Chomsky:Iraq & Peak Oil
By Bill Henderson
10 October, 2005
have been one thing to put the United States at the head of a coordinated,
international effort to reduce dependence on carbon fuels; it is quite
another to send American forces around the world from Colombia
to Uzbekistan, from Angola to the Persian Gulf to oblige the
world to meet an American demand for almost half the worlds oil
supplies." Godfrey Hodgson Oil
and American Politics
Why did the US (and
it's few allies including Britain and Australia) attack Iraq?
Why does it matter
Did the US and its
allies attack to prevent a mad tyrant from developing weapons of mass
destruction that could have been used - maybe by al-Qaeda terrorists
- in another attack on America or on Iraq's neighbours? Or did the US
initiate a preemptive, defensive war because the Bush Admin at least
thought that Saddam had WMDs and was preparing to use them?
There were no WMDs.
And there was enough knowledge of the relative danger posed by a very
much weakened and puny Iraq and enough evidence available before the
war about Iraq's WMD potential to remove any excuse for a preemptive
Plus there is substantial
evidence that members of the Bush Admin had been planning aggression
in Iraq for at least a decade for a host of powerfully tempting reasons
and that possible danger from WMDs and links to al-Qaeda was deceitfully
exaggerated to provide minimal legitimization for a 'defensive war'
under international and US law within the closing window of UN sanctions
from the first Gulf War.
What then were the
real underlying reasons for aggression in Iraq? And, removing the fig-leaf
of self-defense, why does it matter to Americans and the rest of us
global citizens now?
Any time a governmental
policy is developed and implemented there are a host of reasons that
can be sorted out on hierarchical scales. Policy formulation has domestic
political roots and must fit into global scale socio-economic contexts.
Policy formulation is path dependent to some degree because governments
inherit well established policy paths and is always to some degree influenced
by the unique personalities involved and by the unique temporal situation
Aggression in Iraq
was never for any one reason and cannot be completely understood as
even the product of the Bush Admin alone. Dismissing even a mistaken
belief in WMDs, informed opinion worldwide has postulated a wide variety
of self-interested reasons for aggression. These reasons can be grouped
from global, longer term, geo-strategic scales through global, intermediate
time scales down to local, US domestic election or even money-raising
for election considerations:
Control of Iraq
to control both Iraqi oil and the Middle East oil producing region has
differing tempting benefits over time. Economic opportunities for Halliburton
et el and maximizing Iraqi oil production are immediate benefits. Continuation
of a century old policy of control of the flow of oil from the Middle
East and some degree of potential influence on other economic players
- China, Japan and Europe - would be intermediate term benefits.
And rapidly increasing
in importance is control of Iraq to facilitate military control of the
world's only remaining source of cheap, conventional oil in the coming
peak oil endgame
Don't ever discount
the temptation of any major corporate business opportunity this quarter;
but, of course, consider the possibilities of coercing Chinese or European
economies in the coming decades; and the Vice-Pres and energy czar needs
an answer to his question of where the corporate global economy is going
to get its needed extra 50 million barrels a day in 2010.
Israel; oil in Euros
/ dollar as Achilles heel; the military-industrial complex need to demonstrate
and fine tune shock and awe; the electoral power of a Commander-in-chief;
the Bush family / Saddam antipathes - there were many very tempting
reasons for regime change in Iraq besides the bounteous low hanging
fruit of Iraqi oil or even control of Iraq in order to control the oil
rich Middle East.
American dissidents James Howard Kunstler and Noam Chomsky combined
all of these myriad policy variables into their own unique way of simply
telling the story of aggression in Iraq.
James Kunstler is
the world's foremost critic of the non-negotiable American lifestyle:
" It is a living arrangement which has no future. It represents
the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world".
Here is his way of telling the
America and Iraq story:
"Youve got 3 or 4 major players, or blocs of players,
in the world who are liable in one way or another to contest for the
remaining oil in the world. Most conspicuously, perhaps, you have the
US and China. Now, most of the oil in the world over two-thirds
of the remaining oil in the world happens to be in the Middle
East and Central Asia. China can walk into many of these places if they
want to, and I dare say sooner or later they may. Are we going to engage
the Chinese army in a land war, in a land locked former Soviet Republic?
Thats not an adventure we can feel confident about, and I would
doubt we would do that. We are now engaged in Iraq, in occupying an
unfriendly nation. My view of the war is not like my fellow registered
Democrats view of the war. I think it was something, given our
lifestyle in America, it was something that we basically had to do,
to set up a police station in the Middle East to ensure that we could
continue buying this resource. We didnt go over there to steal
their oil. I think thats really not true. But we were certainly
very worried about being able to continue buying it from Iraq and Saudi
Arabia, so we set up this police station, over in Iraq, which was the
best candidate because it was between two of the most crucial players
there: Iran and Saudi Arabia. And we set up this police station to modify
their behavior, and influence their behavior. And for a few years it
sort of worked, but thats also a project we cant feel very
confident about, and we have to ask ourselves how long can we occupy
these unfriendly countries, and the answer probably is not forever.
And what happens when its no longer possible, when weve
bankrupted ourselves, or exhausted our military, or demoralized our
military, or are not able to enroll soldiers voluntarily. I think sooner
or later, we may have to withdraw into the Western Hemisphere, and when
we do what happens to our access to two-thirds of the remaining oil?
These are very, very troubling questions. I imagine they are thinking
about these things in the Pentagon, and the intelligence agencies, but
were certainly not talking about them in the newspapers."
Noam Chomsky is
the dean of American dissidents; the most articulate, the best prepared,
informed and persistent voice telling the real story of America during
the past four decades. Here is part of his recent take on America in
Iraq from a new book length interview: A Hated Political Enemy:
York Times rather honestly called Iraq the Petri dish test case for
the new doctrine announced in the National Security strategy which basically
comes down to a dismantling of international law and institutions and
a very brazen announcement that the US intends to dominate the world
by force and to do so indefinitely and to destroy any potential challenge
to its dominance.
precedents but no precedent that I know of as a statement of national
policy except for cases we'd rather not think about. Which is why it
caused plenty of shudders in the foreign policy elite here as well as
around the world. And Iraq was a test case that shows how it is done.
Why Iraq? Well, you pick a country that's first of all defenceless -
you don't want to attack anybody that can defend themselves, that would
be ridiculous - and also worth controlling. No point in attacking Burundi,
which is also defenseless but who wants it?
other hand Iraq has the great advantage of being both defenseless and
disarmed, and also very valuable. Its got the second largest energy
reserves in the world. With the United States firmly implanted right
in the middle of the energy producing center of the world, it increases
enormously the leverage for global control. So Iraq was the perfect
test case for the military."
nuanced appreciation of using American military power to seize control
is the realpolitik, reasonable, Red State excuse for a cynically illegal
war. America as policeman - an American policeman acting in God-ordained
self-interest, not constrained by anybodies rule of law.
is much darker. Iraq is a premeditated step in a radical plan of world
domination. The question of illegality isn't just war, murder and occupation
in Iraq, but the dismantling of international law and institutions in
the creation of a global American empire.
What does it matter?
Why does it matter what the reasons for war are now with the war a fait
What do you expect
to happen if the policemen where you live break the law in their own
self-interest? What happens when the rule of law is dismissed by the
Russia and China
have nuclear weapons. American action in Iraq sent a strong signal.
Lamentably under-appreciated in America is how Bush Admin aggression
in Iraq has made the world a much more dangerous place - closer to a
final nuclear world war than any time since the Cuban crisis in 1962.
In seizing Iraq
the Bush Admin chose the resource war path for us all. Iraq was a preemptive
rejection of international cooperation in these next key decades during
which a transition from a fossil fuel economy must be made.
The enemy isn't
the Islamic world or even the militant Islamic fundamentalists but the
"3 or 4 major players, or blocs of players, in the world who
are liable in one way or another to contest for the remaining oil in
the world" (and other key industrial civilization resources
that will also be severely depleted by burgeoning human populations
with powerful technologies).
This is why Bush
Admin motivation and planning for aggression in Iraq is so important
today. This is why the war's legality is still so important 21/2 years
after victory was declared. This choice of who Americans are and what
the world will be like in the first decades of the 21st century was
not made by the American people or even their elected representatives
but by a small group within the present administration.
This is why telling
the true story about America and Iraq is so important.