by Dr. Eric T. Karlstrom, Professor of Geography, California State University, Stanislaus (2003)

“The road to Jerusalem runs through Bagdad.”

“Iraq is the key to global power.’

Rhetoric/propaganda by “neoconservatives” prior to 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq

ETK Introduction:

I put together the following information on the geopolitics (which overlaps with oil politics or petro-politics) of the Middle East just prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq of March 20 to May 1, 2003. This illegal invasion was first dubbed “Operation Iraqi Liberation” (acronym: OIL) and then “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” and finally “Operation Enduring Freedom.”

French academic, Dominique Reynie, estimated that between January 3 and April 13, 2003, 36 million people across the globe participated in almost 3,000 protests against this unprovoked invasion. In February, 2003, New York Times writer, Patrick Tyler, stated that these protests showed there were two super-powers on the planet, the United States government and worldwide public opinion.

An estimated half a million to a million protestors clogged the streets of San Francisco to protest this unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation. I was among the protesters there. The media mostly ignored these and other protests. President Bush dismissed them, saying, “I can’t respond to every focus group out there.”

The estimated number of innocent civilians killed by the Anglo/American/Israeli invasions of Iraq now ranges upwards towards 3 to 4 million. Certainly, this ranks as one of the greatest crimes of all time and international justice requires that the mass-murderers be tried and convicted of crimes against humanity. Even a cursory investigation of the facts reveals that the “war on terror” is a cynical fraud.

I. Lead-up to the 2003 U.S./U.K. Invasions of Iraq

In the lead-up to the second American invasion of Iraq (2003), President George W. Bush assumed the legal authority to wage such a war even though such a pre-emptive attack violated the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the international law of self-defense, and the Nuremburg war criminal code. Iraq’s neighbors Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey each rejected the idea that they needed protection from Iraq. Bush, however, maintained the pretext of needing to disarm Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, despite the fact that former weapons inspectors such as Scott Ritter insisted that since 1991, Iraq did not have the capability to produce nuclear weapons. And documents prove that the United States had supplied Iraq with biological and chemical weapons. In 2003, the minister of Justice in Germany compared George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler; both relied upon pretext for their attacks upon other nations and both showed imperious disregard for the civilized opinions of others.


The plan to seize control of Persian Gulf oil, eventually to be run by Texas and Oklahoma oil companies, was conceived after the oil crisis of the 1970s. Sometimes called the “Kissinger Plan”, its strongest advocates in the 70’s were Democratic senators Henry Jackson (Wyoming) and Daniel Moynihan (New York) and the “neoconservatives” employed in think tanks, including Richard Perle, chairman of Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, and Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz. These individuals now occupy key positions in the Bush administration. And these men were closest to Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, both of whom served in the White House under Gerald Ford in the 1970s. Cheney was Secretary of Defense during Persian Gulf War I in 1991.

Recent position papers authored by the neoconservative “Project for the New American Century” think tank in September 2000, indicate that the U.S. military has been planning an invasion of Iraq since the late 1990s and that it intended to take control of the Gulf region whether or not Saddam was in power. These documents show that even the pretext of “regime change” was a façade. The report states:

The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Hence, these “neoconservative” strategists have been successful in instituting a step-by-step process to realize their goal of taking over Iraqi oil. Some of the steps that have led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq include formation of the following:

1) The Rapid Deployment Force (RDF): Due to rapid increases in oil prices from OPEC, President Jimmy Carter announced the Carter Doctrine: “Any attempt by an outside force to control Persian gulf region is regarded as a direct assault onw the vital interests of the U.S. and will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.” Thus, Carter created the Rapid Deployment Force, a military unit capable of rushing to the Gulf in a crisis.

2) The Central Command: In the 80’s under President Reagan, the U.S. began to press local countries for access to bases and support facilities. Now RPF was transformed into the Central Command, responsible for the geographic area extending from eastern Africa to Afghanistan. At that time, the U.S. tried to organize a “strategic consensus” of anti-Soviet allies in the region, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and lsrael, and it sold billions worth of weapons to Saudis as well as weapons to both Iran and Iraq during the U.S.-orchestrated Iraq-Iran war of the 1980’s. (About one million Iraqis and Iranians died in this war.) In 1987, the U.S. Navy created the Joint Task Force-Middle East, sending about 40 U.S. warships, aircraft carriers, battleships, and cruisers to patrol the Gulf waters and protect the oil shipments.

3) The 1991 Gulf War, aka “Operation Desert Storm,” was fought because the U.S. had not been successful in persuading Gulf states to allow permanent American military bases on their soil. It had its military supplies “pre-positioned” only in Oman. Also, the U.S. was no longer the exclusive supplier of arms to the Saudis. The Gulf war gave a cover for establishment of American military bases in Saudi Arabia. In the decade after the war, the U.S. sold over $43 B in weapons to Saudi Arabia and $16 B to Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. After the war, nearly all the countries in the region began conducting joint military exercises, hosting U.S. military forces and granting the U.S. “pre-positioning” rights. Also, the U.S. had unilaterally imposed “no-fly zones” in northern and southern Iraq. This required massive U.S. military buildups in Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Most important, a billion dollar, high-tech command center was established in Saudi Arabia. Another has been secretly built in Qatar. Incidentally, the U.S. had to leave Saddam Hussein in power in Iraq at the close of Operation Desert Storm as an excuse for its military presence in Saudi Arabia.

4) Afghanistan- As of 2003, the U.S. war in Afghanistan, begun in 2001, and the “endless” “war on terrorism” (WOT/actually “war of terrorism”) has led to U.S. strikes in Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere. Also the WOT has allowed the administration to increase military spending from about $300 to $400 B/year with about $60 B slated for the Persian Gulf. Military bases have been expanded in Djibouti, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyztan, and, of course, Afghanistan. The “stans” were once under Soviet sphere of influence and now are under the American sphere. And, of course, the Central Asian Caspian Basin states are also rich in oil and gas. They are also strategically vital. So after this war, central Asia is now the eastern link in a nearly continuous chain of U.S. bases, facilities, and allies, stretching from the Mediterranean and Red Sea into Asia.

5) Iraq. Removing Saddam could be the final piece of the puzzle and cement the American imperial presence in the region. It is probable that the U.S will establish military bases there after the war. Leading neoconservative, Robert Kagan, recently said:

We will probably need a major concentration of forces in the Middle East over a long period of time. When we have economic problems, it’s been caused by disruptions in our oil supply. If we have a force in Iraq, there will be no disruption in oil supplies.


The larger American imperial plan was outlined in Dick Cheney’s “Defense Strategy for the 1990’s,” office of the Secretary of Defense, 1993, and “Defense Planning Guidance” for the 1994-1999, 2004-2009, office of the Secretary of Defense (with ghost writers include Paul Wolfowitz and Colin Powell) as well as reports from the think tank, “Project for the New American Century,” 2000, founded by neocons, Robert Kagan and William Kristol. The group’s affiliates include Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Eliott Abrams, and Middle East director at the NSC, Lewis Libby, the VPs chief of staff. This group is extremely hawkish and pro-Israeli and was originally forged in the Nixon and Ford administrations. Also suggested to usher in this neoconservative “New American Century” agenda: Overthrow or replace the Saudi regime and occupy the Saudi oil fields. Some of this group now considers virtually all nations in the Gulf region as unstable “failed states” and believes that only the U.S. has the power to organize and rebuild them.

PNAC documents assert that this “American grand strategy” must be advanced “as far into the future as possible”. The plan calls for the U.S. to “fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theatre wars” as a “core mission”. And it says the U.S. must “discourage advanced industrial nations from challenging our leadership or even aspiring to a larger regional or global role”.

The plan considers several options to redraw the map of the Middle East. These include the population transfer of Palestinians from occupied Palestine into Jordan, the partition of Iraq into three separate provinces, a north, central and south, and/or the creation of a Hashemite kingdom of Iraq and Jordan. The plan calls for the U.S. to maintain complete dominance of space and cyberspace, thus developing a “worldwide command and control center”. It is likely that the war will result in the killing of thousands or tens of thousands of Iraqis, will provide cover for Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people, and will provide the excuse for U.S. invasions into other nearby countries.

C. PNAC themes are:

1) To prevent the emergence of a new rival, the U.S. should “prevent any hostile power from dominating any region of strategic significance.”
2) The U.S. acts unilaterally.
3) It maintains overwhelming military superiority (the “Powell Doctrine”- use overwhelming military force to defeat enemies with a minimum of U.S. casualties). Powell tells House Armed Services Committee that the U.S. requires “sufficient power to deter any challenger from even conceiving of challenging us on the world stage. I want to be the bully on the block”
4) The use of pre-emptive military force, including the use of tactical nuclear weapons (which we can use but they can’t).
5) We now identify enemies not on a “threat based”, but rather a “capability-based” approach
6) Establish a global Missile Defense System; now we have a “more complex approach aimed at dominating air and space on several fronts.”

In the new draft: the phrase “pre-emptive strikes” = “unwarned attacks” and “forward presence” = “forward deterrence.”


It is unique in history to have this much power in one super-power country with absolute military supremacy. According to the “Bush Doctrine,” pre-emption can now be used as well as prevention. The U.S. now gives itself the right to go after countries before they can become an immanent threat. Or we now claim the right to unilaterally invade a country like Iraq to gain hegemony over a region, secure the oil, and use tactical nukes in a first strike.

Iraq is just the beginning. The neocon’s list of targets in the near future include: Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Egypt, PLO, Iran, N. Korea.

As Clausewitz asserted: “War is just an extension of politics- just another political strategy.”


Ex- CIA director James Woolsey (one of the “neoconservatives”) says that “oil is the economic equivalent of nuclear weapons”. It is the lifeblood of modern empire and vital in corporate production, modern warfare, and transportation. Thus, the price of oil is critical in competition. Both WWI and II outcomes were determined by those who had best access to oil. Former CIA officer Robert E. Ebel states:

Oil is high-profile stuff. It fuels military power, national treasuries, and international politics. It is no longer a commodity to be bought and sold within the confines of traditional energy supply and demand balances. Rather, it has been transformed into a determinant of well-being, of national security, and of international power.

In “Resource Wars, The New Landscape of Global Conflict,” geography professor, Michael Klare, declares:

Controlling Iraq is about oil as power, rather than oil as fuel. Control over the Persian Gulf translates into control over Europe, Japan, and China. It’s having our hand on the spigot.

Thus, what is really behind the U.S. hostility to Iraq is, in fact, several decades of political and military maneuvering. The Persian Gulf has 2/3 of all proven oil reserves on the planet. Iraq has at least 11% of proven reserves (112 billion barrels) and may have much more, perhaps as much as 432 barrels. Iraq’s reserves are thought to be the equivalent to those of Russia, China, the U.S. and Mexico combined. Saudi Arabia has 25% (259 billion barrels). By the year 2020, it is expected that the Gulf will supply between 54 and 67% of the world’s crude oil.

Also on the agenda to be targeted in this perpetual war are Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Lebanon.

Colin Campbell, one of the world’s foremost experts on oil, asserts that there are an estimated 1 trillion barrels of high quality, readily extractable oil left on planet earth. He estimates that in the period between 1930 and the present we humans have extracted and exhausted about that same amount. At current rates of extraction, there is enough oil left to sustain industrialized civilization for another 35 years under the best of scenarios. The Hubbard Curve shows world oil production peaking in 2006. Because 65% of proven reserves on the planet are in the Persian Gulf, it has enormous strategic importance.

The U.S. consumes 25% of the world’s oil, but only has 3% of the world’s oil reserves. (This 2003 scenario has since been changed. As of 2014, proven U.S. oil reserves are 40 billion barrels and natural gas reserves are 389 trillion cubic feet (Tcf)).

Hence, it must now import 60% of its oil and this percentage will could increase. Meanwhile, some experts estimate that world per capita oil production peaked in 1979 while world population is expected to peak decades from now.

Think tanks such as American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the CSIS, are talking about privatizing Iraq’s government owned oil industry.


What they have in mind is de-nationalization and then parceling Iraqi oil out to American oil companies. The American oil companies are going to be the main beneficiaries of this war.

The world’s economy is based on the sale of products that are either made from oil or which need hydrocarbon energy to operate, either via internal combustion or electricity. Different regions of the world peak in oil production at different times. The U.S. peaked in the early 1970’s. Europe, Russia and the North Sea have also peaked. The OPEC nations of the Middle East will peak last, some time in 2020s. Saudi Arabia, with 264 billion barrels of oil, has 25% of total proven world oil reserves and Iraq, with 113 billion barrels, has 11%. Clearly, these will be the most important and productive areas in the world for oil production and whoever controls this oil pool will control the world economy (figures from “Resource Wars, the New Landscape of Global Conflict” by Michael Klare).

Thus, Iraq and the Persian Gulf have been the focus of American foreign policy design for decades. Some of the strategists believe that the U.S. must seize control of the region and its oil. The key to U.S. power is global hegemony- dominance over any and all potential rivals. Thus, whoever controls Persian Gulf oil (the world’s energy life-line) can reward their friends and punish their enemies. Incidentally, oil in Iraq is much cheaper to produce (about $1.50/barrel) than oil in most other places.

It is ironic that the Bush II is using two different pretexts for invading Afghanistan and Iraq. The first pretext, of course, was to apprehend the supposed architect of 9-11. The second is about a sudden and unexplained fear that Iraq may develop some objectionable weapons that might pose a threat to someone in the future. (Meanwhile, North Korea has recently confessed to having nuclear weapons and is not being targeted- yet). But it’s obvious that the real motivation for war is oil. The U.S. already has troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain. After it’s coming war with Iraq it will have troops stationed in other Gulf countries as well.

Oil depletion scenario’s can be unsettling to the say the least. In the “The Peak of World Oil Production and the Road to the Olduvai Gorge”, Dr. Richard C. Duncan, asserts that our industrial civilization itself is dependent on internal combustion and electrical energy, which in turn, depends upon fossil fuels. He notes that per capita energy production increased from 1945 to 1979, then dropped an average 0.33% between 1979 and 1999. He predicts that per capita energy production will drop another 0.7%/year between 2000 and 2011 in what he calls the “Olduvai slide”. During this time, severe stress will placed on the world’s agricultural system, which without oil products, will be only capable of feeding an estimated 2 billion people, or 1/3 of all humans. Then around 2012, Duncan predicts there will be a fall to 1930 levels of production and the rate of decline between 2012 and 2030 will be catastrophic 5.44%/year (the “Olduvai cliff”), precipitating on unprecedented world chaos.

Perhaps now we see a logical, if not appealing, rationale for Bush’s war on terrorism. Perhaps it is really about the inevitable depletion of fossil fuels and who maintains control of those resources. The pretext of waging wars against Afghanistan and Iraq to overcome the “evil” of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, then, can be seen as merely pretexts and public relations ploys. In “No Way Out”, Michael Ruppert describes our current situation:

What will be given to… the American people is a fragile pretext to sanction something that is going to happen anyway. At that moment, everything that America once represented to the world as good will be lost and the U.S. will be, and in some cases already is, viewed as nothing more than a new Roman Empire- naked its power, unabashed in its greed, and brutal in the imposition of its wishes. We have reached that unique common denominator which has spelled the decline and fall of every totalitarian empire in the human history – might makes right. And most of the American people, with their bankrupt and corrupt economy, will welcome cheap oil, while it lasts, and they will engage in a multitude of psychological and sickening rationales that will, in the end, amount to nothing more than saying, “I don’t care how many women and children you kill. Just let me keep my standard of living.”

Unfortunately, this war on Iraq is more than just another war to control other people’s resources and to further the interests of the American Empire. Yes, it will cause $100 to 200 billion which will be paid by the working families of America, and it will result in the loss of 10’s of thousands (ETK: actually millions) of Iraqi and an unknown number of American lives. Yes, it will spread chaos and misery throughout the Middle East. Yes, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Lebanon are all on the agenda. But, even more, this war could put an end to freedom and democracy everywhere. Our present government, installed over the wishes of the American people by a 5/4 supreme court vote, is a committee of fanatic, right-wing businessmen. Bush I and II, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice and many others in the administration are so deeply tied to the oil industry that some writers referred to them as the “oil coup”, the “oil junta”, or simply the “oiligarchy”.

Geologist Dale Allen Pfeiffer puts it bluntly:

Global oil is peaking; in five years we will no longer be able to produce enough oil to meet the needs of our civilization. The oil elite wants to grab the remaining supplies and dictate their use. Likewise, the people of this country, who will soon be faced by starvation and extreme impoverishment, can be held in check through the establishment of a police state… (Thus) there is a lot more at stake here than just a continuation of the Cold War or U.S. imperialistic greed. There is enough energy remaining in the world right now for us- the people- to take control and ease ourselves into a democratic, egalitarian, stable-state society. Or there is enough energy for the elite to build a feudalistic, fascist, police state with themselves at the top. Yet (the oil elites) are not the ones pulling the triggers and enforcing the rules. We are… This is the choice facing us right now, and this is what is truly at stake.

III. History of Modern Iraq

Iraq includes the area drained by Tigres and Euphrates River; the “cradle of civilization”, the area once known as Babylon, Sumeria, Mesopotamia. More recently, it was part of the Ottoman Empire that was carved into much smaller countries by Britain and France at the close of World War I. This country was disassembled so that no regional power could contest the hegemony of the First world industrial countries over the region’s valuable oil resources. Under the new arrangement, Iraq’s oil belonged to England, France, the Netherlands and the United States. None of the oil wealth went to the Iraqi people. As a result, they lived in extreme poverty and hunger with an illiteracy rate of more than 80%.

After WWII, the U.S. more or less took over as imperial power of the world. Since the late 40s, through coups, military interventions, etc. the U.S. has controlled the region and has backed many tyrannical, non-democratic governments in the region, including Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

The country was ruled by the corrupt King Faisal II and a group of feudal landowners. In 1958, the Iraqi people, led by Gen. Abdul Karim Kassem, overthrew this king and established a republic. This event stunned Wall Street and Washington. (At the time, this Iraqi revolution was considered a much greater disaster than the Cuban revolution which occurred six months later). The next day, 20,000 U.S. marines landed in Lebanon. The day later, another 6,600 British troops arrived in Jordan.

In the “Eisenhower Doctrine”, the U.S. asserted its intention to go to war in the Middle East to prevent similar revolutions from occurring. This probably saved the corrupt neo-colonial regimes in Jordan and Lebanon from a similar fate. Eisenhower, his Secretary of State, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff laid plans to invade Iraq and install a new puppet government in Bagdad. However, the U.S.S.R. mobilized troops to the edge of Iraq and the U.S. reluctantly had to accept the loss of Iraqi oil revenue- for the time being.

In 1960, the U.S. began to fund Kurdish guerillas who were fighting for a measure of autonomy within Iraq and the CIA made an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Kassem. Kasse, made himself even more of a marked man when he helped create the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) the next year and then created a national oil company.

In 1963, in a CIA- and British-sponsored coup, Kassem was assassinated and thousands of communists were killed. Another CIA coup occurred in 1968 and the secular Ba’ath Party was installed as the government at that time. Saddam Hussein was elected president in 1979.

During the energy crisis of 1973 and 1974, OPEC countries suddenly agreed to increase oil prices 5 times. Since then the U.S. has been steadily building its military presence in the Gulf with bases, selling weapons, and forging military partnerships.

Hoping to weaken and destroy both Iraq and Iran, the U.S. encouraged and funded Saddam Hussein to invade Iran in 1980. This 8-year, bloody war killed a million people and did weaken both countries. During this time, the US armed Saddam with weapons of mass destruction. In fact, Donald Rumsfeld met twice with Saddam in the 80’s and helped arm him with WMD. However, even during this period, the standard of living in Iraq was amongst the highest in the Arab world. 97% of people in the cities had access to clean water and there was a very high literacy rate. And, for an Arab country, there was relative equality of sexes; as 40-50% of doctors were women. All this was due to the Iraqi nationalization of oil resources. It was just after Iran-Iraq war that the U.S. began calling Saddam “another Hitler”. Why? Again, because the Iraqi government was using Iraqi oil wealth to help the Iraqi people and because Iraq was becoming a regional power. For a “neo-colony” to utilize it’s own resources for its own people was, is, and always has been regarded as a threat to U.S. imperialistic interests.

A. Operation Desert Storm of 1990 and 1991

So in 1990 and 1991, with the loss of the Soviet Union as a counterforce, America, under the leadership of George Bush I, orchestrated an attack on the people of Iraq which included 43 days and nights of relentless bombing, the most concentrated aerial attack the world had ever seen. 177 million pounds of bombs fell, including cluster bombs and 300 tons of depleted uranium. 700,000 coalition forces troops were mobilized. The final tally in the massacre was 60,000 Iraqi soldiers and 140,000 civilians killed and less than 50 Americans casualties. It really wasn’t a war; it was slaughter from a safe distance. The bombing destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure and laid waste to her cities.

B. U.S. and U.N. Sanctions

But even more devastating have been the sanctions. On August 6, 1990 the U.S. and UN imposed sanctions on Iraq which have resulted in the deaths of a million and a half Iraqi citizens, including a half million children under the age of five, according to UNICEF. The causes of their death are primarily malnutrition, diarrhea, and lack of clean drinking water. In 1996, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark stated: “There is no greater violation of human rights anywhere in the world in the last decade of this millennium than the sanctions against Iraq”. By the way, the U.S. needed to keep Saddam in power to maintain an excuse for keeping troops in Saudi Arabia. It was a “massacre from a safe distance”- a “high tech slaughter”.

Throughout the 90’s, as Iraq requested negotiations with U.S., the U.S. dismissed all such requests. There were 11 different peace proposals in 1991. The continued exposure to depleted uranium has resulted in dramatic increases in leukemia, birth defects, breast cancer, and stomach cancer. And similar symptoms are being reported by the 1/3 to 1/4 of the Gulf War veterans disabled by the “Gulf War syndrome”. Since 1998, the U.S. and Britain have continued to bomb the country under “Operation Desert Fox”, overflying the country daily and bombing the country an average of two to three times a week. In the first eight months of 1999, U.S. and British planes flew 10,000 sorties over Iraq and dropped over 1000 bombs on over 400 targets.

Noam Chomsky sums up the motivation:

It’s been a leading, driving doctrine of U.S. foreign policy since the 1940s that the vast and unparalleled energy resources of the Gulf region will be effectively dominated by the U.S. and its clients, and crucially that no independent, indigenous force will be permitted to have a substantial influence on the administration of oil productivity and price.