This article belongs to Behind the Bush column.

Ironically, Operation Iraqi Freedom was first called Operation Iraqi Liberation: O.I.L. In the words of a song by folk singer David Rovics, "It's Operation Iraqi Liberation; tell me what does that spell? Operation Iraqi Liberation: O.I.L."


The Bush administration has ties to the oil industry. President Bush developed and headed Arbusto Energy Inc. (Spanish for bush), an oil exploration venture. Vice-President Cheney served as the CEO of Halliburton, an energy corporation, and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice served on Chevron's board of directors.


Furthermore, Cheney was the Secretary of Defense for George H.W. Bush. After the Gulf War in 1992, "Cheney gave Halliburton, the energy services company, a contract to study the privatization of some Pentagon functions." Cheney became the CEO of Halliburton after Bush was defeated in 1993 by Clinton. "The company became a major federal energy war contractor and, partly because of Cheney's connections, a private-sector bridge between the oil industry and the military-industrial complex."[i]


"Do not destroy oil wells," Bush told the Iraqi military in a March 17, 2003 address on the eve of the U.S. invasion. Days later when the U.S. military invaded Iraq both Bush and Cheney made comments which indicate the invasion was indeed about oil. President Bush said, "Our jobs, our way of life, our own freedom, and the freedom of friendly countries around the world would suffer if control of the world's great oil reserves fell into the hands of Saddam Hussein." Cheney said, "Once he acquired Kuwait and deployed an army as large as the one he possesses" Hussein would be "in a position to be able to dictate the future of worldwide energy policy, and that gave him a stranglehold on our economy."[ii]


Former anti-terrorism advisor Richard Clarke presented four rationales in his book for invading Iraq which he attributes to Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolowitz, and Bush: 1. Finishing what Bush senior had started, 2. eliminating a threat to Israel, creating an Arab democracy, 3. permitting the withdrawal of troops from Saudi Arabia, and 4. create another source of oil for America.[iii]


Iraqi oil fields: ripe for the picking


Most of Iraq's oil is still in the ground. According to senior vice president, Leonardo Maugeri, of the Italian oil and gas company ENI, "only 2,300 wells have been drilled in Iraq, compared with about one million in Texas." Maugeri claimed that a large part of Iraq, the western desert, is "still mainly unexplored" because Iraq has never used "advanced technologies like 3-D seismic exploration techniques or deep and horizontal drilling to find or tap new wells." He stated that of the 80 plus oilfields discovered in Iraq, only about 21 have been developed, and some of those only partially developed. "It is realistic to assume that Iraq has far more oil reserves than documented so far—probably about 200 billion barrels more."[iv]


The prominent oil analyst, Fadel Gheit considers Iraq to be "virgin territory" greater than anything Exxon is currently involved in, and that is why "Iraq becomes the most sought-after real estate of the future…Think of Iraq as a military base with a very large oil reserve underneath…You can't ask for anything better than that."[v]


The National Energy Policy Development Group (NEPDG) produced maps of Iraq's oil fields, pipelines, and refineries. Bush created the NEPDG the second week in office to develop an energy policy for his administration, and put Vice-President Dick Cheney in charge. A Washington Post article revealed that oil company executives met with the NEPDG while it formed a national energy policy.


Investigative journalist Greg Palast, an American reporter for the BBC, was able to obtain a copy of the document "Options for a Sustainable Iraqi Oil Industry" from the State Department. Drafted by oil industry executives and experts, the 323 page plan states Iraq must stay a member of OPEC and "stick to the oil-production limits which keep up oil prices." The Iraqi government recently adopted an oil law which is "virtually a photocopy of the Options plan."[vi]


Former Republican strategist blasted Bush administration


Kevin Phillips, former Republican strategist, wrote a trilogy about the Republican Party. In the third book, American Theocracy, Phillips looks at the forces which threaten American democracy: fundamentalism, oil, and borrowed money. He considers the war in Iraq "while at bottom about access to oil and U.S. global supremacy," but lists other intentions:


1. Fold oil objectives into the global war against terror.

2.  Cement the U.S. dollar's hegemonic role in global oil sales—and thus in the world economy.

3.  Keep the invasion's purpose broad enough to allow the biblically minded Christian right to see it…as the destruction of the new Babylon, on the road to Armageddon and redemption.[vii]


Phillips contrasted the security the U.S. military provided for the Iraqi Oil Ministry building, and the security they did not provide for the Iraqi National Museum. He points out that the Iraqi Oil Museum was the "first major building to be surrounded and occupied by American soldiers." The building contained "thousands of seismic portraits of the nation's oil fields." Baghdad's Iraqi National Museum, on the other hand, was not protected by the U.S. military, and ended up having many of its treasured artifacts looted. "By most archaeologists' accounts, the museum and the National Library were world-class institutions with unique collections." Iraq is called the ‘cradle of civilization,' and the first code of laws was created and established in Iraq. Writing and the wheel were also invented in Iraq.[viii]


Next week: The Bush administration's authorization of warrantless wiretapping violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.

[i] Ibid.

[ii] Phillips.

[iii] Clarke.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Palast, Greg. "It's Still the Oil," The Progressive Populist. April 15, 2007, vol. 13, no. 7.

[vii] Phillips, Kevin. American Theocracy. NY, NY: Penguin Group, 2006.

[viii] Ibid.