“Imagine there’s no countries,” John Lennon sang. “Nothing to kill or die for.” Easy or not to imagine, the Beatle overlooked one motive behind scores of old and current conflicts: oil. As Rebecca Solnit argues in a passionate essay in the Guardian, oil is the source of much of the world’s violence, and its passing may help usher in more peaceful times.
It is widely accepted, Solnit notes, that Syria’s civil war was exacerbated by successive record droughts, making it “in part a climate change-driven war.”
However, “what hasn’t been said so often is that the chaos unleashed by the 2003 Iraq war is what generated ISIS.” The motives for America’s unprovoked invasion of Iraq that year remain murky, but control of Mideast oil fields has been a much-speculated factor. Oil, as Solnit recalls, was also behind the CIA-sponsored coup that toppled an elected president in Iran in 1953—in some accounts the adventurist pebble that triggered an avalanche of blowback against the west in the region, which continues to the present.
Unmentioned in her report were America’s 19th-century invasion of Mexico in order to ‘secure’ its oil fields for U.S. owners, or the numerous more recent reports that black-market oil sales directly fund the Daesh terror regime.
Even without fueling conflict, Solnit says, “extraction is a filthy process. Then comes transport, complete with oil spills on land, in rivers and at sea as the stuff gets transported in trucks, trains, pipelines, and tankers. This is followed by health problems from both the accidentally spilled crude, the byproducts such as refinery emissions, and the end-use emissions from automobiles and power plants.”
“Whether the [November terror] attackers in Paris had the climate conference in their sights is not clear,” Solnit concludes,“but the conference participants and the activists outside should have the oil wars in their own.”