains in Afghanistan, the looking-and-no-finding war seems to have powered down without any of the big issues being resolved in the administration’s favour. A war on Iraq would deflect charges of being soft on Al-Qaeda and the Axis of Evil from the far right of American politics and coincidentally, some Democrats. When other enemies prove too elusive, Saddam’s nefarious star tends to rise in the US government’s psyche. They seem to wilt without an enemy to compare to Hitler.

Oil, more oil and inter-imperialist rivalry

Oil remains a motivation – and not just oil within the boundaries of Iraq. While strictly economic aims are sometimes simplistically laid out as the primary reasons behind US war policy, it would be foolish to underestimate the power of oil interests in shaping American policy.

Competition among the imperialist powers over access to and control of oil has increased since the collapse of the USSR. One reason for this is that previously off-limits resources of the former Soviet Union have opened up, leading to a new Great Game for the riches of the new successor states in Central Asia and the Caspian Sea. These are now conveniently hosting U.S. military bases after the war in Afghanistan. Why leave all that oil to the Russians and the Central Asians? The privatisation of the old state energy companies is a potential windfall of many billions of dollars for US oil interests. All that is required is that the new companies partner with the US corporations and upgrade their facilities with the parts and know-how of the Halliburton Corporation.

Another reason is that the old equilibrium between the imperialist powers facing a common Soviet threat has broken down. This means that each is more likely to pursue its own energy goals, including their own direct access to oil. This is what is at the heart of France’s opposition to sanctions on Iraq. While many countries buy oil from the IPC which was nationalised in 1972, France is the only Western power which has partial ownership of the IPC. The sanctions prevent France from fully exploiting that relationship.

The US and UK, with four of the top five oil companies, were frozen out of investment in the IPC and therefore control over 10% of the world’s oil. Is it really any surprise then, that these two countries are the most adamant about continuing the sanctions and going to war, whatever the consequences for the Iraqi people? Japan and Germany have almost no indigenous oil resources, so the second and third largest economies in the world have to buy their way into the oil market. While their wealth provides them with access, they can not ‘protect’ their interests militarily, due to being defeated powers in the Second World War.

Thus they remain beholden to the US to protect their oil access. For the US, control of oil means control over its friends who are also its rivals. In the largest gas bill in history, the US made Germany and Japan cough up billions of dollars for their Kuwait oil in the last Gulf War. Recession and political problems at home make Germany and Japan much less willing to do this again.

Pax Americana – a policy shared by Republicans and Democrats

The more mercenary war-mongers in the US government see control over oil as the starting point of their policy, rather than the regime of Saddam Hussein. When they look at maps of the world they see resources and zones of influence, rather than countries and people. With all that has happened in the last decade they see an urgent need to reshape parts of the world in their own interests and, by virtue of being the only superpower, almost the ordained obligation to do so.

This attitude is not new with the Bush administration. The humanitarian interventions of the Clinton administration were rooted in the same arrogant view, which holds that the Middle East is too important to be left to its people. The goal of this patrician group is to impose a Pax Americana on the region. The costs and consequences of such brutal folly can only be guessed at, but the destruction Israel is inflicting on Palestine, is a good place to start. Iraqi oil is part of the motivation. Oil in general is a greater motivation. But the root of the cowboy attitude is the nature of capitalism and imperialism in general, whoever practices it. That is the violent imposition of the interests of the few, the rulers of the capitalist great powers on the vast majority of the world’s people. The ruined lives of the many underlie the profit and the power of a few.

Another World is Possible – Socialism

We, the working people of the world, are not simply exploited masses to be pitied. We are a power, who, by fighting for our own interests, fights for the liberation of all humankind. Crises are currently shaking continents as a consequence of the neo-liberal crusade of the last twenty years. From Jakarta and Buenos Aires, from Johannesburg and Jenin, from Seattle and Genoa, people have marched under the banner, Another World is Possible. In the face of another US-led war, it is time to give that world a name – Socialism – and urgently, to begin to change it. We need a common, rational and shared utilisation of what nature, finitely, has endowed this planet – that is Socialism.

Working people, the exploited masses also exist in the US, though usually more silently than in the rest of the world. Workers in the US need to enter this struggle with their own voices, rather than fall behind those voices who would speak for them. Should the US government succeed in launching their war, despite the mounting protest, we will continue to oppose them. If they triumph in their plans we will demonstrate the perfidy of their victory and use the lessons learned to resist the next war, which will surely come. Wars are in the nature of imperialism and we must press home the reality – to defeat war it is necessary to defeat capitalism.

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One Response to “The oil and military Industries behind Bush”

  1. Emancipation & Liberation » Emancipation & Liberation, Issue 4, Winter 2002 says:

    […] The oil and military Industries behind Bush, Matt Siegfried […]

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