First, they used the war in Afghanistan as an advertisement for Rumsfeld’s theory of lightning fast, high-tech war. Where there wouldn’t be that many casualties; special forces, air traffic controllers embedded with local forces, bomb people from the sky, then Taliban get scared and run away, and finally you call in the Europeans whose NGOs can rebuild Afghanistan, and the inner American in every Afghan will start to blossom. Then you can quickly move onto Iraq, and that’s what they did.
There are several fundamental reasons why the US went to Iraq.
First, the geo-strategic importance of the oil in the middle east. This is essentially the indirect political control and uses of that oil. Not the “trying to get that oil so US firms can sell it, or so you can put it in your gas tank.” But to situate the U.S. military as the security force that guards that oil.
Why would the U.S. want to do that?
Because the Middle East’s oil is and will increasingly be the source of fuel for the two other main polls of the world economy, (The real enemy) Europe and Asia (centered increasingly around China and India, rather than Japan). And what the U.S. would gain from situating themselves as the guardians of that oil is indirect but very important leverage over it’s allies and economic rivals. It’s quite obvious that the U.S. and the EU are allies. But there are also important economic rivalries within the framework of these partnerships, and in those rivalries it is very useful for the U.S. to have some sort of background dependency established, so that the Europeans don’t try to resist the desires of U.S. corporations or the U.S. government too much. A perfect example for this would be chemical standards. Up until recently the standards for how you produce chemicals had been set by the U.S., namely because it is the biggest market in the world, so if you want to produce on a world scale you have to produce to U.S. standards. Well, the Europeans are now establishing their own set of chemical standards, and their market is much bigger than ours. They have 450'000 million people. So the U.S. has been trying to water down the European versions of these chemical standards. And if the Europeans were clearly dependent on U.S. military power to secure the long term safety of their energy supplies, that would give the United States important leverage in those types of negotiations.
Another example would be the “Banana Wars,” that were ultimately brought to the World Trade Organization (WTO), and which the U.S. later won. What happened was that Europe was buying bananas from its former colonies at preferential prices, and this was cutting American based firms – that produced in Central America – out of the European market. And the U.S. wanted to get into those markets. So they kept negotiating outside of the of the WTO to try and get the Europeans to stop subsidizing bananas from the Caribbean and Africa, to allow cheaper bananas produced by U.S. companies in. In other words, to give those markets up to the U.S.. It eventually went to the WTO and the U.S. won. But it might not have gone that far had the U.S. had the type of over arching power that it had during the cold war. When all these European states were beholden to the U.S. and its military umbrella that “kept away the soviet union.”
The primary example in terms of thinking about Iraq, is the role of China. A quarter of all U.S. trade is with China. There’s a lot of talk about the rivalry between the U.S. and China. It’s important to remember how symbiotically connected these two economics are. Neither economy can survive without the other. But that doesn’t mean its always smooth sailing. We have an ENORMOUS trade deficit with China. Last year we bought and borrowed $202'000'000'000 (billion) more than we sold and lent to China. In the context of that trade deficit the U.S. has been trying to pressure China to raise the price of the Yuan (its currency) to alleviate the trade balance. This has not been going to well, as they’re perennially making trips to China. Well, China with 1.3 billion people has been growing at 9-10% a year – which is a lot– for a decade. They were a net oil exporter until 1993 when they became a net oil importer. Their growing so fast that they have to invest very heavily in building coal plants, and they invest very heavily in alternative energy. Though their economy in energy terms is overall pretty inefficient, they’re making great efforts to conserve their use of energy. Yet, due to the rate of growth they still have to import enormous amounts of foreign oil. And most of that is coming is coming from the Middle East. Currently 32% of China’s oil is imported, and that’s expected to go up to 70% by 2020. Right now 58% of that oil comes from the Middle East. By 2015 70% of that oil will come from the Middle East. So, if the United States had successfully established military bases and re-colonized the region around Iraq, and it was clear that the thing that held that place together and secured the safety of the oil that the Chinese economy desperately needs is the U.S. military, it takes only a nanosecond to understand all of the types of indirect but important leverage that would bring to discussions, such as the one around the price of the Yuan, which is connected in fundamental ways to the overall health of the U.S. economy, and the profitability of U.S. assets.
So that was one of the main reasons Bush Jr. moved to invade Iraq. Because this was a way of situating U.S. forces there.
Why did the Clinton arrangements of sanctions and containment have to fall apart? Why could we not just continue that indefinitely?
Part of the reason has to do with the fact that Saudi Arabia – where our bases were– was getting displeased with having foreign troops in their country. This was becoming a very serious bone of contention, and was one of the things that animated the imagination of Osama Bin Ladin. And it is the reason he turned against the Saudi state. He had been essentially a Saudi Prince. The Bin Ladin family weren’t royalty, but they were very close to being royalty. Osama went to Afghanistan during the anti-Soviet jihad in lieu of a Saudi prince going. The Afghan Mujahideen wanted a prominent Saudi to come. Well, the most prominent Saudi they could get was Osama Bin Ladin, the son of a construction magnate. At that point there were also been several attacks on U.S. targets: Khobar Towers, Riyadh bombing a year before. There was a growing frustration among the Saudi middle class. And the Saudi middle class are very, very wealthy. And they had been funding a kind of home grown terrorist campaign of their own. Which began in the 1990's and picked up pace in more recent years with armed engagements between Saudi fundamentalists urban guerrillas and security forces. The critique of these guerrillas is that the current Saudi regime is corrupt – which it is – and that their defying Islam by allowing foreign troops there. So there’s a lot of pressure to get out of Saudi Arabia, which we have in fact done.
So... where to go next... ???
Well, it became Iraq and imposing a regime change. By which we establish a client regime, using Iraq as a place for military bases and then moving on to other places.
The second reason for invading Iraq had to do with direct economic interests.
There are a lot of corporations that stood to benefit tremendously from going to war. The industry that stood to gain the most from the Iraq war was – of course– the oil industry.
Before 9-11 (no this does not mean Bush had something to do with 9-11), in March 2001, Dick Cheney’s energy task force held meetings with U.S. oil companies, where they discussed how they would proceed if there was regime change, to privatize Iraq’s oil. Cheney refused to release the documents (the minutes), and the maps from these meetings, and it took an interesting combination of the Sierra club (a liberal organization) and judicial watch (a very right wing libertarian organization) coming together to sue to get the release of these documents. And once these documents were released --as a result of the lawsuit– they revealed that this is in fact what had been planned. They had maps labeled: “Foreign suitors for Iraqi oil field contracts,” and the discussion was how to dive up Iraq’s oil. That project has obviously not been completed because Iraq is in meltdown, so too is the oil industry. They’re actually currently debating a new oil law, and its not at all clear what kind of oil law will exist in future Iraq, or wether there will be an Iraq in several years. But that was clearly one constituency that pushed for war.
Then we come to the question of contracting. Military contracting, military services and reconstruction.
Dick Cheney ran it. Before he was VP he was head of Halliburton. Cheney’s major contribution was the acquisition of another company called Dresser. Unfortunately for Cheney, Dresser had a mountain of outstanding asbestos lawsuits [ http://asbestosdiseaseawareness.org/eLibrary/NewsArticles/01.8.05Post.pdf ]. So Halliburton ended up buying this debt. Which was between 5 and 7 billion dollars. So Halliburton went into the red, until it got these no bid contracts that are so famous in Iraq, which just managed to resuscitate the company.
Speaking of Halliburton... OMG... there’s a Halliburton connection to the scandal at Walter Reed.
The reason the wounded soldiers (at Walter Reed) had been living in squalor is because this firm called I.A.P. which is run by a former Halliburton executive, got a contract that nobody seemed to know was on offer to privatize the services at Walter Reed. So, what they did to increase their profit was cut the operations and maintenance staff from 300 people to 100 people, and surprise, surprise, the place got covered in mold and cockroaches.
We should now turn to the obvious corollary to these economic inheritors of the Iraq war.
Arms contractors also stand to make an enormous amounts of money. Not necessarily because their making Humvees, spare tires, and body armor. But because the spectacle of war, the threat and the emotional blackmail that goes along with the discourse of war, that if you don’t approve every single item in the military budget your “abandoning the troops.” What that allows for, is a type of corporate welfare. Last year the military budget was 445 billion dollars –much higher than it has ever been– and that was not all for body armor and Humvees for Iraq. There was 69 million dollars alone for military R&D. Which is essentially just doing math and charging the government. The vast majority of these military R & D projects don’t work out. They throw money at these contractors. A very good friend of mine happens to be an inventor and makes things for the military. He once described to me how “insane it is that the defense department is never denying them money. At the time his firm was testing a pilotable parachute, which would be a way to piloting loads of cargo that have been airdropped. Well, eventually they realized that it wasn’t going to work in winds above 30 mph, which means its basically never going to work. And they told this to the defense department, and the defense department basically told them; well we have this money for you so whatever, keep spending it. Another 79 billion last year for high tech weapon systems procurement that had nothing to with the safety of the troops on the ground in Iraq.
These profits accrue to firms like Lockheed-Martin (sorry Missy), the largest arms contractor in the U.S.. Lockheed-Martin contains in it’s leadership leaders like Bruce Jackson, who by day is director of strategic planning Lockheed-Martin and by night volunteers for political causes, and was a founding member of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. Which basically was a “grassroots organization,” lobbying congress and “working with” journalists to build a consensus for war. And obviously Bruce Jackson had concerns other than for the safety and freedom of the Iraqi people. As a result of the war in 2005 Lockheed-Martins profits jumped up 53% and on April 24, 2007 announced another 19% increase in profits. [ http://finance.google.com/finance?q=Lockheed ]
All through this I would indite American media and willingness to curry favor with power, and say things which in turn also help build war fever. This is a key factor to how this war came about.
The final reason for why this war happened and why we can’t get out of it has to do with party politics and political egos. It’s pretty clear at this point to most people in congress that the situation requires some sort of drastic change, which will probably look a lot like a withdraw of us troops. This was the message of the Iraq study group report. Which was convened by James Baker, who was Secretary of State under daddy Bush. It proposed a very reasonable plan; convening peace conferences, trying to contain the violence, getting all the neighboring states to acknowledge their interests in containing the escalating chaos so that it didn’t spill over into Iran or Saudi Arabia. This was rejected by the Bush administration. Why was it rejected? It was rejected for party political reasons. The Bush administration and many in the GOP -- who know better – do not want to go down in history as the party that not only started this war, but then lost it. Bush even said this when he was asked by a journalist how we were going to get out of Iraq, Bush Replied, that’s for the next president to figure out. It’s quite obvious that these people do not want to be tarred with this defeat, so regardless of what the facts are 5 years down the line, chances are were likely to have a Democratic President, it’s been a long run for the Bush administration, the republican party is being attached to him and is disrepute in many places. Okay, Democrats will lose the war five years down the line, and people will say “things could have been different in Iraq, but the Democrats just didn’t have the nerve so they folded up shop and went home.” That will be good for the Republicans in the future. So their willing to keep spending your money, and keep sending you and your friends and family to Iraq and Afghanistan to die, and to allow the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan to fester like a gangrenous wound, the affects of which we do not yet know, but can’t be good. They’re willing to do this for another year because it will help their individual careers, their place in history, and the fortunes of their party down the line.
Those who hold the guns are free to hold fast to whatever positions they find convenient for their aims. Victims, and those concerned with their fate, should be concerned with what is happening in the real world, and should dismiss noble declarations of leaders as essentially worthless: they are predictable, and therefore carry little information.