Debate: Oil and the Iraq War – Reed Clifton vs. Gregory Hilton

Reed Clifton of Portland, Maine is a professional musician concentrating on folk, country and blues. He was born in northern New Jersey. He describes his hometown as a “New York City suburb/inner city ghetto, and spent much of his early life as a product of his environment. After cleaning up his life he attended college in California’s San Joaquin Valley. In college he began frequenting country music clubs such as Trouts in the Oildale section of Bakersfield, and his love and appreciation of country music grew.” He describes his philosophy of life by saying: “Some folks journey’s take them on sidewalks, mine goes over Everest. Wouldn’t have it any other way.”

HILTON: One of the best descriptions of Operation Iraqi Freedom’s mission was given by President George W. Bush when he said: “We will build a free Iraq that will fight terrorists instead of giving them aid and sanctuary. We will not rest until victory is America’s and our freedom is secure from Al Qaeda and its forces in Iraq led by Abu Musab al Zarqawi.
”If Zarqawi and [Osama] bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks. They’d seize oil fields to fund their ambitions. They could recruit more terrorists by claiming a historic victory over the United States and our coalition.”

CLIFTON: Wow are you serious? Right. Let’s kill thousands over oil and call it Operation Freedom whatever and talk about all the good we’re doing.

HILTON: Your observation was popular five years ago when the left use to chant “No Blood for Oil.” If America’s interest had been oil, the United States could have obtained concessions after 1991’s Operation Desert Storm. There was no need to go back again in 2003. We could have had plenty of oil out of Iraq if we had agreed to drop the sanctions 12 years earlier. There was no need to seize Iraq’s oil. It is a global commodity and the price of oil has never been determined in Baghdad.
Nevertheless, the radical left continues to believe the purpose of both the Iraq and Afghan Wars was to obtain access to oil or a natural gas pipeline. Now the results are known. Iraq’s oil wealth will benefit its own people. An auction in June of 2009 granted concessions to Chinese, Russian, British and French firms, while no American firm was granted a concession.

CLIFTON: Are you claiming there are no American oil companies in Iraq?

HILTON: I am claiming that not a single U.S. oil company secured a deal in the most recent auction. The auctions were for 10 undeveloped oil fields believed to contain reserves worth about $3 trillion at current prices. This auction determined Iraq’s distribution for the next few decades. The big winners were the countries which opposed America’s 2003 intervention, Russia, China and France.

CLIFTON: Pure lies . A lot of words, most of which are untrue to paint your picture. Alan Greenspan, the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, knows you are lying. In his memoir, Greenspan wrote: “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.”

HILTON: Alan Greenspan had nothing to do with the war in Iraq. America’s top coalition partner was the United Kingdom. The question of oil was publicly addressed before the 2003 U.S. liberation, and America’s position has not changed.
Oil represents over 90% of Iraq’s wealth. Before the U.S. intervention we acknowledged that it would require a huge investment to get back Iraq’s old production level of roughly three million barrels of oil a day. We always said those resources belong to the Iraqi people, and they finally had to be used for the benefit of the Iraqi people. That never happened under Saddam Hussein who build 54 palaces.
By 2008, Iraq had still not reached pre-war production levels but it made $80 million in oil profits. Their government had a $50 billion surplus and they have had a significant surplus every year since 2003. America on the other hand has a large deficit and we spent $634 billion on Iraq. If our goal was an oil profit we certainly have not been very successful.
The United States did not request nor did it receive any oil concessions. America did not ask Iraq to use its oil wealth to pay us back. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said any claim oil was a factor in going to war in Iraq is not true and a conspiracy theory. Australia was another partner and Prime Minister John Howard has said “We didn’t go there because of oil and we don’t remain there because of oil.” We are glad Iraq’s oil wealth is no longer being used to fund terrorism.

CLIFTON: Bush claimed terrorists “would seize the oil fields.” I say so let them. Oil is antiquated but the special interests don’t want us to see that. We need a Manhattan project style effort to develop real clean and efficient solar energy.
We have a nuclear reactor in space, it is the sun! We need solar panels the size of a cell phone that will power entire homes. Imagine if your Republican friends didn’t bribe congressmen with envelopes under the table where our nation could be.

HILTON: Reducing America’s reliance on fossil fuels is an admirable goal, and there is nothing wrong in promoting alternative energy sources. I am pleased the technology behind solar energy has improved. I do not believe in subsidizing things. We did that in the 1970’s when substandard products were sold to the American people. This proved to be a setback for solar power. Republicans advocate a long-term energy tax credit equally applicable to all renewable power sources.
Nuclear power is the most reliable zero-carbon emissions source of energy that we have. Unfortunately, liberal fear mongering has stopped its development. There has not been construction of a single nuclear power plant in almost 35 years.
At the same time, the U.S. Navy has for decades relied upon nuclear vessels, while other nations rely on nuclear power for most of their energy consumption. That is why Republicans have been advocating a streamlined licensing process so investors can be confident that they’ll be able to have a secure future.

CLIFTON: It’s a big world and America can’t be everywhere. Bush’s statements can be true of alot of places. The fact is bin Laden already has a sanctuary somewhere. Why don’t we know where he is? Why are we not where he is? We should be “smoking him out.” Answer that.

HILTON: The Bush administration was not able to find bin Laden and the Obama administration has also not accomplished that goal. The terrorists have not been defeated but al Qaeda has been decimated. They are now down to approximately 100 fighters in Afghanistan and al Qaeda Iraq is no longer a significant factor. The war is being taken to them. I supported President Bush’s Iraq surge and President Obama’s Afghan surge.

CLIFTON: This is sad. Nine years after being an eye witness to 9/11, this war has turned into “protecting oil fields.” Oil is $80 a barrel and we need real leadership to pave a way to the future.
We are America! We should not be held captive to oil or anyone else. Bold leadership is what we need and I just don’t see it on either side of the aisle. We have hundreds of billions on an oil war, and we still have not captured bin Laden, we are stuck with X-ray scans at airports, and warrantless wire taps. I am not thrilled that in exchange we have built a couple of schools in Afghanistan.

HILTON: We are not protecting oil fields or anything else. American forces are standing down in Iraq because the Iraqi forces are now standing up. Iraqi soldiers are protecting their own oil fields.
I agree with you that America should not be held captive . That is why we are advocating construction of 100 new nuclear power plants in the McCain bill, and that is an example of bold leadership. There was no oil war. We are also advocating increased use of natural gas, clean coal technologies and tax credits for alternative energy.
The only people who were subjected to wiretaps were those with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. The government did not intercept any calls before establishing a clear link to terrorist networks. These were calls the terrorists were making into the United States. Domestic calls were subject to warrants.

CLIFTON: At what cost? There has been too much blood shed. The same money could have been used for diplomatic leadership, not to kill for oil. Second, Saddam Hussein never committed terrorism on American soil. Bush was engaging in more lies to justify an oil war.

HILTON: President Bush was not lying. America tried diplomacy for 12 years, but Saddam Hussein ignored 17 resolutions which were adopted by the United Nations. Some of the allies we wanted to help us bring down Saddam Hussein were already in a corrupt coalition to keep him in power. That was revealed as part of the UN “oil for food” program.
No one was lying. The UN found documents which showed the “guiding theme” of Saddam’s regime was to be able to start making WMD again “with as short a lead time as possible.” Saddam was convinced that the UN sanctions – which stopped him from acquiring weapons – were on the brink of collapse and he bankrolled several foreign activists who were campaigning for their abolition. He personally approved payments to every one of these individuals or groups.

CLIFTON: You should read this shocking article, “Regime Change: How the CIA put Saddam’s Party in Power” by Richard Sanders, October 24, 2002. It clearly demonstrates the CIA’s role in Saddam’s rise to power, which you also deny. I don’t think you are ignorant, so why the lies? Where is the evidence that Saddam supported terrorism?

HILTON: You are correct, I do not deny it and the theme of this article is ludicrous. The CIA had not role in putting or keeping Saddam in power. Saddam Hussein put himself in power. He was a heartless murderer since he was 13 years old, and he killed his way to the top.
Saddam was linked to numerous terrorist acts.
There were direct connections between Saddam’s Iraq and numerous terrorist organizations. This was addressed in a March 2008 Pentagon-sponsored study entitled “Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents.”
It was based on a review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents captured after the 2003 US invasion. The study noted “Saddam supported groups either associated directly with al Qaeda (such as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, led at one time by bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri) or generally shared al Qaeda’s stated goals and objectives.” According to the Pentagon study, there were many terrorist and jihadist groups that Iraq’s former dictator funded, trained, equipped, and armed.
Saddam was willing to use operatives affiliated with al Qaeda, and this “created both the appearance of and, in some ways, a ‘de facto’ link between the organizations. At times, these organizations would work together in pursuit of shared goals but still maintain their autonomy and independence because of innate caution and mutual distrust.” The report says Saddam had the will to use his terrorist capabilities directly against United States.
The late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda Iraq was responsible for a number of deadly attacks. He and his men trained and fought with al-Qaeda for years. Zarqawi’s network helped establish and operate an explosives and poisons facility in northeast Iraq. Zarqawi and nearly two-dozen al-Qaeda associates were in Baghdad before the fall of Saddam’s regime.

CLIFTON: I do not agree with you and you have convinced me of nothing. He has been fun to debate with you. You are obviously very intelligent, although misguided in my opinion.

HILTON: Thanks for being so kind and I hope others find our discussion educational.

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