Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Resources wars update: the folly of Iraqi oil

Tom Englehardt reminds us that controlling strategic energy resources is not as easy as it sounds and that Iraq is showing just how deluded the Bush administration was in thinking they could protect and control Iraq's oil infrastructure.

Energy is a strange thing to control militarily. As Iraq showed and Katrina reminded us recently, its flow is remarkably vulnerable, whether to insurgents, terrorists, or hurricanes. It's next to impossible to guard hundreds, not to say thousands, of miles of oil or natural gas pipelines. It's all very well to occupy a country, set up your "enduring camps," and imagine yourself controlling the key energy spigots of the globe, but doing so is another matter. (As the saying went in a previous military age, you can't mine coal with bayonets.) In the case of Iraq, one could simply say that the military conquest and occupation of the country essentially drove Iraq's oil deeper underground and beyond anyone's grasp. Hence, the signs should indeed say: "BLOOD FOR NO OIL." It's the perfect sorry slogan for a sad, brainless war; and even the Pentagon's resource-war planners might consider it a lesson worthy of further study as they think about our energy future. |Common Dreams|
Michael T. Klare, also printed in today's edition of Common Dreams, provides support for this viewpoint when he writes:
Clearly, gaining control of what Wolfowitz once described as a country that "floats on a sea of oil" was one of the Pentagon's highest priorities in the early days of the invasion. As part of its planning for the assault, the Department of Defense established detailed plans to seize Iraqi oil fields and installations during the first days of the war. "It's fair to say that our land component commander and his planning staff have crafted strategies that will allow us to secure and protect these fields as rapidly as possible," a top Pentagon official told news reporters on January 24, 2003. Once U.S. troops entered Iraq, special combat teams spread out into the oil fields and occupied key installations. In fact, the very first operation of the war was a commando raid on an offshore loading platform in the Persian Gulf. "Swooping silently out of the Persian Gulf night," an over-stimulated reporter for the New York Times wrote on March 23, "Navy Seals seized two Iraqi oil terminals in bold raids that ended early this morning, overwhelming lightly armed Iraqi guards and claiming a bloodless victory in the battle for Iraq's vast oil empire."

This early "victory" was followed by others, as U.S. forces occupied key refineries and, most conspicuously, the Oil Ministry building in downtown Baghdad. So far, so good. But almost instantaneously things began to go seriously wrong. Lacking sufficient troops to protect the oil facilities and all the other infrastructure in Baghdad and other key cities, the military chose to protect the oil alone -- allowing desperate and rapacious Iraqis to go on a rampage of looting that fatally undermined the authority of the military occupation and the U.S.-backed interim government. To make matters worse, the very visible American emphasis on protecting oil facilities while ignoring other infrastructure gave the distinct -- and not completely inaccurate --impression that the United States had invaded Iraq less to liberate it from a tyrannical regime than to steal, or at least control, its oil. And from this perception came part of the anger and resentment that constituted the essential raw materials for the outbreak of an armed insurgency against the American occupation and everything associated with it. The Bush administration never recovered from this disastrous chain of events. |Common Dreams|

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