WASHINGTON — "The Iraq war is largely about oil," former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan says in his new book -- an assertion disputed by lawmakers and the U.S. Defense secretary.
"I'm saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows," Greenspan, 81, writes in "The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World."
Greenspan writes that the attention given by developed nations to the political situation in the Middle East is directly tied to oil security.
"Whatever their publicized angst over Saddam Hussein's 'weapons of mass destruction,' American and British authorities were also concerned about violence in an area that harbors a resource indispensable for the functioning of the world economy," he writes.
The book is scheduled for publication today.
Greenspan clarified his remarks in an interview with the Washington Post, telling the newspaper that although securing global oil supplies was "not the administration's motive," he had presented the White House with a case for why removing Hussein was important for the global economy.
"I was not saying that that's the administration's motive," Greenspan said. "I'm just saying that if somebody asked me, 'Are we fortunate in taking out Saddam?,' I would say it was essential."
He said that in his discussions with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, "I have never heard them basically say, 'We've got to protect the oil supplies of the world,' but that would have been my motive."
Greenspan said that he made his economic argument to White House officials and that one lower-level official, whom he declined to identify, told him, "Well, unfortunately, we can't talk about oil."
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Sunday rejected the idea that oil was a reason for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
Before the war, Iraq supplied on average 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day to the U.S., or about 8.6% of total U.S. crude oil imports, according to the U.S. Energy Department. That made it the sixth-largest supplier to the U.S., after Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Canada, Venezuela and Nigeria.