On June 6, we issued a media alert titled ‘Mass Deception’ containing a quote from a June 4 Guardian news story in which US deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz appeared to admit that oil was the main motivation for the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. On June 5, the Guardian issued a correction, overlooked by Media Lens, stating that Wolfowitz had in fact not said this. The original Guardian story was swiftly removed from the website (it had never appeared in the print edition of the paper). On June 7, the Guardian’s Ian Mayes recounted the confusion in his readers’ editor column (‘A nasty slip on Iraqi oil’, The Guardian, 7 June, 2003), which can be seen at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,972482,00.html
The original quote was:
“Let’s look at it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil.” (‘Wolfowitz: Iraq war was about oil’, George Wright, The Guardian, June 4, 2003)
As Mayes recalls, The Guardian’s correction states:
“A report which was posted on our website on June 4 under the heading ‘Wolfowitz: Iraq war was about oil’ misconstrued remarks made by the US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, making it appear that he had said that oil was the main reason for going to war in Iraq. He did not say that. He said, according to the department of defence website, ‘The…difference between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil. In the case of North Korea, the country is teetering on the edge of economic collapse and that I believe is a major point of leverage whereas the military picture with North Korea is very different from that with Iraq.’
“The sense was clearly that the US had no economic options by means of which to achieve its objectives, not that the economic value of the oil motivated the war. The report appeared only on the website and has now been removed.”
Wolfowitz’s corrected remarks are curious. As we have documented many times in Media Alerts, Iraqi was devastated by the UN embargo – at least 500,000 children died as the result of sanctions. This obviously constituted a horrific “major point of leverage”. If the US had squeezed Iraq even tighter, there would have been even more “leverage”.
We apologise for including the erroneous quote in our Media Alert.