Here's the prewar zeitgeist in a nutshell: In a widely reported January 16 speech, Tony Blair proclaimed that the impending invasion of Iraq "has nothing to do with oil, or any of the other conspiracy theories put forward."
One week later, Sen. Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, quietly passed word to Russia and France that their countries will be frozen out of staggeringly lucrative postwar oil contracts unless they roll over and endorse the US attack.
Yes, Tony, there is a conspiracy, in the dictionary sense of the term: an agreement among people to perform a criminal or wrongful act. It consists, not of a tiny cabal, but of the whole of the American power elite, from politicians to business executives to journalists. It has everything to do with oil. But it is not secret.
The conspirators know they can count on the uncritical support of the mass media. Therefore knowledge of their cynical motives and thuggish tactics can be made available in journals and other specialized fora, all but invisible to most Americans but accessible to the few with sufficient time and inclination to dig beneath the headlines.
Building on that knowledge, a Mumbai-based independent think tank has now anatomized the conspiracy behind the coming war and issued a truly comprehensive explanation of the current global crisis.
Behind the Invasion of Iraq, the startling new book-length report authored by the Research Unit for Political Economy (RUPE), synthesizes the seemingly disparate threads of the US war drive in what amounts to a blistering indictment of American foreign policy. The report (available on the Web at www.rupe-india.org) is lavishly documented and jargon-free; the effect, especially for readers with limited understanding of global commerce and finance, is of puzzle pieces clicking decisively into place.
The RUPE report wholly confirms the widely-held view of the coming war as a massive oil grab, "on a scale not witnessed since the days of colonialism." Further, the current debate about arms inspections and alleged links to al-Qaeda is revealed as pure political theater, since the decision to invade Iraq was made months ago.
But seizure of Iraq's multi-trillion-dollar petroleum reserves is only the immediate goal, the report shows. RUPE's rigorous analysis of publicly available sources -- including official documents, think-tank papers, and press reports -- reveals that the US intends to use the invasion of Iraq as a launching pad for a drastic reshaping of the Middle East, to be followed by an unprecedented expansion of US power worldwide. The strategic trend of US foreign policy now points unmistakably towards global empire.
To be sure, an imperial project on so ambitious a scale entails big downside risks for the US, including staggering costs, military hazards, and the disruption of global "stability" (i.e., the dearly-bought loyalty of US allies and client states.) But the American Establishment seems prepared to go for broke, and its enthusiastic consensus behind a naked war of conquest cannot be explained solely by the "cowboy mentality" that some detect in the White House.
What's really at stake -- and this will come as no surprise to leftists -- is US control of global markets. The report reveals that the US economy is now facing a nightmare scenario: A crisis of overproduction has crippled US GDP, resulting in monstrous trade and budget deficits, even as a potentially disastrous deflationary spiral appears to be under way worldwide.
Meanwhile, superpower rivals Europe, Russia and China are mounting a vigorous challenge to US economic preeminence, which is further threatened by the euro's emergence as a credible alternative to the dollar as global reserve currency. (All this is exhaustively detailed in the RUPE report, which draws its most telling evidence from the mainstream financial press.)
In this context, the US sees confiscation of the world's richest oil-producing regions as a magic bullet. While securing its own access to petroleum supplies for the foreseeable future, it can simultaneously defend dollar hegemony and restructure Middle East markets for the exclusive benefit of US-based corporations.
Which brings us to the crux: Direct American control of oil would render any potential challengers for world or regional supremacy perpetually dependent on US forbearance. In RUPE's words, "once it has seized the oil wells of west Asia the US will determine not only which firms would bag the deals, not only the currency in which oil trade would be denominated, not only the price of oil on the international market, but even the destination of the oil."
RUPE's argument here is powerful but complex, and this summary is necessarily an extreme oversimplification. But the overall thrust is quite clear: The US invasion of Iraq needs to be understood not as an end in itself but as the means to an end -- the foundation of a New American Empire.
Needless to say, you won't catch Tony Blair owning up to the war's real
purpose as he flogs it to a skeptical public. But the truth, or
something pretty close to it, is now readily available to anyone who
cares to look.
Jacob Levich , a writer and editor based in Queens, N.Y., assisted RUPE in researching Behind The Invasion of Iraq -- which is a fancy way of saying he forwarded several hundred articles to an email address in Mumbai. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org