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The Columbia Journal
P.O. Box 2633 MPO,
Vancouver, British Columbia,
Canada V6B 3W8
Phone: 604-266-6552
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ISSN 1712-3763
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Columbia Journal logoVolume Ten, Number One   January 2005   www.columbiajournal.ca

    Author warns of disaster through West's oil addiction

    Dan Keeton

    The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq certainly has nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction or bringing democracy to the Arab world. It's been mainly because of the oil, says Linda McQuaig.

    Iraq's vast and relatively untapped oil reserves don't account for all reasons the United States has waged an illegal war against a sovereign state, the noted Canadian journalist and author told a Vancouver audience October 27.

    "It was [also] a war about flexing U.S. muscle more vigorously in the world...about re-shaping the Middle East, about removing an intransigent foe of Israel," said McQuaig, on tour to promote her new book about the Iraq invasion. But it was mainly about the oil, she said, echoing the theme of her book It's the Crude, Dude: War, Big Oil and the Fight for the Planet.

    Control of the world's oil resources has shaped foreign policy and actions for more than a century, said McQuaig. The energy crisis of the mid-Seventies sparked anxiety about oil shortages and increased the U.S. appetite for control of the resource. A manifestation was the Carter Doctrine in 1980 in which then U.S. President Jimmy Carter deemed the Middle East a "sphere of U.S. Influence."

    "But the thing that always held back actual invasions was the existence of the Soviet Union which of course made the idea of invasion [of Middle Eastern countries] problematic. The demise of the Soviet Union opened up new opportunities."

    In the early Nineties a group of right-wing Republican radicals promoted a more aggressive stance through such documents as 1997's Project for the New American Century, which promotes unilateral intervention anywhere the U.S. wants, McQuaig related. They were advocating the overthrow of former Iraq leader Saddam Hussein long before the  destruction of the World Trade Centre, she observed.

    Such people helped elect and advise President George Bush. "So they come into power with a determination to get rid of Saddam and get control of that oil."

    Much of the allure of Iraq can be understood in the context of dwindling oil reserves worldwide, and the difficulty and expense in exploiting those resources now that most of the more accessible oil concentrations are tapped out. By contrast, Iraq has mainly undeveloped oil reserves just under the ground, McQuaig noted. Seizing that oil and beating out its rivals for control of it were key motivations for the Iraq campaign.

    "It's really a broader pattern. The U.S. has been intervening in the Middle East in the interests of getting control of oil for five decades." With all the talk about bringing democracy to the Middle East, it's easy to forget that there was democracy there, in Iran. But the U.S. allied with the U.K. and contrived to overthrow the Iranian government in the early Fifties after it nationalized British Petroleum. The hated Shah was re-installed and ruled Iran with an iron fist until unseated by a popular revolution in 1979.

    Organization against despots like the Shah of Iran took place mainly in mosques, which gave such movements a distinctly religious tone, said McQuaig. "This was really the beginning of the kind of Islamic fundamentalist rage against the west that we later saw develop in such actions as 9-11.

    "Clearly, the global economy's addiction to oil...I would argue is heading us into a lot of trouble." Yet the problem on the geo-political front is not the worst aspect of this addiction, said McQuaig. "Even more serious [is that] our enormous consumption of oil and other fossil fuels is leading us to a situation where we're compromising the very viability of the planet, in the form of global warming." The scientific evidence for this is "overwhelming," McQuaig said.

    "And yet there's a small group of enormously powerful companies, basically the oil companies, that are resisting what has to be done. We have to move off our addiction to oil." Such groups have created confusion around the issue of global warming and are responsible for the Bush administration's pulling out of the Kyoto Accord, an agreement by governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

    Alternative fuel sources such as wind and solar power can help wean us from fossil fuel addiction, said McQuaig. So can newer technologies designed for energy efficiency.

    The American right has seized the issue of 9-11 to turn it into a crusade to push U.S. "moral superiority" around the world – a system that enshrines the vast consumption of oil, McQuaig stated. "There's virtually no challenge to the kind of global piggery that the west is indulging itself in."

    Linda McQuaig's new book, It's the Crude, Dude: War, Big Oil and the Fight for the Planet, is available at local bookstores. Her entire Vancouver talk is available in video on-line at workingtv.com or globaljustice.ca.

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