Iraq: “Is It Oil?”

Yves here. Clearing up a key and not at all pretty bit of US history.

By Arthur MacEwan. Originally published at Triple Crisis

The Issue Revisited

Around the time that the United States invaded Iraq, 14 years ago, I was in an auditorium at the University of Massachusetts Boston to hear then-Senator John Kerry try to justify the action. As he got into his speech, a loud, slow, calm voice came from the back of the room: “O – I – L.” Kerry tried to ignore the comment. But, again and again, “O – I – L.” Kerry simply went on with his prepared speech. The speaker from the back of the room did not continue long, but he had succeeded in determining the tenor of the day.

Looking back on U.S. involvement in the Iraq, it appears to have been largely a failure. Iraq, it turned out, had no “weapons of mass destruction,” but this original rationalization for invasion offered by the U.S. government was soon replaced by the goal of “regime change” and the creation of a “democratic Iraq.” The regime was changed, and Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussain was captured and executed. But it would be very had to claim that a democratic Iraq either exists or is in the making—to say nothing of the rise of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) and the general destabilization in the Middle East, both of which the U.S. invasion of Iraq helped propel.

Yet, perhaps on another scale, the invasion would register as at least a partial success. This is the scale of O – I – L

The Profits from Oil

At the time of the U.S. invasion, I wrote an article for Dollars & Sense titled “Is It Oil?” (available online here). I argued that, while the invasion may have had multiple motives, oil—or more precisely, profit from oil—was an important factor. Iraq, then and now, has huge proven oil reserves, not in the same league as Saudi Arabia, but in group of oil producing countries just behind the Saudis. It might appear, then, that the United States wanted access to Iraqi oil in order to meet the needs of our highly oil-dependent lifestyles in this country. After all, the United States today, with just over 4% of the world’s population, accounts for 20% of the world’s annual oil use; China, with around 20% of the world’s population is a distant second in global oil use, at 13%. Even after opening new reserves in recent years, U.S. proven reserves amount to only 3% of the world total.

Except in extreme circumstances, however, access to oil is not a major problem for this county. And it was not in 2003. As I pointed out back then, the United States bought 284 million barrels of oil from Iraq in 2001, about 7% of U.S. imports, even while the two countries were in a virtual state of war. In 2015, only 30% as much oil came to the United States from Iraq, amounting to just 2.4% of total U.S. oil imports. Further, in 2015, while the United States has had extremely hostile relations with Venezuela, 24% of U.S. oil imports came from that country’s nationalized oil industry. It would seem that, in the realm of commerce, bad political relations between buyers and sellers are not necessarily an obstacle.

For the U.S. government, the Iraq oil problem was not so much access, in the sense of meeting U.S. oil needs, as the fact that U.S. firms had been frozen out of Iraq since the country’s oil industry was nationalized in 1972. They and the other oil “majors” based in U.S.-allied countries were not getting a share of the profits that were generated from the exploitation of Iraqi oil. Profits from oil exploitation come not only to the oil companies—ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, British Petroleum, and the other industry “majors”—but also to the companies that supply and operate equipment, drill wells, and provide other services that bring the oil out of the ground and to consumers around the world—for example, the U.S. firms Halliburton, Emerson, Baker Hughes, and others. They were also not getting a share of the Iraqi oil action. (Actually, when vice president to be Dick Cheney was running Halliburton, in the period before the invasion, the company managed to undertake some operations in Iraq through a subsidiary, in spite of federal restrictions preventing U.S. firms from doing business in Iraq.)

After the Troops

In the aftermath of the invasion and since most U.S. troops have been withdrawn, things have changed. “Prior to the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, U.S. and other western oil companies were all but completely shut out of Iraq’s oil market,” oil industry analyst Antonia Juhasz told Al Jazeera in 2012. “But thanks to the invasion and occupation, the companies are now back inside Iraq and producing oil there for the first time since being forced out of the country in 1973.”

From the perspective of U.S. firms the picture is mixed. Firms based in Russia and China have developed operations in Iraq, and even an Indonesian-based firm is involved. Still, ExxonMobil (see box) has established a significant stake in Iraq, having obtained leases on approximately 900,000 onshore acres and by the end of 2013 had developed several wells in Iraq’s West Qurna field. Exxon also has agreements with the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq to explore for oil. Chevron holds an 80% stake and is the operator of the Qara Dagh block in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, but as of mid-2014 the project was still in the exploratory phase and there was no production. No other U.S. oil companies have developed operations in Iraq. The UK-headquartered BP (formerly British Petroleum) and the Netherlands-headquartered Shell, however, are also significantly engaged in Iraq.

While data are limited on the operations of U.S. and other oil service firms in Iraq, they seem to have done well. For example, according to a 2011 New York Times article:

The oil services companies Halliburton, Baker Hughes, Weatherford International [founded in Texas, now incorporated in Switzerland] and Schlumberger [based in France] already won lucrative drilling subcontracts and are likely to bid on many more. “Iraq is a huge opportunity for contractors,” Alex Munton, a Middle East analyst for Wood Mackenzie, a research and consulting firm based in Edinburgh, said by telephone. “There will be an enormous scale of investment.”

The Right to Access

While U.S. oil companies and oil service firms—as well as firms from other countries—are engaged in Iraq, they and their U.S. government supporters have not gained the full legal rights they would desire. In 2007, the U.S. government pressed the Iraqi government to pass the “Iraq Hydrocarbons Law.” The law would, among other things, take the majority of Iraqi oil out of the hands of the Iraqi government and assure the right of foreign firms to control much of the oil for decades to come. The law, however, has never been enacted, first due to general opposition to a reversal the 1972 nationalization of the industry, and recently due to continuing disputes between the government in Baghdad and the government of the Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq.

U.S. foreign policy, as I elaborated in the 2003 article, has long been designed not simply to protect U.S.-based firms in their international operations, but to establish the right of the firms to access and security wherever around the world. Oil firms have been especially important in promoting and gaining from this right, but firms from finance to pharmaceuticals and many others have been beneficiaries and promoters of the policy.

Whatever else, as the Iraq and Middle East experience has demonstrated, this right comes at a high cost. The best estimate of the financial cost to the United States of the war in Iraq is $3 trillion. Between the 2003 invasion and early 2017, U.S. military forces suffered 4,505 fatalities in the war, and allied forces another 321. And, of course, most of all Iraqi deaths: estimates of the number of Iraqis killed range between 200,000 and 500,000.


BP Statistical Review of World Energy, June 2016 (; Al Jazeera, “Western oil firms remain as US exits Iraq,” Jan. 7, 2012 (; Conor Friedersdorf, “Remembering Why Americans Loathe Dick Cheney,” The Atlantic, Aug. 30, 2011 (; Paul Ausick, “U.S. Oil Companies With the Most Exposure to Iraq,” 24/7 Wall St., June 12, 2014 (; Andrew E. Kramer, “U.S. Companies Get Slice of Iraq’s Oil Pie,” New York Times, June 14, 2011 (; Iraq Daily Journal, “What is ExxonMobil Doing in Iraq?” Jan. 31, 2017 ( U.S. Energy Information, Administration (;; Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bimes, The Three Trillion Dollar War (Norton, 2008).

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  1. AbateMagicThinking but Not money

    I always thought it was about Saudi Oil – the Afghan and Iraq adventures being displacement activities. Most of the 9/11’ers were Saudi nationals or have I got that wrong?

        1. Vatch

          Osama bin Laden was descended from some Yemenis, but he was Saudi Arabian. He was most certainly an adherent of the Wahhabi sect, which originated on the central plateau of the Arabian peninsula in the late 18th century. This sect is basically the official religion of Saudi Arabia.

          The family traces its origins to Awad bin Laden from the village of Al Rubat, in the Wadi Doan in the Tarim Valley, Hadramout governorate, Yemen. His son was Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden (died 1967). Mohammed bin Laden was a native of the Shafi`i (Sunni) Hadhramaut coast in southern Yemen and emigrated to Saudi Arabia prior to World War I. He set up a construction company and came to Abdul Aziz ibn Saud’s attention through construction projects, later being awarded contracts for major renovations in Mecca, where he made his initial fortune from exclusive rights to all mosque and other religious building construction not only in Saudi Arabia, but as far as Ibn Saud’s influence reached.

          Please provide evidence that some (or all) of the 9/11 Saudi terrorists were from Yemen. Thanks.

          1. blert

            Their very FULL names.

            In Islamic cultures, the FATHER determines all.

            And OBL’s daddy was a Yemeni.

            The fact that the King made him a citizen did NOT change the opinions of anyone else.

            The weird ability of Yemenis to get Saudi travel papers — at will — was reported by Fortune magazine — more than forty-years ago.

            This scheme is UNIQUE. No other nation permits aliens to instantly obtain travel documents — at no cost — upon demand.

            1. Vatch

              It would be nice to have links for your claims, but it might not matter. The point is that people with Saudi travel papers have a significant history of committing terrorism in the United States, so if travelers with papers from certain countries are to be blocked from entering the U.S., Saudi Arabians should be at the top of the list.

  2. Loblolly

    Well, is O – I – L why we are in Syria?

    I kid, no really. How’s our ROI in BBL per amputee. Or is there a better metric like maybe BTUs per Unit of Human Suffering? Hard to measure I know, but I imagine some bureaucrat has worked out preliminary numbers.

    We could put stickers on water heaters and cars that indicate annual blood spilled given average use.

    1. saywhat

      “Genie Energy’s Strategic advisory board is composed of: Dick Cheney (former vice president of the United States), Rupert Murdoch (media mogul and chairman of News Corp), James Woolsey (former CIA director), Larry Summers (former head of the US Treasury), and Bill Richardson, former Governor of New Mexico, an ex-ambassador to the United Nations and United States Energy Secretary.”

      “In February 2013, Israeli authorities awarded Afek Oil and Gas an exclusive 36-month petroleum exploration license to a 153-square-mile (400 km2) plot in the Golan Heights, which the UN recognizes to be Syrian territory. Afek subsequently conducted above-ground geophysical tests and based on its preliminary analysis, has applied for a ten well exploratory drilling program. South of Katzrin in the southern Golan Heights in 2015, Afek discovered a substantial amount of oil and natural gas reserves. The company drilled three exploratory wells: in May, Ness-5, just northwest of the Avnei Eitan and Nov moshavim and south of Kibbutz Natur and the town of Katzrin; in July, Ness-3, near the Bnei Yehuda industrial area; and, in September, Ness-6, located near the entrance of Moshav Kanaf, just southeast of Gamla.[18] As of October 2015, an estimate of the volume of resources and to what extent they may be extractable is unknown.”

    2. Michah

      Think G-A-S. It boils down to this, IMO. Everyone’s fighting for who gets to export GAS to EU through a pipeline (that must traverse Syria). Saudis/US (Sunni ISIS) or alternatively, Russians/Iranians (Shia Assad regime) and Turkey(Rebels) have interests as well.

      1. blert

        This trope makes no sense.

        1) LNG goes to the EAST — to Asia.

        2) Qatar’s gas STILL can’t compete with Russia’s methane.

        The expense of liquifaction is BRUTAL.

        As for pipelines — it’s even worse.

  3. Altandmain

    Basically the US seems to have invaded for the enrichment of the multinational corporations at the expense of the rest of the world. Americans will pay a monetary price, but worse many have died and many more have lost their lives.

    Even if it had gone to plan, the average American would not have benefited. They would have paid the costs for war. Let us face the reality. There was no noble intent in invading Iraq. It was all a lie.

    The ridiculousness of Paul Wolfowitz and his claim that invading Iraq could be paid for through its oil revenue has become apparent. It has destroyed the stability of the area. We should nor idealize Saddam, who was a horrible dictator, but the idea that the US is going to be able to invade and impose its will was foolish.

    There was never any need to invade Iraq. If oil was the goal, Washington DC could easily have lifted the sanctions around Iraq. I doubt that the neoconservatives believed that Saddam was developing nuclear weapons of destruction or had anything to do with the 9-11-2001 attacks, which is why they claimed they invaded.

    If this madness does not stop, it will do much more damage, and like the Soviet Union, bankrupt the US.

    1. Larry

      Well let’s not forget that war is always good for our overfed defense contractors. Somebody has to use all those fabulous and deadly toys, or people might wake up and demand that we stop building for destruction and instead pay for things like housing, food, healthcare, and education.

  4. Mike

    Great overview of the real tragedy of Iraq—US companies having to share the spoils.

    It reminds me of Russia: the US seethes because Putin is the one looting the country and not them.

    Back in the 90s President Clinton issued countless demands to Yeltsin about oil pipelines and output increases, showing great impatience when the Russians dared to suggest environmental impact studies. (See the linked UPI article.) If only Putin would have let us frack the Kremlin he’d be our best friend!

    1. Andrew Watts

      They didn’t just have to share the spoils. They only received a minority share in the whole enterprise. Even if US oil companies dominated the business in Iraqi Kurdistan, which may or may not include Kirkuk, that only amounts to roughly a third of Iraq’s untapped oil reserves. The bulk of the untapped oil is In Basra where Chinese oil companies dominate.

      God, I miss the Oil Drum.

  5. PlutoniumKun

    I’ve always thought its less about access or ownership of the oil, and more about geopolitical control in the broader sense. By having most of the worlds oil within its envelope of control, the US has an implicit lever of control over the oil importing countries, from Europe to Japan, and also reduces the leverage of any one producer, whether it be SA or Venezuela or Nigeria. The fact that instability within the region pushes up the profits of domestic US producer is just another happy side effect for them.

    1. Foppe

      They already have that control via the dollar denomination (see Hudson’s Super Imperialism), except that Iraq wanted out (-> Euro). So no, I think it was more about looting + the boondoggle that would be the “rebuilding” program, which meant 1-2 trillion+ in guaranteed revenues for govt contractors.

      1. nonsense factory

        A very interesting slice of history is the period between when Saddam exchanged all his dollar reserves for euros (Oct 2000), taking a 18% loss immediately, ($0.82) and when the euro subsequently rose 30% ($1.08) Feb 2003, Saddam made 8% profit on the transaction.

        This is also the period when Cheney set up the Energy Task Force (March 2001) which included an examination of Iraqi oilfields and lists of foreign suitors. Dick Cheney was a close personal friend of then Exxon CEO, Lee Raymond, and had been Halliburton’s CEO. The list of foreign suitors excluded British and American companies – but not French,

        Notably, China had a 23-year $4 billion production sharing contract, Italy had a 23-year $2 billion PSC, France had a PSC, Russia had 3 PSCs. Interestingly, France and Italy were initially opposed to the Iraq invasion (recall all the “Freedom Fries” business?), but were somehow placated (bought off?).

        The overall agenda does seem much larger than just controlling oil profits. Iraq was also envisoned as a U.S.-controlled “swing producer” that could break OPEC; it was viewed as an aircraft carrier for the U.S. military from which Syria and Iran could be destabilized and subjected to regime change; and the entire Iraqi economy from the power grid to the telecommunications to agriculture and industry would be a neoliberal deregulated free-market experiment. See Paul Bremer’s 100 Orders for a vision of how that was supposed to work out. This was all supposed to cost the U.S. taxpayer “a few hundred million dollars”.

        In reality, it turned into a bloodstained imperial disaster of epic proportions, costing the lives of thousands of US soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, leaving the sickening images of Abu Ghraib torture as the picture of American foreign policy, with a total debt of something like $5-$7 trillion, depending on how you count it, and which resulted in Iran becoming the most significant foreign political power in the Iraqi government.

        The architects and promoters of that debacle should have been run out of government long ago, if not transported to the Hague to face war crimes trials.

    2. rusti

      the US has an implicit lever of control over the oil importing countries

      Not trying to second guess you, PK, but who has the agency in the “US” in this statement? Some cabal consisting of oil company executives and intelligence agencies? My suspicions are always aroused when mustache-twirling villains are referenced because it’s tough for me to believe that anyone making big decisions is all that competent.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Thats a very interesting question. I think the answer can be found in the general chaos of post-Invasion planning. The ‘US’ that invaded Iraq was led by consensus among the usual defence/big oil/ types that control of Iraq was crucial to achieving all sorts of geopolitical/economic aims. But having gained control, they found that they all didn’t have quite the same idea of what they would do when they had control. The neocons and neoliberals would have wanted cheap oil. Big Oil wants expensive oil. Pragmatists wanted ‘leverage’ over Iran and SA. Neocons wanted more invasions. I think that ‘agency’ was in the hands of a floating consensus across the establishment which broke up into various factions once the invasion was complete. The collapse in an internal consensus on what to do was matched by the chaos on the ground.

        1. Tully

          Ditto Muammar, who went a step further wanting to use his gold reserves to establish a pan-African currency.

      1. John Weiss

        I read an article that said we invaded seven countries in the middle east. All would not take the US dollar for their oil. The whole deal is about oil and taking the US dollar. Sad to think of the people sacrificed so the rich can get richer.

    3. Watt4Bob

      I’m with you.

      I’ve been listening to, and reading Chalmers Johnson, whose explanation is empire;

      As distinct from other peoples, most Americans do not recognize — or do not want to recognize — that the United States dominates the world through its military power. Due to government secrecy, our citizens are often ignorant of the fact that our garrisons encircle the planet.

    4. NotTimothyGeithner

      This is the gist of the neoconservative argument.

      The neoconservatives are slightly different than thugs because the neocons believe Russian and Chinese tech will ultimately serve as deployable counters to U.S. wunder weapons meaning troops a day the ability to deploy infantry and old style artillery to hold ground will matter again. The goal is to grab choke points while we can.

    5. tiebie66

      I have always thought that it was about Saddam Hussein’s support for suicide bombers.
      “Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has raised the amount offered to relatives of suicide bombers from $10,000 per family to $25,000, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Wednesday.” April 2002.

      The controversy between WMD and oil was created to deflect attention from the fact that Israeli foreign policy was to induce the Americans to remove him and to pay for the adventure themselves in blood and bills. Unmasking the ruse of WMD after the fall of the Iraqi government was not posing a risk of loss of future utility as it was known that Iran was developing uranium enrichment technologies. Moreover, the root cause of the war would not be discovered because everyone then would think: “So, it WAS about oil after all!”

      I think it worked beautifully.

  6. Northeaster

    “best estimate of the financial cost to the United States of the war in Iraq is $3 trillion.”

    For some, the cost was much higher.

    1. Kuh Bauer

      There is also an immense and rarely-mentioned environmental cost of war. And just guessing here; the extraction industry doesn’t face much oversight in Iraq.

  7. Disturbed Voter

    Disputes over oil in Iraq, among Iraqis … was inevitable, given the false makeup of the country. The North was and still should be, controlled by Sunni Kurds. The South was and still should be controlled by Shia Arabs. Those two areas have the oil, but the benefit was to the Middle, the Sunni Arabs. The people in Baghdad should have been told to pound sand long ago.

  8. cnchal

    This is a fine example of socialism for the rich, capitalism for the peasants.

    $3 trillion in financial cost and half a million dead and millions maimed, so that a handful of companies in the oil business can make a few billions in profits.

    Not only is this an extreme waste of money and ruined lives, this form of capitalism is a gigantic criminal enterprise.

    $3 trillion works out to roughly $9,500 for every person in the US.

  9. Carolinian

    An excellent article. As an aside I’ve just seen the DVD of Deepwater Horizon which is a very good “process movie” about the workings of the oil industry and the cause of the famous disaster. To ensure realism they reconstructed a full size version of the rig on dry land. You take away the conclusion that our technology is incredibly sophisticated even while failsafes against greed and corporate misbehavior remain quite primitive. Some of the names from the above such as BP and Schlumberger were key players in the havoc that struck the Gulf.

  10. jefemt

    I love the percentage variance (and implied level of concern ) of 200K-500K Iraq Nationals killed. That is a damning statistic and reinforces what Bernie said in the hearings for Trumps cabinet: ” No, Sir, we are NOT a compassionate nation” .

    Same as it ever was… much of the world’s history is about plundering natural resources and squabbling over the resource du jour.

  11. Jim Haygood

    Philip Weiss, writing in March 2015 during Netanyahu’s visit:

    Remember that Walt and Mearsheimer were tarred as anti-Semites for saying in 2006 that the Israel lobby pushed the Iraq war. I supported the two scholars’ argument because I had heard as much myself; in 2002, my brother shocked me when he said, “I demonstrated against the Vietnam War, but my Jewish newspaper said this war could be good for Israel.”

    The Jewish community has never had an honest conversation about this matter; no, Jeffrey Goldberg and Marty Peretz and friends shut it down by calling Walt and Mearsheimer anti-Semites. That conversation would include asking Tom Friedman, David Remnick, Peter Beinart, and Kenneth Pollack if they pushed the Iraq war in part out of concern for Israel’s security. And did they believe that Jeffrey Goldberg and Judith Miller were carrying water for Israel when they put out their bogus reports on Saddam’s WMD?

    While the pursuit of foreign oil explains a lot about US foreign policy, one has to wonder about the sincerity of discussions of the Iraq War which airbrush out the neocon/Israel Lobby.

    William Kristol and Robert Kagan’s Project for a New American Century gave us Dick Cheney’s neocon clique of Wolfowitz, Feith, Bolton, Libby, Abrams, Wurmser, and Perle, whose fingerprints were all over this disastrous war.

    Next month at the AIPAC convention in Washington, they will be pushing for war with Iran, as they’ve been doing for 20 years now. Israel’s strategy is to destabilize Islamic powers in its region by co-opting US foreign policy, an exercise as effortless for them as handing out candy to pre-teen trick-or-treaters.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      It’s a third rail, touch it and you die. But there are valid questions: do Jewish journalists, Congressmen, and Senators always put the interests of the US above those if Israel? And why, precisely, do we even allow dual Israel/US citizens to be senators and congressmen?

      The list of dual Israeli/US citizens is pretty shocking (I did not know for example that DWS was on it). And imagine the (justified) hysteria and screeching if they were joint Russian/US citizens?

      Past and present:

      1. Attorney General – Michael Mukasey
      2. Head of Homeland Security – Michael Chertoff
      3. Chairman Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board – Richard Perle
      4. Deputy Defense Secretary (Former) – Paul Wolfowitz
      5. Under Secretary of Defense – Douglas Feith
      6. National Security Council Advisor – Elliott Abrams
      7. Vice President Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff (Former) – “Scooter” Libby
      8. White House Deputy Chief of Staff – Joshua Bolten
      9. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs – Marc Grossman
      10. Director of Policy Planning at the State Department – Richard Haass
      11. U.S. Trade Representative (Cabinet-level Position) – Robert Zoellick
      12. Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board – James Schlesinger
      13. UN Representative (Former) – John Bolton
      14. Under Secretary for Arms Control – David Wurmser
      15. Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board – Eliot Cohen
      16. Senior Advisor to the President – Steve Goldsmith
      17. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary – Christopher Gersten
      18. Assistant Secretary of State – Lincoln Bloomfield
      19. Deputy Assistant to the President – Jay Lefkowitz
      20. White House Political Director – Ken Melman
      21. National Security Study Group – Edward Luttwak
      22. Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board – Kenneth Adelman
      23. Defense Intelligence Agency Analyst (Former) – Lawrence (Larry) Franklin
      24. National Security Council Advisor – Robert Satloff
      25. President Export-Import Bank U.S. – Mel Sembler
      26. Deputy Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children and Families – Christopher Gersten
      27. Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development for Public Affairs – Mark Weinberger
      28. White House Speechwriter – David Frum
      29. White House Spokesman (Former) – Ari Fleischer
      30. Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board – Henry Kissinger
      31. Deputy Secretary of Commerce – Samuel Bodman
      32. Under Secretary of State for Management – Bonnie Cohen
      33. Director of Foreign Service Institute – Ruth Davis
      34. Federal Reserve Chair – Janet Yellen
      35. Federal Reserve Vice-Chair – Stanley Fischer

      Current (and past) Members of Senate:
      Representative Gary Ackerman (New York)
      Representative John H. Adler (New Jersey)
      Representative Shelley Berkley (Nevada)
      Representative Howard Berman (California)
      Representative Steve Cohen (Tennessee)
      Representative Susan Davis (California)
      Representative Eliot Engel (New York)
      Representative Bob Filner (California)
      Representative Barney Frank (Former) (Massachusetts)
      Representative Gabrielle Giffords (Arizona)
      Representative Jane Harman (California)
      Representative Paul Hodes (New Hampshire)
      Representative Steve Israel (New York)
      Representative Steve Kagen (Wisconsin)
      Representative Ronald Klein (Florida)
      Representative Sander Levin (Michigan)
      Representative Nita Lowey (New York)
      Representative Jerry Nadler (New York)
      Representative Jared Polis (Colorado)
      Representative Steve Rothman (New Jersey)
      Representative Jan Schakowsky (Illinois)
      Representative Adam Schiff (California)
      Representative Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania)
      Representative Allyson Schwartz (Pennsylvania)
      Representative Brad Sherman (California)
      Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Florida)
      Representative Henry Waxman (California)
      Representative Anthony Weiner (New York)
      Representative John Yarmuth (Kentucky)

      House of Representatives:
      Representative Gary Ackerman (New York)
      Representative John H. Adler (New Jersey)
      Representative Shelley Berkley (Nevada)
      Representative Howard Berman (California)
      Representative Steve Cohen (Tennessee)
      Representative Susan Davis (California)
      Representative Eliot Engel (New York)
      Representative Bob Filner (California)
      Representative Barney Frank (Massachusetts)
      Representative Gabrielle Giffords (Arizona)
      Representative Alan Grayson (Florida)
      Representative Jane Harman (California)
      Representative Paul Hodes (New Hampshire)
      Representative Steve Israel (New York)
      Representative Steve Kagen (Wisconsin)
      Representative Ronald Klein (Florida)
      Representative Sander Levin (Michigan)
      Representative Nita Lowey (New York)
      Representative Jerry Nadler (New York)
      Representative Jared Polis (Colorado)
      Representative Steve Rothman (New Jersey)
      Representative Jan Schakowsky (Illinois)
      Representative Adam Schiff (California)
      Representative Allyson Schwartz (Pennsylvania)
      Representative Brad Sherman (California)
      Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Florida)
      Representative Henry Waxman (California)
      Representative Anthony Weiner (New York)
      Representative John Yarmuth (Kentucky)

      1. Vatch

        Interestingly, Israel does not allow its Knesset (parliament) members to possess foreign citizenship, unless for some reason it is impossible to renounce the foreign citizenship:

        A dual national is considered an Israeli citizen for all purposes, and is entitled to enter Israel without a visa, stay in Israel according to his own desire, engage in any profession and work with any employer according to Israeli law. An exception is that under an additional law added to the Basic Law: the Knesset (Article 16A) according to which Knesset members cannot pledge allegiance unless their foreign citizenship has been revoked, if possible, under the laws of that country.

        Also see:

        15. Declaration of allegiance by members of the Knesset (Amendment 23)

        a. A Knesset member shall make a declaration of allegiance; the declaration shall read as follows:

        “I pledge myself to bear allegiance to the State of Israel and faithfully to discharge my mandate in the Knesset.”

        b. Procedures for the declarations shall be prescribed by law.

        16. Failure to make declaration Where the Chairman of the Knesset has called upon a member of the Knesset to make his declaration of allegiance and the member has not done so, the member shall not enjoy the rights of a member of the Knesset so long as he has not made the declaration.

        16A. Failure to make declaration due to dual citizenship (Amendment 22)
        Has the Knesset member been the holder of an additional non-Israeli citizenship, and the laws of the country whose citizenship he holds permit his release from such citizenship, he shall not declare allegiance until after he has done everything required on his part to be released from such citizenship, and he shall not enjoy the rights of a Knesset member until he makes his declaration.

        Sorry about the awkward formatting.

      2. Alex

        Um, can you provide a link to your source for this list? I’m definitely not a fan of Mr. Kissinger, but I’ve been unable to find any evidence of his Israeli citizenship, aside from a few clearly anti-Semitic sites. I’m guessing it’s similar for a lot of other names in your post.

      3. Michael Fiorillo

        Are these people Israeli citizens because they have affirmatively taken on duel citizenship, and possess Israeli passports, or are they de facto Israeli citizens because they’re Jewish?

        If it’s the latter, then your list is Protocols of Zion-type bullshit , however loathsome many of these people might be.

        1. Vatch

          Thanks. I did some looking, and I couldn’t find a solid source for this. Non-Israelis Jews may have access to a fast track program for becoming Israeli citizens, but it isn’t automatic:

          Some countries grant citizenship based on religion: Israel gives all Jews the right to immigrate to Israel, by the Law of Return, and fast-tracked citizenship. Dual citizenship is permitted, but when entering the country the Israeli passport must be used.[citation needed]

          But even that is uncertain, as evinced by the “citation needed” warning.

  12. Stormcrow

    It seems that the invasion of Iraq — an act of aggression, In my opinion, and therefore an international crime — was probably driven by more than one factor. Oil was certainly one of them. The elephant in the room, however, was Israel, or perhaps better, the drive for a Greater Israel. From this point of view the utter devastation of Iraq, which seems to be ruined beyond repair, and now to a large degree also Syria, is not a bug, but as people like to say around here, a feature.

    As far as I can see, the gathering storm for a war with Russia, perhaps the greatest impediment to a Greater Israel, has the self-same motivation percolating in the mix.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      It’s old thinking, wars used to be fought for control of resources and the like, nowadays the war-making itself IS the treasure.

      Sure, Halliburton and Raytheon. In Raytheon’s case they have what may be the best business model ever devised: build and sell incredibly complex multi-million $ flying robots that are destroyed the first time they are used by the customer (drones).

      But few people mention the rest of American industry that feeds at the trough. KFC received a multi-million $ no-bid contract to sling fried chicken at hundreds of American bases; Federal Express still flies palettes of bottled water from Seattle to Baghdad. And Microsoft’s largest customer by a wide margin is the U.S. Army.

      I guess if you’re a patriotic American and you don’t want the economy to collapse you need to get with the program. America = War, and the bigger the better. (Of course you could repatriate those staff sergeants making $100K per year to push papers in Guam, hand them a shovel, and make them fill in the potholes on the Cross-Bronx Expressway. But that’s not how we roll).

  13. susan the other

    How did China get the oil concession at Basra? And where else? Along the eastern Caspian? Where is all the old talk about a pipeline from Basra into and across Pakistan to India (?) and China (?).. And what happened to Cheney’s plans for a pipeline from the Caspian through Afghanistan? Remember his carpet of gold? Mattis is now making the frequent public statement to our allies and others that we do not want to take the oil, we plan to pay for it all. And he says this with his enigmatic little smile. The story about destabilizing 7 countries in 5 years begins to make more sense because it looks like a complete oil shake-up. We are neocolonialists.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Iraq was done fast and loose, and the “democratic” facade meant there was an element of local control. American companies acted liked they owned the place, and Chinese companies made bids instead of demands. It’s that simple.

      U.S. companies were more concerned with no bid government contracts such as building showers that electrocuted soldiers than actual business.

  14. Dr Duh

    I actually thought that the economic point of the Iraq war was that it took a chunk of production off line, thereby supporting prices. Since big US multinationals were not profiting from that production it was doubly helpful. While higher oil prices are obviously bad for the rest of the economy, there’s a reason why they call it looting.

    The strategic point was to intimidate the Saudis into cracking down on Al Qaeda, which worked, while establishing a modern secular American client state to offset Iran and Saudi, which obviously failed miserably.

    I’ve been listening to The History of Rome podcasts (Thanks Lambert) and the casual way the Romans would raise an army of 80,000, lose it in an epic defeat and raise another 80,000 men the next year is mind boggling.

    When you compare the Iraq/Afghan wars, even though they are the longest in our history, the number of US deaths is quite low compared to previous conflicts, #9 overall, less than 1/100th of the deaths in the Civil War, and trivial compared to our population 0.002%.

    Of course the asymmetry between coalition and Iraqi deaths is staggering. But it seems as if we have truly succeeded in supplanting labor with capital, even in war. The main limitation in our war making capacity is financial. Which is quite scary because it means the pro-war (profiteering) impulse is unshackled from meaningful social opposition. (people who oppose the war because of direct effects on their family or friends rather than on principle) This goes a long way towards explaining why the Democratic party put forth a war hawk as its candidate and why the party sees detente with Russia as literally bad for business.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I don’t think its out of the question that the motivations for the invasion were multifaceted and even, to some degree, contradictory. The obvious point is with oil, in that there are at least two contrasting motivations within the ‘Blob’ – the geopolitical types who want cheap and plentiful oil, as it weakens Russia and the Petrostates, while boosting the US economy – and the Big Oil types who want higher prices for oil, because that makes US generated oil much more profitable. I think they can agree on issues like Iraq because they both want control of the oil market, just for different reasons. I suspect that one reason for the incoherent mess in US policy after the invasion was that having agreed that invading was a good thing, they couldn’t agree on what exactly to do afterwards, leaving a vacuum that was filled by opportunists.

  15. RBHoughton

    The problem with representative democracy is that we have ambitious men forming factions, conspiracies of federation, to subvert democracy with their own ideas of what’s good for themselves. When government is weak, as it has been for most of my long life, faction is strong.

    We have that old rogue Edmund Burke to thank for the distinction of factions from parties. Party, he says, is a concurrence of men in a laudable and honest cause with a just end in view, whilst factions are indifferent to ends and merely answer their immediate purpose, right or wrong. Sound familiar eh?

    The electorate does not get to chose its candidate for election. We Poms have the same system as when constituencies fell within the estates of great men. Today the Chamber of Commerce may get consulted but not the people being ruled. What democracy needs is at the grass roots – local chaps whom we went to school with or who live down the street; chaps we can visit and chat with, whose opinions and values are known. That’s the basis to democracy and that’s what we don’t have.

    Today’s crop of politicians, such as they are, have given up on their basic duty. They don’t care to educate the populace to contribute to political management. There are just a handful of groups who keep abreast of developments and comment on policy. The vast majority of the electorate is unwelcome to an opinion. In fact politicians adopt the mushroom growers approach of hiding everything in the dark.

    That why democracy is failing all over Europe and in many other places too.

  16. redleg

    Oil is the red herring, IMO.
    The only reason that makes sense of MENA + Afghanistan war is looting. But not looting those countries, although that has happened. They’re looting the US.

    Whether it’s looting the taxpayer or capturing a chunk of dollars at the source, it’s looting through no bid, no oversight contracts. The $trillions have been paid to someone, and those someones generally didn’t have to go through a bid or QC process to get the loot.

    Fight a war with the military is bad enough (I’m a veteran, FWIW), but these wars of convenience have been fought with private companies supplying housing, transport, food service, admin, security, engineering, intellingence, and even soldiers FFS.
    This allows the government to keep the number of actual soldiers in theater far lower than historically possible, but the support and service support units that historically are part of an army do not exist- they are contracted out.
    How many more reports of “they were contracted and paid $millions to rebuild schools/hospitals/etc. in X-istan but these were never completed” are necessary to connect the dots? The goal of the war was to loot the US treasury directly with minimal risk, with oil as an obvious (much higher risk) distraction to cover their tracks.

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