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Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq Hardcover – July 3, 2012
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Naomi Kline calls this book the "secret history"of Iraq. In much the same way, this excellent history of the Iraq Occupation and the subsequent role of oil and politics in post-invasion Iraq is a secret history, disclosing facts not revealed by the news agencies (in the United States, at least) and not generally known by the public at large. Not that the public did not suspect that there were ulterior motives to the Iraq invasion. Oil, and the acquisition of oil, has long been suspected at the real reason Iraq was occupied. This book confirms this suspicion. But with a difference: the author provides the reader with facts little reported to American media thanks to military censorship.
The public at large is hardly at fault for not knowing the full story. Since the Invasion began it was covered by "embedded" journalists, giving sanitized, censored reports of the carnage as if it they were providing the narration to a video game. Any accurate reporting was stopped by the military; the journalists from CNN or Fox should have been receiving their paychecks from the US military. Any meaningful reporting, which was not a pretty sight, had to be obtained from Al-Jazeera or foreign newspapers or news magazines.
There were reports, of course, of high-level visits to Iraq from Presidents of Cabinet members and politicians. The news agencies would not give the reasons for these visits other than showing, for example, President Bush smiling, handing out turkey dinners to the troops for Thanksgiving. This book, thankfully, actually describes the reasons for these visits, who was visited, what was said.
The narrative is replete with facts supporting the entire, brutal, story of the Invasion. The author is meticulous about providing a complete, detached narrative of the scramble of the oil companies to acquire concessions and agreements for rights to Iraq's oil. Significantly, he is far more generous than one may suspect on the motivations for the invasion. Early on, he discounts that oil was the sole reason for invading the country. Since the oil nationalizations which Hussain introduced in 1975 were not in effect, and in light of the chaos which ensued after the invasion, the author quite reasonably notes that the oil cartels would have a naturally interest in allowing the oil to flow once again. The author also relates, again in meticulous detail, how the cartels attempted to create a veneer of legality in the negotiations for the oil rights.
The book provides a fascinating look into the world of international oil, both in its business and legal aspects. This book provides in painstaking detail to destroy a country and culture, install a puppet leadership, divide the population into factions, and attempt to institute the invading county's agenda. The US media covered many stories about bombing, carnage and destruction, but precious little about the actions to take over Iraq's oil industry. This book provides page-turning details about the behind the scenes actions. A part of that veneer of legitimacy was for the Occupation Forces to push the Oil Law through the Parliament they helped create. A particularly compelling portion of the book relates not only to the failures of the Occupation Forces in winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people (some of those failures are downright laughable if it weren't true), but relates how the proposed the Oil Law was never enacted and enforceable.
How ironic it is that after all those lives and monies lost and after all the suffering needlessly inflicted in the invasion of Iraq, the Western Powers still do not have to this day the thing they had most sought after and which constituted the driving motivation of all the invasion, solid oil legislation to the oil companies' satisfaction. As the author relates, the enforceability of the contacts made after the troops withdrew is doubtful. This book is most of all a testament to the indomitable will of the Iraqi people. It is highly recommended and fills a painful need for an unvarnished history of the Iraq invasion.
Greg Muttitt has done a stellar job of accumulating, organizing, and presenting and incredible amount of information. Aside from numerous instances of using various freedom of information laws, Muttitt has multiple personal interviews with the central figures Iraq oil politics, and writes firsthand accounts of several meetings about Iraq oil policy that he was invited to by virtue of his position as an international oil expert and activist.
In short, it is all the information you wished you had time to research for yourself, and a whole lot more, written in clear and engaging prose.
Author Greg Muttitt has obtained several internal British government documents discussing the British government interests in the Iraqi oil which, despite official claims to the contrary, were described as 'vital' in said documents. However, Muttitt goes on to show that the interest of Western governments was more complicated than merely obtaining the physical oil. The book details the struggles and political conflicts as Iraqi civil society tried to resist pressure from Western government, multinationals and sectarian politicians in their bid to control the Iraqi oil.
Another major force of the book is that it brings Iraqis to the fore and show Iraqi civil society to be far richer than it is usually portrayed in Western media. It shows how the US-led coalition were, to a high degree, the cause of sectarian conflict in Iraq, and how many Iraqis fought to resist the sectarianism that the coalition was imposing. Labour unions struggling for workers' rights, civil society groups fighting for civil liberties and government accountability and how Sunnis and Shias worked together in many respects which have gone mostly unacknowledged in the West.
The author has interviewed several Iraqis from many social backgrounds. He has spoken to oil analysts from both commercial and security backgrounds, as well as Western civil servants and politicians. There are countless fascinating quotes and perspectives. In fact, this is another excellent aspect of the book - it shows how diverse the tapestry of opinion is on all sides of the fence. The situation was far more complex than Sunni vs. Shia. Politicians and militia leaders changed sides as the situation shifted - sometimes a particular militia could be Iraqi nationalist, but engaging in sectarian cleansing as the situation grew worse. Nor are Western decision-makers portrayed as uniformly anything, though a main point of the book is that they identified Iraqi interests with their own, helping to create a disaster with a combination of self-interest and prejudice.
If I am required to say anything negative at all, it would have to be that Kurdish voices are lacking, though certainly not entirely. It is a main point of the book that Iraqi nationalism and solidarity were far stronger than portrayed in the West, but even so, the Kurds had suffered terribly through Iraqi history, which could help explain some of the positions taken later. However, these are minor details in an excellent book.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the Iraq War, oil and international politics. It is one of the best books written about the war and no-one who is interested in the subject should miss it.