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Afghanistan may be the graveyard of empires, but Iraq is home to a graveyard sense of humor. Iraqis wonder aloud whether the U.S. and Britain would have invaded Iraq if its main export had been cabbages instead of oil.
However obvious the answer, a remarkable array of American pundits and pseudo-savants have resisted giving the oil factor any pride of place among the motives behind the U.S./U.K. decision to invade Iraq in 2003. To this day, the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) continue to play the accustomed role as government accomplice suppressing unwelcome news.
So, if you don't tune in to Amy Goodman's Democracy Now or read the British press, you will have missed the latest documentary evidence showing that Great Britain's Lords and Ladies lied about how big oil companies, like BP, lusted after Iraqi oil in the months leading up to the attack on Iraq.
Oil researcher Greg Muttitt's new book Fuel on Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq presents that evidence, since Muttitt had better luck than American counterparts in getting responses to his Freedom of Information requests.
After a five-year struggle, he obtained more than 1,000 official documents which -- how to say this -- do not reflect well on the peerage, the captains of the oil industry, and the government of Tony Blair.
On April 19, the British Independent published a major story about these disclosures, which America's FCM have avoided like the plague.
Quoting the released British documents, the Independent showed BP salivating over an expected windfall of Iraqi oil, with the saliva politely sponged up by Foreign Office functionaries. From the Independent:
"The Foreign Office invited BP in on 6 November 2002 to talk about opportunities in Iraq 'post regime change.' Its minutes state: 'Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP is desperate to get in there.'
"Whereas BP was insisting in public that it had 'no strategic interest' in Iraq, in private it told the Foreign Office that Iraq was 'more important than anything we've seen for a long time' it [BP] was willing to take 'big risks' to get a share of the Iraqi reserves, the second largest in the world."
Of course, BP was singing a different tune for the average folks. Lord Browne, then-BP chief executive, insisted on March 12, 2003, a week before the invasion of Iraq: "It is not, in my or BP's opinion, a war about oil."
The official documents, however, offer a contradictory account. Gosh, would BP officials lie?
The minutes of a similar meeting with BP and Shell on Oct. 31, 2002, reinforce the point. They show then-British Trade Minister, Lady Symons, agreeing that British oil companies must not lose out in competing for Iraqi oil, particularly "if the U.K. had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the U.S. government throughout the crisis."
Prime Minister Tony Blair was equally disingenuous in his public remarks. On April 19, Democracy Now ran a brief clip in which British author Muttitt called to mind Blair's assurances to a TV audience on Feb. 6, 2003, six weeks before the war: "The idea that we're interested in Iraq's oil is absurd, it's one of the most absurd conspiracy theories you can imagine."
Muttitt pointed out that, as Blair was saying this, a secret (until now) Foreign Office document setting out British strategy toward Iraqi oil asserted, "Britain has an absolutely vital interest in Iraq's oil."
The London Mail Online on April 20 summed up the contradictions with classic English understatement. It noted that the flurry of meetings between oil executives and the Labour government in late 2002 "appear to be at odds with their insistence Iraq's vast oil reserves were not a consideration ahead of the March 2003 invasion."
Back in Washington
America's FCM have yet to acknowledge this latest embarrassment of how fully its prominent members were wrong about this oil issue as they queued up behind the Bush/Blair invasion in 2002-2003. Top pundits echoed Blair's dismissal of the oil motive as a "conspiracy theory."
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