Greenspan says invasion and war 'largely about oil'
United States:Alan Greenspan, the consummate Washington insider and long-time head of the US central bank, has backed the position taken by many anti-war critics - that the invasion of Iraq was motivated by oil.
His claim comes in his newly-published autobiography, The Age of Turbulence, in which he also castigates George W. Bush's administration for making "grave mistakes" in economic policy.
Sounding more like an activist than a lifelong Republican who worked alongside six US presidents, Mr Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, said in an interview with this reporter that the invasion of Iraq was aimed at protecting Middle East oil reserves. "I thought the issue of weapons of mass destruction as the excuse was utterly beside the point."
He said it was clear to him that Saddam Hussein had wanted to control the Straits of Hormuz and so control Middle East oil shipments through the vital route out of the gulf. Had Saddam been able to do that, it would have been "devastating to the West", as the former Iraqi president could have shut off five million barrels a day and brought the industrial world "to its knees".
In the book Mr Greenspan writes: "Whatever their publicised angst over Saddam Hussein's 'weapons of mass destruction', American and British authorities were also concerned about violence in the area that harbours a resource indispensable for the functioning of the world economy. I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil."
Asked to explain his remark, he said: "From a rational point of view I cannot understand why we don't name what is evident and indeed a wholly defensible pre-emptive position."
As longest-serving chairman of the Fed, Mr Greenspan was renowned for his cryptic statements about the economy. But in his memoir, which went on sale at the weekend, he uncharacteristically criticises the Bush administration, while praising Bill Clinton and his advisers. "Little value was placed on rigorous economic policy debate or the weighing of long-term development," he writes of the current administration.
The 81-year-old's attack will hurt a White House already suffering feeble approval ratings against a faltering economic background.
Describing ballooning government deficits under Bush, he condemns the way deficit spending was used to support the legislative agenda. "It was a struggle for me to accept that this had become the dominant ethos and economic policy of the Republican Party."
- (Guardian Service)