Bush, Oil - and Moral Bankruptcy
by Ray McGovern
It is an exceedingly dangerous time. Vice
President Dick Cheney and his hard-core "neoconservative"
protégés in the administration and Congress are
pushing harder and harder for President George W. Bush, isolated
from reality, to honor the promise he made to Israel to prevent
Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
On Sept. 23, former national security
adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski warned pointedly:
"If we escalate tensions, if we succumb
to hysteria, if we start making threats, we are likely to stampede
ourselves into a war [with Iran], which most reasonable people
agree would be a disaster for us...I think the administration,
the president and the vice president particularly, are trying
to hype the atmosphere, and that is reminiscent of what preceded
the war in Iraq."
So why the pressure for a wider war in
which any victory will be Pyrrhic - for Israel and for the U.S.?
The short answer is arrogant stupidity; the longer answer - what
the Chinese used to call "great power chauvinism" -
The truth can slip out when erstwhile
functionaries write their memoirs (the dense pages of George Tenet's
tome being the exception). Kudos to the still functioning reportorial
side of the Washington Post, which on Sept. 15, was the first
to ferret out the gem in former Fed chairman, Alan Greenspan's
book that the Iraq war was "largely about oil."
But that's okay, said the Post's editorial
side (which has done yeoman service as the White House's Pravda)
the very next day. Dominating the op-ed page was a turgid piece
by Henry Kissinger, serving chiefly as a reminder that there is
an excellent case to be made for retiring when one reaches the
age of statutory senility.
Dr. Kissinger described as a "truism"
the notion that "the industrial nations cannot accept radical
forces dominating a region on which their economies depend."
(Curious. That same truism was considered a bad thing, when an
integral part of the "Brezhnev Doctrine" applied to
Eastern Europe.) What is important here is that Kissinger was
speaking of Iran, which - in a classic example of pot calling
kettle black - he accuses of "seeking regional hegemony."
What's going on here seems to be a concerted
effort to get us accustomed to the prospect of a long, and possibly
expanded war? Don't you remember? Those terrorists, or Iraqis,
or Iranians, or jihadists...whoever...are trying to destroy our
way of life. The White House spin machine is determined to justify
the war in ways they think will draw popular support from folks
like the well heeled man who asked me querulously before a large
audience, "Don't you agree that several GIs killed each week
is a small price to pay for the oil we need?"
Consistency in U.S. Policy?
The Bush policy toward the Middle East
is at the same time consistent with, and a marked departure from,
the U.S. approach since the end of World War II. Given ever-growing
U.S. dependence on imported oil, priority has always been given
to ensuring the uninterrupted supply of oil, as well as securing
the state of Israel. The U.S. was by and large successful in achieving
these goals through traditional diplomacy and commerce. Granted,
it would overthrow duly elected governments, when it felt it necessary
- as in Iran in 1953, after its president nationalized the oil.
But the George W. Bush administration is the first to start a
major war to implement U.S. policy in the region.
Just before the March 2003 attack, Chas
Freeman, U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia for President George
H.W. Bush, explained that the new policy was to maintain a lock
on the world's energy lifeline and be able to deny access to global
competitors. Freeman said the new Bush administration "believes
you have to control resources in order to have access to them"
and that, with the end of the Cold War, the U.S. is uniquely able
to shape global events - and would be remiss if it did not do
This could not be attempted in a world
of two superpowers, but has been a longstanding goal of the people
closest to George W. Bush. In 1975 in Harpers, then-secretary
of state Henry Kissinger authored under a pseudonym an article,
"Seizing Arab Oil." Blissfully unaware that the author
was his boss, the highly respected career ambassador to Saudi
Arabia, James Akins, committed the mother of all faux pas when
he told a TV audience that whoever wrote that article had to be
a "madman." Akins was right; he was also fired.
In those days, cooler heads prevailed,
thanks largely to the deterrent effect of a then-powerful Soviet
Union. Nevertheless, in proof of the axiom that bad ideas never
die, 26 years later Kissinger rose Phoenix-like to urge a spanking
new president to stoke and exploit the fears engendered by 9/11,
associate Iraq with that catastrophe, and seize the moment to
attack Iraq. It was well known that Iraq's armed forces were no
match for ours, and the Soviet Union had imploded.
Some, I suppose, would call that Realpolitik.
Akins saw it as folly; his handicap was that he was steeped in
the history, politics, and culture of the Middle East after serving
in Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait, Iraq, as well as Saudi Arabia - and
The renaissance of Kissinger's influence
in 2001 on an impressionable young president, together with faith-based
analysis by untutored ideologues cherry-picked by Cheney explain
what happened next - an unnecessary, counterproductive war, in
which over 3,800 U. S. troops have already been killed - leaving
Iraq prostrate and exhausted.
A-plus in Chutzpah, F in Ethics
In an International Herald Tribune op-ed
on Feb. 25, 2007, Kissinger focused on threats in the Middle East
to "global oil supplies" and the need for a "diplomatic
phase," since the war had long since turned sour. Acknowledging
that he had supported the use of force against Iraq, he proceeded
to boost chutzpah to unprecedented heights.
Kissinger referred piously to the Thirty
Years' War (1618-48), which left the European continent "prostrate
and exhausted." What he failed to point out is that the significance
of that prolonged carnage lies precisely in how it finally brought
Europeans to their senses; that is, in how it ended. The Treaty
of Westphalia brought the mutual slaughter to an end, and for
centuries prevented many a new attack by the strong on the weak
- like the U.S. attack on Iraq in 2003.
It was, it is about oil - unabashedly
and shamefully. Even to those lacking experience with U.S. policy
in the Middle East, it should have been obvious early on, when
every one of Bush's senior national security officials spoke verbatim
from the talking-point sheet, "It's not about oil."
Thanks to Greenspan and Kissinger, the truth is now "largely"
available to those who do not seek refuge in denial.
The implications for the future are clear
- for Iraq and Iran. As far as this administration is concerned
(and as Kissinger himself has written), "Withdrawal [from
Iraq] is not an option." Westphalia? U.N. Charter? Geneva
Conventions? Hey, we're talking superpower!
Thus, Greenspan last Monday with Amy Goodman
on Democracy Now:
"Getting him [Saddam Hussein] out
of the control position...was essential. And whether that be done
by one means or another was not as important. But it's clear to
me that, were there not the oil resources in Iraq, the whole picture...would
have been different."
The Bush page