Oil + Imperialism = War

Farooq Sulehria


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The conflict with Iraq is about weapons of mass destruction. It has nothing to do with oil, literally nothing to do with oil. It has nothing to do with the religion (Defense Minister Donald Rumsfeld November 14, 2020 CBS News)

Asked why a nuclear power such as North Korea was being treated differently from Iraq, where hardly any weapons of mass destruction had been found, the (US)deputy defense minister (Paul Wolfowitz)said: "Let's look at it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil." (Guardian /UK June 4, 2020)

August 8, 1827.Edwin Drake drills the first oil well, setting the hydrocarbon age into motion. The 69 feet deep well set off a frenzy of drilling and land speculation. First a little about land speculation. The funny side of capitalism. A farmer sold a plot for one million dollars. It was resold for two million dollars. Once the frenzy was over, the same plot was sold for $ 4.37

Many went to oil business. Some became millionaires. And why not? Oil had revolutionized the human life. For the first time, human beings could light their houses cheaply. Prior to cheap oil, the working masses were living half their lives in darkness. The oil discovery consequently let to powerful auto industry that today produces from motorcycles to jumbo planes. Plastic industry developed out of the oil discovery.

But oil also revolutionized war. Even worst: oil becomes cause of wars. Imperialist wars, to be exact

Well, it was not oil that made imperialism to go for wars. War and imperialism have been concomitants from the beginning. First, imperialism imposes war on the land it intends to colonize. Second, it needs war against imperialist rivals to 'defend' its colony. The Anglo-French wars on Indian sub-continent are just one such examples.
The discovery of oil and its development, added another element to the imperialist wars owing to the fact that oil 'revolutionized' the war.

Just one example: At the earlier stage of imperialist expansion and colonization, navy used to play instrumental role. Today, air force is vital. This is due to oil. In modern times, on needs oil (stored solar energy) and machines ( stored human energy) besides human beings to win a war. Mobility is always the essence of war strategy. More advance and high tech war machines the army has, means it has more mobility and an edge over the rival.

It was this consideration that led British navy to conversion of coal fired ships to oil ships in the second decade of the 20th century as the rivalry with Germany grew stronger. The advantage of oil fired ships was : they could go faster, were more maneuverable, required less manpower, and could go further without refueling. World War 1 saw the rise of tank warfare ( as the antidote to trench warfare), trucks, and cars. In all these 'machines', the Allies had an edge. They had more 'machines' in umbers and their 'machines' were more mobile. At the same time, they had a better access to oil to run these 'machines.'

In contrast, Germans and Turks had limited access to oil. Though the German and Turkish strategy was to reach oil regions but their failure to do so led to their defeat. It was perhaps this aspect that made British Lord Curzon say: 'The Allied cause had floated to victory upon a wave of oil.'

French Senator, Berenger, was even more clear. This is how oil historian, Daniel Yergin, describes the scene:
'Speaking in French, Berenger said that oil 'the blood of the earth' was the blood of victory.....Germany had boasted too much of its superiority in iron and coal, but it had not taken sufficient account of our superiority of oil'.
Hitler perhaps had taken into account what Berenger had said. Hitler captured Romania in 1939. The consideration was supply of oil. The German plan was to capture Iran in 1941 and Baku by 1942. When German troops in Stalingrad got bogged down, Field Marshall Manstein was pleading with Hitler for reinforcements from the divisions in Caucasus. Hitlers blunt reply was: Until we get the Baku oil, the war is lost.

He was right. Hitler's tank in Stalingrad did not have enough fuel to fully enter to war nor to escape the Russian advances. This was a key element of German defeat there. The Nazis also sought another route to Baku - through northern Africa. Led by Rommel, the Germans in northern Africa made startlingly rapid advances. So rapid was Rommel's advance that the issue of supply lines (including fuel supplies of course) became a major problem. At one point, his supply lines were so long that the fuel trucks were burning more fuel than they could carry to the troops. Lack of fuel played a key role in Rommel's ultimate defeat and determined some of his military tactics in the key battles with British

General Montgomery.

Back on German soil, the German Luftwaffe (air force) was almost without fuel. Germany was considerably advanced of the Allies in the development of jet engines and building of fighter jets. One little problem: By the last years of the war, they were without jet fuel. So it was that the Allies completely dominated the German skies; the Nazis simply lacked the fuel to send up their planes to contest with the Allied planes. The famous Pearl Harbour incident was directly related to oil supply as well. The USA had embargoed oil supply to Japan. It was embargoed oil ships at Pearl Harbour that Japan attacked.

Much of Japan's rising rivalry with US imperialism centered around oil. As Japan sought to carve out an empire in Asia, it needed oil to fuel its shipping industry and of course a navy to protect the oil supplies. Thus, a naval race developed with the US. This race was what dictated attack on Pearl Harbor. Despite the large scale destruction of the US Navy at Pearl Harbor, the US was still able to disrupt Japanese fuel supplies through submarine warfare. Oil supplies became so scarce that Japan turned to developing pine root oil from Pine Trees in Japan. Entire mountain and hill sides were denuded for this, but it was nowhere near an adequate substitute for the energy that had been stored in fossil oil over millions of years. Fuel supplies were so low that there was not enough fuel to properly train Japanese air force pilots, nor enough fuel to send bombers out and back. The "solution" to this was to send them on a one way trip - the Kamikaze pilots. Lack of fuel determined naval tactics also. In one case, in a key battle, a Japanese navy aircraft carrier had to sail directly towards the battle, rather than take a circuitous and tactically better route - because it lacked the fuel. The result was a defeat for the Japanese navy. Furthermore, the Japanese had to divide their navy in half, partly to protect their dwindling fuel lines. This prevented a united, combined navy from moving forward and further contributed to Japanese defeat.

Oil , Imperialism And Wars Today

Does it need any David Kay Report to prove that recent Iraq's war was meant for Oil? US forces could find Saddam Hussain hiding nine meters down the eartt from a hole but have not been able to find any weapons of mass destruction. How come? All and sundry know the answer.
Wolfowitz clearly told the objective. As cited above, though Guardian later on took back the story. Press is in chains even in 21st century in England.

Forget Iraq. Lets talk about the first war of the 21st century when the most powerful and rich country on the globe attacked the most poor country on the face of earth. The objective was of course not to find a dialyses patient with big beard hiding at Tora Bora caves. It was the oil and gas rich Central Asian region that US was eyeing on. First time, in two of the five Central Asian states, the USA has established military bases. Afghanistan, a country that never was colonized, today is run by an ex-CIA agent who happens to be an ex employee of UNOCOL. Needles to repeat that it was US oil concern UNOCOL that wanted to build a 1,271 km long gas pipeline from Daulatabad town of Turkmanistan to Multan, Pakistan.This $ 1.9 billion project was the main reason for bringing Taliban to power in Afghanistan. The guy, Zalmai Khalizad, who wrote the feasibility report for the project is now official US representatative in Kabul.
In Kosovo as late as 1997-98 , the US forces have been fighting hand in hand with Osama's boys against Sebia. The target of course was not 'fascist' Milosovich regime. It was again the black gold.

First Gulf war imposed on Iraq by Dady Bush. It was nothing but oil politics by violent means. Or oil business by all means necessary. It was not just a matter of chance that when Iraq retreated from Kuwait, the Rumaila oilfiled on the regional map did not belong to Iraq anymore. It had become a part of Kuwait now. And the oil rich Kurdish part of Iraq became a no fly zone.

Not just wars.The imperialism has imposed the most brutal dictatorships on the masses where it had oil interests.It has crushed democracies, helped mass murders and executed killings of popular leaders.

From Mossadeq episode in Iran to coup against Qasim in Iraq, the reason was oil. Today the most brutal fundamentalist regimes imposed on Gulf states since decades can only survive with the military presence of USA in these countries. The purpose is oil.

There are two important regions for oil. The Gulf countries and Latin America. The USA and its imperialist allies have been playing havoc with both regions for the sake of oil. The new imperialist strategy for the control of oil rich regions is simple: craete a problem or 'find' a problem in the country it intends to colonize. Attack that country in the name of 'democracy', security, human right whatever. Following the war, establish a permanent military base in that country.
The recent Iraq war , the Afghan war following S11 events, the wars in ex-Yugoslavia and first Gulf War, all testify to this strategy.

Today, there is US military presence in over 120 out of 189 countries of the world. Kosovo today has the biggest US military base since Vietnam war. Today it is Gulf in focus with Iraq as centre of the focus. Next it would be Latin America.
In Latin America, three neighboring countries i.e Colombia, Venzuella and Ecuador export more oil to the USA than Persian Gulf. Colombia with almost 40 percent of its land under gurellias control, Venzuella under Chavez and Ecuador in the grip of social movements and civil unrest, is a disturbing factor for Washington.
Plan Columbia, coup in Venzuella against Chavez, and shameless US support to Ecuadorian president all indicate to the likely future wars in this region.

Oil Monopolies

As the civil war draws to an end in the US in 1860s, the US government decides to forge order from chaos that was marking the oil industry.

1870. Standard Oil is founded to forge the choas. In leass than two years, one of the Standard Oil founders, John D Rockefeller, seizes control of Standard Oil. By 1879, Standard Oil controlled 90 per cent of US refining capacity.
It meant 89 per cent of the world capacity. Such was Rockefeller's grip that he was able to drive out of business any oil company that did not want to do business with him. He was able to set railroad rates. He set prices. In May of 1879, some independent drillers built the world's first pipeline in order to evade Standard Oil's grip. Within a few months, Rockefeller had bought the pipeline.

From now on the development of oil industry and development of capitalism (read os expansion of imperialism)become one and indivisible. By the turn of century, four global oil monopolies had emerged including Standard Oil, Births Petroleum, Shell and Exxon.

These global monopolies still control the oil business though they have gone through mergers, renaming and so on.
It is these oil monopolies that keep the oil prices at exaggerated high level. It is estimated that it costs one dollar per barrel to pump oil from the ground. The present cost is over $ 20 per barrel. Experts beleive that if the market demand is allowed to operate, the oil prices at the pump may drop by 50 per cent.

Even worse. It is these monopolies that destroy our environment. These monopolies do not allow investment in alternative energy sectors. The oil is a reserve that is not recyclable and is supposed to extinct. There are environmental friendly energy resources that also will not extinct. But oil mopolies simply do not let exploit them.
It is these oil monopolies that sell us wars.

But how come these monopolies are so powerful? Well, US President Franklin D Roosevelt answers:
'The problem with this country is that you cannot win an election without the oil bloc, and you cannot govern with it.'
It wasn't long ago an oil magnate namely George W Bush Jr. re-watched White House despite he lost the election.



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