Oil & Gas Editorial: Ave, Imperator! Trump Caesar & The Crude "Spoils"

Tim Haïdar

It didn't even take 48 hours for the Trump presidency to cause its first controversy.

After a prickly first convocation of the world’s media delivered by new White House Press Secretary and Communications Director, Sean Spicer, President Trump’s first public meeting with the intelligence community in Langley, Virginia, was less spiky but even more contentious.

Having previously made the comparison between intelligence agencies and Nazi Germany, and alleging that they had leaked an inflammatory dossier of unverified documents linking him to the Russian administration, the 45th president angered intel veterans with a self-aggrandising speech in front of the hallowed CIA Memorial Wall.     

In the course of his monologue, as well as lambasting the press as “among the most dishonest human beings on Earth”, his introduction to the man he has nominated to head the CIA included an allusion to seizing Iraqi oil reserves.

“If we kept the oil, you probably wouldn’t have ISIS because that’s where they made their money in the first place”, said the Commander-in-Chief of the world’s most advanced military machine. Trump also affirmed that, although this didn’t happen post-invasion in 2003: “Maybe we’ll have another chance.”

Trump’s coveting of Iraq’s oil goes back to 2011, where he first proposed that taking control of the country’s hydrocarbon assets would function as an adequate recompense for the cost of military operations in the region, which has been estimated at $3 trillion over the past 13 years. That is roughly $9,400 for everybody living in the USA today, and some $350 billion more than the GDP of the United Kingdom.

At a military forum in September 2016, Trump declared: “You know, it used to be to the victor belong the spoils.” Perhaps, he was unaware that the origin of the phrase is attributed to Senator William Marcy of New York, and the “spoils” referred to were political appointments made in the aftermath of electoral triumph, and not the Latinate “spoils of war”.

If Day 2 of the Trump administration has already included a direct allusion to the foreign policy of Imperial Rome, one can only imagine where we will be on election day in 2020. Alea iacta est....