The way veteran author and journalist Linda McQuaig sees it, George W. Bush's war in Iraq was always about oil, oil, oil.
Not weapons of mass destruction, not bringing democracy to the Middle East, not terrorism.
If that premise seems radical, it won't after a reading of McQuaig's latest vigorous expose, It's the Crude, Dude -- War, Big Oil, And The Fight For the Planet (Doubleday Canada).
Currently No. 2 on the Maclean's magazine list of best-selling non-fiction books, her razor-edged commentary details how Middle East oil was in the sights of Bush oilmen like Vice-President Dick Cheney long before talk of democracy and WMDs.
Playing devil's advocate over coffee this week in Vancouver, I suggest to the Toronto-based writer that most people intuitively know the war is about oil -- it just isn't talked about.
"I agree, of course it's about oil," she replied, "but that still has not been admitted by the Bush administration or by the media . . . they accept that the invasion has something to do with bringing democracy to the Middle East.
"And that's the one thing I think we can say for sure that it wasn't about."
The San Francisco Chronicle's Robert Collier observes that "one of the most critical problems confronting America's future -- energy -- has barely been featured" in an election campaign "drowned out by Iraq and the war on terror."
America is literally over an empty barrel on energy supplies. It is the world's biggest consumer of oil at 21 million barrels a day, yet produces only one quarter of that amount, having reached peak production of domestic supplies 19 years ago.
The world superpower, where conservation is a "quaint notion" in Cheney's words, has a voracious thirst for oil that can only be met through imports.
Hence the drive to control Iraq's oil, masked as a crusade for democracy. And not only Middle East oil: Canada is the largest supplier of energy to the U.S., which now demands "deep integration" and a "continental energy policy" to send ever-increasing amounts of Canadian oil and gas south.
McQuaig notes the U.S. "already has" a lock on Canada's energy in the form of a stupendously dumb NAFTA agreement signed in the early 90s.
"It prevents us from cutting back our exports to the U.S. unless we cut our consumption."
Only the NDP's Jack Layton calls for the clause to be renegotiated. McQuaig says Paul Martin's regime is "totally in line with deep integration" and has a lousy conservation record scorched this week by the federal environment commissioner.
"The problem is there's no political leadership on this at all," McQuaig concludes. "I think the public is starting to see that there's a huge problem here; the pressure has got to come from the people to push the leaders to lead."
Best the people start making some noise.