The great Iraqi oil conspiracy, rewritten with George W. Bush as a friend of China

Kelly McParland | 13/06/04 8:54 AM ET

Muhannad Fala'ah/Getty Images)The Tawke oil field near the town of Zacho , about 250 miles north of Baghdad, began crude oil exports in 2009 for the first time from two major oil fields.
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Remember the claim that the Iraq war was fought for the sake of Big Oil?

It went like this: George W. Bush, being a Republican from Texas and the son of an oil man, was naturally in league with western oil giants to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein and seize control of the lucrative oil industry. So craven was the administration, so hooked was it on oil money and the self-serving agenda of the petroleum plutocrats, that Bush and his henchmen were willing to sacrifice thousands of American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives to gain access to Iraqi oil.

It’s a position that’s still being peddled a decade later. Here is oil conspiracy author Antonia Juhasz on CNN in April:

Before the 2003 invasion, Iraq’s domestic oil industry was fully nationalized and closed to Western oil companies. A decade of war later, it is largely privatized and utterly dominated by foreign firms.

From ExxonMobil and Chevron to BP and Shell, the West’s largest oil companies have set up shop in Iraq. So have a slew of American oil service companies, including Halliburton, the Texas-based firm Dick Cheney ran before becoming George W. Bush’s running mate in 2000.

The war is the one and only reason for this long sought and newly acquired access.

…For the first time in about 30 years, Western oil companies are exploring for and producing oil in Iraq from some of the world’s largest oil fields and reaping enormous profit. And while the U.S. has also maintained a fairly consistent level of Iraq oil imports since the invasion, the benefits are not finding their way through Iraq’s economy or society.
Hey, if Halliburton’s involved, it must be evil, right? And adding Dick Cheney’s name to the mix is like shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre. Left-wingers tell Dick Cheney stories at bedtime when they want to scare their toddlers.

Except, according to the New York Times, the biggest beneficiary of the oil boom that resulted from the invasion isn’t the U.S. It isn’t even Texas or the West or its oil companies. It’s China:

China already buys nearly half the oil that Iraq produces, nearly 1.5 million barrels a day, and is angling for an even bigger share, bidding for a stake now owned by Exxon Mobil in one of Iraq’s largest oil fields.

“The Chinese are the biggest beneficiary of this post-Saddam oil boom in Iraq,” said Denise Natali, a Middle East expert at the National Defense University in Washington. “They need energy, and they want to get into the market.”

Before the invasion, Iraq’s oil industry was sputtering, largely walled off from world markets by international sanctions against the government of Saddam Hussein, so his overthrow always carried the promise of renewed access to the country’s immense reserves. Chinese state-owned companies seized the opportunity, pouring more than $2 billion a year and hundreds of workers into Iraq, and just as important, showing a willingness to play by the new Iraqi government’s rules and to accept lower profits to win contracts.

“We lost out,” said Michael Makovsky, a former Defense Department official in the Bush administration who worked on Iraq oil policy. “The Chinese had nothing to do with the war, but from an economic standpoint they are benefiting from it, and our Fifth Fleet and air forces are helping to assure their supply.”
The reason China is doing so well, it says, is that strict contract conditions demanded by the Iraqis keep profits low. The western giants aren’t interested in low profits, but Chinese companies, which are state-controlled and don’t answer to shareholders, are happy to pay a higher price to guarantee supply.

“We don’t have any problems with them,” said Abdul Mahdi al-Meedi, an Iraqi Oil Ministry official who handles contracts with foreign oil companies. “They are very cooperative. There’s a big difference, the Chinese companies are state companies, while Exxon or BP or Shell are different.”
Looks like the conspiracy theory may have to be altered. George Bush will have to be repositioned as deep Chinese mole, working as an agent of Chinese oil barons, committing U.S. troops to ensure China’s oil security. It’s a bit far-fetched, but that’s what makes it a good conspiracy.

National Post