The Energy Vampires

Why Britain and France are so gung-ho to attack Libya

by , April 20, 2011

To hear the “humanitarian” interventionists tell it, the NATO alliance is currently bombing Libya in order to avert an alleged “massacre” that may – or may not – happen if Moammar Gadhafi gets his hands on the rebels now holding the eastern province known as Cyrenaica. It’s just a coincidence that Libya is a major oil producer, and that the NATO allies demanding the dictator’s ouster are thirsty for the stuff.

If you believe otherwise, well then you’ve fallen victim to a “conspiracy theory,” as any number of unrepentant neocons will tell you. During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, they were disdainful of the claim that their pet project was a thinly disguised oil grab, and still deny it. Yet now the documentary evidence is in, and it looks like the “war for oil” crowd was right, at least insofar as it concerns Tony Blair’s key supporting role as Bush’s British lapdog. A cache of over 1,000 memos obtained by author Greg Muttitt under the Freedom of Information act document at least five meetings between British government officials and BP/Shell as the war propaganda began to heat up. As the Independent reports:

“Five months before the March 2003 invasion, Baroness Symons, then the Trade Minister, told BP that the Government believed British energy firms should be given a share of Iraq’s enormous oil and gas reserves as a reward for Tony Blair’s military commitment to US plans for regime change.

“The papers show that Lady Symons agreed to lobby the Bush administration on BP’s behalf because the oil giant feared it was being ‘locked out’ of deals that Washington was quietly striking with US, French and Russian governments and their energy firms.

“Minutes of a meeting with BP, Shell and BG (formerly British Gas) on 31 October 2002 read: ‘Baroness Symons agreed that it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq in that way if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the US government throughout the crisis.’ The minister then promised to ‘report back to the companies before Christmas’ on her lobbying efforts.”

With the US in the role of the Godfather, handing out favors to his trusted consiglieres, our British lapdogs were eager to get their just reward – and, as the Independent notes, the Baroness succeeded in her lobbying efforts:

“The 20-year contracts signed in the wake of the invasion were the largest in the history of the oil industry. They covered half of Iraq’s reserves – 60 billion barrels of oil, bought up by companies such as BP and CNPC (China National Petroleum Company), whose joint consortium alone stands to make £403m ($658m) profit per year from the Rumaila field in southern Iraq. Last week, Iraq raised its oil output to the highest level for almost decade, 2.7 million barrels a day – seen as especially important at the moment given the regional volatility and loss of Libyan output.”

There were, to be sure, other factors that lured us into the Iraqi quagmire, and there’s always a fine line between ideological and economic interests. However, as far as the Brits are concerned, pure greed seems to have quickened New Labor’s evolution into the neocons’ European outpost – and the same interests are motivating the “humanitarian” rescue of the Libyan rebels.

A recent report issued by the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets [Ofgem], the corporatist entity that regulates energy-related commerce in the UK, warns British consumers:

“Radical steps must be taken to safeguard UK power supplies and prevent growing numbers of people being hit with energy bills they cannot afford, a watchdog has warned.

“Ofgem said failure to reform the energy system to free up the £200billion investment needed to secure future supplies might lead to power shortages after 2015. Staying with the current market model was ‘not an option’, it said, due to the unprecedented pressures of the financial crisis, environmental targets, dependency on imported gas and closure of aging power stations. ”In a report, the power watchdog said consumers would suffer unless urgent action was taken to free up investment in new power generation, such as renewables and nuclear energy. Ofgem made five suggestions, which all involve moving away from privatized energy markets towards a system giving the government greater control.”

Projected rate hikes of 60 percent would hit consumers hard: in tandem with the government’s much-hated austerity budget, this could be the spark that sets off a political and social conflagration. Faced with a combination of the oil truckers’ protests that paralyzed Europe in 2000, and the “anti-cuts” riots of more recent vintage, the Conservative-LibDem government – and, conceivably, the entire British political establishment – would face certain demise.

If “radical steps” must be taken to avert this scenario, then surely there is no step more radical than going to war – although this was not among Ofgem’s five suggestions.

The same economic time-bomb is ticking across the Channel, where French President Sarkozy is reveling in his newfound Napoleonic persona: France was the first country to officially recognize the Benghazi “National Council.” While our European allies compete for the Libyan spoils, the US government, as Charles C. Johnson trenchantly points out, is relegated to the role of gofer. While the French looked down their noses at what many on the Continent believed to be a war for oil in Iraq, “it turns out,” in the case of the Libyan intervention,

“America’s fighting Europe’s own actual War for Oil. Just have a look at the figures for yourself, courtesy of the International Energy Agency, and note which countries have seen their [Libyan] oil imports rise and which haven’t. America got a total .5 percent of crude [Libyan oil] imports in 2010, or, 51 million barrels per day 9mb/d0, down more than half from 122 [mb/d) in 2007. Compare that to France’s imports from Libya which have nearly doubled from 2007 (105 mb/d versus 205 mb/d in 2010). Now do you get why French president Nicolas Sarkozy is suddenly sounding hawkish on Libya?”

I note with glee that this excellent analysis appears on Andrew Breitbart’s web site, “Big Peace,” which used to be devoted to attacking anti-interventionists during the Iraq war and is now, it seems, doing a 180-degree turnabout when it comes to Obama’s War in North Africa. Although I suspect there just may be purely partisan reasons behind this sudden reasonableness, the antiwar cause can’t afford to be all that picky these days – what with the wholesale desertion of the Obama cultists and the revival of “humanitarian” interventionism on the limousine-liberal “left.” It is apparently left to conservatives to be the ones to point out that this is indeed a war for somebody else’s oil. As Johnson puts it:

“What does this have to do with America? Absolutely nothing. But don’t expect our government – or our media – to understand that. To defenders of our military adventurism that we have no national security or strategic interest is the very reason that we have to be involved.”

Just so. For the benefit of the “progressive’ rank-and-file, the phony banner of “humanitarianism” is being raised by the authors of this war. But that’s just fodder for the rubes to chew on as Western leaders get down to the real business of doing business. This is the true meaning of “multilateralism” – an arrangement in which the US agrees to share the loot with its allies, and even let them take the lead. Share the wealth – and the blame, when the truth comes out.

Europe’s energy vampires are out to make a killing: that’s what has the British and the French reliving their glory days of colonial adventurism. In America, the motives are more mixed: sure, there are economic interests involved. Oil is fungible, and the loss of Libyan supplies has driven US prices up. In addition, however, there’s also the ideological factor at work in Washington, a genuine “progressive” commitment to the new war doctrine of the Obama administration: the “responsibility to protect” – in effect a blank check for the US and its allies to intervene anywhere outside the West.

Energized by a zeal to stamp out racism, sexism, homophobia, and all the other ills diagnosed by perpetually agonized liberals – and eager to shed the anti-military, anti-interventionist image of their party – the Obama administration, led by Hillary Clinton and her squadron of busybodies, is setting here an important precedent, one that this administration – or the next – is bound to find useful in the not-too-distant future. After all, if we have a “responsibility to protect” Libyan protesters from Gadhafi’s wrath, then what about those Iranian protesters who are being cut down in the streets – or the Syrians who are bravely rising up against their despot? Both countries are longtime targets of America’s ire, and it’s only a matter of time before the Obama Doctrine is invoked to strike Damascus and Tehran.

Read more by Justin Raimondo