Greenspan: Oil Was an Important Factor in Iraq War


Of course it was! But it’s nice to hear an honest assessment from Greenspan.
Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks, syndicated on Air America Media and XM Radio, scored an interesting interview with former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, who had until this interview been back-pedaling a bit on his sensible comments that the Iraq War was mostly about oil.
While Cenk gets on to an interesting course pondering the moral equivalence of Saddam Hussein attacking Kuwait for resource control to America doing something similar with Iraq (though I personally believe that that neat and compelling comparison doesn’t fit reality — the reasons for attacking Iraq were more complex than that), the real value of the interview lies in Greenspan’s despair that Americans seemed so willing to sacrifice their own civil liberties in some bargain for greater security as well as his emphasis that Iraq matters more in the scope of American interests because oil lies beneath it.
From the exchange between Alan Greenspan and Cenk Uygur:

Cenk Uygur: That brings us to the moral question at hand. Because if we’re concerned about our standard of living, we’re concerned about our economy, we’re concerned about natural resources, and Saddam says, “Well, look, I went into Kuwait because I wanted to control the natural resources,” and we say, “Well, we went into Iraq because we want to control the natural resources,” does that raise issues of moral equivalence? And is it right that thousands of civilians, maybe hundreds of thousands of civilians, died in Iraq because we were concerned about natural resources that effected our economy?
Alan Greenspan: Well this is a very fundamental, moral question. I agree with that. Indeed, I’m one who’s a firm believer in civil liberties and believes in democracy and all of the institutions of the rule of law. And this is a problem that societies always have had over the years. I didn’t like the fact, for example, that right after 9/11, there was an extraordinary swing in this country willing to give up issues of civil liberties for national security.
And when you extend that beyond the immediate present, that’s where the motives of lots of people come to try to secure themselves. Now, I’m not saying that’s a reason that anyone has the right to go into other governments of other countries. You know, if someone wants to use the resources as they see fit, we have to deal with it as we do.
But I was merely raising the issue that why there’s such a fundamental issue around the Iraq war is that there is oil under the sands. And I’m just saying, without getting into the other issues you raised, which I frankly don’t exactly disagree with you on. If oil did not happen to exist in Iraq, the issues of Iraq and the Iraq war would have come about wholly differently. And I don’t think there would be a war, frankly. I think that Saddam would not be a crucial player in the world.

This is just a portion of the interview. Cenk Uygur reports that the rest will be up tomorrow.
— Steve Clemons


13 comments on “Greenspan: Oil Was an Important Factor in Iraq War

  1. Kathleen says:

    John H… I too would love to see Dopey grilled by some students at Columbia… he’d probably need a translator too, to complete his “sentences” and try to make sense out of the noises coming out of his pie hole.
    What is it with Repugnicans remaining silent when it would have helped to hear them, but saying things after it barely matters? Are they trying to salvage their rep? Thanks a whole lot Greenspin. Before long we’ll have very fancy dollars to use in the outhouse.


  2. pauline says:

    from JohnH’s wikipedia site —
    “Milton Friedman, leader of the Chicago School, argued that the Federal Reserve System did not cause the Great Depression, but made it worse by contracting the money supply at the very moment that markets needed liquidity. Since its entire existence was predicated on its mission to prevent events like the Great Depression, it had failed in what the 1913 bill tried to enact.[33] This is also the current conventional wisdom on the matter, as both Ben Bernanke and other economists such as the late John Kenneth Galbraith–the latter being an ardent Keynesian–have upheld this reasoning. Friedman also said that ideally he would “prefer to abolish the federal reserve system altogether” rather than try to reform it, because it was a flawed system in the first place.[34] He later said he would like to “abolish the Federal Reserve and replace it with a computer.”[35]
    “Ben Bernanke, the current Chairman of the Board of Governors, apparently agrees with Friedman’s assessment, saying in a 2002 speech: “I would like to say to Milton [Friedman] and Anna [J. Schwartz]: Regarding the Great Depression. You’re right, we did it. We’re very sorry. But thanks to you, we won’t do it again.”
    Sorry, JohnH, I don’t find in this wikipedia site where it says who paid Greenspan and/or Bernanke. I also don’t find where is explains how the fed reserve dollars can be printed and used — instead of using [one] of the constitutionally stated purposes of Congress and having them control of our currency.
    Greenspan, I’m told, was totally asleep-at-the-wheel (on purpose?) during the run-up to the market crash of January, 2000.
    Methinks the fed reserve fiat money is a giant scam to totally control our ecomony and more.


  3. Carroll says:

    Hwre is a report on that interview:
    Associated Press – September 17, 2007
    Former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan says it’s possible that the euro could replace the U.S. dollar as the reserve currency of choice.
    According to an advance copy of an interview to be published in Thursday’s edition of the German magazine Stern, Greenspan said the dollar is still slightly ahead in its use as a reserve currency, but added that “it doesn’t have all that much of an advantage” anymore.
    The euro has been soaring against the U.S. currency in recent weeks, hitting all-time high of $1.3927 last week as the dollar has fallen on turbulent market conditions stemming from the ongoing U.S. subprime crisis. The Fed meets this week and is expected to lower its benchmark interest rate from the current 5.25 per cent.
    Greenspan said that at the end of 2006, some 25 per cent of all currency reserves held by central banks were held in euros, compared to 66 per cent for the U.S. dollar.
    In terms of being used as a payment for cross-border transactions, the euro is trailing the dollar only slightly with 39 per cent to 43 per cent.
    Greenspan said the European Central Bank has become “a serious factor in the global economy.”
    He said the increased usage of the euro as a reserve currency has led to a lowering of interest rates in the euro zone, which has “without any doubt contributed to the current economic growth.”


  4. karenk says:

    Yeah, it’s all about the oil…greed…then again I do like my nice warm house in winter and to drive my car wherever…Why couldn’t we just pay them a fair price for it, like the Eurpoeans have been doing for years? For the cost of this Iraq war the govt could’ve given us a tax cut(and probably many other social services) then we could afford 4 bucks a gallon. Besides, the costlier oil gets, the more people will push for alternative energy sources.


  5. Carroll says:

    Cole is right..the opportunity cost of “securing” oil is more than what it would cost in money alone for us to buy it the old fashioned way. People forget that 50 years ago we had decent relations with the ME and to date no one has refused to sell us oil except during the embargo because of the Israeli war.
    I am not buying that “securing” oil was the sole reason…I might buy that “Controlling” the ME for it’s oil for the sake of the dollar and Israel was a reason.
    Greenspan is the last person I would listen to on Iraq. A minipulator par excellence…I came across a old Krugman paper done years ago about “fed managed inflation” to prevent deflation. Krugman claimed back in 2002 that the fed was micro managing inflation becuase the US was about to experience a deflation period and he was right. Greenspan tries to say he thought, “maybe”, “possibily”, “slightly” there was chance of creating a bubble that would bust? He knew exactly what he was doing and why he was doing it.
    However I was glad to see in an interview on his book in the German papers he admitted that the euro was close to overtaking the dollar. I got into a knock down drag out years ago with some EU basher who laughed at the euro. My contention was that the euro would spread in the ME because Europe was “doing business” with Arab countries instead of invading them.


  6. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Geez, whats a picture of a Basset Hound doing on this thread?


  7. DonS says:

    Alan has hit the media like the media manipulator he is. Terri Gross, Diane Rheem, Charlie Rose, etc. etc. Is there any media outlet not slobbering to catch his self-exculpating words? I thought even Paul Krugman could have gored him a little more fittingly.
    Can’t say I blame them I guess, since Greenspan has been the very model of a Sphinx for so long. Still, I wish some of the ostensibly “liberal” media types could get past their star struck awe at being so chosen to ask Alan a question or two about his complicity in some of the crassest political deals of the past decade, for which this country will pay for several decades to come. Loathsome hardly scratches the surface.
    But no, all is lost in the miasma. Who said our liberal media stars aren’t part of the problem.


  8. Bullhorn Repertoire says:

    Gosh, one could suppose that Greenspan speaks better late than never. Gosh Al baby, what the hell were you waiting for. I can clearly remember Al’s wife, old Andrea ‘boom-boom’ Mitchell, doing her best cheerleading bit for the pre-Iraq preemption. Silence is such a hideous treason. But with so much treason running America into a pernicious tyranny, one man’s silence can be misread for bravery long after the fact.


  9. JohnH says:

    Pauline, this Wikipedia entry explains the Fed, which is a quasi-governmental/quasi-private banking system:
    Greenspan was paid by the US Treasury, which printed the money to pay him.


  10. JohnH says:

    Great post, Steve.
    Juan Cole also has an interesting comment, as usual: “The argument about whether Cheney/Bush went into Iraq over petroleum is not interesting. Of course they did, one way or another. The question is what exactly they thought they were doing about Iraq’s petroleum. I would argue that they threw public resources (perhaps as much as two trillion dollars worth when all is said and done) to secure profits for private companies. Otherwise, the US public will never, ever realize the sort of savings from the development of Iraqi petroleum that would compensate them for the blood and treasure they have spent in Iraq. (Not to mention the opportunity costs of squandering so many resources on a quagmire, when the public investment could have been put to much better uses).”
    Now the question is not whether US intimidation of Iran is about oil or not. Instead the question should be: “What does the US hope to do with Iran’s oil and gas? And what will the costs be?” If only Bush could be put before Columbia students and grilled, we might start to get some answers.


  11. pauline says:

    I’m curious, is/was Greenspan an actual fed govt employee? As fed chairman, did his “payroll” checks come from the fed govt or elsewhere?


  12. pauline says:

    Giuliani’s proposal for endless Middle East wars on behalf of Israel
    In London this week, Rudy Giuliani proposed what is probably the single most extremist policy of any major presidential candidate, certainly this year and perhaps in many years:
    Rudy Giuliani talked tough on Iran yesterday, proposing to expand NATO to include Israel and warning that if Iran’s leaders go ahead with their goal to be a nuclear power “we will prevent it, or we will set them back five or 10 years.” . . . .
    While Giuliani did not explicitly address the implications for Iran of adding Israel to NATO in his speech, his aides later highlighted a 2006 Heritage Foundation paper by Nile Gardiner, a former Thatcher aide who was announced as a new Giuliani adviser yesterday.
    That step would “leave the mullahs with no illusions about the West’s determination to respond to Iran’s strategic threat to the region,” Gardiner wrote. “Any nuclear or conventional attack on Israel, be it direct or through proxies such as Hezbollah or other terrorist groups, would be met by a cataclysmic response from the West.”
    Adding Israel to NATO has been opposed by France and some other European nations in the past, largely because it would entangle the alliance in the Middle East.
    Like most countries, Israel deems all of its wars to be defensive wars in response to threats. So Rudy Giuliani, as President, would in essence deem any war in which Israel is involved to be, by definition, a war on the U.S., and would use American resources and lives to become involved in any such war and fight on behalf of Israel. Shouldn’t the fact that the leading GOP candidate for President believes such a thing be the source of a bit more discussion? Other than John Edwards’ views regarding haircuts, is there any major presidential candidate who has espoused a view anywhere near this radical or controversial?
    read more about super liar giuliani at —


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