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Thomas Ferguson

Thomas Ferguson

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Oil-Soaked Politics: Secret U.K. Docs on Iraq

Posted: 04/19/11 07:53 PM ET

Cross-posted from New Deal 2.0.

Revolution in the Middle East, nuclear meltdown in Japan, war in Libya, the U.S. budget crisis, the looming problems of the Eurozone -- some days it's all just too much. But today there's something no one can afford to ignore: The Independent, one of Britain's leading newspapers, broke a must-read story. In a nutshell, the story buries forever all claims that the US, the UK, and other governments did not have oil on their minds as they prepared to invade Iraq.

The story reports on a forthcoming book that draws on more than a thousand secret government documents. The excerpts the paper prints detailing meetings between the UK government and British oil companies in the run up to the war are devastating. They demonstrate that all the denials in London and Washington that policymakers were not concerned about oil as they invaded were as false as the famous cover story about weapons of mass destruction.

The passages quoted in the Independent show that all the governments were negotiating over rights to oil long before the invasion and that they were working closely with their companies. But it is impossible from a single newspaper article to assess the full extent of oil's role in precipitating the invasion of Iraq. The book, obviously, will need a careful review; presumably the author realizes that he will need to make the materials he drew upon available on some website. But enough has already been revealed to make a compelling case for a congressional committee to demand that all the relevant U.S. government documents now be revealed. Ever since a court ordered the release of some government documents in response to a suit Judicial Watch filed under the Freedom of Information Act, we have known that Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force was reviewing documents on Iraqi oil -- well before the attack on 9/11. See here, for example.

It's time the rest of the story came out -- not because it is history, but because it is not. The U.S. is still in Iraq. Major decisions about the continuing presence of U.S. troops there loom just ahead. The major U.S. media have done little or nothing to investigate the story, though journalists working the U.K., notably Greg Palast, produced excellent reports on the subject. The endless chain of books about the Green Zone and corruption has not really gotten to the heart of the matter. As the U.S. deliberates about its next steps in Iraq, it is time somebody does.