March 2, 2011 by Russ Baker
Iraq invasion skeptics, listen up. You’re right: it was always about oil.
Now the other shoe is dropping – in India of all places. That’s where the oil and money connection back to Iraq can be found.
The evidence is buried in a New York Times article headlined “BP to Pay $7.2 Billion for Stake in Oil Fields in India.” it began:
The British oil giant BP said on Monday that it would pay $7.2 billion to buy into India’s fast-growing oil and gas industry. It is BP’s second big deal in two months, as it seeks to rebuild after last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill….
Who knew that India even had oil, let alone a “fast-growing oil and gas industry”?
The really important thing going on in this Indian oil bonanza is the role of a smaller company, which appears only briefly in the Times article, down in paragraph 15:
…Indian officials have been slow to approve a deal announced in August by Vedanta Resources, based in London, to buy a controlling stake in Cairn India, an oil-producing subsidiary of Cairn Energy, based in Edinburgh. Officials say they want better terms for Cairn’s Indian partner, the state-owned ONGC, as a condition of approval.
The key name in that paragraph is Cairn. The company was founded by one Bill Gammell, a lifelong friend of George W. Bush. Gammell’s family has backed the Bushes for decades. It pumped money into father George HW Bush’s tiny startup oil company in the 1950s, and did the same for George W. Bush in the 1970s. The Gammells never complained when the investments went bust.
Gammell is an extremely important figure in the hidden story of the Iraq invasion. A childhood friend of Tony Blair, he was the initial bridge between Blair and Bush that cemented the early if improbable relationship between the two leaders. This relationship, in part, inclined Blair to back Bush’s erroneous statements about Saddam Hussein possessing WMDs. Perhaps not surprisingly, oil was involved.
Many of Tony Blair’s key aides and associates left 10 Downing Street right around the time of the Iraq invasion to accept high-paid positions at BP. This traffic was so heavy that some said that BP must stand for Blair Petroleum. After the Iraq invasion, BP took a significant stake in Iraqi oil fields. And the largest drilling franchise in the oil-rich northern Iraq region of Kurdistan went to Bush’s big donor and good friend Ray Hunt.
What about Bill Gammell? When George W. Bush became president, he reversed Bill Clinton’s caution toward India and quickly began doing favors for that country, including casting a more favorable eye on India’s nuclear weapons program. At the same time, India began developing its little-known oil deposits, in concert with Gammell’s Cairn Energy, which, as noted above, has partnered with an Indian state oil company to exploit that country’s newly discovered treasure trove.
All of the players cited here had their own motivations, but they dovetailed nicely.
•As I noted in another article, George W. Bush had confided in a colleague way back in 1999 that one of his principal objectives if he secured the presidency was to invade Iraq. He had explained that it seemed to him a president needed a war in order to rally the American people and secure the high poll ratings necessary to drive a domestic agenda.
•Tony Blair had a close relationship with BP, and the company was integral enough to the British economy and hence to Blair’s political success that its gains were his gains (not to mention the revolving door from Blair’s office to the oil giant.) Blair’s approval, in turn, was crucial to Bush’s Iraq “Coalition of the Willing.”
•India wanted better treatment from the United States, and parity with Pakistan on nuclear and other matters. And India had untapped petroleum reserves to be exploited for the benefit of friends of Blair and Bush.
•Gammell could cement the Bush-Blair relationship. His company, Cairn, wanted oil, and got it in India. BP had pull with Blair, wanted oil and got it in both India and Iraq.
So everyone in this story ends up happy. And the rest of us end up with a war that has never been properly explained.
These tangled background stories are important because they help us understand the base motives behind the lofty claims. It’s certainly not the whole story, but it’s much more of the story then we’ve gotten so far.
For more on the Bush-Blair-Gammell relationship, please see pages 432-436 in my book, “Family of Secrets: the Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government, and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years”.
Image Credit: (bornatthecrestoftheempire.blogspot.com)