Largely overlooked were Wilkersons frank admissions about the importance of oil in justifying a long-term U.S. military intervention in Iraq. The other thing that no one ever likes to talk about is SUVs and oil and consumption, the retired Army colonel said in a speech on Oct. 19.
While bemoaning the administrations incompetence in implementing the war strategy, Wilkerson said the U.S. government now had no choice but to succeed in Iraq or face the necessity of conquering the Middle East within the next 10 years to ensure access to the regions oil supplies.
We had a discussion in (the State Departments Office of) Policy Planning about actually mounting an operation to take the oilfields of the Middle East, internationalize them, put them under some sort of U.N. trusteeship and administer the revenues and the oil accordingly, Wilkerson said. Thats how serious we thought about it.
When critics have called the Iraq War a case of blood for oil, George W. Bushs defenders have dismissed them as conspiracy theorists. The Bush defenders insisted the president went to war out of concern about Iraqs weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Husseins links to al-Qaeda, neither of which turned out to be true. Later, Bush cited humanitarian concerns and the desire to spread democracy.
Always left out of the administrations war equation or referenced only obliquely was the fact that Iraq sits atop one of the worlds largest known oil reserves at a time when international competition is intensifying to secure reliable oil supplies.
But Wilkerson is not the first senior Bush administration official to cite the importance of oil in the U.S. calculus toward Iraq. Former Treasury Secretary Paul ONeill made similar assertions in 2004.
ONeill, who was fired in late 2002 after disagreeing with Bush on tax cuts and Iraq, told author Ron Suskind that Bushs first National Security Council meeting just days into his presidency included a discussion of invading Iraq. ONeill said even at that early date, the message from Bush was find a way to do this.
Oil and Iraq were soon mixing in the administrations thinking about energy and politics.
On Feb. 3, 2001 only two weeks after Bush took office an NSC document instructed NSC officials to cooperate with Cheneys Energy Task Force because it 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.
Before this disclosure, which appeared in The New Yorker three years later, it was believed that Cheneys secretive task force was focusing on ways to reduce environmental regulations and fend off the Kyoto protocol on global warming.
But the NSC document suggested that the Bush administration from its first days recognized the linkage between ousting unreliable leaders like Saddam Hussein and securing oil reserves for future U.S. consumption. In other words, the Cheney task force appears to have had a military component to capture oil fields in rogue states. [For more on the NSC document, see The New Yorker, Feb. 16, 2004.]
Active preparations for war with Iraq were soon underway. Behind the scenes, ONeill said he watched as the administration refined its plans for how to divvy up Iraqs oil reserves after the invasion.
Documents were being prepared by the Defense Intelligence Agency, (Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfelds intelligence arm, mapping Iraqs oil fields and exploration areas and listing companies that might be interested in leveraging the precious asset, Suskind wrote in The Price of Loyalty.