“Things I Think I Should Do But Don’t” (Creating Better Habits)
October 13, 2013
Monogamy As An Ideology Or: Why I’m One Of Those Insufferable Polyamorists Who Think Polyamory Is Better
October 17, 2013

The Real Reason For The US Wars In The Middle East

When George W. Bush started the recent Iraq war in 2003, I was lucky enough to be around people who were rather critical of it (though I think in the UK and Europe in general people were usually much more critical than in the USA itself). I heard the word “oil” a lot. And I could see for myself that the whole Weapons Of Mass Destruction thing was a blatant deception. I mean, the USA didn’t attack every other country which built powerful weapons. It was obvious there was an ulterior motive; but I never understood exactly what that was.

Nowadays we are seeing US wars against the Middle East in quick succession. Libya happened not so long ago; now we’re facing a familiar run-up to war with Iran and Syria.

When I started to hear about the USA getting aggressive towards Syria, ostensibly because of its use of chemical weapons, my reaction was nicely summed up in an Oatmeal comic I saw on Facebook shortly afterwards:


(Image used without permission, but then, isn’t that what everyone does on Facebook nowadays? With any luck my strong recommendation to check out The Oatmeal for yourself will be good enough).

So I was critical of the US wars in the Middle East for a long time, but like most people I was still in the dark about the actual reasons for them.

Cue me stumbling across a webpage which explained it rather well. I have since lost that link, but I can explain the theory briefly, and with some Googling I’ve been able to find you pages which should explain it better than me.

The theory is called “Petrodollar Warfare”. It explains that the USA’s economy depends on oil being bought and sold in dollars, rather than any other currency. 2/3 of the world’s reserve currency is in dollars; this is because any country that wants to buy oil needs a supply of dollars to buy it with.

This incredibly high demand for dollars allows the dollar’s value to remain high, and for the USA to buy products from other countries cheaply. I suspect it also allows the government and central bank of the USA to keep inventing money out of thin air for themselves. Too much of that would cause inflation to get out of hand, but with a continually rising global demand for oil, they can do much more of that than they could otherwise.

The majority of the world’s oil production is held in relatively few countries, which gives them a large potential power to disrupt the USA’s game. Well, this is interesting:

Six months before the USA invaded Iraq, Iraq began selling its oil in the Euro. After the invasion, and upon seizing control of Baghdad, the US forced Iraq to sell its oil in dollars again.

Libya did something similar, by trying to use a new currency of its own invention for selling oil. Shortly afterwards, the USA invaded. Now, it sells in dollars again.

Now, there are two countries which currently don’t sell their oil in dollars:

Iran, and Syria.

(If you’re not up to date on current events or are reading this 30 years after I wrote it, you may want to note that these two countries are those that the USA is currently apparently building up to war with).

I find this particularly striking because there is such a clear link between the refusal to sell oil in dollars and US military intervention. While I cannot call myself dead certain, and I invite you to do your own research, this is still the clearest explanation I’ve ever heard for the USA’s murky activities in the Middle East.

What about Afghanistan, by the way?

I am less sold on any explanation for Afghanistan as I am for the other countries I’ve mentioned. But this article makes a rather articulate and credible case for it being to do with an oil pipeline that the US was intent on having built in Afghan territory.

In particular, the conclusion makes the most striking point:

[The Taliban obstructed] Western oil companies from building a Trans-Afghanistan pipeline. Eleven years later, the U.S. military remains in Afghanistan while the Trans-Afghanistan pipeline is being constructed with completion plans set for 2017.

Critiquing The USA’s Excuses For War

I’d rather like to leave this article here. I think the explanations speak for themselves, and it would be giving rather too much credit to the USA’s paper-thin excuses for war to take them seriously enough to critique them. Yet, people do take them seriously, so I want to at least address them.

Firstly: the USA says that the Afghan war was about “fighting terrorism”. Well, the September 11 attacks destroyed a building that had cost 900 million dollars to build, and killed 3000 people. The combined Afghan and Iraq wars, both considered part of the “War on Terror”, cost 4-6 trillion dollars and killed nearly 7000 US and coalition soldiers (I mention only these deaths because the USA never seems to consider their enemy’s deaths to be any sort of tragedy).

These numbers are obviously disproportionate. They threw away twice again as many lives, and spent more than 5000 times the money they had lost in the terrorist attacks. No, they cannot seriously have been attempting to prevent future terrorist attacks.

Secondly: Iraq, Syria, and Libya all had horrible dictatorships, right? Except that things are hardly much better nowadays. Conflict continues in Iraq and Libya, seemingly without end. And the idea of democracy, I’m guessing, would probably seem to them (even more) like a hateful foreign imposition nowadays. Surely, I speculate, they wouldn’t take to it so willingly anymore.

And what about ALL the OTHER dictators? Jesus, dictators are everywhere. Have a look at this map to see just how many there are in the world.

North Korea

I believe North Korea may be the worst place on Earth to live. That fact that it is the only country in the world (as far as I know) which kills you if you try to escape rather says it all. It also tortures your family if you succeed. The leader of the country is considered basically a god and the country itself is treated like a cult. Check out these two sources for more: one, two

I would be kind of ambivalent about military intervention in North Korea. On the one hand, I’m generally against any sort of war and suspect it to have far-reaching negative consequences beyond just the life and capital lost. On the other, I’ve sometimes thought about life in North Korea and unequivocally decided that death would be better. Though perhaps it’s presumptuous to say such a thing without having lived there, I think I would welcome foreign troops into my country, even if it meant I had to die fighting them. (People such as the most popular answer-er here, a North Korean, seem to show a similar determination).

So if the USA really cared about ending inhuman regimes and spreading democracy and freedom, it would start with North Korea. I’m not sure if I would be behind it on such an attempt, but at the very least I’d have to spend some time thinking about it. In comparison, in any case, Iraq is nothing.



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  1. G.N.R. says:

    You know, I’m glad you wrote this. You connected the missing pieces in my mind for why this war was started – and subsequently spread to other countries. I had completely forgotten this – but I do remember an announcement on the news about Iraq selling its oil in Euros, literally right before war was declared. I just never connected it like that. I agree with the other things you said as well. What we did – and believe me I cringe when I say we, because I am really not at all proud of being an American right now (have not been for a while but still) – was no War on Terror. Negotiations could have been made, or at least attempted, if that were the case, and as far as I know they were not. And besides, how does it make any sense to spread terror to fight terror, or cause millions of deaths to avenge thousands? It simply doesn’t. But to help decrease inflation and the economy (if you can truly call it help)? Yeah, that sounds like the governments tactics as of late – since Bush was in office and onward, that is. Its horrifying but it happens and we don’t seem to have any power to stop it. I’m starting to realize that our whole system needs to be torn down and re-done because it seems to be our whole system is made to profit off these things. I just wish I knew how to do it.
    Anyway, apologies for rambling. Great post Sophie.

  2. Jeff Knight says:

    The age old train of thought “money lies at the base of most motives” “The love of money is the root of all evil” money and power go hand in hand. The world powers will do what is needed to remain in power. If there was not oil and a high demand for oil the US, Russia and other counties would not waste its time and military resources in the Middle East.

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