Iraq and Oil — Why the mainstream media won’t talk about it By William Bowles

10 September 2007

‘Order 150 passed in 1987 by Saddam Hussein banned public sector workers from organizing trade unions. Oil Minister Hussein al-Sharistani declared all oil unions illegal in July 2007, using [the same] Ba’ath regime anti-union law'[1]

Ever since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the mainstream media have deliberately downplayed the role of oil in the invasion, indeed even so-called liberal newspapers like the London Independent, have poured scorn on the idea, going as far as labelling anyone who raised the issue as “conspiracists”. The closest the BBC ever gets to it is when it mentions ‘energy security’ but it never mentions the dreaded ‘O’ word when it comes to the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Back in April 2003, I wrote a piece entitled ‘More about Conspiracies and Oil’, and although a little out of date in that there are now even more studies on the subject, it nevertheless contains a wealth of links to authoritative documents (from both the left and the right) on the subject, all of which reveal the fundamental importance of energy in the imperial equation, what both the state and the MSM euphemistically call ‘energy security’, which translated means the West’s literally God-given right to take whatever it needs in order to keep the capitalist system going. It’s always been this way and as long as we go along with it, it will always be this way, but I digress.

Of course one has to ask the question, given the centrality of ‘energy security’ to the West, why daring to raise the role of oil in the invasion meets such scorn and derision in the Western media? Why is it a taboo subject? What is it the state and the corporates don’t want you to know about the role of oil in imperial foreign policy?

The entire history of the 20th century is bound up with oil, driven first and foremost by the demands of the British Imperial Navy to power its fleet of ‘dreadnoughts’ (even the word reveals the reality of imperial power) and with the advent of WWI (which was in part, fought over access to oil, from Iraq to the Persian Gulf region) the centrality of the internal combustion engine to warfighting.

‘The Allies were carried to victory on a flood of oil … With the commencement of the war, oil and its products began to rank as among the principal agents by which they [the Allied forces] would conduct, and by which they could win it. Without oil, how could they have procured the mobility of the fleet, the transport of their troops, or the manufacture of several explosives?’ — Lord Curzon, Britain’s foreign minister, November 21, 1918 [2]

The archives are choca-block full of evidence, going all the way back to the 19th century, confirming the view that the demands of industrial capitalism for energy, raw materials and of course cheap labour, are the principle driving force behind our foreign (and domestic) policy objectives. To deny this is to deny the historical evidence.

Now there are those who claim that this is just history, a view of the ‘bad old days’, that now we’re citizens of a civilised country. But all that has changed are the alleged reasons for the imperium’s actions. Back in the days when the Union Jack ruled half the planet, we saw, we took, end of story. We didn’t need reasons, except to justify it to ourselves, but now we do (so something’s changed then).

Keep it complicated stupid!
What it comes down to is really quite simple: when reporting the ‘news’, just exclude anything that connects our political and military actions from economics. This is how and why the MSM never introduce the issue of oil because oil means talking about the economics of oil and hence the economics of capitalism. Thus, we never see the oil cartels dragged into the dirty waters of making war, yet without them, everything from Humvees to F-16s, don’t work.

‘The summit takes place whilst the Iraqi Oil Minister and Deputy Prime Minister are meeting with international oil companies at the Iraq Petroleum 2007 summit, sponsored by Shell, Conoco Phillips, and Total, and whilst the Iraqi government comes under increasing pressure to pass the law before the US administration reports to Congress on 15 September, on the ‘success’ of its troop surge. Passage of the law is one of the Bush administration’s “benchmarks” for the Iraqi government.'[3]

Yet it’s so fundamental to understanding how our world works, that by excluding the economics that lies behind the news from our public media shows just how important it is. Venturing into this world, where all is revealed, is strictly verboten. Read the Wall Street Journal or the Financial Times, if you want to get a better handle on things economic, at least from the capitalist’s perspective (the old adage of not trying to bullshit a bullshitter would seem to be apt here).

The task of the mainstream journalist then, is to make sure that when talking about causes and reasons, the uncomfortable subject of the economics of it never raises its ugly head. And perforce, when it absolutely has to be dragged into the discourse, make sure it’s both made complicated and kept at a safe distance from where the bombs are falling and especially who is dropping them.

1. See ‘Iraq’s oil workers hold summit against oil privatization plans’, September 9, 2007, a press release issued by Naftana (‘Our Oil’ in Arabic), an independent UK-based committee supporting democratic trade unionism in Iraq. It works in solidarity with the IFOU (Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions). Naftana publicises the IFOU’s struggle for Iraqi social and economic rights and its stand against the privatisation of Iraqi oil demanded by the occupying powers. For more information see the IFOU’s website. Naftana can be contacted at:

Sabah Jawad – 0044 7985 336 886
Sami Ramadani – 0044 7863 138 748
Kamil Mahdi —

2. Quoted in ‘A Century of War, Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order’ by William F. Engdahl, Pluto Press, 2004.

3. See Note 1.

See also: ‘Iraq and Oil: The Vultures are waiting’, Index Research and,

‘New US Base on Iraq-Iran Border’, Index Research

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