Monday, September 17, 2007

Greenspan Says The Iraq War Is About Oil, Unless It Isn't ... But That's Not The Sad Part

Alan Greenspan, former head of the Federal Reserve, has written in his new book that the Iraq war is largely about oil.

According to London's Sunday Times:

Alan Greenspan claims Iraq war was really for oil
AMERICA’s elder statesman of finance, Alan Greenspan, has shaken the White House by declaring that the prime motive for the war in Iraq was oil.

In his long-awaited memoir, to be published [today], Greenspan, a Republican whose 18-year tenure as head of the US Federal Reserve was widely admired, will also deliver a stinging critique of President George W Bush’s economic policies.

However, it is his view on the motive for the 2003 Iraq invasion that is likely to provoke the most controversy. “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil,” he says.

Britain and America have always insisted the war had nothing to do with oil. Bush said the aim was to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and end Saddam’s support for terrorism.
Having laid those cards on the table, Greenspan then ducked and backpedaled, saying that the quest for oil was not necessarily the administration's motive for invading Iraq.

Reuters explained it this way:

Greenspan clarifies Iraq war, oil link
Clarifying a controversial comment in his new memoir, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said he told the White House before the Iraq war that removing Saddam Hussein was "essential" to secure world oil supplies, according to an interview published on Monday.

Greenspan, who wrote in his memoir that "the Iraq War is largely about oil," said in a Washington Post interview that while securing global oil supplies was "not the administration's motive," he had presented the White House before the 2003 invasion with the case for why removing the then-Iraqi leader was important for the global economy.

"I was not saying that that's the administration's motive," Greenspan said in the interview conducted on Saturday. "I'm just saying that if somebody asked me, 'Are we fortunate in taking out Saddam?' I would say it was essential."
In light of this clarification, it might be worth taking another look at the sentence in which Greenspan made his claim:
“I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.”
If you read carefully, you can see that Greenspan is not saddened by the war, nor by the reason it is being waged, but because of the political inconvenience entailed by telling the truth about it.

In other words, in Greenspan's view, it would be much more agreeable if the American people were politically mature enough to understand that it's perfectly all right to kill people and take their stuff -- as long as you really, really want their stuff.

Ray McGovern explains this point of view in a different way:

Greenspan Spills the Beans on Oil
Could it be that many Americans remain silent because we are unwilling to recognize the Iraq war as the first of the resource wars of the 21st century; because we continue to be comfortable hogging far more than our share of the world’s resources and will look the other way if our leaders tell us that aggressive war is necessary to protect that siren-call, “our way of life,” from attack by those who are just plain jealous?

Perhaps a clue can be found in the remarkable reaction I received after a lecture I gave two and a half years ago in a very affluent suburb of Milwaukee. I had devoted much of my talk to what I consider the most important factoid of this century: the world is running out of oil.

Afterwards some 20 folks lingered in a small circle to ask follow-up questions. A persistent, handsomely dressed man, who just would not let go, dominated the questioning:

"Surely you agree that we need the oil. Then what's your problem? Some 1,450 killed thus far are far fewer than the toll in Vietnam where we lost 58,000; it's a small price to pay... a sustainable rate to bear. What IS your problem?"

I asked the man if he would feel differently if one of those (then) 1,450 killed were his own son. Judging from his abrupt, incredulous reaction, the suggestion struck him as so farfetched as to be beyond his ken. “It wouldn’t be my son,” he said.
Of course, none of the dead Iraqis, whose oil we need -- surely you agree! -- would ever be his son either.

After all, dead Iraqis don't live in very affluent suburbs of Milwaukee.