Author warns of disaster through West's oil addiction
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
"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
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