Pete Bagnall

Iraq, Oil and War

One of the repeated accusations about the motives for war in Iraq is oil. It is always, without exception denied by both the British Government and the US government. However, I find this denial extremely hard to believe, here I wish to lay down the reasons for my doubts.

US Government connections

The US government has close ties with the oil industry, the most obvious example being Cheney, who was the CEO of Haliburton. Condaleeze Rice has close ties with Chevron. Many other members of the cabinet also have either direct or indirect interests, some through the auto industry, a more complete list can be found below. These connections, make it extremely hard for politicians to act without consideration for their sponsors. When considering war however it is extremely important that they should not be biased in this way. There are vast sums at stake for any companies that can take control or even gain contracts for exploiting the oil in Iraq. That backers of the Bush administration haven't considered this is beyond belief.


Afghanistan we were told, had no connection to oil, it was purely an exercise aimed at ousting the Taliban and capturing or killing Bin Laden. Since then however, the Taliban is regrouping in the south of the country, and Bin Laden is still at large. It seems then that the operation was a singular failure, and yet the US government seems fairly unconcerned about this. In fact they are pointing to Afghanistan as a success! When they have failed to achieve their stated objectives this seems rather strange.

Pipeline Deal Signed

On December 27th 2002, a $3.2 billion deal was signed to lay a new pipeline through Afghanistan. The pipeline is to carry gas from Turkmenistan through to Pakistan. In May 2002 the three countries signed an agreement to develop an oil and gas pipeline. It seems this deal then is the first stage in the process. So while the US failed in it's stated objectives it did succeed in getting a pipeline, something Unocal had been trying to do with the Taliban for years. But of course the US denied that invading Afghanistan, and installing a friendly government had anything to do with oil. If this is the case it seems somewhat coincidental that one or the first actions of the new government is to start work on a pipeline project. Again, this stretches credibility to breaking point. What is even more alarming is suggestions, which I can't find absolute proof for, that Harmid Karzai has at some point in his career worked as a consultant for Unocal. If this is indeed true then the levels of corruption in the Afghan conflict are beyond frightening.

Loss of trust

Essentially what this comes down to is a loss of trust. Given events in Afghanistan and the US governments close ties with the oil industry, it seems very hard to believe the western governments when they say there is no connection to oil. Perhaps, if they wish to prove the point they should enact a ban on US companies taking deals for oil exploitation in Iraq following a war. I have no doubt this would be refused, but if it were enacted I suspect their enthusiasm for war would suddenly die down.

Update - Executive Order 13303

On the 22nd of May 2003 Bush signed Executive order 13303. The order in effect releases US firms, who are in Iraq exploiting the Iraqi oilfields, from any legal responsibilities. In other words it places them beyond the reach of law. The order can be found on the federal governments website. An excellent analysis can be found at the SEEN website.

US Government Oil Connections

Bush himself has close ties with the oil industry. Most well known is Harken energy, which bought Spectrum 7, of which Bush was CEO. As part of the deal Bush got stock options, and a $120,000 consulting contract. He remained as a director of Harken following that deal. There are grave doubts about insider trading deals from Bush's time at Harken.

Cheney was the CEO of Haliburton, the worlds largest oil field services company. Halburton has, through European subsidiaries sold equipment to Iraq, in violation of UN sanctions.

Condoleeza Rice, what needs to be said? She has a 130,000 tonne oil tanker named after her, courtesy of Chevron. She was a Chevron director from 1991 to 2001, when she was made the national security advisor.

Donald Evans was was chairman and CEO of Tom Brown Inc, a Denver oil company. He also sat on the board of TMBR/Sharp Drilling, an oil and gas drilling operation. He is the Commerce Secretary in Bush's cabinet, and also has control over the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Spencer Abraham has interests in General Motors, Ford, Lear Corp and Daimler Chrysler. Daimler is one of 139 companies in the Coalition for Vehicle Choice, a group opposed to setting fuel economy regulations.

Gale Norton, the interior secretary, has close ties with Oil and gas. Before losing the 1996 primaries she had received over $28,000 in campaign contributions from the Oil & gas sector, second only to the contributions from Lawyers. She was national chairwoman of the Coalition of Republican Environmental Advocates, which includes companies such as Ford and BP Amoco.

Norman Mineta, transportation secretary has close links to several airlines, Northwest, United, as well as to Boeing, and Lockheed Martin.

Andrew Card, Chief of Staff had been General Motors chief lobbyist for a year before entering government. Prior to that he had been the CEO of the American Automobile Manufacturers Association, (AMAA).

Some of this information was taken from the center for responsive politics.


  • 24/Feb/2003 - first written
  • 8/Aug/2003 - updated

© Peter Bagnall