American Herald Tribune|Richard Behan: Early in December of 2016 CODEPINK conducted “The People’s Tribunal on the Iraq War.” Two days of testimony and documentation disclosed the indisputable truth: Afghanistan and Iraq were invaded to gain control of hydrocarbon resources. Combating terrorism was irrelevant, a concocted deception.
The detailed history below is adapted from a powerpoint presentation, The Fraudulent War, included in the Tribunal’s record.
Within ten days of taking office the Bush Administration declared its intent to invade Iraq. This was a triumph for the neoconservative ideology of the Project for the New American Century, and personally for Vice President Richard Cheney and 15 other PNAC members who staffed the highest levels of the State and Defense Departments. Global dominion—by preemptive war if necessary—would define the foreign and defense policies of George Bush’s presidency.
A seminal document of neoconservatism, however, described a precondition for achieving global dominance: “…access to vital raw materials, primarily Persian Gulf oil.”(1)
This requirement was addressed immediately by the new Administration: during his second week in office President Bush asked Vice President Cheney to chair a National Energy Policy Development Group. Quickly nicknamed the “Energy Task Force,” the group by early February was poring over maps of the producing oil fields in Iraq, the undeveloped exploration blocks, and the infrastructure of pipelines, refineries, and tanker terminals. They also scrutinized the list of foreign oil corporations negotiating contracts with Saddam Hussein.(2) Not one of them was an American company. That was intolerable.
Agenda Item: Seizing Iraqi Oil
The Administration was committed to the invasion of Iraq, but faced an immense barrier: nowhere on the horizon was there a Congressional Declaration of War.
That would have to wait, but there was much to do meanwhile in planning a desired political economy for postwar Iraq. The State Department thereupon undertook a policy-development initiative called The Future of Iraq Project. (This was done more than a year before Congress authorized the use of military force in Iraq.)
One component of the Project was the “Oil and Energy Working Group.” (3) Cheney’s Task Force was assessing the geography of the oil fields and infrastructure, but how would the U.S. gain control? How would the “…capture of new and existing oil fields in Iraq” actually take place?(4)
That’s what the Oil and Energy Group needed to work out. A radical faction—the PNAC thinking in the group—suggested simply seizing the oil fields by force and transferring them directly to American oil companies. Cooler heads understood the international firestorm that would ignite, so the Oil and Energy Working Group developed an inconspicuous and devious mechanism instead.
The Working Group’s final report dated June 22, 2002 was seemingly benign: “Iraq should be opened to international oil companies as quickly as possible after the war…to attract investment in oil and gas resources.”
Under the “investment” protocol the Working Group had in mind, however, the oil companies would acquire the oil legally, but at catastrophic disadvantage to postwar Iraq.
Production sharing agreements were mandated as the investment contract to be employed. Known as “PSA’s,” these contracts are used typically by oil-rich but capital-poor countries to attract the attention of foreign oil companies.(5) The companies agree to “invest” their own capital building the development and production infrastructure, in return for a guaranteed share of the physical output of oil. If the share is big enough—75% or more is not unusual—the companies can earn exorbitant profits.
Iraq was a well-developed country with abundant capital readily available, circumstances rendering perverse the use of PSA’s. But doing so would allow the companies to acquire the oil—without seizing the fields.
Another Agenda Item:
Pipelines in Afghanistan for Unocal and Enron(6)
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the world’s oil industry swarmed into the Caspian Basin to exploit the region’s immense oil and gas reserves—mostly unexplored but far from the mass markets of the West.
In 1995 four American oil companies—Amoco, Pennzoil, Exxon, and Unocal—
created the Foreign Oil Companies Group to promote their interests in the region. It was warmly accommodated by the Clinton Administration, enjoying full support and cooperation in its dealings with the State Department, the National Security Council, and the CIA. Four prominent members of the Group were Richard Cheney, CEO of the Haliburton Corporation; Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former National Security Advisor and now a consultant for Amoco; Alexander Haig, a former Secretary of State and now a lobbyist for Turkmenistan; and Henry Kissinger, also a former Secretary of State and now a consultant for Unocal.
The safest and most direct pipeline route from the Caspian Basin to deep water in the Indian Ocean was through Afghanistan and Pakistan, and whoever built it would virtually control the Basin’s resources. The international contest to do so was spirited.
In 1996 the Bridas Corporation of Argentina signed a contract with the Taliban to build the Trans Afghanistan Pipeline. Unocal fought back immediately—and Mr. Kissinger’s membership in the Foreign Oil Companies Group was not a trivial asset.
Unocal hired three other consultants as well: an Afghani, Mr. Hamid Karzai, and two more Americans, Richard Armitage and Zalmay Khalilzad. They would become prominent members of the Project for the New American Century, and Armitage would become Deputy Secretary of State in the upcoming Bush Administration. Khalizad would be the “President’s Special Envoy,” George Bush’s roving trouble shooter, and he would spend much time in Afghanistan.
Unocal hosted Taliban leaders at its headquarters in Texas and in Washington D.C. seeking to have the Bridas contract vacated, but the Taliban refused. Finally in exasperation Mr. John J. Maresca, a Unocal vice president, testified before the House Committee on Foreign Relations in February, 1998. He asked for the removal of the Taliban from power and the installation of a stable government instead.
Six months later Osama bin Laden blew up the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 Americans and injuring thousands more. President Clinton retaliated with salvos of cruise missiles fired into Afghanistan—and then issued an Executive Order prohibiting further trade negotiations with the Taliban.
Unocal had to abandon it efforts to void the Bridas contract.
On October 12, 2000 Osama bin Laden struck again, bombing the U.S.S. Cole, killing 17 American sailors. To avoid a massive retaliatory bombardment, the Taliban offered to surrender bin Laden or to engineer his assassination, but the Clinton Administration handed the matter off to the incoming Bush Administration.(7)
Upon arriving in Washington George Bush felt he had better things to do, apparently, than taking custody of bin Laden. A letter was sent to the Taliban requesting a postponement of the handover, because the new Administration was still “settling in.”
The Administration itself however, rejecting Clinton’s Executive Order, quickly took up negotiating with the Taliban about the pipelines. In March of 2001 the first round took place in Washington D.C. The Bush Administration wanted access to two pipeline routes, one for Unocal’s project and another for a natural gas line to feed the Enron Corporation’s power plant in India. They offered as inducement a package of foreign aid, but the Taliban turned it down.
The parties met again in July in Berlin. The principal U.S. negotiator was Mr. Tom Simons, a former ambassador to Pakistan. Also attending was Mr. Niaz Naik, formerly the Pakistani Foreign Secretary, with whom Simons had previously and amiably worked. Also participating was another former ambassador to Pakistan, Mr. Robert Coakley—now a consultant for Unocal.
The Bush Administration was not going to be denied. It was willing to resort to armed force if necessary, and preparations for it must have been underway. A report later in Salon magazine said this: “It was at the July meeting, according to Naik, that Tom Simons suggested Afghanistan could face an open-ended military operation…if it didn’t accede to U.S. demands.” (8)
The meeting in Berlin ended without agreement.
Finally on August 2, 2001 a last but fruitless meeting took place in Islamabad. It ended with a terse statement by State Department negotiator Christine Rocca: “Accept our offer of a carpet of gold,” she said, “or we bury you under a carpet of bombs.” With negotiations ended, “Bush promptly informed India and Pakistan that the U.S. would launch a military mission into Afghanistan before the end of October.” (9)
This was done five weeks before the catastrophic events of 9/11.
Twice in this interval, during the spring and summer of 2001, Mr. Kabir Mohabbat was sent by the Bush Administration to meet with the Taliban on another issue: the surrender of Osama bin Laden. At both meetings Mr. Mohabbat could only apologize: the Bush Administration was not yet willing to accept the handover.(10)
Osama bin Laden remained, therefore, at large. He had been kept informed about the U.S.-Taliban pipeline negotiations and he knew of the intended military incursion into Afghanistan “…before the end of October.”(11) We will never know if that threat was the trigger mechanism, but on September 11, 2001 bin Laden struck once more.
Coming in Part Three: September 11, 2001, the “global war on terror,” and the invasion of Afghanistan.
(1) See “Draft Defense Planning Guidance,” prepared for then Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney in 1992. The original version can be accessed in the National Archives, but it is heavily redacted. A Google search will turn up many readable facsimiles.
(2) The maps and the lists of foreign oil companies were obtained for public disclosure through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by Judicial Watch, and can be seen on their website.
(3) The work of the “Oil and Energy Working Group” is described in Greg Muttit, ed., Crude Designs: the
Ripoff of Iraq’s Oil Wealth, the Platform Group, United Kingdom.
(4) The term appeared in a top-secret National Security Council memorandum dated February 3, 2001. For
details, see Jane Mayer, “Contract Sport,” in the New Yorker magazine, February 16, 2004.
(5) See “Production Sharing Agreements: An Economic Analysis,” Kirsten Bindemann, Oxford Institute for
Energy Studies, WPM 25, October, 1999.
(6) Much of the story to follow is drawn from a two-part series by Larry Chin, published in the Online Journal in March of 2002. Part I is “Unocal and the Afghanistan Pipeline;” Part II is “The Bush Administration’s Afghan Carpet.” A far more detailed treatment of international jockeying in the Caspian Basin was published by theWashington Post earlier, in 1998. See “Pipe Dreams: the Struggle for Caspian Oil,” a three-part series by Dan Morgan and David Ottaway, beginning Sunday, October 4, 1998. See also, “Family Affair: the Bushes and the bin Ladens,” Anon., The Dubya Report, December 20, 2001 and updated September 5, 2006.
(7) See, “How Bush Was Offered bin Laden and Blew It,” by Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn, Counterpunch,November 1, 2004.
(8) See, “Al-Qaida monitored U.S. negotiations with Taliban over oil pipeline,” by Jean-Charles Brisard, Salon, June 5, 2002. The threat in July of 2001 of a military incursion into Afghanistan was reported also in “U.S. Planned Attack on Taliban,” by George Arney, BBC News, September 18, 2001.
(9) See Larry Chin, “The Bush Administration’s Afghan Carpet” cited above.
(10) See, “How Bush Was Offered bin Laden and Blew It,” cited above. See also “Bush Rejects Taliban Offer to Hand bin Laden Over,” UK Guardian Unlimited, October 14, 2001, and “Bush Rejects Taliban Offer to Surrender bin Laden,” UK Independent, October 15, 2001.
(11) See Brisard, “Al-Qaida monitored U.S. negotiations…” cited above.