Oil and War

By Gopal Dayaneni* and Bob Wing

June 2002

Soon after the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush declared a “war on terrorism at home and abroad.” Along with a number of friends, I started the bilingual antiwar newspaper War Times/Tiempo de Guerras. This article was published in that paper.

War–what is it good for?

President Bush says war will stamp out terrorism. But to map the “war on terrorism” is to map the world’s oil.

In the Middle East, the administration has announced that its top priority is a massive invasion of Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein. Hussein is a ruthless leader, but the U.S. supports many dictators. Washington has him in its gunsights because he is the chief opponent to U.S. control over the vast oil wealth of the Persian Gulf.

In Afghanistan, the “war on terrorism” has produced a pro-U.S. government–and U.S. military bases in the nine surrounding countries. Those Central Asian countries are rich in oil and natural gas. By military action, the U.S. is trying to clear the way to lay pipelines to the West and to the growing Asian markets–with Afghanistan at the crossroads.

In the Caspian Sea basin, the U.S. has been building new military bases and training local defense forces in the wake of Sept. 11. The former Soviet Republics of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are bursting with an estimated five trillion dollars worth of unexploited oil and natural gas. After the Persian Gulf, this is the largest reservoir of petroleum in the world.

Oil is also at the center of recent U.S. actions to export its “war on terrorism” to Latin America and Africa. In Colombia, the U.S. is ready to give $98 million to government forces to guard against rebel disruption of Occidental Petroleum’s oil pipeline. In Venezuela, the U.S.’s third largest supplier of oil, the U.S. met with and helped fund the leaders of a failed coup against the democratically elected president.

In Africa, the U.S. has recently increased military aid to Nigeria, the continent’s largest supplier of oil to the U.S.


The petroleum industry is the most powerful in the world. It fuels modern industry, agriculture and transportation. Its capital flows shape the global financial system.

Big Oil also dominates the Bush administration. The President, Vice President Dick Cheney and almost all the high-ranking officials in the administration have been top corporate oil executives or have longstanding ties to the industry. (See “Bush’s Oil Machine,” p.3.) The exceptions, like Secretary of State Colin Powell, are linked to the military and defense industries.

The administration’s oil strategy was set forward in the national energy plan drawn up last year by Cheney with notorious assistance from executives from Enron and other energy giants. Not surprisingly, the plan opposes an increase in the fuel efficiency of U.S. motor vehicles. And it calls for exploitation of the pristine Alaska National Wildlife Refuge even though such drilling would make no significant difference in the larger energy situation.

Professor Michael Klare, writing for Pacific News Service, summarizes the Cheney report in three points:

*The U.S. is increasingly dependent on foreign oil. Currently the U.S. imports about 10 million barrels of oil per day, 53 percent of total consumption. By 2020 daily U.S. oil imports will climb to 17 million barrels, 65 percent of consumption.

*Therefore the U.S. must add new foreign oil sources to its current suppliers, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Canada. The plan looks to the Caspian states, Russia and Africa to meet its future oil needs and to end its dependence on the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

*The U.S. cannot gain access to this oil through market forces alone–foreign resistance to U.S. energy companies is longstanding. As the report states, “foreign powers do not always have America’s interests at heart.”



This is why Washington seized upon the Sept. 11 tragedy to expand its military presence in oil-producing countries throughout the world.

Pepe Escobar, columnist for Asia Times, observes: “There’s no business like war business. Thanks to war against Iraq, the U.S. has its military bases in the Persian Gulf. Thanks to war against Yugoslavia, the U.S. has its military bases in Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia. Thanks to war against the Taliban, the U.S. is now in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan,” Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Escobar believes that even larger stakes are involved in the U.S.’s wars to control world oil. “If the U.S. controls the sources of energy of its rivals–Europe, Japan, China and other nations aspiring to be more independent–they win.” Control of oil is key to control of the world economy.

Bush calls his war program Enduring Freedom. But Escobar believes it is more likely geared to produce Everlasting Profits.


At the time this article was written, Gopal Dayeneni was an oil campaigner for Project Underground.

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