Reviewing Linda McQuaig’s “It’s the Crude, Dude”

Linda McQuaig is a prominent, admired, and award-winning Canadian journalist writing about vital issues of concern to everyone.  She was a national reporter for the Toronto Globe and Mail before joining the Toronto Star where she now covers Canadian politics with her trademark combination of solid research, keen analysis, irreverence, passion and wit.  She’s easy to read, never boring, and fearless. The National Post called her “Canada‘s Michael Moore.”


McQuaig is also a prolific author with a well-deserved reputation for taking on the establishment. In her previous seven books, she challenged Canada‘s deficit reduction scheme to gut essential social services.  She explained how the rich used the country’s tax system to get richer the way it’s worked in the US since Ronald Reagan and then exploded under George Bush.  She exposed the fraud of “free trade” (never called fair because it isn’t) empowering giant corporations over sovereign states while exploiting working people everywhere. 


She also showed how successive Canadian governments waged war on equality since the 1980s, and in her latest book, “Holding the Bully’s Coat – Canada and the US Empire,” she takes aim at the conservative Stephen Harper administration’s allying with George Bush’s belligerent lawlessness and phony “war on terrorism.” Canada chose not to be part of Washington‘s concocted “coalition of the willing” in Iraq but partnered in its war of aggression and illegal occupation of Afghanistan.


Her last book before her latest one is another important tour de force and subject of this review.  It’s titled “It’s the Crude, Dude: war, big oil, and the fight for the planet.”  It’s no secret America’s wars in the Middle East and Central Asia are to control what a Franklin Roosevelt State Department spokesman in 1945 called a “stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history” – the huge amount of Middle East oil with most of it believed to be in Saudi Arabia then.  With it goes veto power over how it’s distributed, to whom, at what price, for whose benefit and at whose expense.  Today, one country above all others may be that “greatest material prize” making it target number one America intends to control for the strategic power and riches it represents. 


The country is Iraq, and it’s the reason US forces invaded and occupy it. McQuaig’s book explained it stunningly, beginning on her opening page: The “oil motive” drives America‘s wars “given oil’s obvious geopolitical significance, and the fact that Iraq is the last easily harvested oil bonanza left on earth.”  More on that below and also on the fact that with less than 5% of the world’s population and 3% of its oil reserves, the US wastefully consumes one-fourth of all oil production with no plan to cut back.  It means a reliable outside source is essential pointing directly at the Middle East where two-thirds of all proved reserves are located.  They’re not inexhaustible, however, as oil is a finite resource.  It means a crunch ahead is inevitable.


McQuaig cited a US Department of Energy National Energy Laboratory report saying: “The world has never faced a problem like this….Previous transitions (like ‘wood to coal and coal to oil’) were gradual and evolutionary; oil peaking will be abrupt and revolutionary,” and may already have occurred.  Further, with America waging two costly oil-related wars for much of what’s left, gaining control has become violent with no letup in sight and more oil-rich nations in Washington‘s target queue.  More on that below as well and the fact that oil consumption keeps increasing, two huge emerging nations (China and India) need growing amounts of it, just at a time production peaked and is declining.  That’s a combustible mixture now playing out in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia.  It also affects Iran, Venezuela, Sudan (for its Darfur oil riches) and other strategically important oil-rich nations that dare defy America by wanting control of their own resources along with the major share of revenue from them.


McQuaig deals with this timely and important subject in the part of the world where it matters most – the Middle East and especially Iraq where America came to stay.  Her book is divided into 10 tantalizingly titled chapters.  It was written in 2004, updated in 2006, and is just as relevant now as when first published.  Some of the story is known, but much information covered isn’t common knowledge and key parts aren’t discussed at all in the mainstream.  They include the rise of Big Oil and OPEC, Iraq‘s strategic importance, its potentially immense and easily accessible untapped oil riches, and America‘s intention to turn the nation into a centrally located Middle East military base with plans to stay as long as there’s enough oil in the country and region to make it worthwhile.  Current talk of future force drawdowns and withdrawal is baloney. That will be discussed further below as well.


McQuaig provides lots of relevant context for a full understanding of why oil centrally dominates geopolitics today:


– wars and the reason America fights so many of them – for the essential resources, mainly oil, to keep the heart of capitalism beating, without which it can’t;


– the dominant media’s vital hyperventilating lead cheerleader role selling them;


– the power of the oil cartel and how it developed and grew after Edwin Drake drilled the first commercially successful well in Titusville, PA in 1859.