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‘The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America’: Terror, oil and the ‘shadow government’

Extract from a new book, ‘The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America’ (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press), authored by UC Berkeley professor emeritus Peter Dale Scott. 

Oil and Cheney’s Energy Task Force

There is the same impression of preparation for 9/11 and its consequent war from Cheney’s other task force, the Energy Task Force. By May 2001 it had already set out, urgently and in some detail, plans for taking control over Iraqi oil. As many observers have pointed out, the second Bush administration was the first in which the vice president and his own national security staff wielded powers comparable to, perhaps even surpassing, those of the president. Some have gone even a step further, as journalist Steve Perry wrote in 2005: “Cheney’s office is the Pandora’s Box of the Bush administration campaign to invade Iraq. Most of the planning as to both the waging and selling of the war occurred under his direction, along with that of Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz at the Pentagon. It was Cheney who played the point in beating up CIA for its unhelpful analysis of the non-threat posed by Saddam, and Cheney along with his Defense Department pals who effectively circumvented CIA by setting up the Office of Special Plans at the Pentagon to funnel the administration the kind of intelligence it wanted, largely courtesy of their longtime double-dealing stooge, Ahmed Chalabi.”

Perry also quotes an op-ed by former Powell chief of staff Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson (U.S. Army, retired): “In President Bush’s first term, some of the most important decisions about U.S. national security —including vital decisions about postwar Iraq—were made by a secretive, little-known cabal. It was made up of a very small group of people led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. . . . I believe that the decisions of this cabal were sometimes made with the full and witting support of the president and sometimes with something less. . . . It’s a disaster. Given the choice, I’d choose a frustrating bureaucracy over an efficient cabal every time.”

The vice president’s first major assignment was to discuss energy policy in his Energy Task Force, which brought in leaders from the petroleum industry. In fact, Cheney could be called an oil industry leader himself. As reported in The New Yorker, he served “immediately before becoming Vice-President, as chief executive of Halliburton, the world’s largest oil-and-gas-services company. The conglomerate, which is based in Houston, is now [2004] the biggest private contractor for American forces in Iraq; it has received contracts worth some eleven billion dollars for its work there. Cheney earned forty-four million dollars during his tenure at Halliburton. Although he has said that he ‘severed all my ties with the company,’ he continues to collect deferred compensation worth approximately a hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year.”

It is clear that from at least February 2001 Cheney’s task force discussions extended to the “capture” of oil resources in Iraq: “One intriguing piece of evidence pointing in this direction was a National Security Council document, dated February 2001, directing NSC staff to cooperate fully with Cheney’s task force. The NSC document, reported in The New Yorker, noted that the task force would be considering the ‘melding’ of two policy areas: ‘the review of operational policies towards rogue states’ and ‘actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields.’ This certainly implies that the Cheney task force was considering geopolitical questions about actions related to the capture of oil and gas reserves in ‘rogue’ states, including presumably Iraq.”

The task force’s concerns are well illustrated by two documents, released to the public-interest law firm Judicial Watch only after a fierce court struggle. The first document is a map of Iraq, whose “detail is all about Iraq’s oil. The southwest is neatly divided, for instance, into nine ‘Exploration Blocks.’ Stripped of political trappings, this map shows a naked Iraq, with only its ample natural assets in view. It’s like a supermarket meat chart, which identifies the various parts of a slab of beef so customers can see the most desirable cuts. . . . Block 1 might be the striploin, Blocks 2 and 3 are perhaps some juicy tenderloin, but Block 8— ahh, that could be the filet mignon.”

The second “task force document, also released under court order, was a two-page chart titled ‘Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfields.’ It identifies 63 oil companies from 30 countries and specifies which Iraqi oil fields each company is interested in and the status of the company’s negotiations with Saddam Hussein’s regime. Among the companies are Royal Dutch/Shell of the Netherlands, Russia’s Lukoil and France’s Total Elf Aquitaine, which was identified as being interested in the fabulous, 25-billion-barrel Majnoon oil field. Baghdad had ‘agreed in principle’ to the French company’s plans to develop this succulent slab of Iraq. There goes the filet mignon into the mouths of the French!”

Cheney’s task force was the final stage in a lobbying process by the oil majors that had begun under Clinton. As early as April 1997, a report from the James A. Baker Institute of Public Policy at Rice University addressed the problem of “energy security” for the United States, noting that the country was increasingly threatened by oil shortages. It concluded that Saddam Hussein was still a threat to Middle Eastern security and still had the military capability to exercise force beyond Iraq’s borders. The second Bush administration returned to this theme as soon as it took office in 2001, by following the lead of a second report from the same institute. This task force report was cosponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, another group historically concerned about U.S. access to overseas oil resources.43 The report, Strategic Energy Policy: Challenges for the 21st Century, concluded that “the U.S. should conduct an immediate policy review toward Iraq including military, energy, economic and political/diplomatic assessments.”

Meanwhile, the BBC heard from State Department insiders that planning for regime change in Iraq “began ‘within weeks’ of Bush’s first taking office in 2001, long before the September 11th attack on the U.S.”45 The administration’s concern for controlling oil in the Middle East intermingled with strategic concerns in the area, especially with increasing uncertainty about the future of U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia. The White House was also impressed by the report of an AEI-based discussion group, commissioned by Paul Wolfowitz, that a strategy to deal with Middle East terrorism would require two generations of conflict, in which ‘Iran is more important. . . . But Saddam Hussein was . . . weaker, more vulnerable.’”

For the full article, which definitely comes under the heading of conspiracy theory, go to… and its also non-profit sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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