In case the Iraq war was not catastrophe enough, we now know what the trillion dollars and thousands of US casualties and injuries and tens of thousands of sectarian deaths were for. One dumb superpower went to war for one rising superpower smart enough never to get engaged at all:
“The Chinese are the biggest beneficiary of this post-Saddam oil boom in Iraq,” said Denise Natali, a Middle East expert at the National Defense University in Washington. “They need energy, and they want to get into the market.”
Before the invasion, Iraq’s oil industry was sputtering, largely walled off from world markets by international sanctions against the government of Saddam Hussein, so his overthrow always carried the promise of renewed access to the country’s immense reserves. Chinese state-owned companies seized the opportunity, pouring more than $2 billion a year and hundreds of workers into Iraq, and just as important, showing a willingness to play by the new Iraqi government’s rules and to accept lower profits to win contracts.
“We lost out,” said Michael Makovsky, a former Defense Department official in the Bush administration who worked on Iraq oil policy. “The Chinese had nothing to do with the war, but from an economic standpoint they are benefiting from it, and our Fifth Fleet and air forces are helping to assure their supply.”
Of course, this extra oil production may be a good thing. It could bribe Iraqis into not massacring each other, as they seem preternaturally eager to do (a thousand Iraqis were killed in sectarian attacks last month alone). It will almost certainly lower oil prices globally. But notice what this war for democracy and against sectarianism has achieved. We now have a Shiite authoritarian still engaged in sectarian warfare along the old Sunni-Shiite lines, and a Sunni insurgency with less and less stake in the government (sorry, general Petraeus, your surge was a brilliant Washington p.r. campaign but achieved none of its goals, except helping us get out of that hell-hole).
And now we have an authoritarian Shiite government doing huge deals with the authoritarian Chinese government, whose state-directed companies can offer terms no Western oil company, answerable to share-holders, can match. So, in the end, the war promoted the interests of authoritarianism, Iran and China.
How and when will George W Bush and Dick Cheney look the families and friends of dead service-members in the eye and tell them the truth about what their beloved sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers fought and died for?
(Photo: Headstones are reflected in a photograph that is leaning against the headstone for Iraq war casualty U.S. Army Master Sgt. Tulsa Tulaga Tuliau on the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq at Arlington National Cemetery March 19, 2013 in Arlington, Virginia. Tuliau was killed when an improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee during combat operations near Rustimayah, Iraq September 26, 2005. By Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.)