Wars of plunder?



Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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30 Responses

  1. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Though it’s indisputable that Perle, Wolfowitz, and the usual suspects had wanted to invade Iraq for some time and jumped on 9/11 as a way of making it happen. That’s enough bad faith for me.Report

    • Avatar Will says:

      @Mike Schilling, Sure, but that doesn’t mean they were out to “plunder” the country.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        @Will, It doesn’t mean some of them weren’t either, though as our veteran guest below points out, they failed miserably in the task. I think clearly some of them saw Iraq as a place where the use of American force was far more justified by real “interests” than they saw Afghanistan to be. I think it is unrealistic to deny this. It is also basically impossible to isolate the “real” reasons the invasion happened. Whose intentions are really the relevant ones? Which people truly drove the decision making? The case that “plunder” was present in the thinking of some of the key architects of that war is far greater than for the Afghan war, though ultimately, as you say, to say it was a “War of Plunder” is just too reductive to have real meaning. It was (is) a war of many things.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          @Michael Drew, I mean, isn’t a proposed war that will “pay for itself” a war of plunder almost by stipulation?Report

          • Avatar Will says:

            @Michael Drew, Not necessarily. I think the “pays for itself” line was for public consumption. And breaking even doesn’t strike me as a plausible war aim – the point they were making was that we can remove a threat to American security without spending a lot of money.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              @Will, Hard not to see it as implying that maybe we wouldn’t stop at breaking even. After all, for the U.S. treasury to recoup the costs of a war, American industry would have to reap quite a bonanza that they could tax back part of. Whatever the formal limitations on that statement, it’s a rather clear indication of the kind of economic thinking that was well established among the partisans of that particular war (a party that was incorporated more than half a decade by the time the justifications for the impending invasion were being given in 2003). How often does it need to have been argued by PNAC-types well before 9/11 that Saddam’s controlling the world’s second-largest petroleum reserve constituted a threat to America’s energy security before it could be taken as axiomatic that a war to overthrow him absent a direct threat or Kuwait-like action from him would have a economic component? Plundering is a pretty silly word, but it’s pretty much what that is.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:


              It would also have been trivially easy to make the Iraq War pay for itself. Just have the U.S. government steal (err, manage, or maybe “appropriate”) everything it can — oil, gas, ancient artworks while we’re at it (for safe keeping, of course).

              Who’d have stopped us? And why’d we leave all that yummy loot to freelancers? You’re definitely right, they didn’t even try to make the war pay for itself. That’s because the taxpayers footed the bill.Report

      • Avatar LauraNo says:

        @Will, I think plunder was not the right word. Certainly there was a great profit to contractors, the military-industrial complex and so on. Haliburton being a primary beneficiary and Cheney by extension.Report

    • @Mike Schilling, You’re right that they did want to invade – however, WHY do you think they wanted to? This is usually where the conspiracy theory stuff comes in.Report

  2. Avatar Casey Head says:

    As an Iraq war veteran, I believe the invasion and subsequent nation building were ill advised.

    But I do take exception to the much propagated idea that the war was about securing Iraq’s oil. Oil companies based in the United States were largely shut out of oil rights negotiations, and obtained less than 10 percent of the contracts.

    The only “plundering” was that of the U.S. taxpayer.Report

  3. Avatar Casey Head says:

    As an Iraq war veteran, I believe the invasion and subsequent nation building were ill advised.

    But I do take exception to the much propagated idea that the war was about securing Iraq’s oil. Oil companies based in the United States were largely shut out of oil rights negotiations, and obtained less than 10 percent of the contracts.

    The only “plundering” was that of the U.S. taxpayer.Report

  4. Avatar Casey Head says:

    Oh hell, browser fail.

    I apologize for multiple postings.Report

  5. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    As if a blog post is going to capture the full, real causes of war.

    Sure, we aim high around here. But still.Report

  6. Avatar Larry Signor says:

    From Dictionary.com:
    ? ?/?pl?nd?r/
    –verb (used with object)
    1. to rob of goods or valuables by open force, as in war, hostile raids, brigandage, etc.: to plunder a town.
    2. to rob, despoil, or fleece: to plunder the public treasury.
    3. to take wrongfully, as by pillage, robbery, or fraud: to plunder a piece of property.

    How are Iraq and Afghanistan not wars of “plunder”? The US had the right to despoil these countries and rob people of their lives?

    OH, wars of “protection”, you might say. I would say, “bullshit”. If we are that scared, we have lost all perspective.

    George Carlin said it best. We like war. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDkhzHQO7jYReport

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      @Larry Signor, WTF is there to plunder in Afghanistan?Report

      • Avatar ThatPirateGuy says:

        @Michael Drew,

        This is relatively recent so I doubt that the planners of the war knew about it but…Afghanistan apparently has 1 trillion dollars worth of valuable minerals. This discovery is what I would consider bad news for the Afghans.


      • Avatar dexter45 says:

        @Michael Drew, The corps get to plunder the American taxpayer and, if recent articles I have read are correct, there is more than one trillion worth of mineral deposits in Afghanistan.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            @Jaybird, I doubt it, though the deposites were discovered by the commies during their occupation of the country. The records were toted out of the country in the anarchy that followed the soviet withdrawal and then toted back in when the expatriates went home.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          @dexter45, We went to Afghanistan a few weeks after getting attacked after no discussion of doing so previously with a few thousand CIA agents and Special Ops guys and followed up with a few brigades, SLOWLY building not very many roads and not very much else — because we had the intention of standing up a lithium mining industry in a country without an industrial infrastructure of any kind, in order to reap economic benefits that wouldn’t come on line for years if we were lucky, and which in fact never was even initiated? I’m sorry, that’s just WEAK. There were some pipeline stories I read that were mildly plausible, but the mineral angle is just not working for me.Report

      • Avatar Larry Signor says:

        @Michael Drew, Just a few brown peoples lives, homes and culture. Nothing significant. Wanton destruction surely qualifies as plundering. If it were our lives and homes, it would.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          @Larry Signor, when the WTC was attacked, the general ideas being thrown around were variants of:

          1) They H8 Us For Our Freedom
          2) The Chickens Are Coming Home To Roost
          3) We Were Not Christian Enough
          4) We Were Not Muslim Enough
          5) We Were Not Atheist Enough
          6) We Were Not Republican Enough
          7) We Were Not Democratic Enough

          There was not a single “they want to plunder our resources” until after the fact and we started getting bogged down in Afghanistan, Iraq, and started imposing the TSA, Patriot, etc on ourselves that folks started saying “Osama is plundering us by proxy!”Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          @Larry Signor, I take the wanton destruction point, as it technically does fall under the definition you provide. It’s not the sense of plundering I tend to operate with, but fair enough. For the record, I take E.D.’s point as well that the wars have had the effect of plundering our own treasury and moving American resources from non-warlike to warlike uses; it’s just that again I find it a kind of cute rhetorical move, as I don’t think that is what the term War of Plunder tends to connote. Also again, I just don’t think that what happened in Sept./Oct. 2001 happened in any significant way at all because people were thinking about mineral rights or the money that could be made by security contractors. Call me naive, but I just don’t. But I do think there is ample room for such explanations to play into, though not as the only cause, the factors leading to the Iraq War,because it was such an overwhelmingly optional undertaking, because mineral wealth is an objectively present reality in the country, and because the degree to which various U.S. government agencies would rely on security contractors in such a war had been made much more widely known in that community by the Afghanistan war.Report