Iraq and the Axis of Oil
By Maria Elena Martinez and Joshua Karliner / CorpWatch
(October 23, 2002) - Does anyone remember the Enron scandal and George
Bush's ex-best friend Ken Lay? How about WorldCom-the largest bankruptcy in
U.S. history? It is hard to stay focused on corporate crime in America when our
nation's leaders put the country on a war path.
But there is a connection between Iraq and Enron that should not be
overlooked. It is precisely that the drumbeat for war drowns out the clink of
handcuffs locking around American business leaders' wrists. It's the fact that
the heady rush of patriotism helps mask the hangover of a bubble economy
We're not saying that President Bush's call to attack Iraq is strictly a slight of
hand to distract the American public from the plethora of domestic problems
plaguing his presidency. But at minimum, the looming war with Iraq presents
the opportunity for Bush to duck the corporate scandals and reframe the
We should be at a political crossroads today, discussing issues that are
central to the health and well being of the American people. We should be
looking for ways to foster real corporate accountability at home. We should be
debating how best to build a more just global economic order. And in the name
of national security we should be working aggressively to kick the oil habit,
while developing environmentally sound renewable energy.
Instead we seem to be perched at the edge of an abyss from which we risk
spiraling into a never-ending cycle of war, terrorism, and the evisceration of our
democratic rights. Why is Washington risking a morass that might plague the
nation and the world for the foreseeable future?
There are no simple or complete answers. But one thing is patently obvious.
It's a three-letter word: OIL.
Invading Iraq and taking over its oil fields is a logical, yet totally insane
extension of the Bush administration's foreign policy doctrine. For instance,
Bush's unilateralism with regard to attacking Iraq (he has been dragged kicking
and screaming to the UN security council) is thoroughly consistent with - and
connected to - the unilateralism he exhibited when he pulled out of the Kyoto
Protocol on global warming.
By bailing on Kyoto, Bush, at the behest of the oil industry, dropped out of a
treaty designed to save us from the mass destruction of climate change by
moving the world away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy. And if he
invades Iraq, Bush further entrenches the deadly connection between US
interests and oil interests.
George Bush and Dick Cheney form an axis of oil that sits at the apex of world
power. Indeed, they define national security as access to oil. A "successful" war
in Iraq could renew US access to oil reserves nearly as large as Saudi
Arabia's; this could break the back of OPEC, while providing a bonanza for
Bush and Cheney's American and British oil company friends at Exxon-Mobil,
Halliburton, Chevron-Texaco, Shell and BP.
But such "success" in Iraq - in addition to the huge toll in immediate human
casualties - will also seriously undermine national and global security. One of
the ways it will do so will be to further lock the world into energy consumption
patterns that broad scientific consensus has determined will deepen global
warming and all its impacts.
In essence, the Bush administration's definition of national security serves US
corporate interests, allowing some to profit and others to hide. Beyond this, it is
not at all clear who else, if anyone, might benefit from this axis of oil.
Maria Elena Martinez is the Executive Director of and Joshua Karliner is Senior
Adviser to CorpWatch-a San Francisco based organization working to hold