International Papers

It’s the Oil, Stupid

On Monday, Britain’s Daily Mirror turned its front page into a giant rebus puzzle. Decoded, the combination of words and oil company logos read: “I [Shell] Not [Exxon]erate Saddam Hussein From Blame. I Will [Mobil]ise Our Troops and [Jet]s to [Q8] and the Persian [Gulf]. I Will [BP]repared for [Total] War. The Message Is [Amoco]ming To Kick Your Ass, Saddam.” Underneath was a simple tag-line: “Now can you guess why George W. Bush is hellbent on a war against Iraq?”

Lest any doubts remained, the paper’s editorial spelled out its view that the “US is [the] true rogue state.” For the Mirror, Bush’s motive is clear:

He is out to protect and control the planet’s oil supplies because without them America would grind to a halt. Many wars have been fought for the flimsiest and falsest of reasons. But that is no reason for the United Kingdom to attach itself to the coat-tails of the most right-wing and dangerous US administration in history.

The Financial Times addressed the same question head on, asking, “Is the US really after Iraq’s oil, rather than Saddam Hussein’s weapons?” The paper concluded that the accusation was “fanciful,” if only because the United States’ “extravagant lifestyle” means that Iraq couldn’t solve its oil dependency anyway. A post-Saddam Iraq couldn’t quit OPEC; if it did, the new government “would risk appearing as a US puppet in the eyes of its own citizens as well as its neighbors.” The short-term prospects of the United States weaning itself off its oil reliance are exceedingly slim, and even if the Bush administration opens up Alaska to drilling and takes more oil from Russia and West Africa, it’ll still have to buy from OPEC producers in the Middle East. “US control over Iraq’s oil would not change these fundamental realities.”