Why the war in Iraq was fought for Big Oil
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue March 19, 2013
U.S. Marines in northern Kuwait gear up after receiving orders to cross the Iraqi border on March 20, 2003. It has been 10 years since the American-led invasion of Iraq that toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein. Look back at moments from the war and the legacy it left behind. For more, view CNN's complete coverage of the Iraq War anniversary.
A pedestrian looks at front-page headlines on display outside the future site of the Newseum in Washington on March 20, 2003.
Smoke and flames rise from the riverside presidential palace compound in Baghdad after a massive airstrike on March 21, 2003.
President George W. Bush meets with his war council in the Situation Room of the White House on March 21, 2003. Clockwise from foreground: National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, CIA Director George Tenet, Chief of Staff Andy Card, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers were present.
A U.S. Marine from Task Force Tarawa engages Iraqi forces from an armored assault vehicle on March 23, 2003, in the southern city of Nasiriyah.
Marines walk single-file through the desolate landscape in Nasiriyah on March 26, 2003. As night falls on the city, the troops are on alert for a counterattack.
A night-vision image shows U.S. military personnel carrying Pfc. Jessica Lynch off a helicopter on April 1, 2003, at an undisclosed location in Iraq. She had been missing since March 23, when she and members of her unit were ambushed by Iraqi forces.
Members of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, storm Diyala Bridge in Baghdad on April 7, 2003.
Marines pull down a statue of Saddam Hussein, a symbolic finale to the fall of Baghdad, on April 9, 2003.
Iraqis flee Baghdad on April 11, 2003, as the capital city descended into chaos with widespread looting and lawlessness.
Marines hold a memorial service for friends killed in a battle weeks earlier on April 13, 2003, near Al-Kut, Iraq.
Iraqi National Museum Deputy Director Mushin Hasan sits among destroyed artifacts on April 13, 2003, in Bagdhad. The museum was severely looted.
Iraqi men push the head of a statue of Saddam Hussein after its destruction on April 18, 2003, in Baghdad.
Dressed in a flight suit, President Bush meets pilots and crew members of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln who were returning to the United States on May 1, 2003, after being deployed in the Gulf region.
Sailors applaud as President Bush addresses the nation aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003. Standing beneath a banner that read "Mission Accomplished," the president declared major fighting over in Iraq and called it a victory in the ongoing war on terrorism.
A U.S. Marine pulls down a picture of Saddam Hussein at a school in Al-Kut on April 16, 2003.
Iraqi men check a list near the remains of bodies excavated from a mass grave on the outskirts of Al Musayyib on May 31, 2003. Locals said they uncovered the remains of hundreds of Shiite Muslims allegedly executed by Saddam Hussein's regime after their uprising following the 1991 Gulf War.
U.S. Army 101st Airborne troops investigate a house where Saddam Hussein's sons Uday and Qusay were killed in Mosul, Iraq, on July 23, 2003. The house, in an affluent neighborhood, was the scene of a fierce gunbattle.
Members of the Iraqi Intervention Forces listen to last-minute instructions before heading out with U.S. troops to begin a major offensive on the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah on November 8, 2004. Marines search houses in Fallujah for insurgents on November 10, 2004. Marines rest and check a map in a house during an offensive in Fallujah on November 11, 2004. Iraqi men are arrested during a house raid in Fallujah on November 13, 2004. Marines take position on a roof in the restive city of Fallujah on November 13, 2004. U.S. Army medics treat a wounded Jordanian fighter in Fallujah on November 14, 2004. A U.S. Marine and a soldier from the New Iraqi Army process a detainee during operations in Fallujah on November 17, 2004. Marines use explosives to open rooftop doors while searching houses in Fallujah for insurgents on November 22, 2004. Marines clear a home in Fallujah after four insurgents staged a bloody counterattack, killing one American and wounding many others, on November 23, 2004. Spc. Franklin Smith pulls away as a mortar blast is fired from the edge of the U.S. airbase in Tal Afar on January 17, 2005. U.S. teams would frequently fire "harassment and interdiction" mortar fusillades toward suspected enemy positions. Iraqis look over their ballots on election day in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad on January 30, 2005. It was the country's first multiparty election in half a century. Election officials count ballot papers at night on January 30, 2005, in the Shiite holy city of Najaf. Despite threats, thousands of men and women cast their votes. Army Sgt. 1st Class Troy Hawkins is tended to after getting wounded during a firefight while on patrol with an Iraqi army unit in the Haifa Street neighborhood of Baghdad on February 16, 2005. Afterward, he continued to fight in the narrow streets. An Iraqi soldier stands watch at a teahouse while on patrol with U.S. soldiers in Baghdad on February 23, 2005. President Bush shakes hands with former Sen. Charles Robb, left, and Judge Laurence Silberman during a news conference in Washington on March 31, 2005. The co-chairmen of the Iraqi Intelligence Commission issued a report indicating that U.S. intelligence agencies were wrong in most pre-war assessments about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Iraqi Shiite demonstrators loyal to cleric Muqtada al-Sadr burn a U.S. flag during a protest in Baghdad on April 9, 2005. The rally was called on the second anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, with protesters demanding an end to the U.S. military presence in Iraq. People gather at the scene of a car bombing near a busy market in eastern Baghdad on May, 12, 2005. A resident makes a phone call in the aftermath of a double suicide car bombing that struck civilians living near the blast walls that protect the Hamra Hotel in Baghdad on November 18, 2005. Sgt. Thomas Gaines kisses his wife during a welcome-home ceremony in Fort Stewart, Georgia, on May 11, 2006. About 280 members of the Georgia National Guard 48th Brigade returned home from a year-long deployment to Iraq. A British Royal Air Force gunner waves to a goat herder during a patrol of northern Basra province on July 26, 2006. A British armored vehicle is illuminated by traffic during a patrol of Basra on July 27, 2006. Ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein addresses the court during his trial in the heavily fortified Green Zone of Baghdad on October 17, 2006. Hussein and six co-defendants were on trial for mass killings in the Anfal campaign against Kurdish rebels in the late 1980s. A Palestinian woman watches the news of Saddam Hussein's execution at her home in the West Bank town of Jenin on December 30, 2006. Hussein was hanged for his role in the 1982 Dujail massacre, in which 148 Iraqis were killed after a failed assassination attempt aga
U.S. Marines prepare for a military operation at Camp Ramadi in Anbar province on January 14, 2007.
American forces in Ramadi watch President Bush deliver the annual State of the Union address on January 24, 2007. The president announced plans to increase the size of the U.S. military by 92,000 troops.
An American Apache helicopter provides air support while a Marine takes aim after being fired upon by insurgents near the Euphrates River in Ramadi on February 2, 2007.
Iraqi children watch U.S. Army soldiers climb to the roof of their school to get a high vantage point in Baghdad on April 15, 2007.
U.S. Marines sleep at their patrol base in the area known as Zaidon in Al Anbar province on May 12, 2007.
Mary McHugh mourns her fiance, Sgt. James Regan, at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington on May 27, 2007. The American Special Forces soldier was killed by an IED in Iraq in February.
U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi contractor build a concrete wall between Sunni and Shiite areas of the south Dora neighborhood of Bagdhad in the early hours of July 4, 2007.
Iraqi army commandos teach junior soldiers during a combat training course in Baquba on July 18, 2007.
Medics treat Army Spc. Jose Callazo after his mine-detecting vehicle hit a buried IED in Hawr Rajab on August 4, 2007.
An American soldier prepares to search a home for illegal weapons in the Hurriyah neighborhood of Baghdad on September 9, 2007.
Relatives help an Iraqi man at a hospital in Baghdad on September 20, 2007. He was injured when Blackwater security contractors opened fire on civilians on September 16, killing 17. The company lost its contract to guard U.S. staff in Iraq after the country's government refused to renew its operating license.
Army Brig. Gen. Nolen V. Bivens presents an American flag to Maribel Ferrero during the funeral of her 23-year-old son, Army Pfc. Marius L. Ferrero, in Miami. He was killed by a roadside bomb while serving in Iraq.
A U.S. soldier blindfolds an Iraqi man during a raid in Mukhisa on December 3, 2007. Seven men were detained after multiple assault rifles were found in the house.
U.S. soldiers sit in a home damaged by fighting in Baghdad on March 11, 2008, near the five-year anniversary of the war.
Commanding Gen. David Petraeus, center, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington on April 8, 2008. In reporting on the success of the surge in Iraq, Petraeus said the number of U.S. troops in the country should not drop below 140,000.
A U.S. soldier with 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, stands on a kiln overlooking more than 150 brick factories in Narwan on July 1, 2008.
A boy looks out from his family shelter at a Narwan brick factory on July 1, 2008.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama flies over Baghdad with Gen. David Petraeus during a tour on July 21, 2008.
Maj. Gen. John Kelly, left, and Anbar province Gov. Maamoun Sami Rashid al-Alwani sign papers during a handover ceremony in Ramadi on September 1, 2008. The U.S. military turned over security control of Iraq's biggest province, once a stronghold of the Sunni insurgency.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki tries to block a shoe thrown at President Bush during a news conference in Baghdad on December 14, 2008. The Iraqi journalist who threw the shoes missed the president but could be heard yelling in Arabic, "This is a farewell ... you dog!"
Pfc. Jeremy Tomlinson, who was wounded a year before in Iraq, waits with fellow soldiers to greet returning comrades in Fort Carson, Colorado, on January 28, 2008. About 3,800 soldiers were coming home after a 15-month tour of duty.
A poll worker helps a member of the Iraqi National Police cast his ballot in Baghdad on January 28, 2009. Polls were opened early to members of the Iraqi security services, many of whom would be working during the provincial elections.
An Iraqi soldier searches a boy at a polling station in Baghdad on January 31, 2009. People across the country voted to fill 440 provincial council seats.
President Barack Obama delivers an address on February 27, 2009, at the largest Marine post on the East Coast, Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. In his speech, Obama outlined plans for the gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq.
Iraqi army special forces patrol Baghdad's al-Fadel district on March 30, 2009. U.S.-backed Iraqi forces clashed with anti-al-Qaeda militants known as the Awakening Council, or Sahwa, after fighting erupted following the arrest of Adel Mashhadani, a Sahwa leader.
A U.S. Air Force team carries a flag-draped transfer case containing the remains of Army Spc. Omar M. Albrak of Chicago at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on May 12, 2009, just over a month after the U.S. government lifted its ban on media coverage of the returning war dead. Albrak was killed while serving in Iraq.
Army Sgt. Donald Lewis from the 1st Cavalry Division is greeted by his wife, Nicole Lewis, after his brigade arrived home in Fort Hood, Texas, on November 10, 2009, after a year of deployment in Iraq.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates speaks with soldiers at a forward operating base in Kirkuk on December 11, 2009. An Iraqi woman votes in parliamentary elections in Kirkuk on March 7, 2010.
U.S. soldiers salute during a handover ceremony of the entry points of Baghdad's Green Zone, now referred to as the International Zone, to Iraqi control inside the heavily fortified compound in Baghdad on June 1, 2010.
A string of bullets lies across photographs of women adorning the armor of a Stryker vehicle north of Jalaulah on June 11, 2010.
An Iraqi explosives expert gets into a special suit for bomb disposal during a training session organized by his U.S. counterparts at the Warhorse military base near the restive city of Baquba on August 17, 2010.
Shiite worshipers pray during an Ashura commemoration ceremony at the Kadhimiya shrine in Baghdad on December 6, 2011. Ashura marks the death of Prophet Mohammed's grandson, the revered Imam Hussein.
A technician works on a prosthetic at a factory in Baghdad on December 13, 2011. Iraqis have faced a shortage of prosthetics due to a spike in war-related injuries over the years.
Iraqis gather at a women's art exhibition in a posh Baghdad neighborhood on December 14, 2011.
Gen. Lloyd Austin retires the United States Forces-Iraq flag during a casing ceremony at the former Sather Air Base in Baghdad on December 15, 2011.
Military personnel lower their heads during the flag casing ceremony in Baghdad on December 15, 2011. The ceremony officially marked the end of U.S. military operations in Iraq.
A U.S. soldier prepares to fly out of the Sather Air Base in Baghdad on December 15, 2011. The last U.S. forces left Iraq and entered Kuwait on December 18, nearly nine years after launching a divisive war to oust Sa
- Juhasz: Opening up Iraq to foreign oil companies was main goal of Iraq War
- Plans for Western oil exploration in Iraq were drawn up years before 2003 invasion
- Bush administration pressured Iraqi government to pass law allowing foreign firms in
- Chuck Hagel in 2007: "People say we're not fighting for oil. Of course we are."
Editor's note: Ten years ago the war in Iraq began. This week we focus on the people involved in the war, and the lives that changed forever. Antonia Juhasz, an oil industry analyst, is author of several books, including "The Bush Agenda" and "The Tyranny of Oil."(CNN) -- Yes, the Iraq War was a war for oil, and it was a war with winners: Big Oil.
It has been 10 years since Operation Iraqi Freedom's bombs first landed in Baghdad. And while most of the U.S.-led coalition forces have long since gone, Western oil companies are only getting started.
Before the 2003 invasion, Iraq's domestic oil industry was fully nationalized and closed to Western oil companies. A decade of war later, it is largely privatized and utterly dominated by foreign firms.
From ExxonMobil and Chevron to BP and Shell, the West's largest oil companies have set up shop in Iraq. So have a slew of American oil service companies, including Halliburton, the Texas-based firm Dick Cheney ran before becoming George W. Bush's running mate in 2000.
The war is the one and only reason for this long sought and newly acquired access.
Oil was not the only goal of the Iraq War, but it was certainly the central one, as top U.S. military and political figures have attested to in the years following the invasion.
"Of course it's about oil, we can't really deny that," said General John Abizaid in 2007, former head of U.S. Central Command and Military Operations in Iraq. Former Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan agreed, writing in his memoir: "I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil." Then-Senator and now Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the same in 2007: "People say we're not fighting for oil. Of course we are."
For the first time in about 30 years, Western oil companies are exploring for and producing oil in Iraq from some of the world's largest oil fields and reaping enormous profit. And while the U.S. has also maintained a fairly consistent level of Iraq oil imports since the invasion, the benefits are not finding their way through Iraq's economy or society.
These outcomes were by design, the result of a decade of U.S. government and oil company pressure. In 1998, Kenneth Derr, then CEO of Chevron, said, "Iraq possesses huge reserves of oil and gas-reserves I'd love Chevron to have access to." Today it does.
In 2000, Big Oil, including Exxon, Chevron, BP, and Shell, spent more money to get fellow oilmen George W. Bush and Dick Cheney into office than they had spent on any previous election. Just over a week into Bush's first term, their efforts paid off when the National Energy Policy Development Group, chaired by Dick Cheney, was formed, bringing the administration and the oil companies together to plot our collective energy future. In March, the task force reviewed lists and maps outlining Iraq's entire oil productive capacity.
Planning for a military invasion was soon underway. Bush's first Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill, said in 2004: "Already by February , the talk was mostly about logistics. Not the why [to invade Iraq], but the how and how quickly."
In its final report in May 2001, the task force argued that Middle Eastern countries should be urged "to open up areas of their energy sectors to foreign investment." This is precisely what has been achieved in Iraq.
Here's how they did it.
The State Department Future of Iraq Project's Oil and Energy Working Group met from February 2002 to April 2003 and agreed that Iraq "should be opened to international oil companies as quickly as possible after the war."
The list of the group's members was not made public, but Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum -- who was appointed Iraq's oil minister by the U.S. occupation government in September 2003 -- was part of the group, according to Greg Muttitt, the journalist and author of "Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq". Bahr al-Uloum promptly set about trying to implement the group's objectives.
At the same time, representatives from ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Halliburton, among others, met with Cheney's staff in January 2003, to discuss plans for Iraq's postwar industry. For the next decade, former and current executives of western oil companies acted first as administrators of Iraq's oil ministry, and then as "advisers" to the Iraqi government.
People say we're not fighting for oil. Of course we are.
Then-U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel in 2007
Then-U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel in 2007
Before the invasion, there were just two things standing in the way of western oil companies operating in Iraq: Saddam Hussein and the nation's legal system. The invasion dealt handily with Hussein. To address the latter problem, some both in and outside of the Bush administration argued that it should simply change Iraq's oil laws through the U.S.-led coalition government of Iraq which ran the country from April 2003 to June 2004. Instead the White House waited, choosing to pressure the newly-elected Iraqi government to pass new oil legislation itself.
This Iraq Hydrocarbons Law, partially drafted by the western oil industry, would lock the nation into private foreign investment under the most corporate-friendly terms. The Bush administration pushed the Iraqi government both publicly and privately to pass the law. And in January 2007, as the ''surge" of 20,000 additional American troops was being finalized, the president set specific benchmarks for the Iraqi government, including the passage of new oil legislation to "promote investment, national unity, and reconciliation."
But due to enormous public opposition and a recalcitrant parliament, the central Iraqi government has failed to pass the Hydrocarbons Law. Usama al-Nujeyfi, a member of the parliamentary energy committee, even quit in protest over the law, saying it would cede too much control to global companies and "ruin the country's future."
In 2008, with the likelihood of the law's passage and the prospect of continued foreign military occupation dimming as elections loomed in the U.S. and Iraq, the oil companies settled on a different track.
Bypassing parliament, the firms started signing contracts that provide all of the access and most of the favorable treatment the Hydrocarbons Law would provide - and the Bush administration helped draft the model contracts.
Upon leaving office, Bush and Obama administration officials have even worked for oil companies as advisers on their Iraq endeavors. For example, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad's company, CMX-Gryphon, "provides international oil companies and multinationals with unparalleled access, insight and knowledge on Iraq."
The new contracts lack the security a new legal structure would grant, and Iraqi lawmakers have argued that they run contrary to existing law, which requires government control, operation, and ownership of Iraq's oil sector.
But the contracts do achieve the key goal of the Cheney energy task force: all-but-privatizing the Iraqi oil sector and opening it to private foreign companies.
They also provide exceptionally long contract terms, high ownership stakes, and eliminate requirements that Iraq's oil stay in Iraq, that companies invest earnings in the local economy, or hire a majority of local workers.
Iraq's oil production has increased by more than 40% in the last five years to 3 million barrels of oil a day (still below the 1979 high of 3.5 million set by Iraq's state-owned companies), but a full 80% of this is being exported out of the country while Iraqis struggle to meet basic energy consumption needs. GDP per capita has increased significantly, yet remains among the lowest in the world and well below some of Iraq's other oil-rich neighbors. Basic services such as water and electricity remain luxuries, while 25% of the population lives in poverty.
The promise of new energy-related jobs across the country has yet to materialize. The oil and gas sectors today account directly for less than 2% of total employment as foreign companies rely instead on imported labor.
In just the last few weeks, more than 1,000 people have protested at ExxonMobil and Russia Lukoil's super-giant West Qurna oil field, demanding jobs and payment for private land that has been lost or damaged by oil operations. The Iraqi military was called in to respond.
Fed up with the firms, a leading coalition of Iraqi civil society groups and trade unions, including oil workers, declared on February 15 that international oil companies have "taken the place of foreign troops in compromising Iraqi sovereignty" and should "set a timetable for withdrawal."
Closer to home, at a protest at Chevron's Houston headquarters in 2010, former U.S. Army Military Intelligence officer Thomas Buonomo, member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, held up a sign which read, "Dear Chevron: Thank you for dishonoring our service."
Yes, the Iraq War was a war for oil, and it was a war with losers: the Iraqi people, and all those who spilled and lost blood so that Big Oil could come out ahead.