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Eager to Tap Iraq's Vast Oil Reserves, Industry Execs Suggested Invasion

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Jason Leopold     Permalink
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Two years before the invasion of Iraq, oil executives and foreign policy advisers told the Bush administration that the United States would remain "a prisoner of its energy dilemma" as long as Saddam Hussein was in power.

    That April 2001 report, "Strategic Policy Challenges for the 21st Century," was prepared by the James A. Baker Institute for Public Policy and the US Council on Foreign Relations at the request of then-Vice President Dick Cheney.

    In retrospect, it appears that the report helped focus administration thinking on why it made geopolitical sense to oust Hussein, whose country sat on the world's second largest oil reserves.

    "Iraq remains a destabilizing influence to the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East," the report said.

    "Saddam Hussein has also demonstrated a willingness to threaten to use the oil weapon and to use his own export program to manipulate oil markets. Therefore the US should conduct an immediate policy review toward Iraq including military, energy, economic and political/diplomatic assessments."

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    The advisory committee that helped prepare the report included Luis Giusti, a Shell Corp. non-executive director; John Manzoni, regional president of British Petroleum; and David O'Reilly, chief executive of ChevronTexaco.

    James Baker, the namesake for the public policy institute, was a prominent oil industry lawyer who also served as secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush, and was counsel to the Bush/Cheney campaign during the Florida recount in 2000.

    Ken Lay, then-chairman of the energy trading Enron Corp., also made recommendations that were included in the Baker report.

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    At the time of the report, Cheney was leading an energy task force made up of powerful industry executives who assisted him in drafting a comprehensive "National Energy Policy" for President George W. Bush.

    A Focus on Oil

    It was believed then that Cheney's secretive task force was focusing on ways to reduce environmental regulations and fend off the Kyoto protocol on global warming.

    But Bush's first treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, later described a White House interest in invading Iraq and controlling its vast oil reserves, dating back to the first days of the Bush presidency.

    In Ron Suskind's 2004 book, "The Price of Loyalty," O'Neill said an invasion of Iraq was on the agenda at the first National Security Council. There was even a map for a post-war occupation, marking out how Iraq's oil fields would be carved up.

    Even at that early date, the message from Bush was "find a way to do this," according to O'Neill, a critic of the Iraq invasion who was forced out of his job in December 2002.

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    The New Yorker's Jane Mayer later made another discovery: a secret NSC document dated February 3, 2001 - only two weeks after Bush took office - instructing NSC officials to cooperate with Cheney's task force, which was "melding" two previously unrelated areas of policy: "the review of operational policies towards rogue states" and "actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields." [The New Yorker, February 16, 2004]

    By March 2001, Cheney's task force had prepared a set of documents with a map of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries and terminals, as well as two charts detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects, and a list titled "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts," according to information released in July 2003 under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch.

    A Commerce Department spokesman issued a brief statement when those documents were released stating that Cheney's energy task force "evaluated regions of the world that are vital to global energy supply."

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Jason Leopold is Deputy Managing Editor of Truthout.org and the founding editor of the online investigative news magazine The Public Record, http://www.pubrecord.org. He is the author of the National Bestseller, "News Junkie," a memoir. Visit (more...)
 

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