Cheney had Iraq in sights two
By Simon English in New
Documents released under America's Freedom of
Information Act reveal that an energy task force led by
vice-president Dick Cheney was examining Iraq's oil assets two years
before the latest war began.
The papers were obtained after a long battle with the
White House by Judicial Watch, a conservative legal charity that
opposes government secrecy and which is suing for the dealings of
the task force to be made public.
Dick Cheney was examining Iraq's oil assets two years
before the latest war began|
The emergence of the documents could fuel claims that
America's war in Iraq had as much to do with oil as national
security. It also indicates that the Bush administration is
beginning to lose the battle to keep its internal workings
The 16 pages, dated March 2001, show maps of Iraq oil
fields, pipelines, refineries and terminals. A document titled
Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts is also included,
listing which countries were keen to do business with Saddam's
Judicial Watch requested the papers two years ago as
part of its investigation into links between the Bush administration
and senior energy executives including Enron's former chairman Ken
Mr Cheney has fought the release of the documents at
every stage. A court ordered two weeks ago that at least some of the
task force's working papers should be made public.
Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said: "People
will draw their own conclusions about the documents, but that is
what an open society is about. Given the delay in their release, the
Bush administration clearly did not want them to come out."
A spokesman for Mr Cheney did not return calls
yesterday. The US Commerce Department said in a statement: "It is
the responsibility of the Commerce Department to serve as a
commercial liaison for US companies doing business around the world,
including those that develop and utilise energy resources. The
Energy Task Force evaluated regions of the world that are vital to
global energy supply."
Judicial Watch isn't claiming that the documents are
proof of any particular intent but say they should be open to public
Mr Fitton said: "Opponents of the war will point to
the documents as evidence that the Bush administration was after
Iraqi oil. Supporters will say the energy task force would have been
remiss if it did not take Iraq's oil into account."
Nevertheless, the documents represent a surprising
development. Until now it had been assumed that the US government
was stonewalling over the energy task force papers because they
would show the extent to which major party benefactors, including
Enron, effectively wrote national energy policy.
Judicial Watch and other watchdogs are now curious
what else may be revealed. A court ordered the government to comply
with the Freedom of Information Act and give up these documents more
than a year ago. Judicial Watch said it could not explain why the
papers were suddenly released. A government spokesman declined to
Maps of oil fields and pipelines in Saudi Arabia and
the United Arab Emirates and a list of energy development projects
in those two countries are also included.
Mr Cheney argues that his consultations with the
energy industry should be private so that all parties can speak
freely. A US court recently described this invoking of executive
privilege "extraordinary" and "drastic".
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