Big Oil pushes the White House for a war with Iraq

Feature story - 27 January, 2003
Never has there been a better time to be an oil baron. The car-owning masses of the world pay whatever it takes to fill their tanks. The money flows so freely it can buy and sell even the most destructive environmental policy. And if interests are threatened, just ask your old friend George to rally the troops and march into war. We'd just like to ask: after US$200 billion and unknown military and civilian casualties, will the world be a safer place? Or just an even better place to be an oil baron?

It's not about oil. Right!

Sticky oil connections

Ever since former oil-man George W. Bush came to the White House, well before September 11th, his administration was announcing that the US faced an energy-supply crisis. Although there is little evidence to support this, Bush made it a cornerstone of his policies.

Coincidentally, Iraq has the second largest proven reserves of oil in the world, but its production has been severely reduced since the Gulf War, due to effects of economic sanctions and the destruction of infrastructure. Rebuilding that infrastructure and increasing production will take years. Oil executives hungrily eyeing those reserves are enthusiastic to take on that work.

And they've never had such close ties to the White House. For Vice President Dick Cheney, this may well be round two for his post-war dealings with Iraq. Cheney is a former head of Halliburton, the world's largest oil service contractor. In August 2000 Cheney publicly stated that, as the head of Halliburton, "I had a firm policy that I wouldn't do anything in Iraq, even arrangements that were supposedly legal." And yet, as the Financial Times eventually proved, Cheney oversaw $23.8 million in sales to Iraq in 1998 and 1999.

President George W. Bush's oil company ties go back to his grandfather. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice sat on the board of Chevron, and recently had a tanker named after her. (Find out about more "Big Oil" links to the White house from

Top oil analyst Dr. JJ Traynor of Deutsche Bank sees the US's largest and undoubtedly most politically influential company, ExxonMobil, as being in "pole position" to take full advantage of a regime change in Iraq. (Find out more from )

ExxonMobil has worked hard to ensure demand for oil by pressuring the US government into abandoning its commitments to the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. During the 2000 election cycle, ExxonMobil gave $1,375,250 to political campaigns - second only to Enron among oil and gas company campaign contributions. Of this total, 89 percent went to Republican candidates. By undermining efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, ExxonMobil prolongs US's oil dependence and prolongs its entanglements with often politically unstable oil producing countries.

However, unlike its French, Russian and Chinese counterparts, ExxonMobil, the world's biggest oil company, has had to stay away from Iraq due to the US political situation in the last ten years. Exxon previously owned 25 percent of Iraqi oil fields and a new war with Iraq would again open up access to Iraq's large oil reserves.

Holes in Bush's cover story for the war

Though it's no secret that the White House cozies up to oil executives, declaring war on Iraq required a bit of a cover story. The "War on Terror" launched in the wake of September 11th was the perfect vehicle. With the world reeling from the threat of more chaos and destruction, Iraq was quietly slipped into key speeches. Bush quickly diverted attention from Osama Bin Laden to Saddam Hussein and now the hunt is on for his weapons of mass destruction.

The US is prepared to negotiate with North Korea, which has a known capacity to develop nuclear weapons, domestic sources of enriched uranium and production capability for plutonium. But the US is preparing to invade Iraq -- despite the absence of evidence of any nuclear weapons program.

Bush calls them both "evildoer" states, so why the double standard?

A quick look at the US's own policies on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) quickly dispels their argument for using WMD as a determining factor for a war with Iraq.

As a signer of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the US has a legal obligation to reduce it's nuclear arsenal, stop nuclear testing, and negotiate a binding a treaty on nuclear disarmament under strict international control. However, the current US administration is increasing its budget to build nuclear weapons, scrapping existing disarmament treaties, and restarting nuclear tests.

One of the first acts of the Bush administration was to propose deep cuts in funding for programmes safeguarding and destroying nuclear weapons and materials in the countries of the former Soviet Union. While Congress rejected those cuts as too drastic, investment in new nuclear weapons continues to grow while more money is needed to dismantle weapons and keep existing weapons "safe and secure."

The Bush administration's prevalent tendency to ignore, abandon, or destroy international treaties is especially evident with regard to arms-limitation agreements:

-- In December 2001, President Bush torpedoed talks to give the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) real force. A last minute refusal after five years of negotiations infuriated negotiating countries.

-- At the NPT review conference in 2000, the US and the other signatories agreed to end nuclear weapons testing by bringing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into force as the first of 13 specific disarmament commitments. Shortly thereafter, the US Senate announced disapproval of the treaty. Last year the US said it no longer agreed with the additional commitments, putting the Non-Proliferation Treaty's future in jeopardy.

-- The Bush administration has also reneged on an additional commitment to strengthen the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty by pursuing its Star Wars missile defence programme. The programme is one of the primary reasons that international talks to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction have not progressed for the last three years. It also provides an excuse for other nations to improve and increase their nuclear arsenals.

Overall, Bush's weapons of mass destruction policy is arbitrary, hypocritical, and inconsistent. The world desperately needs a multinational and fair approach to the elimination of weapons of mass destruction. A war with Iraq will only serve to strengthen the existing hypocrisy.

What you can do

If you believe that George Bush's war stance is based on hypocritical arms policies and sticky oil connections, make your voice heard.

--Write to the UN ambassadors that sit on the Security Council and ask them to uphold international law and refuse to approve a war in Iraq.

-- Write to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and ask him to oppose war in Iraq and to refuse to allow UK troops to be used in such a war.

-- If you live in the US, consider calling on your city council to pass a resolution against a war with Iraq. Twenty cities across the US have already passed similar resolutions and efforts are underway in dozens more communities. For more information, visit,

-- Join our campaign against ExxonMobil/ Esso, the world's biggest oil company. For more information, visit

-- Get more ideas for getting involved from , and