'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thurday, March 6, 2014
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THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
March 6, 2014
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. Thanks for being with us.
Let me say upfront this is not a story about North Korea and that`s
kind of the point.
But on October 9th, 2006, around 10:30 a.m. local time, the ground
started to shake beneath a small village in the northeast corner of North
Korea. Halfway around the world back here in the U.S., seismologists
recorded what looked to be a 4.3 magnitude earthquake.
But what happened in North Korea that morning was not an earthquake.
It was a nuclear explosion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Kim Jung-Il defies the U.S. and world and
claims to have set off an atomic weapon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That day in 2006, the secretive repressive North Korean
regime showed the world that they had built and tested a nuclear bomb. A
rogue country building nuclear weapons, threatening to proliferate that
technology, stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.
But when 9/11 happened and the U.S. announced those actions would
constitute a grave and unacceptable threat to the United States, there was
no radical change in our actions against North Korea. There is no move to
disarm that country after 9/11. Instead the U.S. went into Iraq.
If the threat of weapons of mass destructions was the driving force
for U.S. action after the 9/11, why Iraq rather than North Korea? At the
time North Korea really was building a nuclear bomb and threatening to
proliferate that technology. Iraq wasn`t.
The case for war in Iraq that was presented today to the American
people proved to be a smoke screen. There were no weapons of mass
destruction. There was no reconstituted Iraqi nuclear program.
The case that was made publicly for that war turned out to be false.
What was true? What was the reason for that war? We know that it
wasn`t the reasons they told us. So, why did we really do it?
Newly obtained documents from both here and abroad as well as
interviews with many of the key players in the war-planning process and in
the invasion now provide an answer to that question. The question of "Why
We Did It".
GEORGE W. BUSH, THEN-U.S. PRESIDENT: I will swear to not only uphold
the laws of this land.
MADDOW (voice-over): Summer of 2000 --
BUSH: Not only to lift the spirit of this country when I put my hand
on the Bible. I will also swear to uphold the honor and integrity of the
office to which I have been elected, so help me God.
CROWD: We love you, Bush!
MADDOW: As the presidential race heats up, the turbo-charged U.S.
economy of the roaring `90s is threatening to stall.
AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: Thanks very much.
MADDOW: The problem is energy costs, oil costs, a looming new U.S.
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: And in the United States and throughout the
world tonight, the rising prices of oil are beginning to be a drag on the
boom economic times.
The high price of oil and the soaring price at the pump have been at
the top of the national conversation for months now.
MADDOW: With global energy demand on the rise and U.S. dependence on
foreign oil at an all-time high, George W. Bush turns America`s looming
energy crisis into a central issue for the presidential campaign.
BUSH: We got a potential crisis in the energy markets because we
have no energy plan. And it`s, to me, that`s a possible problem for the
MADDOW: When it`s clear that he will be the Republican nominee, and
with energy taking center stage in the campaign, Bush taps Dick Cheney, a
man with deep experience in both politics and the oil industry, to be his
BUSH: I believe you`re looking at the next vice president of the
MADDOW: The two running mates make the case that the Clinton
administration did not know how to handle the issue of oil, but a George W.
Bush administration would.
BUSH: Those gasoline prices are going up. You know why? There have
been no energy plan.
DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: The fact we don`t have an energy
policy out there is one of the major storm clouds on the horizon for our
MADDOW: Rewind a year before that election. Dick Cheney is CEO of
the oil services firm Halliburton, speaking at the Institute of Petroleum`s
fall conference in London. He says there, "For over 100 years we as an
industry have had to deal with the pesky problem, that once you find oil
and pump it out of the ground, you`ve got to turn around and find more or
go out of business.
Looking ahead to 2010 by which time he says world`s energy needs will
have increased by millions of barrels of oil per day, Cheney asks where is
the oil going to come from? Quote, "The Middle East with 2/3 of the
world`s oil and the lowest cost. It`s still where the prize ultimately
Arguing that oil is the fundamental building block of the world`s
economy, the future vice president says, "Governments and the national oil
companies are obviously controlling about 90 percent of the assets."
"Companies are anxious for greater access there," he says, "But progress
continues to be slow."
STEVE COLL, AUTHOR, PRIVATE EMPIRE: They sought oil that was just
not accessible because of political circumstances -- oil that if it could
be accessible was abundant and easy to market.
GREG MUTTITT, AUTHOR, FUEL ON THE FIRE: When Dick Cheney gave that
speech in London and he was talking about the industries` interests, later
he was talking about the government`s interests. But the conclusion of
both of those was the same -- we need to get into the Middle East.
MADDOW: In the summer of 2000, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and his
state-run oil company control about 10 percent of the world`s oil reserves.
REPORTER: Experts say Saddam has terrific leverage now because with
demand for oil high and U.S. supplies at a 24-year low, the 2 million
barrels a day of oil Iraq produces matter.
PHIL VERLEGER, OIL INDUSTRY ANALYST: My big fear is that Saddam
Hussein is going to take the advantage of this tight market to cut oil
production and that could send prices up much higher.
BUSH: God bless you all. And God bless America.
MADDOW: On the campaign trail, Bush and Cheney zero in on Saddam`s
control of vital oil resources as a potential threat to America`s security.
BUSH: On the Clinton/Gore watch, Saddam Hussein`s watch has become a
major supplier of oil to America. This means that one of our worst enemies
is gaining more and more control over our country`s economic future.
CHENEY: I think if you were to look for something that could
develop, it`s the possibility that we might find ourselves without adequate
supplies of energy in the future and there would be no quicker way to shut
down our economy than that.
MADDOW: As Bush and Cheney take office in January 2001, they inherit
a country that is thirsty for oil, and a familiar enemy who`s sitting on a
sea of it.
COLL: In Iraq, the oil is right there on the waterfront. All you
got to do is stick a straw in it, pipe it out to a boat. Boat goes around
the Straits of Hormuz and there it is in European markets.
ROB MCKEE, COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY: What it has and what it
puts on to the world market makes it a very important player. It was an
oilman`s mecca or utopia, for sure.
MADDOW: January, 2001.
BUSH: I George Walker Bush do solemnly swear --
MADDOW: George W. Bush assumes the presidency with the nation`s
energy concerns near the forefront.
Eleven days into office, Bush assembles his national security team
for the first time. Along with the vice president and national security
adviser Condoleezza Rice, the principals include Secretary of State Colin
Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Treasury Secretary Paul
RON SUSKIND, AUTHOR, THE PRICE OF LOYALTY: Paul O`Neill opened up
everything for the book I wrote about him in the Bush administration
including 19,000 documents, and in the first national security council
meeting of the Bush presidency, January 30th of 2001, O`Neill arrives with
MADDOW: According to Suskind, the central focus of the National
Security Council`s meeting that day is the Middle East -- Iraq.
SUSKIND: Immediately, there`s talk of the Arab/Israeli conflict and
Bush says, "Well, you know, no, I don`t think much is going to be done over
there." Then, Bush says, "Well, what do you think the big issue in the
reason is, Condi?" to Condi Rice. At which point she says, "I think Iraq
is the big issue, the destabilizing force and that`s going to be our
The reaction of both O`Neill and Powell is startled.
O`Neill sort of summed it up, Bush basically saying, "I want to
overthrow Saddam, find me a way to do it. Not if, how."
MADDOW: Saddam Hussein`s past use of chemical and biological weapons
and the prospect of him developing a nuclear weapon make him a prime
target, as does the liberation of what Iraq has under the ground.
SUSKIND: In the first meeting, Rumsfeld says, "Imagine, imagine if
Iraq was essentially a client state of the United States. Imagine how that
would look, if they were a friendly state, if we had primacy and access and
maybe control of their oil fields." And Rumsfeld is pointed about this in
the first meeting, in fact, oil fields -- oil fields that will be
essentially our oil fields.
MADDOW: As the National Security Council trains its focus on Iraq,
that same week, President Bush directs Vice President Cheney to head up a
high-level energy task force. Its operations are run out of Vice President
DANA MILBANK, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: It was a highly secret
operation and it was arranged to be that way. They tasked these people to
hide away in a room in secret, holding meetings and coming up with a
MADDOW: Cheney`s task force meets privately with energy lobbyists as
well as executives from some of the nation`s top oil companies. Concerns
about big oil`s influence in crafting U.S. energy policy will eventually
lead Congress` General Accounting Office to file an unprecedented lawsuit
against the White House for access to energy task force records.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: John Dingell, chairman of the
Energy and Commerce Committee, and I, requested the GAO to do an
investigation because while we were sending letters to the vice president,
we weren`t getting responses.
MILBANK: They said, no, these are presidential advisers. We don`t
have to divulge what they`re doing. Whereas if it had been cabinet
agencies, they would have forced to divulge who they were meeting with,
what the e-mails were, what the topics were.
CHENEY: Did we talk to energy companies? Absolutely. You`d have to
be a damn fool to put together a comprehensive nationwide energy policy and
not talk to energy companies.
BUSH: In order for me to get good, sound opinions, those who offer
me opinions or offer the vice president opinions must know that every word
they say is not going to be put into the public record.
MADDOW: The White House battles to keep secret most task force
files. And they will ultimately prevail in the courts in that fight. But
administration opponents are eventually able to pry loose a number of
secret task force files.
Although it`s not known to the public at the time, the Cheney energy
task force reviews this document detailing potential foreign suitors for
Iraqi oil field contracts. It`s essentially a list of international oil
companies that are lining up to get into Iraq.
The task force also obtains detailed maps of Middle Eastern oil
fields. The map of Iraq pinpoints the exact locations of the country`s
pipelines, refineries and super giant oil fields.
SUSKIND: We had oil fields we could divide up. Foreign suitors
along with American suitors meaning major oil firms and oil contractors
like Halliburton could line up for parceling of those oil fields.
MADDOW: None of these documents is included in the final energy task
force report that`s made available to the public and to Congress.
WAXMAN: There was nothing that congress was told about. And nothing
that the energy task force publicly revealed.
MADDOW: The "New Yorker`s" Jane Mayer eventually discovers another
document that hadn`t been publicly revealed. According to Mayer, the
classified document dated February 3rd, 2001, directs members of President
Bush`s National Security Council to cooperate with the Cheney energy task
force, combining two seemingly unrelated fields -- the review of
operational policies toward rogue states and actions regarding the capture
of new and existing oil and gas fields.
In the first month of the Bush presidency, strategy for the potential
use of military force toward rogue states and gaining access to new oil
fields are melted together.
COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON, CHIEF OF STAFF TO COLIN POWELL (2002-2005):
If you look at the nexus of rogue states and seizing and capturing and
controlling oil assets, there aren`t too many states in the world that fit
that definition. Iraq stands at the top of the list. I mean, that`s like
saying, "OK, do a little planning on Iraq."
MADDOW: This January 2001 report also reviewed by the task force
warns that with global oil demand skyrocketing, oil-rich Iraq may not be
able to build the infrastructure necessary to meet the upward curve in
energy demand. The report says the decades-old sanctions against Iraq with
keeping much of that country`s oil from getting to western markets.
COLL: The demand for world oil was so intense that you really need
to unlock all of the supply you could find, and at that time, the sense was
that both Iraq and Iran were the two sources of really bottled up supply
that was irrationally off world markets.
MADDOW: Another report reviewed by the task force a few months later
promises Iraqi reserves represent a major asset that can quickly add
capacity to world oil markets. The report urges the U.S. government to
conduct an immediate policy review toward Iraq, including military
assessments -- all of this months before 9/11.
MEGHAN O`SULLIVAN, FORMER DEPUTY NATL. SECURITY ADVISOR FOR IRAQ: I
certainly wouldn`t argue that Iraq and the decision to go to war and oil
JIMMY CARTER, THEN-U.S. PRESIDENT: Let opposition be absolutely
clear, an attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf
region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interest of the United
States of America.
And such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary including
MADDOW: January 1980. A generation before 9/11, President Jimmy
Carter announces to the world that the United States is prepared to use
military force in the Persian Gulf in order to keep open the free flow of
Middle Eastern oil to the world market.
O`SULLIVAN: Our philosophy has been since World War II and up until
today is we are most secure when the global market works. It doesn`t
necessarily carry a nefarious connotation in the sense of America`s thirst
for physically controlling Middle Eastern oil.
WILKERSON: You don`t care who gets it as long as who gets it makes
it available to the world at a reasonable price.
MADDOW: Ten years after President Carter says U.S. military force
will, if necessary, keep oil flowing to market, Saddam Hussein invades the
oil-rich nation of Kuwait, and the First Gulf War is launched. President
George H.W. Bush`s defense secretary at the time is Dick Cheney.
CHENEY: Iraq controlled 10 percent of the world`s reserves prior to
the invasion of Kuwait. Once Saddam Hussein took Kuwait, he doubled that
to approximately 20 percent of the world`s known oil reserves and that gave
him a stranglehold on our economy and that of most of the other nations of
the world as well.
MADDOW: Despite that stated motive of protecting the free flow of
oil, the president`s public case for war centers on Saddam Hussein and his
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: We`re dealing with Hitler
revisited. A totalitarianism and brutality that is naked and unprecedented
in modern times. And that must not stand.
WILKERSON: My boss, Colin Powell, was chairman of the joint chiefs
at the time and had problems with H.W., President Bush going out and
talking about Hitler and things like that because he knew it was such a
camouflage. This is a mask to get the American people`s support. The
first Gulf War was all about oil.
MADDOW: The horror of 9/11, 10 years after the Gulf War, impels the
first President Bush`s son to go to war. He first launches a retaliatory
war in Afghanistan. But then quickly puts three other nations on notice --
North Korea, Iran, and Iraq.
BUSH: States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an
axis of evil arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons
of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger.
MADDOW: All three nations have been on America`s national security
radar for decades. But now after 9/11, the Bush administration makes the
case for action to disarm them. It is not just the threat of rogue states
using weapons of mass destruction, themselves, the president argues, but
the prospect of a rogue state providing biological or nuclear weapons
technology to terrorist groups.
Neither Iran nor Iraq is known to have nuclear capability, but North
Korea is steaming full speed ahead to a nuclear bomb.
WILKERSON: We argued about this in the state department. Why wasn`t
there more concern with North Korea when the CIA was telling us that North
Korea probably already had plutonium-based nuclear material and the answer
was 100,000 casualties minimum and a real mess. No one wanted to do Korea
and, of course, the footnote was, always: Korea doesn`t have any oil.
MADDOW: The public case is about weapons, 9/11 changed everything.
The threat of weapons of mass destruction now drives American policy. But
policy toward the nation posing the most clear and present danger on WMD,
North Korea, doesn`t change dramatically. Instead, inside the
administration, it is the existing pre-9/11 planning about Iraq and Iraq`s
oil that goes operational.
It`s one month after 9/11. The State Department forms something
called the Future of Iraq Project, a comprehensive plan about what a new
Iraqi society will look like after Saddam is gone. State Department
officials assemble a group, including Iraqi exiles, to plan for everything
from health, to education, to oil and energy.
Leading the oil team is a highly regarded former CIA energy analyst
named Robert Ebel.
ROBERT E. EBEL, FORMER CIA ENERGY ANALYST: We`re going to bring
together all these senior ex-Iraqi oil officials and have them prepare a
report on the future of oil in Iraq.
MADDOW: Members of the group meet in London at a Washington, D.C.,
area hotel. They assert without a radical restructuring of its oil
industry, Iraq`s oil potential will remain unrealized.
In this draft report revealed here publicly for the first time, the
State Department group calls for international oil companies to be allowed
back into Iraq, and for the rapid expansion of Iraqi oil production, quote,
"in the quickest possible time."
EBEL: These findings were how this bunch of ex-Iraqi oil officials
envisioned how they would come in and tell the government what it needed to
MADDOW: Publicly, the administration presses its case to the
American people that Iraq must be confronted before Saddam Hussein`s true
intentions are revealed in a nuclear mushroom cloud.
DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: The last thing we should
want is a smoking gun. A gun doesn`t smoke until it`s been fired.
MADDOW: Privately, though, internal deliberations are also about
exploiting Iraq`s oil. The Pentagon is debating, quote, "whether to use
control of Iraqi oil to advance important U.S. foreign policy objectives
affected by energy issues."
While the national debate is over aluminum tubes and mobile
biological weapons labs, internal planning documents note that increased
oil production in a post-war Iraq would have the eventual effect of
reducing world oil prices.
WAXMAN: Prior to our even going to war in Iraq, the focus was on oil
and Iraqi oil and how to take it over far more than anything else.
MADDOW: In public, Bush administration officials continue to
maintain that oil is not a factor in their war deliberations. In this
Infinity CBS Radio interview broadcast on C-Span, Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld is pressed on that issue.
INTERVIEWER: Mr. Secretary, what do you say to people who think this
is about oil?
RUMSFELD: Nonsense. It just isn`t. There are certain things like
that, myths that are floating around, I`m glad you asked. It has nothing
to do with oil -- literally nothing to do with oil.
MADDOW: Behind the scenes, though, planning for Iraq`s oil goes into
overdrive. Rumsfeld`s Defense Department has just recruited retired
ExxonMobil executive Gary Vogler to plan for the administration of Iraq`s
oil sector soon after the impending invasion.
GARY VOGLER, DEFENSE DEPARTMENT ADVISER (2002): Our mission was to
repair, restore Iraq`s oil sector to the pre-war level before we went in.
And we got word in probably November that we needed to be ready by middle
of February. We took that to mean we need to be ready to go to war by the
middle of February.
MADDOW: According to Vogler, he and a Pentagon team travel to
Houston, Texas, to the epicenter of big oil, to discuss their post-invasion
plans for Iraq`s oil sector. The Defense Department team does not convene
at a U.S. military base or even at even at a government building. They
meet, instead, at this Houston location. The offices of KBR, a subsidiary
of the oil company Halliburton.
Part of the Defense Department`s prewar planning for Iraq`s oil takes
place in a Halliburton subsidiary office in Texas -- a detail not known to
the public before now.
COLL: The Bush administration had lots of contacts in Houston, in
the sophisticated executive suites of the major U.S. headquartered oil
companies and they reached out there.
MADDOW: The Pentagon team that traveled to Houston calls for rapidly
increasing Iraqi oil production soon after the invasion. They set an
initial goal of bringing production up to 3.1 million barrels a day, 50
percent more than Iraq was producing at the time.
The long-term goal is to increase Iraq`s oil production to more than
5 million barrels per day. More than Iraq has ever produced.
While administration officials insist that increasing production is
aimed at financing the reconstruction, and that oil proceeds will benefit
the Iraqi people, their war plans also note that the policy will put long-
term downward pressure on oil prices. Help consumers. And
diversify/increase global oil supply.
As all of this detailed planning is going on in private, the Bush
administration`s public argument for war is about everything but oil.
CHENEY: His regime aids and protects terrorists, including members
of al Qaeda.
COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: The weapons he is
developing could well fall into the hands of terrorists who might be able
to use them.
BUSH: The lives of Iraqi citizens would improve dramatically if
Saddam Hussein were no longer in power.
MADDOW: None of the behind-the-scenes planning for Iraq`s oil is
publicly known, and the administration leaves oil out of the public
conversation altogether. But a large segment of the American public
suspects that oil is a motive. No blood for oil becomes an anti-war battle
PROTESTERS: No blood for oil!
WILKERSON: People misunderstand this business of oil. It isn`t
about possessing it. It isn`t about ExxonMobil and Chevron and Total and
Elf owning the oil. It`s about the oil flowing freely at a reasonable
So, this is what we say when we mean protecting oil. We mean
protecting the access, protecting the price, protecting the stability and
so forth. Not owning it.
COLL: It wasn`t a war for oil, but it was in a meaningful way a war
about oil. And about the role that oil plays in our world and in our world
EBEL: The idea was to go into Iraq, to remove Saddam Hussein and his
government. Once that job was done, then it`s about oil, period.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get back! Get back!
MADDOW: Winter 2002/2003 -- as the White House drumbeat for war in
Iraq grows stronger, millions of people across the world are marching
PROTESTERS: No more war! No more war!
MUTTITT: In my country, in Britain, we had more than 1 million
people demonstrating on the streets of London against this war. The
opposition to British participation in the war was absolutely immense.
MADDOW: British Prime Minister Tony Blair`s government like its U.S.
counterpart denies vigorously that overthrowing Saddam Hussein is about
TONY BLAIR, THEN-BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Let me first of all deal
with the conspiracy theory idea that this is somehow to do with oil. There
is no way, whatever, if oil were the issue, that it would not be infinitely
similar to cut a deal with Saddam who I`m sure will be delighted to give us
access to as much oil as he wanted if he could carry on building weapons of
MUTTITT: In Britain, two major oil companies, BP and Shell. They
were asked, have you asked the British government for in relation to the
Iraq war? The oil companies and Blair government said we haven`t talked
about it, absolutely no meetings on this subject.
So I managed to get documents which recorded five meetings that took
place between BP and Shell and the British government between October 2002
and March 2003. Five meetings.
One of the meetings was between BP and the British foreign office and
the opening sentence was "Iraq is the" underlined "big oil prospect." BP
is desperate to get in there.
So, you have BP, you have the Blair government both saying in public,
oh, no, we don`t talk about this, we`re not thinking about the oil. In
private, as these documents reveal, they were talking fundamentally about
MADDOW: Back in the U.S., the Bush administration is also denying a
"Wall Street Journal" report that administration officials held meetings
about the war with oil industry executives. But British documents now
reveal that in the fall of 2002, ahead of the invasion, BP`s Middle East
director held a week of meetings with officials from both the U.S. State
Department and the Pentagon, including with Paul Wolfowitz, Donald
Rumsfeld`s second in command.
At the Pentagon with just two months until the invasion, attention
turns to who will run Iraq in the immediate days and weeks after the fall
of Saddam. Retired Army Lieutenant General Jay Garner, a man with deep
experience in the region, gets the call from Donald Rumsfeld.
LT. GEN. JAY GARNER, U.S. ARMY (RET): He said, we need right now is
somebody to come in, put a staff together, operationalize the plans we put
together. You know, you think if you`re going to put that together you`d
have office space and desk and computers and telephones and all that. I
didn`t even have a chair.
MADDOW: That lack of planning when it comes to basic post-Saddam
governance stands in stark contrast to the level of planning that`s already
well under way for Iraq`s oil sector.
VOGLER: There was a very strong sense of urgency. It was 12, 15-
hour days from what I remember. They knew where every pipeline, where
every refinery, gas plant, oil field, gas oil separation plant was.
People said we didn`t plan very well for Iraq. I would take
exception to that when it came to the oil sector.
WAXMAN: We are spending more time thinking about how to deal with
the oil fields in Iraq than we were about our own troops when we went to
war in Iraq.
BUSH: All Iraqi military and civilian personnel should listen
carefully to this warning. In any conflict, your fate will depend on your
actions. Do not destroy oil wells, a source of wealth that belongs to the
MADDOW: As the invasion of Iraq gets under way, months` worth of
detailed planning aimed at securing Iraq`s oil resources gets put into
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade
who are guarding key facilities in the oil fields right now. Because we
know we want to get the oil flowing as soon as possible.
GARNER: I remember several times the statement that we want to make
sure that we don`t give an optic that makes the American people we`re going
in there for oil -- we`re not doing that. I mean, that was -- I knew that
from day one.
MADDOW: Despite that stated goal, as the U.S. military arrives in
Baghdad, with heavy looting under way, Marines protect Iraq`s oil ministry,
to the exclusion of other critical Iraqi government buildings and
WILKERSON: We let the museums go. We let the art and culture go.
We let the telephones go elsewhere. We let the administrative office go,
ministry of the interior, ministry of justice. We let all those things go
and we protected the oil ministry.
MADDOW: The perception that the U.S. has launched a war for oil is
further stoked when the U.S. Army`s 101st Airborne Division crosses the
border into Iraq and establishes two refueling stations in the Iraqi
desert. The Army names the two desert outposts after Exxon and Shell,
unbeknownst to the companies, themselves.
COLL: Presumably some colonel in the planning cell thought that this
would be an easy designation for American soldiers flying helicopters
through dust storms to bear in mind, find on a map, but it did kind of
undermine the PR campaign.
MADDOW: As coalition forces roll into Baghdad and topple Saddam, the
general selected by the Pentagon to stabilize the situation and quickly
turn over power to the Iraqis finds that his mission has changed.
GARNER: I did not want to slip from liberation into occupation. I
thought it was the worst thing to do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My understanding from Rumsfeld, from the White
House, from everywhere, we were going to go in there and we were going to
set up an interim government as rapid as we could, but when Ambassador
Bremer came over, that direction change.
MADDOW: Instead of quickly handing off power to a new Iraqi
government and getting out, the Bush administration selects former
Ambassador L. Paul Bremer to take over in Iraq and remake Iraq`s entire
economy, starting with the oil sector.
PAUL BREMER, FORMER AMBASSADOR: We`re not here to be a colonial
power. We`re here to help turn over as quickly as we can efficiently do it
to the Iraqi people their country.
We had virtually no elbow room for major changes to anything unless
we could get the oil going, and that was our priority.
MADDOW: May 2003, two months into the invasion of Iraq. George W.
Bush selects former U.S. Ambassador L. Paul Bremer to be the top civilian
in charge in Iraq.
BUSH: Ambassador goes with the full blessings of this administration
and the full confidence of all of us in this administration that he can get
the job done.
MADDOW: At the top of the list for Bremer is oil.
BREMER: I had been told we had to get the oil going because it was
an oil-dominated economy. This was fairly straightforward. Unless you can
get the oil going, you can`t get the economy going.
MADDOW: What Bremer and his team find when they get into Iraq is an
oil infrastructure decimated by decades of war, sanctions, and corruption.
ROB MCKEE, COALITION PROVISIONAL AUTHORITY: I was shocked when I got
there about how undercapitalized it had been, how neglected it was.
BREMER: The oil fields were being held together by baling wire and
duct tape, in some cases literally duct tape.
MADDOW: The day after Bremer arrives in Baghdad, the Bush
administration draws up secret policy guidelines, which are later
declassified, stating that the coalition will move to privatize state-owned
enterprises in Iraq, including the oil industry.
BREMER: Oil was the lifeblood of the Iraqi economy. You got to get
the oil going if you`re going to get the economy going. It was not
something we were going for selfish American reasons or because we wanted
more oil on the world market or all of these fantasies that people dream
up. We were doing it because we were the Iraqi government.
MADDOW: The task of remaking Iraq`s oil sector falls to retired
Shell Oil CEO Phil Carroll. Carroll is appointed by the Bush
administration to be the senior adviser to Iraq`s oil ministry.
BREMER: His role was, as was the case with all of these advisers, to
essentially get alongside the Iraqis at the ministry of oil, make an
assessment of the physical plant, the oil fields, the production facilities
and of the people.
MADDOW: When Carroll arrives in Baghdad, he comes up against radical
U.S. plans being discussed to commandeer and transform Iraq`s entire oil
COLL: He was surrounded by politicized young Republican volunteers
who had no experience in the oil industry, who were planning stock market
privatization schemes, running around talking about building pipelines from
Baghdad to Israel, things that were really highly unrealistic and
Phil Carroll very much acted as the brakes against the privatization
MADDOW: In this 2005 BBC report re-aired on the program "Democracy
Now", Phil Carroll describes what he encountered when he arrived in Iraq.
CARROLL: There were models everywhere from total privatization to
partial privatization, et cetera, et cetera. There were all sorts of ideas
floated about the economy of Iraq and what ought to be done.
I was very clear that there was to be no privatization of Iraqi oil
resources or facilities while I was involved. End of statement.
VOGLER: The first meeting that he and I had in Baghdad we sat down
together and he said, "Gary, if I hear any hint of an oil grab out of here,
I`m leaving." And I looked him in the eye and said, Phil, if there is,
I`ll be with you.
MADDOW: The oil industry veterans ultimately prevail, as Paul Bremer
decides to keep in place temporarily Saddam`s decades old ban on foreign
companies owning Iraqi oil assets.
But with the occupation not going well, with Iraq unraveling, the
foreign governments that led the invasion start to jockey for position to
try to take advantage of what Iraq has under the ground.
Less than two months after the invasion, as the insurgency boils, the
British government is internally discussing getting Iraq`s oil fields up
and running as its first main target. They`re debating how to position
Britain in Iraq to maximize their own long-term energy security. And
Britain is not the only one.
BUSH: In the battles of Afghanistan and Iraq, Polish forces served
with skill and honor. America will not forget that Poland rose to the
MADDOW: Along with Britain, Poland, a member of the Bush
administration`s Coalition of the Willing positions itself to take
advantage of Iraqi oil. In July 2003, a consortium of Polish companies
signs a contract with Halliburton subsidiary KBR to join in Iraq`s
At the signing, Poland`s foreign minister declares that their
government has never, quote, "concealed our desire to provide Polish firms
with direct access to sources of crude oil." Access to Iraq`s oil,
Poland`s foreign minister says, quote, "is our final goal."
MADDOW: It will take just one month to get Iraqi crude oil flowing
again after the invasion.
TOM ASPELL, NBC NEWS: Black gold under the ground, reserves of 10
billion barrels. There`s so much of it here, it comes out of the ground,
catches fire and just burns away.
MADDOW: But the decade of violent insurgency and all-out chaos that
follows ultimately prevents Iraq and its oil sector from reaching the
potential that U.S. policy planners had in mind.
REPORTER: An explosion at an oil pipeline. Iraqi oil ministry
officials call it sabotage. The U.S. military is investigating. No
injuries, but a blow to Iraq`s already crippled oil industry.
MADDOW: If Iraq was expected to relieve the world`s energy problems
in 2003, the years of instability that follow the invasion prove the
COLL: They took essentially 10 years to rehabilitate Iraq`s oil
field to start to produce at a level that would support the Iraqi
government. It`s not anything like the windfall or the bonanza that some
people had fantasized about.
MUTTITT: In terms of containing the oil price, of course, the U.S.
failed and failed spectacularly. They destabilize the region through
military intervention, and destabilization in the Middle East inevitably
leads to higher oil prices.
MADDOW: Despite that instability, Iraq`s vast oil fields, which were
one state-owned and controlled by Saddam Hussein are now largely open to
Western oil companies, and completely free from the sanctions that held
back their full potential. Iraq`s easy oil is finally getting to market.
Iraq in 2012 produced more oil per day than it had at any point in the
previous three decades. It`s now on track to become the world`s second
largest oil exporter behind only Saudi Arabia.
COLL: This idea that Iraq mattered because it had oil was important,
if not central to the decision to invade the country.
ALAN GREENSPAN, FORMER FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: Anyone who controls
the Straits of Hormuz can shut down the industrialized structure of the
West. And I (INAUDIBLE) about, my view, taking out Saddam Hussein was a
very important thing. So, I -- my view of the war was yes, it was about
MADDOW: In the decade since the invasion, declassified documents
have revealed private deliberations about Iraq`s oil in the U.S. and in the
U.K. that were unknown to the public at the time. Deliberations that were
never part of the public case for war. With the revelation that Saddam did
not have weapons of mass destruction, with the collapse of the public case
for war, those involved in the war effort have also now begun to reflect on
what transpired in private, behind that public case.
What was the reason for the invasion? What was the reason for that
near decade of war? Why did we do it?
WILKERSON: If you know the region, as well as I do now, particularly
after spending many years in the military doing war planning for the
region, it`d be unreasonable (ph) for me to say it wasn`t about oil. Of
course it was about oil.
WAXMAN: The Iraq war was presented to us to stop Saddam Hussein from
getting weapons of mass destruction. We know now that to a great extent
the war in Iraq was about oil.
BREMER: I know there are people who make the argument, as they did
in the first gulf war that this war of liberation was actually a war about
oil. I frankly know of no evidence that shows that.
O`SULLIVAN: I certainly wouldn`t argue that Iraq and the decision to
go to war and oil were unrelated. I mean, Iraq -- 95 percent of Iraq`s
revenues come from oil. It is a big global producer and at least today
exporter. You can`t divorce these things. These are realities.
VOGLER: We, in my mind, we did not go into Iraq for oil. The folks
that I worked with, we all felt like we were going into Iraq because of
WMD. Now, were there other folks that had other reasons? I`m not aware of
it. There may have been.
EBEL: We didn`t go into Iraq to get access to the sand. We went
into Iraq to get the access to oil, period.
CARTER: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the
Persian Gulf region --
MADDOW: A U.S. foreign policy doctrine that was first articulated
during an energy crisis in the 1970s, put into action during the Gulf War
in the 1990s --
G.H.W. BUSH: And that must not stand.
MADDOW: -- and then brought to its full potential in 2003 --
G.W. BUSH: Do not destroy oil wells, a source of wealth that belongs
to the Iraqi people.
MADDOW: That foreign policy doctrine is not a thing of the past.
Even as America has upped our own oil production, the commitment to defend
the international free flow of oil by force remains.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States of
America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military
force, to secure our core interests in the region. We will ensure the free
flow of energy from the region to the world.
WILKERSON: The U.S. interest in the Persian Gulf region are always
first and foremost about oil. Oil and war mix. And they`re mixing today
and they`re going to mix a lot more.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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