“It has nothing to do with oil,” Rumsfeld said. “Literally nothing to do with it.”
It’s not that people around the world don’t acknowledge weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and the human-rights abuses in Iraq as problems. It’s just that people also realize that war is not the solution for those problems, and if not for oil the United States would not be pressing for war.
The crowd in the packed arena — 15,000 from around the world — endorsed Galeano’s analysis with thunderous applause.
When President Bush says “We have no territorial ambitions; we don’t seek an empire,” he is telling half a truth. Certainly the United States isn’t looking to make Iraq the 51st state. But that’s not the way of empire today — it’s about control, not about territory.
So, if policymakers do not seek to occupy Iraq permanently and take direct possession of its vast oil reserves (at least 112 billion barrels, second to Saudi Arabia), and if U.S. access to oil on the international market is not the issue, then what might be U.S. interests?
The key is not who owns the oil but who controls the flow of oil and oil profits. After World War II, when the United States was one of the world’s leading oil producers and had little need for imported oil, the U.S. government trained attention on the Middle East. In 1945 the State Department explained that the oil constitutes “a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history.”
This analysis should not be difficult to accept given the Bush administration’s National Security Strategy report released last fall, which explicitly calls for U.S. forces to be strong enough to deter any nation from challenging American dominance. U.S. policymakers state it explicitly: We will run the world. Or, in the words of the first President Bush after the first U.S. Gulf War, “What we say goes.”
Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and author of “Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.