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November 12, 2009 6:02 PM   Subscribe

"Liberal Hawk" Peter Galbraith played a major role in justifying the American invasion of Iraq. Later he helped write the new Iraqi constitution. Turns out he failed to disclose the hundreds of millions he stands to make on Kurdish oil fields, in part because of his engineering of the same constitution to put him in a favorable business position. Another blogger remembers the good ol' days of 2003 when the media and politicians were shocked --shocked! -- that anyone would dare suggest that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was "all about oil."
posted by bardic (75 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
From an Editor's Note at the NYT:

"Since that time, Mr. Galbraith has written several opinion articles for the Op-Ed page in support of Kurdish independence and security. These articles should have disclosed to readers that Mr. Galbraith could benefit financially from an independent Kurdistan that would not have to share oil revenues with Iraq.

Like other writers for the Op-Ed page, Mr. Galbraith signed a contract that obligated him to disclose his financial interests in the subjects of his articles. Had editors been aware of Mr. Galbraith's financial stake, the Op-Ed page would have insisted on disclosure or not published his articles."
posted by bardic at 6:03 PM on November 12, 2009


It's been a bad few weeks for Galbraith. He had been the top American in the UN's Afghanistan mission, but was fired a few weeks ago because he accused the UN mission of helping to cover up election fraud for Karzai.
posted by gsteff at 6:18 PM on November 12, 2009


NPR interview from today
posted by educatedslacker at 6:22 PM on November 12, 2009


Galbraith's books are called:

"Unintended Consequences: How War in Iraq Strengthened America's Enemies"
"The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War without End"

Emphasis mine. I hope these revelations will make people reassess their understanding of American "incompetence", and rethink whether the consequences can in fact be said to be "unintended".
posted by stammer at 6:24 PM on November 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


I've been complaining about how you have this defense industry / "pundit" nexus where people who profit from wars also fund the think tanks, etc that employ the pundits. But it's interesting to see the connections between one specific individual so so clearly.

On the other hand, if Galbraith simply worked for a foundation that received funding from an oil company with contacts in Kurdistan, this wouldn't be news. The only difference here is the distance to the money.

And you don't truly even need someone to "sell out" directly, rather you simply hire people who already agree with your positions, like Bill Kristol or someone.

This is a collective action problem in a way, ordinary, average people don't have anyone working for them. There's the Center for American Progress, but the donor list is confidential, and the people who run it are closely connected to corporate lobbyists like Heather Podesta.
posted by delmoi at 6:28 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Another piece of shit war profiteer building his fortune on the broken backs of US soldiers, out of the bones of Iraqi children.

But Peter Galbraith has money and connections, so no one will ever say even an impolite word to him as he works the cocktail party circuit. Because in America, money washes away all sin.
posted by orthogonality at 6:29 PM on November 12, 2009 [13 favorites]


Related: meanwhile in Afghanistan, while we were busy funding Karzai's heroin-kingpin brother, it turns out we are still busy bribing the Taliban not to blow up our supply trucks: the US military's contractors are forced to pay suspected insurgents to protect American supply routes. It is an accepted fact of the military logistics operation in Afghanistan that the US government funds the very forces American troops are fighting. That
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 6:30 PM on November 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


May he get his just dessert, and may that dessert turn to ash as it touches his lips.
posted by Decimask at 7:45 PM on November 12, 2009


Can we just retire the phrase "liberal hawk"? It make as much sense as "compassionate conservative".
posted by octothorpe at 7:57 PM on November 12, 2009


In a just world or even a just country, this man would already be jailed and awaiting a death penalty trial for war profiteering.
posted by hincandenza at 7:59 PM on November 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


Can we just retire the phrase "liberal hawk"? It make as much sense as "compassionate conservative".

"Liberal interventionist" and "conservative isolationist" both make plenty of sense.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 8:07 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Surely this..." what? Galbraith is a democrat, not a republican. Surely this will convince the American people to do what? Elect a third party? Become socialist? Hang the bastards?

The currency is collapsing, the government is printing money to bleed it. And people are worried about an accusation that this was a war for oil. If it wasn't a war for oil before, it had better turn into one very quickly. I would sleep easier at night knowing that at least some percentage of that oil found its way into the US treasury instead of the pockets of assholes like this. Because the money is going into the pockets of wealthy people somewhere, here, in Norway, or Iraq. But it sure as hell isn't going to hospitals and schools. We fought the war, we bled and died, at least let us take some of the spoils of that war to mend our ailing country.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:30 PM on November 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Surely this will convince the American people to do what? Elect a third party? Become socialist? Hang the bastards?

I'm actually fine with any of these options. Or, you know, all three.
posted by nanojath at 8:45 PM on November 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Isn't it interesting that these allegations surface so soon after Galbraith claimed that the UN mission in Afghanistan was corrupt?
posted by Malor at 8:53 PM on November 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


We fought the war, we bled and died, at least let us take some of the spoils of that war to mend our ailing country.

I never realised you were from Iraq! But you're right, Iraq's oil resources should be nationalised and used to fund social services in that country. Obviously this would have to be supplemented by massive compensation from the United States.
posted by stammer at 9:16 PM on November 12, 2009 [10 favorites]


As others have said here, it is hardly the case that Galbraith played a "major" role in "justifying the invasion."

It is a sad fact that the U.S. has not plundered Iraq's oil wealth (Galbraith's personal wheeling and dealing hardly counts). The truth is that Iraq has plundered us.

Many people mutter darkly that the war was motivated by "oil" with little coherence or knowledge in a simplistic (and populist) bid to make easy sense of ill-conceived, irrational and obscure decisions that basically no one understands, because they feel cheated.
posted by knoyers at 9:17 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay, FINE, God, I believe in the death penalty. Happy now?
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:22 PM on November 12, 2009


Because the money is going into the pockets of wealthy people somewhere, here, in Norway...

Yeah, screw those greedy Norwegian Oil Barons.
posted by GeckoDundee at 9:31 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


It is a sad fact that the U.S. has not plundered Iraq's oil wealth (Galbraith's personal wheeling and dealing hardly counts). The truth is that Iraq has plundered us.

Please try to make some kind of sense when you comment.
posted by ssg at 10:10 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry if that didn't seem coherent to you. I was trying to say:

1) America's material gain from Iraqi resources is negligible compared to the vast sums (not to mention American blood) squandered there. In that sense Iraq has "plundered" America (from an American point of view, of course).
2) Galbraith's Kurdish oilfield interests and other American oil deals in Iraq are a drop in a bucket.
3) If Galbraith exploited his insider knowledge and stature as an advisor/lobbyist to speculate successfully in Kurdish oil development, that does not turn America's Iraq adventure into a mercenary petroleum expedition. His friendship with the Kurds and protection of their interests has been well known for decades. The Kurds' quasi-independence and control over their oil wealth were mostly regarded with disfavor by Bush administration orthodoxy, which was obviously invested in a unified Iraq.
4) Invading Iraq was senseless both economically & as realpolitik. The American energy sector has seen little Iraq oil action (less than European oil companies). To the extent that the war in Iraq inflated oil prices, it was strongly detrimental to America's economic and political position. Some companies obviously benefited from the war, some were treated preferentially, but the damage to American corporate, economic and strategic interests dwarfs this.
6) Bush's decision making was often apparently based on his own beliefs or feelings (which he was not inclined to question), poorly thought out and whimsical.
posted by knoyers at 11:08 PM on November 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


"America's material gain"

Um, guys like Galbraith and the KBR crowd aren't interested in "America's gain" but in their own.

"Galbraith's Kurdish oilfield interests and other American oil deals in Iraq are a drop in a bucket."

If the NYT is to be believed, he's poised to make 100 million USD. Please come down from your gold-plated flying saucer and understand that this is a shit-ton of money to an average person.

"If Galbraith exploited his insider knowledge and stature as an advisor/lobbyist to speculate successfully in Kurdish oil development, that does not turn America's Iraq adventure into a mercenary petroleum expedition."

Oh, there are plenty of other reasons to realize that the invasion and occupation of Iraq has been disastrous. The fact that guys like Galbraith and the private contractors are fattening themselves off of the deaths of Iraqi civilians and American soldiers is just one of many. The mercenary petroleum expedition, the avenge my daddy's reputation expedition, the failed attempt to bring bin Laden to justice expedition, and the GOP shall remain a perpetual majority through the use of fear-mongering all come to mind.

There's certainly enough blame to go around for the next 100 years when it comes to Iraq.
posted by bardic at 11:20 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


The currency is collapsing, the government is printing money to bleed it.
Ugh, eight months ago people were whining about deflation. eight months before that people were complaining that the Chinese were artificially pegging the value of the Yuan by buying dollars (thus, obviously, raising the price of the dollar).

There is always going to be some economic indicator that's moving in the "wrong" direction.
We fought the war, we bled and died, at least let us take some of the spoils of that war to mend our ailing country.
If by "Fought the war" you mean invaded their country on a false pretext, occupied it for almost a decade, and catalyzed a civil war that killed hundreds of thousands of people, along with everyone we killed ourselves of course. We definitely deserve to take some of their stuff to pay for the all the trouble we inflicted on ourselves.
1) America's material gain from Iraqi resources is negligible compared to the vast sums (not to mention American blood) squandered there. In that sense Iraq has "plundered" America (from an American point of view, of course).
If I get drunk and drive my car full speed into your house, totaling my car, smashing all your shit and killing your toddler and wife in the process, it's really no different then if you stole my car off the street. Either way I no longer have a car. And isn't that what matters here?
posted by delmoi at 11:23 PM on November 12, 2009 [10 favorites]


1) America's material gain from Iraqi resources is negligible compared to the vast sums (not to mention American blood) squandered there. In that sense Iraq has "plundered" America (from an American point of view, of course).

Your "American point of view" is disgusting.
posted by ssg at 11:23 PM on November 12, 2009 [11 favorites]


Many people mutter darkly that the war was motivated by "oil" with little coherence or knowledge in a simplistic (and populist) bid to make easy sense of ill-conceived, irrational and obscure decisions that basically no one understands, because they feel cheated.

Remember how this war was pushed as essentially self-funding? I wonder where the money was coming from?

While not the cause of the war as such, the idea of tasty tasty oil revenues certainly greased the wheels.
posted by Wolof at 12:24 AM on November 13, 2009


Ugh, eight months ago people were whining about deflation.

Well, you throw enough new trillions into the money pool, turning enough of those derivatives into cold, hard cash, and the outcome is pretty damn predictable.

The dollar dropping has very little to do with Iraq, however, as far as I can see.
posted by Malor at 12:27 AM on November 13, 2009


Another piece of shit war profiteer building his fortune on the broken backs of US soldiers, out of the bones of Iraqi children. But Peter Galbraith has money and connections, so no one will ever say even an impolite word to him as he works the cocktail party circuit. Because in America, money washes away all sin.

Favourited so. fucking. hard.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:36 AM on November 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


at least let us take some of the spoils of that war to mend our ailing country

The fuck? [checks watch] Is this the twelfth century? Hello?
posted by five fresh fish at 12:39 AM on November 13, 2009


The truth is that Iraq has plundered us.

The fucking fuck? Is it April 1st? Has history been successfully rewritten so quickly?

I'm just boggled by some of the comments that are being made here. How the hell did the USA become the victim in the war that the USA initiated?
posted by five fresh fish at 12:42 AM on November 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


Yeah, the country's doomed. Whatever. We elected George W. Bush, who I knew in the year 2000 (I was 16 at the time) was one of the Dumbest Men In America. Well, we didn't elect him, but we didn't kick his ass hard enough to make sure everyone knew he'd lost. That's just as bad. Then he got a hair up his ass to invade Iraq for some bullshit reason. And really, was anyone really surprised when Bush was all "we're gonna blow the shit out of Iraq!" for no decent reason when we all knew that was literally the only thing he wanted to do for his entire presidency? He and his buttboys were always talking about it. They had such a hard-on for Iraq that...god I don't even know how to end that metaphor. What I mean is that blowing up Iraq gave every human who would willingly hang out with George Bush either a hard or a wide on depending on their equipment because they would get to kill lots of humans and get paid to do it. This is a thing we knew before Bush was even elected.

And then, for some weird goddamn reason people helped him. This barely sentient moron with more dick than sense wanted to blow up a country and had obviously faked intelligence to convince lazy people (read: most of the country) to go along with it and heretofore smart people decided to hitch their horses to this wagon. What. The. Fuck. America? I guess it must have been for 'bag reasons like this guy's, whose now trying to hide behind the skirts of the party that was the "opposition" party at the time and whatever. Well, fuck him I guess but there's a lot of fuck to spread around. Fuck him, fuck Bill Kristol, fuck Christopher Hitchens, fuck Colin Powell, fuck Andrew Sullivan fuck Tom Friedman fuck all those guys who were clearly smart enough to have known better but didn't. Well, not Bill Kristol I guess, but the other ones. The implied malice blood of this war is on their hands. What did I, a pissant teenager with more dick than sense, know that these college-educated assholes couldn't figure out?

I was called a terrorist, a terrorist for saying that I thought invading Iraq was probably a bad idea and wouldn't accomplish anything. When I pointed out that Bush had wanted to invade Iraq since before he was even elected I was told "see, that just proves how right he was." And now it turns out we were right about everything. Every bad thing that we said would happen if we did this incredibly stupid thing happened. The thing that makes me...well it just makes me angry, really is that war profiteering was the obvious one. Hell, like having wanted to invade Iraq since day one the administration basically copped to it when anyone bothered to call them out.

No surprise allowed here. This was exactly what was supposed to happen. Enjoy your meal, it's what you ordered.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 1:02 AM on November 13, 2009 [17 favorites]


How the hell did the USA become the victim in the war that the USA initiated?

The USA is certainly paying for the consequences of bad policy.

If there's any problem with knoyer's statement, it's with the expression that suggests Iraq acted to bring about this state of affairs, and I suspect he was just toying with language rather than seriously suggesting that. The rest is correct. It's true that we've dumped a staggering amount of resources into the occupation and state building project, and it's true we'll probably be sending a lot more money and even some lives over there for the foreseeable future, and I think you can credibly argue that we're therefore victims, even though I doubt that'll win us a lot of sympathy when placed next to the suffering of Iraqis, since it's our government that started it.

3) If Galbraith exploited his insider knowledge and stature as an advisor/lobbyist to speculate successfully in Kurdish oil development, that does not turn America's Iraq adventure into a mercenary petroleum expedition. His friendship with the Kurds and protection of their interests has been well known for decades. The Kurds' quasi-independence and control over their oil wealth were mostly regarded with disfavor by Bush administration orthodoxy, which was obviously invested in a unified Iraq.

This.

Galbraith absolutely should have known to disclose these things, particularly when writing editorials.

But it's also my understanding that his advocacy for the Kurds goes way back, and they've been sold down the river enough times through history that if his worst crime is investing in and profiting from helping them get a real seat at the table, my outrage is going to fall at a measured level at best. I've never gotten the impression of him as a devotee of the Bush Admin or New Centurions or anything. Something seems odd here. Maybe he did really sell out, or maybe something else is going on.
posted by weston at 1:24 AM on November 13, 2009


He sounds like one of the people his dad warned us about.
posted by rhymer at 1:35 AM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


But it's also my understanding that his advocacy for the Kurds goes way back, and they've been sold down the river enough times through history that if his worst crime is investing in and profiting from helping them get a real seat at the table, my outrage is going to fall at a measured level at best.

That is not his worst crime. His worst crime is signing on to George W. Bush's stupid war. If he wanted to help the Iraqi Kurds there were ways to do this. An entirely unthoughtout invasion of the entire country was not the way to go about achieving his goals. If his goals were what you say they were.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 1:52 AM on November 13, 2009


We have to go over there and plunder their oil, so that their oil doesn't come here and plunder us.
posted by fire&wings at 2:35 AM on November 13, 2009


Rarely does sack of shit so eloquently sum up a man.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:30 AM on November 13, 2009


It's true that we've dumped a staggering amount of resources into the occupation and state building project, and it's true we'll probably be sending a lot more money and even some lives over there for the foreseeable future, and I think you can credibly argue that we're therefore victims...

Victims of what? As far as I can see, the only thing the US are victims of are the consequences of their own poor governance. As you all have a vote the government was installed by you, the people. Therefore you are the victims of nothing but your own collective poor judgement. You did it to yourselves. Trying to frame the US as a victim is only preparing the ground for excusing the pillage of what remains of Iraq (even if that was not what was intended by your comment).
posted by Jakey at 3:46 AM on November 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


I did not mean to imply that the U.S. is a victim of Iraq in a moral sense. We have, however, made an enormous unaffordable financial investment (besides the loss of American life) in that oil-rich country without seeing anything back or any benefit, because we have not pillaged.
posted by knoyers at 6:00 AM on November 13, 2009


" It's true that we've dumped a staggering amount of resources into the occupation and state building..."

Where did those resources go? Who was paid for the resources consumed? The needs for such a huge undertaking in terms of consumable, squanderable resources -- energy, supplies, equipment, training, technology; bombs, guns, bullets, missiles, aircraft, tanks; subcontractors, quasi-military personnel, construction guys -- must have come from somewhere. It's not like the United States went to Iraq, made a big huge pyramid of dollars, and lit the thing on fire.

We "printed" a bunch of money, then spent it at the War Stuff store, then carted our war stuff to some distant land to play with it and kill people. The money spent wound up as military-industrial corporate profits, it's not like that money just went away somewhere.

No, the truly staggering cost hasn't been the bucketloads of cash poured into the checkout stand at War-Mart. "We," as an economic entity got a lot of that back. The actual staggering cost of the war has been paid in lives.
posted by majick at 6:45 AM on November 13, 2009


The dollar dropping has very little to do with Iraq, however, as far as I can see.
posted by Malor at 3:27 AM on November 13


Look harder. We were running a deficit before we invaded Iraq. The cost of that war is around $1.4 trillion. Then we had bailouts, a stimulus plan, a recession, etc. It all comes from the same pot of money.

The fuck? [checks watch] Is this the twelfth century? Hello?
posted by five fresh fish at 3:39 AM on November 13


No, it's the 21st, where we take a deep interest in the freedom of people who live in deserts that coincidentally happen to sit atop oil fields, and don't give a flying fuck about the freedom of people who live everywhere else that coincidentally don't happen to sit atop oil fields.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:06 AM on November 13, 2009


Oh, knoyers--there has been plenty of pillaging to go around, no doubt about that. Iraq has been used as an excuse for equal-opportunity opportunists to pillage that country and our own like never before.

So what if the pillaging hasn't necessarily been done in the name of the US government per se? It's been done and continues to be done in the name of the free enterprise philosophy of which America prides itself on being the world's designated protector. And it's being done primarily by opportunistic Americans, whether they believe themselves to be acting in their roles as public citizens or not.

Pallets of billions in US currency don't just disappear by themselves. Electrical contractors building military bases don't just accidentally use the cheapest, defective components possible (and as a general rule, if you frequently find yourself getting electrocuted in the shower due to faulty wiring, your electrician might just be taking advantage of you). And well-connected family friends of the former oil man President who started a war in an oil rich country don't just end up with lucrative, exclusive oil exploration contracts falling into their laps by coincidence.

In Iraq and other troubled world hotspots in recent decades, American business interests have perfected the art of stealth-pillaging: why do you think it's called the "invisible" hand?
posted by saulgoodman at 7:21 AM on November 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


Your "American point of view" is disgusting.

It usually is.
posted by rusty at 7:32 AM on November 13, 2009


We fought the war, we bled and died, at least let us take some of the spoils of that war to mend our ailing country.

This is so messed up, WTF. Stupidest thing I have read on the internet in a week.
posted by RajahKing at 7:51 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hope these revelations will make people reassess their understanding of American "incompetence", and rethink whether the consequences can in fact be said to be "unintended".

Last weekend, I finally watched Errol Morris's excellent Standard Operating Procedure, a documentary about the systemic nature of the abuse at Abu Ghraib.

I was struck, not for the first time, by the thought that if the actual goal of the invasion and occupation had been to create as many new and determined enemies as possible for the Pentagon to fight in the decades to come, it couldn't have gone any better.
posted by rokusan at 8:29 AM on November 13, 2009


We fought the war, we bled and died, at least let us take some of the spoils of that war to mend our ailing country.

The fact it was a unprovoked war of aggression sort of steals your righteous thunder, I think.

Rather than what spoils should the US receive, the real question might better be about what reparations the US should be paying.
posted by rokusan at 8:31 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


at least let us take some of the spoils of that war to mend our ailing country
The fuck? [checks watch] Is this the twelfth century? Hello?
No, it's the 21st, where we take a deep interest in the freedom of people who live in deserts that coincidentally happen to sit atop oil fields, and don't give a flying fuck about the freedom of people who live everywhere else that coincidentally don't happen to sit atop oil fields.

In quoting your own words back at you, you appear to be saying that because your country does not give a flying fuck about the freedoms of other people, you should be allowed to "take some of the spoils of war."

Monster.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:52 AM on November 13, 2009


The fact it was a unprovoked war of aggression sort of steals your righteous thunder, I think.

No to derail or stir the pot, but I'm always interested when propositions that were opinions one day become "facts" the next, even though no new evidence has been introduced that would move said propositions toward factiness.
posted by MarshallPoe at 9:15 AM on November 13, 2009


" I'm always interested when propositions that were opinions one day become "facts" the next,"

The additional factiness largely stems from how the loudest and most vigorous deniers of the factual statement fell out of power. When the propagandizing eased up, the factiness of the actual facts reasserted itself.
posted by majick at 9:28 AM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would have loved for that NPR interviewer to have questioned him after his ridiculous evasion:

"So, Peter, what are you going to do with 100 million dollars?"
posted by odinsdream at 9:28 AM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Meet the new boss getting like the old boss; An update on Iraqi freedom; The Guardian fined by Iraqi court in ruling seen as attack on press freedom.
posted by adamvasco at 10:06 AM on November 13, 2009


Did anyone else here read Samantha Power's "A Problem From Hell"? In it, Power portrays Galbraith as the lonely man of principle, the guy who cared enough about human rights to put his career at risk and stand up against the Washington establishment on both Kurdistan and the former Yugoslavia. I feel betrayed. I don't know how Samantha Power feels.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 10:13 AM on November 13, 2009


No to derail or stir the pot, but I'm always interested when propositions that were opinions one day become "facts" the next, even though no new evidence has been introduced that would move said propositions toward factiness.

No no evidence. Huh. I could have sworn we found no weapons of mass destruction. I could have sworn that no link between Sadam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Weren't those the two big ones. Why in the hell in the burden on me to show those alleged "necessities" weren't there when the idiots whose idea this was had over half a decade to prove to me that they were. How about you come up with some new evidence for a change?
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 10:17 AM on November 13, 2009


“Another piece of shit war profiteer building his fortune on the broken backs of US soldiers, out of the bones of Iraqi children. But Peter Galbraith has money and connections, so no one will ever say even an impolite word to him as he works the cocktail party circuit. Because in America, money washes away all sin. “
Truth.

“We have, however, made an enormous unaffordable financial investment (besides the loss of American life) in that oil-rich country without seeing anything back or any benefit, because we have not pillaged.”

There is no possible justification for the war in Iraq on any basis short of dire strategic interest. That is, they had nasty bad WMDs and may have used them or, possibly, they had control over a critical world resource (oil) and were planning to crash/cripple/control the U.S./world economy.
Domination of a country’s resources by another country, no, that’s ‘might makes right.’
Sure, it happens all the time. Happened here too. And, as is typical, it was a big rip off for everyone involved apart from the money guys.
If it truly were a war for oil, as you assert, there may have been the barest thread of legitimacy. I disagree, but I can see at least the argument of “hey, our people first even if we have to kill all of you” sort of thing like the Mongols’ wars of conquest. Life got a bit better for Joe Mongol at home even though millions died. As it is, it’s a moot point since there isn’t even that, we’re worse off.
It was just a heist and the U.S. population were conned into sitting still for it while the businessmen like Galbraith cleaned out Iraq and the U.S. taxpayer. And its ongoing.

The hell of it is, that the old line about no one dare call it treason is true. Some guy makes off with $1,000, $10,000, $100,000 you can run him down, throw him in jail, all that. Some guy makes off with $100 million? Guy can hire a private army on top of his lawyers, you think some cop is going to bother him?
posted by Smedleyman at 11:15 AM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


magick, such faith in trickle-down economics...

It is true that some part of the taxpayer's outlay went back into the U.S. economy through payments for goods and services, but the official cost to taxpayers is pushing a trillion (and passed that of Vietnam several months ago, adjusted for inflation.) This vast expenditure has not been repaid through appropriation of Iraqi oil wealth, presumably out of the desire to maintain a pretense of altruism or whatever, despite it being much too late for that in so many minds.

Pastabagel, Iraq's oil wealth does not explain America's interest in the freedom of Iraqis when one considers all of the oil-rich dictatorships that have received our friendship or tolerance, and all of the economically insignificant countries that we've stuck our heads into at various times.

saulgoodman, there was obviously corruption and profiteering but as I said, that is dwarfed by our country's great expense and inconvenience (including for "evil" corporations that have lost ground to foreign competitors for reasons directly or indirectly attributable to the war). Most of the billions in missing cash seems to have gone to Iraqis (who were probably insurgents) in pointless bribes. Notably, the American energy industry has enjoyed very little access to the treasure under Iraq's sands.

foxy hedgehog, Galbraith's Kurdish oil fortune does not change the fact that he stood up to the Washington establishment. I doubt the Kurds will think less of him for it.

Smedleyman, I have been arguing all along that it's not a war for oil. I think that that explanations like "it was just a heist" are facile. Galbraith can hardly be said to have "cleaned out Iraq and the U.S. taxpayer" just because he invested in an oilfield.
posted by knoyers at 12:11 PM on November 13, 2009


"such faith in trickle-down economics..."

Hah! Good one! I don't think anyone seriously thinks war profiteering -- on the front side or on the pillaging side -- is going to result in very much "trickle," though. Most corporate profits fail to trickle down, don't they?

The point still stands: Profit-taking from the war? It already happened when the business of the war was created. The subsequent looting, while not insignificant, is still secondary. I don't think there's a case for wanting to turn the war profitable. It already is, as long as you can ignore or externalize the cost of military and civilian lives.
posted by majick at 12:53 PM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Most of the billions in missing cash seems to have gone to Iraqis (who were probably insurgents) in pointless bribes. Notably, the American energy industry has enjoyed very little access to the treasure under Iraq's sands.

Fine. We blew up their country for no good reason. We are the ones who deserve to lose and have our economy collapse. The treasure under Iraq's sands belongs to the people who fucking live above it.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 1:33 PM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


“Some companies obviously benefited from the war, some were treated preferentially, but the damage to American corporate, economic and strategic interests dwarfs this.”

First – they’re American, British, Chinese – whatever, interests in name alone. Their interests aren’t at national. Sometimes they’re aligned, but typically contrary to genuine interests.
Secondly – BP just closed a deal(with CNPC) for the Rumaila field in Iraq which is the third largest proven oil reserves. I’m no businessman, but 17.8 billion barrels is no drop in the bucket.
Halliburton was awarded the contract to repair those oilfields infrastructure.
$7 billion, not exactly a drop in the bucket either.

The Bush Administration paid Blackwater $320 million for "diplomatic security" services alone.
To the extent that the war in Iraq inflated oil prices – far from damage - some companies have made massive killings in profit.. Iraq-related contracts amounted to $13.6 billion in revenue for the company in just two years (2003 to 2005). Halliburton's stock price tripled since the Iraq invasion from $20 to $63 in 2005 alone.
The increase in stock rests on market expectation that the company will, at some point, benefit from Iraq’s oil reserves.
Haliburton’s subsidiary KBR got $12 billion worth of exclusive contracts for work in Iraq. Bunny Greenhouse blew the whistle on all that. The whistle just sorta went away
Bechtel too. Kroll Inc., a year after the Iraq invasion boosted his security firm’s profits 231 percent. Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics (stock has tripled), Lockheed Martin all show strong profits because of Iraq. Even Boeing got a 17 percent boost - this year alone - from defense industry sales.

The rise in the price of oil (while shutting down a number of other industries and losing millions of American jobs) goosed the value of oil firms reserves (their value is tied to OPEC’s price targets) the increase in the value of ExxonMobil’s reserves were over $660 billion.
Chevron (where Condi Rice served as a director) got a quarter trillion.
In the aggregate the top five oil companies had a $2.3 trillion rise in their reserves.
Not, uh, small potatoes there.

“America's material gain from Iraqi resources is negligible compared to the vast sums (not to mention American blood) squandered there.”

If by “America” you mean sectors other than petrochemical and defense and politically connected outfits, then – yeah.
Commercial aerospace and manufacturing are down as is private investment and government spending in infrastructure, research, education, etc

“Smedleyman, I have been arguing all along that it's not a war for oil. “

Yes. And you’re wrong. Not completely wrong. It’s mostly about money. And fleecing the American taxpayer through the defense industry. Oil just happens to be the main currency.

“I think that that explanations like "it was just a heist" are facile.”
As opposed to believing that one shitkicking hick’s whim can send the country to war? Even if he's the president there's a whole big power bloc that has to be moved that direction. Someone has to feed the bulldogs.

"Most of the billions in missing cash seems to have gone to Iraqis (who were probably insurgents) in pointless bribes."
War being a racket is facile, but having brainless morans handing out money for no reason - that makes complete sense?
I've seen stupid. No one's that stupid. At least without someone noticing.

“Galbraith can hardly be said to have "cleaned out Iraq and the U.S. taxpayer" just because he invested in an oilfield.”
Of course not. He’s just one guy. But they’re legion. And organized. And without conscience.

“Notably, the American energy industry has enjoyed very little access to the treasure under Iraq's sands.”

You’re under the mistaken conception that the energy industry multinationals based in the U.S. have any allegiance to the U.S. at all. Five of the twelve largest corporations in the United States are oil monopolies. This does not mean we have them. It means they have us. Unless we change the laws that allow people to get filthy rich from sending troops off to war.

Take the profit out of war and I think 'magically' we will have less of them. And probably only for dire and explicit national interest.
Unless people in the pentagon are as stupid as you seem to be asserting. Far as I've seen some of them are pretty myopic in some cases, if not outright bastards in others, but stupid, no. Not stupid in that way.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:00 PM on November 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


That some individuals or groups managed to enrich themselves, as in any war, does not suggest that Americans or the U.S. got an advantageous or profitable deal in the war (excluding the fact of our dead soldiers obviously). The transfer of wealth was overwhelmingly out of the U.S.

Doublewhisky, that we were stupid and wrong in the first place does not mean that we cannot or should not attempt to regain part of our loss -- we are responsible as a country for our own welfare first, which we seem to forget. In case you have forgotten, the Iraqis came up with certain diversions that prolonged our involvement in their politics. Nothing is black and white. Obviously, the ones who live above something may not own it in perpetuity, and rightly so.
posted by knoyers at 3:12 PM on November 13, 2009


Bush's whim did suffice to start a war. Recall what 2002 and 2003 were like?

Halliburton contracts are a drop in the bucket, if the buckets are Iraq's oil and the global oilfield service industry.

If Bush could have given away Iraqi oil to his buddies, that wouldn't be a Chinese company or BP.

Obviously some sectors profit from higher oil prices and defense contractors inherently profit from war, but our country as a whole suffered badly economically (America's economy has to pay for that oil after all) and in terms of political capital, prestige and security. The GOP also suffered significantly, if you recall. Why wouldn't defense contractors be allowed to make a profit like other companies and how is that supposed to work?

Oil companies may not be loyal, but their foreign state oil company rivals are.

Regarding the bribes to Iraqis, yes we were that stupid. Tons of extreme idiocy went down.

The idea that this war was an organized conspiracy for profit gives undue credit.
posted by knoyers at 3:29 PM on November 13, 2009


that we were stupid and wrong in the first place does not mean that we cannot or should not attempt to regain part of our loss -- we are responsible as a country for our own welfare first, which we seem to forget. In case you have forgotten, the Iraqis came up with certain diversions that prolonged our involvement in their politics. Nothing is black and white. Obviously, the ones who live above something may not own it in perpetuity, and rightly so.

I...I don't even know what to say. Your argument seems to be that even though we behaved like thugs, it's still important that we recoup the losses of our thugish behavior. That somehow our disgusting invasion of Iraq gives us some sort of claim to their natural resources. And you're invoking the rule against perpetuities for a reason I can't even begin to fathom.

If I punch you in a bar, and then you kick my ass and I have medical bills, you don't owe me those costs.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 3:50 PM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


The idea that this war was an organized conspiracy for profit gives undue credit.

Noone's saying it was a well-organized conspiracy. One of the boggling things about this whole mess is how little regard any of the players have given to covering anything up. And why not? No one has been charged, and no one will be.

This Galbraith thing is the perfect example. His response to the question 'Can you see how this might create the appearance of a conflict of interest' was basically 'Yeah, but I didn't'. It's on part with the Reagan/Bush era's 'I don't remember' as an example of total bullshit.

that we were stupid and wrong in the first place does not mean that we cannot or should not attempt to regain part of our loss

This ranks as one of the most horrifying things I've ever seen on Metafilter. Hey knoyers, how about the Iraqi people regain part of their loss in civilian casualties? Starting with you? You volunteering?
posted by lumpenprole at 3:56 PM on November 13, 2009


Pastabagel: Look harder. We were running a deficit before we invaded Iraq. The cost of that war is around $1.4 trillion. Then we had bailouts, a stimulus plan, a recession, etc. It all comes from the same pot of money.

Meh. In the grand scheme of Things that Are Wrong, with ten-trillion-dollar bailout packages, the government nationalizing both the biggest insurer of mortgages and the two biggest issuers, and banks continuing business as usual with their hundreds of trillions of dollars in derivative contracts, the $1.4 trillion in Iraq expenditures aren't terribly significant.

It's not NOTHING, but we'd be having a dollar problem anyway.
posted by Malor at 4:27 PM on November 13, 2009


“That some individuals or groups managed to enrich themselves, as in any war, does not suggest that Americans or the U.S. got an advantageous or profitable deal in the war (excluding the fact of our dead soldiers obviously). The transfer of wealth was overwhelmingly out of the U.S.”

Not exactly a refutation of my point. In fact it bolsters it. Yes, wealth was transferred. This was the point. No, it was never going to be to the advantage of the American people. *tap tap * is this thing on?

Nationalism is not the ground for war, it is the magicians other hand. Why would anyone go to war to make someone else money? They have to be lied to. And we (in the U.S. and elsewhere) were lied to. So some people, not the U.S., could get a hellacious amount of money.
The other goals (freedom, stability, etc) may well be achievable concurrent to this, but they’re pretty much just window dressing. I would argue that it is a testament to the ability and dedication of our military that they’re making any progress at all in that direction – in spite of the goal of siphoning off that wealth (and turning it into political power at home thru campaign contributions, etc.).

“Bush's whim did suffice to start a war. Recall what 2002 and 2003 were like?”

Uh, yeah. Matter of fact I was very well connected at the time. And It required an act of congress. They wouldn’t have authorized that if he were doing it on a whim. So a large group of key people and businesses in defense and oil couldn’t pull this off, but one guy can mastermind this entire grand conspiracy to get the country to invade Iraq - just because? Do you remember Jalal Tallabani? Yellowcake? Charlotte Beers? The Rendon Group? Remember Robert Mueller saying Mohamed Atta was actually in Virginia Beach when the administration said Atta was in Prague meeting with an Iraqi agent? Remember Lt. Col. Kwiatkowski in 2002-03? Remember most people thinking then that Hussein was behind 9/11?
Bush did all that (and tons more) himself on a whim, eh?

“Halliburton contracts are a drop in the bucket, if the buckets are Iraq's oil and the global oilfield service industry. If Bush could have given away Iraqi oil to his buddies, that wouldn't be a Chinese company or BP.”

Which wouldn’t have been privatized without the invasion. Which … you do know we owe the Chinese a LOT of money, yeah?

“Why wouldn't defense contractors be allowed to make a profit like other companies and how is that supposed to work?”

Uh, it could work like the military? Which is, y’know, a government run operation.

“Regarding the bribes to Iraqis, yes we were that stupid. Tons of extreme idiocy went down.”

Yeah uh, I’ve been to Iraq. I’ve fought in Iraq. I’ve never seen anything that stupid occur there or anywhere that didn’t have a very good explanation behind it. People don’t just hand money out on the streets. Seen that yourself?

“The idea that this war was an organized conspiracy for profit gives undue credit.”

As opposed to asserting Bush set the whole thing up himself in spite of the entire system of checks and balances. How did he convince them? How did he convince Powell? Or put pressure on him? How did he manufacture/spin intelligence from the CIA?
It’s not an organized conspiracy. In war in the United States this is standard operating procedure. Hell, I had a time of it keeping money influence goons off my own neck when I was in and I got away with it only because I was catastrophically dangerous and had men who would cut their mothers throats if I told them to.

This is no more an organized conspiracy than the Jugurthine War was. The simple fact then, in Rome, as now, in the U.S. is that many leaders (because of their connections to private industry – specifically oil and defense in the case of pretty much everyone in the upper echelons of the Bush administration) advance their own and/or their companies interests and power at the expense of the state.

The Jugurthine War revealed the extent of the corruption in Roman politics much as Jugurtha’s rise illustrated the decadence and corruption in Roman society.
(If Bush is Jugurtha …I suppose that makes Obama Gaius Marius, quite a switch there)
But perhaps I give the tribunes, the counsuls, and bribery going on there and in the trial assembly too much credit.

Remember the Maine! And the Maddox!

(know what the maddox is - without looking it up?)
posted by Smedleyman at 4:39 PM on November 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


Meh. In the grand scheme of Things that Are Wrong, with ten-trillion-dollar bailout packages, the government nationalizing both the biggest insurer of mortgages and the two biggest issuers, and banks continuing business as usual with their hundreds of trillions of dollars in derivative contracts, the $1.4 trillion in Iraq expenditures aren't terribly significant.

Yeah, but that's $1.4 trillion spent to commit mass murder. Seems pretty wrong to me.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:40 PM on November 13, 2009


I think I'm developing a crush for Smedley. He is so damn right.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:57 PM on November 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Uh, it could work like the military? Which is, y’know, a government run operation."

And government employees seek personal profit too, like business people. When you take a massive industry and transform it into a government enterprise, the methods of seeking personal profit and advancement change, but people still seek personal profit and advantage.
posted by Jahaza at 7:33 PM on November 13, 2009


Yeah, but that's $1.4 trillion spent to commit mass murder. Seems pretty wrong to me

I agree with you completely. All I'm saying is that I don't think that's a major causative force in the dollar's decline. It contributes, but it's a small player compared to the huge array of other forces involved.
posted by Malor at 8:20 PM on November 13, 2009


Knoyers: we are responsible as a country for our own welfare first, which we seem to forget.

You can use this logic to justify any action, no matter how depraved. The evidence of this fact is that you are using it to justify the forcible removal of natural resources from a country that we invaded without cause, in order to recoup the costs of that invasion. You have no moral sense.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 4:02 PM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I certainly don't think it would be particularly moral to explicitly use Iraqi oil for American benefit, but the enterprise was immoral to begin with -- though based on an incoherent altruistic argument.

It is neither right nor wrong that a state only exists to benefit and protect its own -- it is a fact. That does not justify any action, but it does not mean that "fairness" cannot be reasonably expected in a state's dealings.
posted by knoyers at 7:43 PM on November 15, 2009


Should have said "...but it does mean that..."

Our politicians will ideally finish this tragedy with American economic and strategic interests in mind. The Iraqis' grievances and interests should not be as important to the U.S. (except insofar as they affect us).
posted by knoyers at 7:48 PM on November 15, 2009


All a civilized person can say, knoyers, is that that is some fucked-up. The road to lasting global peace does not proceed along the path you describe.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:35 PM on November 15, 2009


The basic function of and reason for a state is to protect its citizens and its land from the vagaries of a non-peaceful world. The state is not an impartial actor. When a state's behavior is ostensibly altruistic, there is invariably some self-serving agenda.

There will never be "lasting global peace".
posted by knoyers at 10:21 AM on November 16, 2009


There might never be a lasting global peace, but we sure as hell don't need to go barrelling down the path to destruction you seem to be advocating.

We need fewer people with your view of the world. People with your kind of view are how we got into this mess to begin with.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:23 AM on November 16, 2009


So knoyers, you're a big Rome fan, right?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:50 AM on November 16, 2009


“That does not justify any action, but it does not mean that "fairness" cannot be reasonably expected in a state's dealings.”

So I was waaaay out of line for not only not deliberately targeting civilians but going out of my way to prevent mass killing, rape, and evac them to a safe location because that’s fair consideration?
The oath I swore was to support and defend * the Constitution * against all enemies foreign and domestic and bear true faith and allegiance to it. Not to the state.
Indeed, we’re bound by that oath to disobey any order that violates the Constitution of the United States.
It’s a critical difference between American troops and nearly every other armed force in history.
That aside – I get the point you seem to be trying to make. The difference is not only does it not – at least ideally – apply to U.S. troops, it is, in the consideration of history and realpolitick, not a valid strategy for foreign policy.
I’ll grant a given government should, and generally does, favor its own people in any foreign policy endeavor. U.S. exceptionalism aside (heh – funny ‘cos we’re excepting the exceptionalism heh heh… I’ll stop now) – generally speaking foreign affairs are so intertwined with economic and a whole host of other interests including domestic interests, that advantage seeking is a dicey business.

Which gives rise to this whole shadow government schtick.
The company used to do loads of this way back when. Use contractors as a front for guys using NOCs and farming out a load of plausibly deniable operations.
Lots to be said there – suffice it to say that sort of thing has the tendency to run away with itself. As I mentioned – the praetorians, corruption, etc. countless examples.
So what you get, ultimately, is competing interests domestically working for what THEY think (perhaps honestly, perhaps self-servingly) is the best interests of the state.
And y’know, they aren’t always right.

Mostly because principles rather than more rigid boundaries tend to favor more equitable dealings (both within and outside borders) which tends to add to stability as well as have a host of other benefits I’ve got no time to go into.

Suffice it to say, if one acts for the best interests of one’s own people rather than on principles one believes should be universally applied, then it’s easy to justify things such as torture, as long as one is torturing someone that is “outside” the state. Or whatever one thinks of as “outside” the state. This can include domestic dissidents, etc.

Which is a big reason I oppose torture. Which weirds many people out, because I’m not exactly a blushing virgin and would happily eviscerate someone taking hostages or some such and go for a big breakfast afterwards. Tough for some folks to reconcile still having brain particulate on one’s fatigues and ordering up the ham and eggs and being squeamish about sticking someone’s head in a bucket of water.

But the objection is precisely that – it is harmful to my country to discount universal human rights. One cannot fight for the United States while undermining the principles that support it.
Now does that argument – my state/people before all others – apply in other places? Sure. And has thoughout history. Which is why I used the example of Rome.
And where are they now?

All long lived, stable governments have depended either on military or economic conquest – which eventually will end and so they will fall, since the Earth is only so f’ing big – or on dynamic change and adaptation in execution of a universally acceptable set of principles.

The U.S. is one of the longest lived contiguous governments in history. There are others, and for the most part they too rest on guiding documents that contain certain values that are universal and for the most part have made more and more progress in the interpretation and refinement of those principles and the populations participation in them.

Any government that does this will tend to have more support and have to spend less effort (economically, militarily, etc.) in maintaining stability because more people will be working to support it than to oppose it. A broad base is more stable than a narrow one. Simple.
And just because this is an altruistic outlook, does not mean it’s not self-serving, but there’s nothing wrong with win-win solutions. It’s been my experience they tend to lead towards more ideal outcomes anyway.

“There will never be "lasting global peace".”

If I thought that I never would have put my weapon down. I’m not a berkenstock wearing, seed eating hippie saying we should all live together in peace and not taking showers. I excel in the execution of violence. I had a very promising career ahead of me and there were plenty of private sector (and criminal) jobs I could (probably still can) have my pick of. And I refused. Because you’re either working towards lasting peace or you’re working towards perpetuating violence. The latter is a non-viable strategy because at some point you’re going to lose. And what then can be the objection when the Huns come over the hill and start stomping your stuff, raping your women and killing your people?

They are, after all, only doing what they feel is best for their own.

So no, as brilliant as I am when it comes to might (and, while I’m no Smedley Butler with the multiple CMHs, but I’ll be able to look him in the eye when I see him in whatever afterlife is reserved for men like us), it doesn’t make right. Even as an executioner myself, I am not on the side of the executioners, or rather, the loudest patriots, who tend to be the greatest profiteers.

In the past, perhaps there could not be an end to war. Aristotle said that we make war in order to live in peace. And this was true to some degree although we always fell back into war.
Nuclear weapons changed all that. Direct force has always been a poor solution to problems (for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being the potential for exploitation in even a justifiable war for the profiteers). In the nuclear age it’s downright suicidal. We either stop warmaking in its current form or we perish as a race.

So there are states that did, and do, favor their own people (typically an elite minority) to the exclusion of all others. But the expansion of liberty and the care of human life, not its destruction, is the only object of a decent government (to paraphrase Jefferson). And that is the only one I will willingly serve. And I'm not alone - most of the better military men have had much the same sentiments. It happens when one studies the topic and learns from experience.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:37 PM on November 16, 2009


The individuals who got the U.S. into the mess of Iraq never properly articulated how invading Iraq was better for America than not invading it, since the WMD story was weak BS. Maybe that should stand for Bushshit, because the case for war probably originated in Bush's gut. Such thinking was not at all like mine.

The narrative about democracy and freeing the Iraqi people from their wicked dictator was stupid because the U.S. hardly deposes every cruel dictator and because having Saddam there was certainly better for American interests than the morass that ensued.

If the Chinese or the Russians (or perhaps the U.S. 20 or 30 years ago) had conquered Iraq they would not be the least bit afraid or ashamed to make advantageous arrangements regarding the oil. The U.S. left that beneficial outcome on the table, probably fearing criticism. And yet the real crime is a fait accompli and its consequences for America's reputation cannot be undone through any subsequent Iraq policy; meanwhile, many people still assume that America was motivated by the oil which we are not, in fact, benefiting from.
posted by knoyers at 3:05 PM on November 16, 2009


Smedleyman, the U.S. has certainly helped oppressed foreign populations through military intervention, but never entirely for their sakes. No country wants to sacrifice its own for foreign interests. There is always another political or strategic purpose besides the happiness and safety of our brothers and sisters in _____. The U.S. is not an exception to this, nor should it be.

While helping others and self-interest are not mutually exclusive, ultimately, the state's actions are for itself; it is accountable for the welfare of its own people first and last.


American soldiers may swear to uphold the Constitution, but the President ultimately commands them, and I am not sure that this difference is critical.

Any state, regardless of ideology, operates for its own over the other. The exception that proves the rule is self destruction, not charity. This does not mean that immoral acts committed by states are moral.

No government exists on behalf of universal humanity and liberty. The most admirable ones are willing to serve humanity whenever serving humanity seems expedient.

Nuclear deterrence does serve to limit warfare between nuclear powers, but that is no reason to dream of lasting world peace.
posted by knoyers at 3:43 PM on November 16, 2009


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