Gary Vogler (Iraq and the Politics of Oil) Q & A

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence,” John Adams.

During the Iraq War, Gary Vogler spent more time in Iraq than nearly any non-military American. Was the war really about oil? As a senior oil advisor for the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) and briefly as minister of oil, Vogler thought he knew. But while doing research for a book about his experience in Iraq, Vogler discovered that what he knew was not the whole story—or even the true story. The Iraq war did have an oil agenda underlying it, one that Vogler had previously denied. Iraq and the Politics of Oil is Vogler’s attempt to set the record straight.

“Gary Vogler spent 72 months in Iraq after the invasion in 2003 working on oil infrastructure,” Gordon Rudd, author of Reconstructing Iraq; Regime Change, Jay Garner, and the ORHA Story. “I know no other person better qualified to write this story. And the management of oil in Iraq over this period is an important story.”

1. When did you first have the idea to write Iraq and the Politics of Oil?

I always felt like I needed to write something for my family. They never understood why I kept volunteering to return to Iraq. I knew that a manuscript or some form of written document was needed to help them understand. My wife read each chapter after completion and we discussed the contents. She now has a much better understanding.

Several people told me that if I did not write the Iraq oil story then it would never be told. Ambassador Bremer asked me to join him and Meghan O’Sullivan on the Rachel Maddow Show in 2013. Maddow was doing a documentary on the role of oil in the decision to go to war. Maddow’s producers interviewed me in the summer of 2013 and the show aired in early March 2014. After seeing their documentary, I realized that I needed to write a factual account of the US involvement in the Iraq oil sector.

2. Can you describe your process of writing? How long did you spend working on the book?

I had never written a book. I have written many business reports and I wrote the Iraq oil Lessons Learned report for the US army in 2006, currently available on Kindle. I did not know the first thing about writing a book. A friend of mine introduced me to Don Phillips, a professional writer who has written many books. Don gave me some great advice. He told me to go home and make a list of all the stories that should be told about the oil sector, no matter how short or long. Then place those stories in the specific chapter where they belong. So, I tell over thirty stories within the twenty chapters in the book. He also advised me to write in the mornings when a person is most creative and to research in the afternoons. I researched and wrote for over a year. My first manuscript was shared with several colleagues who provided excellent feedback for my revised manuscript. The revision was sent to Kansas in mid 2016 and we signed a scholarly publication contract in January 2017.

3. Iraq and the Politics of Oilserves as an about face from your previous stance that the war in Iraq was not about oil. At what moment did you change your mind?

I denied any serious oil agenda until 2014. I risked my life in Iraq for seventy-five months and I firmly believed that myself and all Americans sent to Iraq were originally sent for noble reasons, Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). I went on the Rachel Maddow Show with Ambassador Bremer in 2013 and denied an oil agenda. My mind was changed when I started reading articles in the foreign press and on-line news services. It was difficult to change my previous position, especially after being on national television. I hit a tipping point in late 2014 and early 2015. I did not sleep at night. My health suffered. My anger kept me awake many many nights. I read quotes in the foreign press that were made by Israeli government officials, a retired CIA agent and Doug Feith’s Law partner. They were real eye openers. The things I experienced in 2002 and 2003 that did not make sense to me at the time suddenly made perfect sense once I recognized and accepted the oil agenda.

4. Has there been any negative response from your colleagues in the oil industry?

It is still early. The book has not been available very long. The responses have all been positive so far from oil industry colleagues. In fact, there is a favorable review on Amazon by a person from the oil industry.

5. How do you anticipate the future of oil exports from the Middle East to change in the next 15 years?

Forecasting anything about the oil industry over one year is difficult. Doing it for 15 years is impossible. However, it is safe to say that Iraq will be a bigger player in Middle East oil exports going forward. The largest oil auction in history took place in Baghdad during 2009. The potential production volumes identified from the contracts signed after those auctions highlight the important role that Iraq oil production will play for decades into the future.

6. What do you view as the biggest issue facing the oil industry in relation to US foreign relations?

There is an excellent book that was recently written by Meghan O’Sullivan entitled Windfall. It does a good job identifying the increased power the US has achieved in the last ten years because of technological advances in the US oil industry. I have not yet finished her book, but she articulates the issues better than what I have previously read. Meghan worked with me in Iraq during the CPA era and eventually became President Bush’s principal advisor for Iraq.

7. If you could have any one person read your book, who would it be and why?

LTG H. R. McMaster, head of the National Security Council. He wrote a book in 2011 about Vietnam called Dereliction of Duty. McMaster stressed two elements in his discussion of America’s failure in Vietnam: the hubris of President Johnson and his advisors, and the weakness of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. My book highlights the hubris of President Bush’s advisors to think that they could successfully install a puppet leader in Iraq, Dr. Ahmed Chalabi, to open an Iraqi oil pipeline to Israel. Today, I am witnessing the same group of political ideologues, the Neocons, beating the same war drums for Iran that they beat before Iraq. My fear is that we have learned little about the folly of those who pushed us into Iraq. We may someday find ourselves in a war with Iran, but God help us if we allow the same group of Neocons to push us into such a war for similar reasons.

8. What are you reading now?

Windfall: How the New Energy Abundance Upends Global Politics and Strengthens America’s Power   by Meghan O’Sullivan