This is the best "all in one place" article on the subject I've come across:

In the Caspian Basin and beneath the deserts of Iraq, as much as 783 billion barrels of oil are waiting to be pumped. Anyone controlling that much oil stands a good chance of breaking OPEC's stranglehold overnight, and any nation seeking to dominate the world would have to go after it.

The long-held suspicions about George Bush's wars are well-placed. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were not prompted by the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. They were not waged to spread democracy in the Middle East or enhance security at home. They were conceived and planned in secret long before September 11, 2001 and they were undertaken to control petroleum resources.

The "global war on terror" began as a fraud and a smokescreen and remains so today, a product of the Bush Administration's deliberate and successful distortion of public perception. (For a full treatment of the distortions, see Frank Rich's book, The Greatest Story Ever Sold: the Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina.) The fragmented accounts in the mainstream media reflect this warping of reality, but another more accurate version of recent history is available in contemporary books and the vast information pool of the Internet. When told start to finish, the story becomes clear, the dots easier to connect.

Both appalling and masterful, the lies that led us into war and keep us there today show the people of the Bush Administration to be devious, dangerous and far from stupid.

Here then are the stories of the oil wars: the antecedents, the ideology, the networks of people, and the events.

Iraq

The Project for a New American Century, a D.C.-based political think tank founded in 1997 and funded by three archconservative philanthropies, is the source of the Bush Administration's imperialistic urge for the U.S. to dominate the world. Our nation should seek to achieve a "...benevolent global hegemony," according to William Kristol, PNAC's chairman. The group advocates the novel and startling concept of "pre-emptive war" as a means of doing so.

On January 26, 1998, the PNAC sent a letter to President William Clinton urging the military overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. The dictator, the letter alleged, was a destabilizing force in the Middle East, and posed a mortal threat to "...the safety of American troops in the region, of our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world's oil supply..." The subjugation of Iraq would be the first application of "pre-emptive war." (The letter can be read at www.newamericancentury.org.)

The unprovoked, full-scale invasion and occupation of another country, however, would be an unequivocal example of "the use of armed force by a state against the sovereignty, territorial integrity, or political independence of another state." That is the formal United Nations definition of military aggression, and a nation can choose to launch it only in self-defense. Otherwise it is an international crime.

President Clinton did not honor the PNAC's request.

But sixteen members of the Project for a New American Century would soon assume prominent positions in the Administration of George W. Bush, including Dick Cheney, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Armitage, John Bolton, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Elliott Abrams.

The "significant portion of the world's oil supply" was of immediate concern, because of the commanding influence of the oil industry in the Bush Administration. Beside the president and vice president, eight cabinet secretaries and the national security advisor had direct ties to the industry, and so did 32 others in the departments of Defense, State, Energy, Agriculture, Interior, and the Office of Management and Budget.

Within days of taking office, President Bush appointed Vice President Cheney to chair a National Energy Policy Development Group. Cheney's "Energy Task Force" was composed of the relevant federal officials and dozens of energy industry executives and lobbyists, and it operated in tight secrecy. (The full membership has never been revealed, but Enron's Kenneth Lay is known to have participated, and the Washington Post reported that Exxon-Mobil, Conoco, Shell, and BP America did, too.)

During his second week in office, President Bush convened the first meeting of his National Security Council. It was a triumph for the PNAC. In just one hour-long meeting, the new Bush Administration turned upside down the long-standing focus of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Over Secretary of State Colin Powell's objections, the goal of reconciling the Israel-Palestine conflict was abandoned, and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was set as the new priority. Ron Suskind's book, The Price of Loyalty, describes the meeting in detail.

The Energy Task Force wasted no time, either. Within three weeks of its creation, the group was poring over maps of the Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, tanker terminals, and oil exploration blocks. It studied an inventory of "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts" -- dozens of oil companies from 30 different countries, in various stages of negotiations for exploring and developing Iraqi crude. (These documents were forced into view several years later by the citizen group Judicial Watch, with a Freedom of Information Act proceeding. It wasn't easy--the Bush Administration appealed the lawsuit all the way to the Supreme Court--but the maps and documents can now be seen at : http://www.judicialwatch.org/iraqi-oil-maps.shtml.

Not a single U.S. oil company was among the "suitors," and that was intolerable, given a foreign policy bent on global hegemony. The National Energy Policy document, released May 17, 2001 concluded this: "By any estimation, Middle East oil producers will remain central to world security. The Gulf will be a primary focus of U.S. international energy policy."

That rather innocuous statement can be clarified by a top-secret memo dated February 3, 2001 to the staff of the National Security Council. (Cited in a New Yorker article by Jane Mayer, in February of 2004.) Cheney's group, the memo said, was "melding" two apparently unrelated areas of policy: "the review of operational policies toward rogue states," such as Iraq, and "actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields." The memo directed the National Security Council staff to cooperate fully with the Energy Task Force as the "melding" continued. National security policy and international energy policy would be developed as a coordinated whole. This would prove convenient on September 11, 2001, still seven months in the future.

The Bush Administration was drawing a bead on Iraqi oil long before the "global war on terror" was invented. But how could the "capture of new and existing oil fields" be made to seem less aggressive, less arbitrary, less overt?

During April of 2002, almost a full year before the invasion, the State Department launched a policy-development initiative called "The Future of Iraq Project" to accomplish this. The "Oil and Energy Working Group" provided the disguise for "capturing" Iraqi oil. Iraq, it said in its final report, "should be opened to international oil companies as quickly as possible after the war ... the country should establish a conducive business environment to attract investment in oil and gas resources." (Quoted from "Crude Designs," a report from the UK's Platform Group.)

Capture would take the form of investment, and the vehicle for doing so would be the "production sharing agreement."

Under production sharing agreements, or PSAs, oil companies are granted ownership of a "share" of the oil produced, in exchange for investing in development costs, and the contracts are binding for up to 30 years. What would happen, though, if the companies' investments were only minimal, but their shares of the production were obscenely, disproportionately large?

This is hardwired. Production sharing agreements have now been drafted in Baghdad covering 75 percent of the undeveloped Iraqi fields, and the oil companies, waiting to sign the contracts, will earn as much 162 percent on their investments. And the "foreign suitors" are not quite so foreign now: The players on the inside tracks are Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, BP-Amoco and Royal Dutch-Shell.

The use of PSAs will cost the Iraqi people hundreds of billions of dollars in just the first few years of the "investment" program. They would be far better off keeping in place the structure Iraq has relied upon since 1972: a nationalized oil industry leasing pumping rights to the oil companies, who then pay royalties to the central government. That is how it is done today in Saudi Arabia and the other OPEC countries.

Production sharing agreements, heavily favored by the oil companies, were specified by George Bush's State Department. Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority drafted an oil law privatizing the oil sector, and American oil interests have lobbied in Baghdad ever since then for the PSA's. Apparently successfully: the Oil Committee headed by Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih is said currently to be "leaning" toward them.

With the capture of Iraqi oil resources prospectively disguised, the Halliburton company was then hired, secretly, to design a fire suppression strategy for the Iraqi oil fields. If oil wells were to be torched during the upcoming war (as Saddam did in Kuwait in 1991), the Bush Administration would be prepared to extinguish them rapidly. The contract with Halliburton was signed in the fall of 2002. Congress had yet to authorize the use of force in Iraq.

So a line of dots begins to point at Iraq, though nothing illegal or unconstitutional has yet taken place. We are still in the policy-formulation stage, but two "seemingly unrelated areas of policy" -- national security policy and international energy policy -- have become indistinguishable.

Afghanistan

The strategic location of Afghanistan can scarcely be overstated. The Caspian Basin contains up to $16 trillion worth of oil and gas resources, and the most direct pipeline route to the richest markets is through Afghanistan.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the first western oil company to take action in the Basin was the Bridas Corporation of Argentina. It acquired production leases and exploration contracts in the region, and by November of 1996 had signed an agreement with General Dostum of the Northern Alliance and with the Taliban to build a pipeline across Afghanistan.

Not to be outdone, the American company Unocal (aided by an Arabian company, Delta Oil) fought Bridas at every turn. Unocal wanted exclusive control of the trans-Afghan pipeline and hired a number of consultants in its conflict with Bridas: Henry Kissinger, Richard Armitage (now Deputy Secretary of State in the Bush Administration), Zalmay Khalilzad (a signer of the PNAC letter to President Clinton) and Hamid Karzai.

Unocal wooed Taliban leaders at its headquarters in Texas, and hosted them in meetings with federal officials in Washington, D.C.

Unocal and the Clinton Administration hoped to have the Taliban cancel the Bridas contract, but were getting nowhere. Finally, Mr. John J. Maresca, a Unocal Vice President, testified to a House Committee of International Relations on February 12, 1998, asking politely to have the Taliban removed and a stable government inserted. His discomfort was well placed.

Six months later terrorists linked to Osama bin Laden bombed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and two weeks after that President Clinton launched a cruise missile attack into Afghanistan. Clinton issued an executive order on July 4, 1999, freezing the Taliban's U.S.-held assets and prohibiting further trade transactions with the Taliban.

Mr. Maresca could count that as progress. More would follow.

Immediately upon taking office, the new Bush Administration actively took up negotiating with the Taliban once more, seeking still to have the Bridas contract vacated, in exchange for a tidy package of foreign aid. The parties met three times, in Washington, Berlin, and Islamablad, but the Taliban wouldn't budge.

Behind the negotiations, however, planning was underway to take military action if necessary. In the spring of 2001 the State Department sought and gained concurrence from both India and Pakistan to do so, and in July of 2001, American officials met with Pakistani and Russian intelligence agents to inform them of planned military strikes against Afghanistan the following October. A British newspaper told of the U.S. threatening both the Taliban and Osama bin Laden--two months before 9/11--with military strikes.

According to an article in the UK Guardian, State Department official Christina Rocca told the Taliban at their last pipeline negotiation in August of 2001, just five weeks before 9/11, "Accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs."

The Great Game and Its Players

The geostrategic imperative of reliable oil supplies has a long history, arguably beginning with the British Navy in World War I. First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill repowered the British fleet -- from coal (abundant in the UK) to oil (absent in the UK), and thus began the Great Game: jockeying by the world powers for the strategic control of petroleum. (Churchill did this to replace with oil pumps the men needed to shovel coal -- a large share of the crew -- so they could man topside battle stations instead.) Iraq today is a British creation, formed almost a century ago to supply the British fleet with fuel, and it is still a focal point of the Game.

The players have changed as national supremacy has changed, as oil companies have morphed over time, and as powerful men have lived out their destinies.

Among the major players today are the Royal family of Saudi Arabia and the Bush family of the state of Maine (more recently of Texas). And they are closely and intimately related. (See Craig Unger's riveting book, House of Bush, House of Saud: the Secret Relationship Between the World's Two Most Powerful Dynasties.) The relationship goes back several generations, but it was particularly poignant in the first Gulf War in 1990-91, when the U.S. and British armed forces stopped Saddam Hussein in Kuwait, before his drive reached the Arabian oil fields. Prime Minister John Major of the UK, and President George H.W. Bush became the much esteemed champions of the Arabian monarchy, and James Baker, Bush's Secretary of State, was well regarded, too. (Years earlier, Mr. Baker and a friend of the royal family's had been business partners, in building a skyscraper bank building in Houston.)

The Carlyle Group: Where the Players Meet to Profit

After President Bush, Secretary Baker, and Prime Minister Major left office, they all became active participants and investors in the Carlyle Group, a global private equity investment firm comprised of dozens of former world leaders, international business executives (including the family of Osama bin Laden); former diplomats, and high-profile political operatives from four U.S. Administrations. For years, Carlyle would serve as the icon of the Bush/Saudi relationship.

Carlyle, with its headquarters just six blocks from the White House, invests heavily in all the industries involved in the Great Game: the defense, security, and energy industries, and it profits enormously from the Afghan and Iraqi wars.

In the late 1980s, Carlyle's personal networking brought together George W. Bush, the future 43rd U.S. president, and $50,000 of financial backing for his Texas oil company, Arbusto Energy. The investor was Salem bin Laden (half-brother of Osama bin Laden) who managed the Carlyle investments of the Saudi bin Laden Group. (After the tragedy of 9/11, by mutual consent, the bin Laden family and Carlyle terminated their business dealings.) George Bush left Carlyle in 1992 to run for governor of Texas.

(See Part II for the rest)