"It's The Crude, Dude"
By Stephen Lendman
01 August, 2007
McQuaig is a prominent, admired, and award-winning Canadian journalist
writing about vital issues of concern to everyone. She was a national
reporter for the Toronto Globe and Mail before joining the Toronto Star
where she now covers Canadian politics with her trademark combination
of solid research, keen analysis, irreverence, passion and wit. She's
easy to read, never boring, and fearless. The National Post called her
"Canada's Michael Moore."
McQuaig is also a prolific
author with a well-deserved reputation for taking on the establishment.
In her previous seven books, she challenged Canada's deficit reduction
scheme to gut essential social services. She explained how the rich
used the country's tax system to get richer the way it's worked in the
US since Ronald Reagan and then exploded under George Bush. She exposed
the fraud of "free trade" (never called fair because it isn't)
empowering giant corporations over sovereign states while exploiting
working people everywhere.
She also showed how successive
Canadian governments waged war on equality since the 1980s, and in her
latest book, "Holding the Bully's Coat - Canada and the US Empire,"
she takes aim at the conservative Stephen Harper administration's allying
with George Bush's belligerent lawlessness and phony "war on terrorism."
Canada chose not to be part of Washington's concocted "coalition
of the willing" in Iraq but partnered in its war of aggression
and illegal occupation of Afghanistan.
Her last book before her
latest one is another important tour de force and subject of this review.
It's titled "It's the Crude, Dude: war, big oil, and the fight
for the planet." It's no secret America's wars in the Middle East
and Central Asia are to control what a Franklin Roosevelt State Department
spokesman in 1945 called a "stupendous source of strategic power,
and one of the greatest material prizes in world history" - the
huge amount of Middle East oil with most of it believed to be in Saudi
Arabia then. With it goes veto power over how it's distributed, to whom,
at what price, for whose benefit and at whose expense. Today, one country
above all others may be that "greatest material prize" making
it target number one America intends to control for the strategic power
and riches it represents.
The country is Iraq, and
it's the reason US forces invaded and occupy it. McQuaig's book explained
it stunningly, beginning on her opening page: The "oil motive"
drives America's wars "given oil's obvious geopolitical significance,
and the fact that Iraq is the last easily harvested oil bonanza left
on earth." More on that below and also on the fact that with less
than 5% of the world's population and 3% of its oil reserves, the US
wastefully consumes one-fourth of all oil production with no plan to
cut back. It means a reliable outside source is essential pointing directly
at the Middle East where two-thirds of all proved reserves are located.
They're not inexhaustible, however, as oil is a finite resource. It
means a crunch ahead is inevitable.
McQuaig cited a US Department
of Energy National Energy Laboratory report saying: "The world
has never faced a problem like this....Previous transitions (like 'wood
to coal and coal to oil') were gradual and evolutionary; oil peaking
will be abrupt and revolutionary," and may already have occurred.
Further, with America waging two costly oil-related wars for much of
what's left, gaining control has become violent with no letup in sight
and more oil-rich nations in Washington's target queue. More on that
below as well and the fact that oil consumption keeps increasing, two
huge emerging nations (China and India) need growing amounts of it,
just at a time production peaked and is declining. That's a combustible
mixture now playing out in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia. It also affects
Iran, Venezuela, Sudan (for its Darfur oil riches) and other strategically
important oil-rich nations that dare defy America by wanting control
of their own resources along with the major share of revenue from them.
McQuaig deals with this timely
and important subject in the part of the world where it matters most
- the Middle East and especially Iraq where America came to stay. Her
book is divided into 10 tantalizingly titled chapters. It was written
in 2004, updated in 2006, and is just as relevant now as when first
published. Some of the story is known, but much information covered
isn't common knowledge and key parts aren't discussed at all in the
mainstream. They include the rise of Big Oil and OPEC, Iraq's strategic
importance, its potentially immense and easily accessible untapped oil
riches, and America's intention to turn the nation into a centrally
located Middle East military base with plans to stay as long as there's
enough oil in the country and region to make it worthwhile. Current
talk of future force drawdowns and withdrawal is baloney. That will
be discussed further below as well.
McQuaig provides lots of
relevant context for a full understanding of why oil centrally dominates
-- wars and the reason America
fights so many of them - for the essential resources, mainly oil, to
keep the heart of capitalism beating, without which it can't;
-- the dominant media's vital
hyperventilating lead cheerleader role selling them;
-- the power of the oil cartel
and how it developed and grew after Edwin Drake drilled the first commercially
successful well in Titusville, PA in 1859.
-- how John D. Rockefeller
ruthlessly built a powerful Oil Trust he controlled; how it was nominally
dismembered by Theodore Roosevelt's trust-busting efforts early in the
last century; yet how it endured through joint ventures, interlocking
directorates, mergers and "working (partial ownership) control"
of its separate pieces, the largest of which was Rockefeller's Standard
Oil of New Jersey, now called ExxonMobil. The old Oil Trust would fit
in its back pocket.
-- the role of the US auto
industry and its addiction to gas-guzzling, hugely greenhouse gas emitting,
high-profit SUVs accounting for one-fourth of all US auto sales;
-- the rise, fall and reemergence
-- the historical roles of
Saudi Arabia and Venezuela as dominant oil producing nations and the
central role Iraq plays today as the grandest of grand oil prizes;
-- the hugely important issue
of global warming fossil fuel burning causes; how transportation is
over one-fourth of the problem with passenger vehicles the main culprit,
and this industry's accounting for half of total oil consumption;
-- and still more in McQuaig's
powerful, riveting, and relevant account of oil's central importance
in our lives. Her book reads like a thriller. But the story is real,
and it's vital to know its contents. Read on for a detailed sampling.
Then buy and read the book for the full account.
Fort Knox Guarded by a Chihuahua
The title refers to language
about oil-rich Canada that a US investment service, called Daily Reckoning,
used in a provocative newsletter article. It said Canada owes us (their)
oil. "Without our protection, (the country) is the natural resources
equivalent of Fort Knox guarded by a 'No Trespassing' sign and a Chihuahua"
because our military protects our northern neighbor. That's likely news
to most Canadians for a country with no enemies. Canada, however, is
extremely oil-rich, and counting its huge amount of hard to refine tar
sands oil ranks second in the world in total reserves.
In her newest book, "Holding
the Bully's Coat," McQuaig explains her nation is currently the
US's leading energy supplier. Canada's importance will grow ahead as
it plans to triple its oil sands production by 2015 to three million
barrels daily, earmarking most of it for US markets. It's part of a
secretly launched 2005 scheme called the Security and Prosperity Partnership
of North America (SPP) or North American Union.
It's a tri-national agreement
hatched below the radar, controlled by Washington, and advocates greater
economic, political, social, and security integration between the US
(as boss), Canada and Mexico. In fact, it's an ugly corporate-led plot
against the sovereignty of three nations for greater profits, enforced
by a common hard line security strategy already in play in each country.
It's goal is a borderless North America under US control without barriers
to trade and capital flows for corporate giants, mainly US ones.
It's also to insure America
gets free and unlimited access to Canadian and Mexican resources, mainly
oil, but Canadian water, too. That will assure US energy security while
denying Canada and Mexico preferential access to their own resources
henceforth earmarked for US markets. The scheme amounts to NAFTA on
steroids combined with Pox Americana homeland security enforcement partnered
with Canadian and Mexican contingents. It adds up to the worst of all
possible worlds headed for an unmasked "deeply integrated"
Canada is also currently
hamstrung by a provision it agreed to in ratifying NAFTA in 1993. It
gave up the right to reduce its US energy exports (should it need more
of them) unless it cuts its own consumption by a comparable amount.
Oil-rich Mexico, in contrast, agreed to no such provision and got an
exemption Canada lacks. Canada has a loophole, though, SPP provisions
will close if enacted. NAFTA can't prevent the country's use of its
newly developed tar sands oil or the right to export them to other nations,
as of now. With that in mind, Canada is building a 720 mile oil pipeline
from northern (oil-rich) Alberta to British Columbia in the far west.
When completed, it will enable resources to be exported to China or
any other oil-consuming nation Canada chooses to trade with.
Meanwhile, back in the US,
the Iraq war was launched in March, 2003. Dominant media fear mongering
helped sell it, giddy cheerleadering accompanied its start, the reasons
for going were reinvented when ones first given were exposed as lies,
excuse-making now explains why things haven't gone as planned, and all
the while we're told it had nothing to do with oil. And fish don't swim,
and birds don't fly. Instead, as McQuaig explained "....the Iraq
saga (was to disarm) a dangerous dictator (morphed into) a battle to
bring democracy to the Middle East (with) oil remain(ing) strangely
offstage, hidden in plain sight."
Clearly, oil drives US policy
because of this nation's insatiable appetite for 25% of world production
Washington feels it has a birthright to use excessively. We now compete
with other growing economies for a dwindling supply of an irreplaceable
resource we can't do without. McQuaig noted that prospect looms as "the
world is much closer to running out of oil than most government or industry
officials are willing to admit." We now compete with China and
India along with developed nations, with China's prodigious growth alone
devouring huge amounts of a fast-depleting resource at current rates
McQuaig quoted Edmonton-based
energy economist Mark Anielski saying: "There's not enough oil
to feed two (voracious) superpowers." Enter Canada as already explained
above and Venezuela to be addressed later in a separate chapter on that
oil-rich nation under Hugo Chavez. For now, it deserves mentioning McQuaig
brings him up because he made some "far-reaching deals with China
to develop Venezuela's considerable oil reserves" and build a relationship
with the Asian giant to supply it with increasing amounts of future
The problem is no matter
how much more oil is left in the ground, we're now consuming more than
we're producing. "Oil is finite and not recyclable," noted
McQuaig, and past experience shows humans aren't smart or caring enough
to figure a way out of this dilemma without making painful changes they
haven't been inclined to do so far. Today, the world runs on oil. It
touches nearly all parts of our lives from running our factories to
powering cars and other means of transportation to growing the food
we eat and much more. McQuaig explained "no energy source in view....is
as effective, versatile, and potent as oil." Yet, the solution
to our dilemma is to rely on lots less of it, substituting less ecologically
damaging sources like wind, sun and waves.
We've already consumed around
half the world's supply, according to many reliable estimates, and have
done it mostly over the last 100 years. There may be about one trillion
barrels left in the ground, but at current consumption rates it'll be
gone in forty years or less. Also, the easy to find and produce oil
is running out. It's nearly all been found except in Iraq, making that
country so attractive. The vast remaining reserves elsewhere are hard
to find, expensive to produce and more costly overall to bring to market,
like Canada's tar sands and Venezuela's heavy oil.
McQuaig noted an oil industry
rule of thumb is companies should bring on at least as much new oil
as they produce. The industry, however, falls far short of that, and
some analysts, like Matthew Simmons, believe the world's largest oil-rich
nation, Saudi Arabia, has considerably less oil left than it claims
because it used up so much supplying the West as its swing producer.
As supplies get lower and scarcity grows in the face of rising demand,
oil prices will also rise, and one Wall Street firm, Goldman Sachs,
thinks they're not far from topping $100 a barrel.
McQuaig also raised a central
issue she devotes an entire later chapter to - a looming global warming
crisis barely getting the attention it deserves although credible climate
scientists no longer debate what they know is a major problem demanding
attention now. Here she cited a Pentagon-commissioned report describing
global warming as a phenomenon "that could transform the world
dramatically in the next twenty years....with major European cities
(submerged) and Britain plunged into a Siberian climate." The report
also sees a coming plague of "typhoons, mega-droughts and famine"
ahead that will bring "catastrophic changes" causing "widespread
human strife and even nuclear conflict."
The Pentagon's concern is
national security, so its top brass are planning ahead for what McQuaig
called "the prospect of life on earth reverting to a primitive,
desperate, brutal quest for survival" needing lots more Marines
available to subdue. That's no concern at the headquarters of the largest,
most profitable company on earth - oil giant ExxonMobil. It earned a
record $39.5 billion in 2006 on sales of $377.6 billion, more than double
oil-rich Venezuela's GDP the same year according to IMF data.
If ExxonMobil were a nation,
it would rank number 20 in the world (based on GDP) for 2006 ahead of
Switzerland and Indonesia and slightly behind Sweden and Turkey. It
means this company has immense power and uses it to keep the world consuming
increasing amounts of what grows its sales and profits and keeps elevating
it higher in the world rankings of countries by size. Notions like global
warming, climate control measures, and Kyoto agreements send chills
through its boardroom. The company acts aggressively to deny a problem
exists or that oil and other fossil fuels are a cause for concern.
Conservative think tanks
like the Competitive Enterprise Institute echo the same claim with its
director, Myron Ebell, calling Kyoto defenders "an animus against
humanity." Because it gets generous funding from ExxonMobil and
other corporate interests, it has every incentive to be dismissive about
what there's virtual scientific consensus on.
Problem or not, the US intends
to lock up control of as much of this resource as possible by any means
and whatever the consequences. The need for it goes back decades as
a "vital American policy objective." Referring to Saudi oil,
the FDR state department quoted above said their resources "must
remain under American control (to supplement and replace) our dwindling
reserves (when we had plenty of them), and of preventing this power
potential from falling into unfriendly hands."
All American presidents accept
this notion, even Jimmy Carter in his January, 1980 State of the Union
address as he was about to leave office. He laid out his Carter Doctrine
(written by Zbigniew Brzezinski) stating: "An attempt by any outside
force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as
an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and
such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military
The same theme with a different
emphasis came out of Dick Cheney's 2001 energy task force. It acknowledged
a dwindling supply of world oil reserves focusing on the Middle East
as a stopgap solution "where the prize ultimately lies." He
had a plan to get it that's discussed below.
Along Comes Iraq
From inception, the US was
always an imperial nation. It was in our DNA from the beginning when
our earliest settlers slaughtered millions of Native Indians for their
land and resources in our great push West and South "from sea to
shining sea." Jefferson even sanctified it in our Declaration of
Independence calling Native peoples "merciless indian savages,"
and our Constitution dismissed them as non-persons.
WW II changed everything,
however, when America emerged as the only dominant nation left standing.
We became the world's unchallengeable economic, political and military
superpower with designs for world hegemony. It emerged full-blown under
George Bush post-9/11 whose administration-picked officials designed
an imperial grand strategy in 1998 as members of the Project for a New
American Century (PNAC). It revived Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney aide
Lewis Libby's 1992 hawkish Defense Planning Guidance putting in new
form a plan for "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies, Forces
and Resources for a New Century. It also updated the Truman Doctrine
(state department advisor George Kennan devised) for "Cold War
containment" and an earlier strategy for US global military and
Today, the Middle East, Central
Asia and all independent-minded oil rich and other states have replaced
the Soviet bloc, and the new evil empire is "international terrorism"
and "Islamofascist" threats to our national security. It's
the same old scheme for world dominance repackaged with new names and
faces replacing old ones.
Enter Iraq, the Bush administration
had designs on before settling into office. Treasury Secretary Paul
O'Neill revealed it was topic one in the early weeks of 2001, months
before 9/11 made attacking and occupying it possible. He was shocked
to discover the scheme was being hatched secretly by Dick Cheney in
the first meeting of the National Security Council held 10 days after
the President's inauguration. The decision was taken with talk moving
on to logistics of "how" and "how quickly," and
whether Iraq or Afghanistan was number one or two in our target queue.
The latter, of course, came first with Central Asia's immense resources
in mind, but it was just prologue for the "shock and awe"
that began in March, 2003 in the land between two rivers in the cradle
of civilization, now smashed by intent to free up its oil bonanza for
Big Oil to exploit.
Pulling off this scheme meant
getting the public on board that works best by scaring it to death with
lots of help from round-the-clock dominant media hyperventilating. It
made it easy selling the concocted notion of "Enemy Number One"
Osama bin Ladin (a former CIA asset), Al-Queda terrorists and the "smoking
gun threat" of WMDs showing up in the shape of a "mushroom-shaped
cloud." Former Dean of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg
School of Communications, George Gerbner, explained how it works: "Fearful
people are more dependent, more easily manipulated and controlled, more
susceptible to deceptively simple, strong, tough measures and hard-line
postures....they may accept and even welcome repression if it promises
to relieve their insecurities" and anxieties.
Paul Wolfowitz may have inadvertently
revealed the Bush administration's scheme to do it. He first said the
WMD threat was chosen for "bureaucratic reasons." Then he
told Singapore journalists on an Asian visit it was the only reason
everyone could agree on, and finally he admitted Iraq was chosen over
North Korea because it's swimming on a "sea of oil." That
went unreported in the mainstream where "the word 'oil' remained
unmentioned and unmentionable."
When no WMDs were found,
the reasons for war were reinvented. Now the emphasis was to bring democracy
to the country as a humanitarian intervention, and being wrong about
WMDs was chalked up as faulty pre-war intelligence. Again, the real
oil motive was kept off the table "in plain sight" as McQuaig
observed. It was also to remove a leader unwilling to let his nation
become a US pawn, an unforgivable sin in Washington's eyes, especially
if the state swims on a "sea of (mostly undeveloped easily accessed)
oil." Iraq's oil treasure is the last bonanza of "low-hanging
fruit" on the planet making it too rich a prize to pass up regardless
of cost or degree of difficulty getting control of it.
McQuaig explained exploration
of Iraq's oil potential remained "frozen in time" with almost
no new development in over two decades because of intervening wars going
back to the 1980s and economic sanctions in place following the Gulf
war in 1991. Yet, even with dated information, it's known Iraq has at
least 10% of world oil reserves. If its potential ends up doubling or
tripling, as happened in Saudi Arabia in the last 20 years, it could,
in fact, have the world's largest proved reserves. McQuaig noted that
possibility is "staggering" in importance making the country
"the most sought after real estate on the face of the earth"
according to an oil analyst she interviewed.
In future years, with its
production potential fully developed and oil at $50 a barrel (it could
be double that or more), it translates to revenue of $70 billion a year
pumping 5 million barrels daily and $100 billion at 7 million barrels.
Today, Saudi Arabia produces 8 million daily barrels or more if called
on. Iraq is also strategically located between Saudi Arabia and Iran
at the top end of the Persian Gulf. It's thus ideally positioned for
a military base as McQuaig's quoted oil analyst observed saying: "Think
of Iraq as a military base with a very large oil reserve underneath....You
can't ask for better than that."
It makes the country so strategically
important, Global Policy Forum's James Paul argued losing Iraq would
have been devastating for Big (US) Oil. It represents "the whole
future of the oil industry," frozen in time, hugely endowed, and
easy pickings for the lucky companies able to harvest it and reap immense
profits doing it. Because of its importance, the Cheney energy task
force included Big Oil giants in its secret discussions making plans
for war with Iraq and needing its input for parcelling out its resources
afterward. The Wall Street Journal reported in October, 2002 Cheney's
staff secretly met with ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, ConocoPhillips and
Halliburton executives on plans to secure and rehabilitate Iraq's oil
fields. Thereafter, they'd take them over and run them.
From the early 1970s, most
Middle East countries and Venezuela's oil industries were nationalized,
and state-owned oil companies still control most of the world's oil.
McQuaig noted "major international oil companies control a mere
4 per cent" but adjusted and prospered under that arrangement nonetheless.
In the Middle East, and most everywhere else, they do the drilling and
pumping under revenue sharing contracts with host governments.
We now know what McQuaig
may have been the first to report in her book - that Washington's plan
for Iraq involved privatizing its oil industry along with everything
else in the country already sold off to foreign investors by 2007 or
will be. She noted a secret 100 page contracting document drafted by
the US Agency for International Development (USAID), with Treasury Department
help. It detailed a plan to replace Iraq's state-run economy with a
privately owned one. It was a "Mass Privatization Program"
calling for "private sector involvement in strategic sectors, including
privatization, asset sales, concessions, leases and management contracts,
especially in the oil and supporting industries." McQuaig said
it was to "make the country a safe place for foreign investment,"
or put another way, a free-market paradise for corporate America.
A state department subtler
form of oil privatization was drafted as well with heavy oil industry
input. It laid out seven possible production models all involving Iraq's
oil nominally remaining under state control with "operation and
control of the oil fields....handed over to foreign oil companies."
Subtleties apparently were
abandoned in the final US-Big Oil drafted "Hydrocarbon Law"
scheme filled with secret provisions now before the Iraqi Parliament.
It's hugely contentious as it grants Iraq's National Oil Company exclusive
control of only 17 of the nation's 80 known oil fields. The others are
set aside for Big US and UK Oil investors mainly in a shameless act
of plunder. In addition, all new deposits found (the bulk of the country's
oil) are to be set aside for foreign investor development with provisions
allowing them to expropriate all earnings and invest nothing in Iraq's
economy. They also have no obligation to hire local workers, respect
union rights, or share new technologies. In addition, they'll be granted
long-term contracts up to 30 or more years, dispossessing Iraq and its
people of their own resources in a naked scheme to steal them.
Because Iraqi resistance
to US occupation is so unrelenting, intense and violent, there's no
way for sure to know how future events will play out. One thing is sure,
however. Iraq's oil bonanza won't be as easy for foreign investors to
exploit as once thought possible and may never be.
The Man to See
In this section, McQuaig
details the lucrative business of war-profiteering showing why conflicts
are great for business. For companies close to the Bush administration,
it was a bonanza waiting to be reaped from huge no-bid contracts. First
in line was Dick Cheney's former employer, Halliburton and its subsidiary
Kellogg, Brown and Root. Since 2001 in Afghanistan and Iraq, it was
awarded upwards of $20 billion in war-related contracts the company
then exploited to the fullest with shoddy work, massive cost-overruns
and fraudulent billings, most barely drawing attention. Early on, Halliburton's
Iraq oil field repairs were so poor the US Army estimated it cost the
country $8 billion in lost production. It also botched a simple job
installing metering systems at ports in southern Iraq to protect against
oil being smuggled from the country.
In all, well over 70 US firms,
most well-connected and many with familiar names, shared in the contracting
bonanza - companies like Bechtel, Fluor, Parsons, Shaw Group, SAIC,
CH2M Hill, the Louis Berger Group, the Rendon Group, and at least 21
private security companies like DynCorp, Triple Canopy, Erinys and Blackwater
USA supplying around 100,000 hugely overpaid paramilitary mercenaries
(not the official phony 30,000 industry number). They supplement 170,000
US occupying forces providing protection for other war-profiteering
companies and Iraqi officials.
Last year, Nobel laureate
economist Joseph Stiglitz estimated the war's cost would ultimately
exceed $2 trillion when all factors related to it are included making
it the most expensive war ever adjusted for inflation. Omitting parts
of what Stiglitz included, the conservative Congressional Research Service
(CRS) June 28, 2007 Report for Congress showed $610 billion already
approved through FY 2007 and May 25, 2007 supplemental funding covering
Iraq and Afghanistan war related costs and other Global War on Terror
operations since 9/11. At that level, it's approaching the inflation-adjusted
$650 billion Vietnam war cost it may, in fact, have already exceeded.
Add an administration requested
$148 billion more for FY 2008 and the cost jumps to $758 billion. Projections
will likely go higher still with monthly "burn rates" spiraling
from about $8 billion in 2005 to a Senate-estimated $12 billion now.
Add in an administration requested DOD FY 2008 budget of $648.8 billion
plus another $148 billion war-related supplemental for a grand total
$796.8 billion - and rising for a bonanza of war-profiteering, waste,
fraud and abuse. CRS conservatively under-projects a total cost up to
$1.4 trillion for the next 10 years at reduced troop levels ranging
from 30 - 70,000 on the assumption America is in Iraq and Afghanistan
to stay with major permanent base installations in place and being built
to assure it.
Capable Iraqi professionals
and workers haven't shared in the spoils of war and were never part
of Washington's occupation plans. They've been denied an operational
role rebuilding and running the country's essential services they can
do as well as foreign investors and for much less cost. McQuaig quoted
former Iraqi oil minister under Saddam in the 1980s, Issam Al-Chalabi.
He's not Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi who conspired with the Bush administration
to plunder his own country, wanted to run it, and is the current oil
minister. Issam Al-Chalabi was incensed that companies like Halliburton
got contracts to put out Iraqi oil fires and rebuild the country's oil
wells and production capacity. "Iraqi professionals have been doing
this for decades," he said. "They are among the best in the
Iraq's National Oil Company
is also capable of running the nation's oil industry but will only get
a sliver of it if the new "Hydrocarbon Law" passes and becomes
law. This was the key part of Washington's plan for ownership and management
that includes all of Iraq's economy to pass largely into American business
hands. McQuaig quoted a Jane Meyer New Yorker article explaining winning
contracts in Iraq is the realm of Dick Cheney, and "Anything that
has to do with Iraq policy, Cheney is the man to see." She should
have added anything to do with running America, Cheney's also the man
Washington always acts in
Big Oil's interest, but the current administration is closer to the
industry than any previous one. It's staffed and run by former oil and
other energy industry executives, including the President and Vice-President.
Oil is central to US plans for world dominance, but Iraq is only one
part of the overall international oil picture, though the most important
one of all. Vitally important as well is OPEC, run by its member nations
and seen as a threat to Big Oil interests unless co-opted.
McQuaig explained ever since
it became an important player in the mid-1970s, Washington tried to
"undermine its effectiveness and weaken its unity." It succeeded
because OPEC hurt itself and became less of a market influence after
the early 1980s. One Wall Street analyst said "it was on its deathbed"
by the late 1990s, until it suddenly began to revive. One man made it
possible by 2000, "sav(ing) OPEC" - Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.
How it happened is covered below.
Revolution and Ice Cream
McQuaig reviewed Hugo Chavez's
dramatic rise to become Venezuela's president, his Bolivarian Revolution,
the transformation of his nation's oil policies, and his key role in
the resurgence of OPEC. Chavez was first elected president in December,
1998 and assumed office in February, 1999. He proceeded to hold a national
referendum so his people could decide whether to convene a National
Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution to embody his visionary
agenda. It passed overwhelmingly followed three months later by elections
to the Assembly to which members of Chavez's MVR party and parties allied
to it won 95% of the seats. They then drafted the revolutionary Constitucion
de la Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela. It was put to a nationwide
vote in December, 1999 and overwhelmingly approved changing everything
for the Venezuelan people.
The Constitution established
the foundation and legal framework for President Chavez's revolutionary
vision for structural change. He's since transformed his nation into
a model participatory social democracy serving the needs of all Venezuelans
instead of the privileged few alone the way it nearly always had been
in the past. It allowed the people to choose their leaders and gave
them unimaginable benefits like free quality health care as a "fundamental
social right and....responsibility of the state....to guarantee it."
It banned discrimination, established the principle of participatory
democracy from the grassroots for everyone, guaranteed free speech,
a free press, free elections, equal rights for indigenous people, and
mandated government make quality free education available for all to
the highest levels, and much more. Venezuela under Hugo Chavez would
never be the same again, and the great majority of Venezuelans won't
accept it any other way.
Chavez had another goal as
well - to resuscitate OPEC, give oil producing states more power over
their own resources and be fairly compensated for them through prices
they controlled, not Big Oil. It would thus allow him to implement his
Bolivarian Revolution from the greater revenues he'd get from a stronger,
more unified organization of 11 significant oil producing nations. Chavez
became a mediator to do it and undertook a whirlwind tour of member
states to sell his plan to their leaders.
McQuaig explained his idea
was based on the simple notion that OPEC needed stable prices kept within
a "price band" Chavez proposed to be between $22 - $28 a barrel
that today seems low. It wasn't then with oil prices down around $10
a barrel and less. Making the plan work was doable providing all OPEC
nations agreed to abide by it and not cheat as was common for added
revenue. The idea was for a united OPEC to cut production whenever prices
dropped below its lower band and increase it above the upper one, thus
letting basic supply and demand forces do their work. Chavez proposed
an OPEC summit in Caracas in September, 2000, all its nations agreed
to come, and after discussion signed on to implement the plan.
McQuaig summed up Chavez's
achievement saying: "After being on the verge of extinction only
a year earlier, OPEC was very much alive" and still is. Chavez's
vision was "shaking up the international oil scene (but by doing
it made) himself persona non grata in Washington." He's been at
it ever since with his revolutionary social programs endearing himself
to Venezuela's majority poor and working population who now receive
essential services unheard of before and unimaginable in America now.
He also promotes a bold new trade initiative called ALBA - the Bolivarian
Alternative for the Americas. Unlike Global North one-way neoliberal
schemes, it's an innovative "fair trade" alternative based
on complementarity, solidarity and cooperation among participating Latin
Chavez's policies are working.
He built alliances with regional states and is using his nation's oil
revenues responsibly with impressive results. He cut poverty in the
country to around 25% of the population (when benefits from state-funded
social programs are factored in) compared to its 1998 and 2003 post-management-led
oil lockout high of 62%. Unemployment also fell from 20% in early 2003
to 8% in May, 2007, and inflation at, current high levels, is dropping
as well with government measures being taken to combat it. All the while,
business is booming with economic growth the highest in Latin America.
It averaged around 10% or more per quarter for over the past three years,
and finance minister Rodrigo Cabezas told Venezuela's state-run ABN
news agency the country will exceed 8% growth this year. It's coming
mainly from the private sector that added over 1100 new businesses and
industries in 2005 and 2006.
Nonetheless, Chavez is Washington's
Latin American "enemy number one" having tried four times
to remove him and failed. McQuaig covered the dramatic two day CIA-orchestrated
April, 2002 aborted coup. It caused mass street outrage and unwillingness
of the country's military to go along. Chavez returned to office, survived
an economically devastating oil management-led industry lockout, and
resuscitated his nation and people impressively enough to win reelection
as president last December by a nearly 2 - 1 margin.
McQuaig sat down with him
for an extended two and a half interview at the Palacio de Miraflores
(presidential palace) in Caracas in March, 2004. Chavez eschews pomp
and remains true to his part black, part Indian roots. On December 3,
2006 election day, he drove himself to his polling station in his signature
red Volkswagen, accompanied by his grandson. For his interview with
McQuaig, he showed up casually dressed, and near the end of the session
ordered ice cream for his guest that came in the form of chocolate sundaes
topped with cherries.
Addressing questions posed,
Chavez stressed the Bush administration was "invaded by madness."
He's also certain it tried ousting him in 2002, was behind the oil management
lockout, the August, 2004 staged recall referendum to remove him that
flopped badly, and several attempts to kill him with more planned. He
covered much more as well, including his desire for closer cooperation
among Global South nations in their common interest to shake off the
yoke of longstanding Global North neocolonial domination.
McQuaig also briefly covered
America's involvement with Venezuela after oil was discovered there
early last century. Ever since, Venezuela's oligarch elites and foreign
oil interests collaborated to see "the country's immense oil wealth
largely disappeared into private hands, both at home and abroad."
There were occasional flirtations with change with leaders like Juan
Pablo Perez Alfonzo (a founding member of OPEC) asserting more control
over his nation's resources. Aligned against him, however, were powerful
business interests, and little success was achieved. Although the nation
nationalized its oil industry in the mid-1970s (along with most other
oil producing countries), its state oil company PDVSA was run by Venezuelan
managers deferential to foreign oil interests, mainly US ones.
Chavez is changing that and
making impressive progress doing it, but still has miles to go toward
establishing his social democracy (or socialism) for the 21st century.
His task is enormous and involves no less than reversing generations
of entrenched privilege and institutionalized corruption in a nation
beholden to capital interests closely tied to Washington. He has two
vital things going for him though - mass people-power support determined
to keep him as President as long as he wants the job and the country's
military on board as well. If Chavez can survive Washington's aim to
remove him, he may remain Venezuela's leader for many years to come.
From Coffins to World Destruction
Here McQuaig dealt with one
of the most vital issues of our time getting increasing attention but
few efforts to address meaningfully. Today, global warming looms large
as an urgent, pressing challenge demanding action now. It emerged on
the political radar in the mid-1980s and got world attention at an international
scientific conference in Toronto in June, 1988. Conservative Canadian
Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, an unabashed corporatist, was its opening
speaker. Astonishingly, he sounded an alarm saying "humanity is
conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment
whose ultimate consequences are second only to nuclear war."
Early persuasive evidence
of trouble ahead began surfacing back then. Today, it shows conclusively
that human activity in modern industrial states is warming the earth's
air and surface from fossil fuel burning greenhouse gas emissions causing:
-- arctic ice cap melting;
-- rising sea levels;
-- changed rainfall patterns;
-- increased frequency and
intensity of weather extremes like floods, droughts, killer heat waves,
wildfires, and hurricanes and cyclones;
-- water scarcity;
-- agricultural disruption
and loss of arable land;
-- as many as one-third of
plant and animal species extinct by 2050 by some credible estimates;
-- increasing disease, displacement
and economic losses from extreme weather-related events, lowering of
ocean pH, reductions in the ozone layer, and the possible introduction
of new phenomena unseen before or never extreme enough to threaten human
life or ecological sustainability that will when we experience them.
There's no longer a debate
in the scientific community on global warming. The near-majority consensus
is the urgency to address it. It was almost as true in 1990 when McQuaig
noted the independent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
met. It was headed by Robert Watson whose credentials included having
been a senior NASA scientist. IPCC's first assessment report powerfully
stated the problem. It said the "greenhouse effect" is real
and the earth's surface has become noticeably warmer since the inception
of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century.
IPCC was even grimmer in
a 2007 report suggesting a worst case scenario of "devastating
harvests, dwindling water supplies, melting ice and loss of species
(that likely understate) the threat facing the world." The London
Independent's Information Environment Editor, Geoffrey Lean, made things
sound even worse in his article titled "Global Warming Is (accelerating)
Three Times Faster Than Worst Predictions" based on new authoritative
studies. One is by the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) showing
CO2 emissions increasing 3% a year now compared to 1.1% in the 1990s.
It's causing seas to rise twice as fast and Arctic ice caps to melt
three times faster than previously thought. Another grim study was by
the University of California's National Snow and Ice Data Center. It
showed "Arctic ice has declined by 7.8 percent over the past 50
years, compared with an average by IPCC computer models of 2.5 per cent."
Global warming scoffers abound
in a state of denial. They're in corporate boardrooms, halls of government
and a few co-opted climate scientists and some in academia willing to
sacrifice their integrity for whatever benefits they get in return.
They say the evidence is inconclusive, more study is needed, and the
financial costs of action will be prohibitive and hugely damaging to
the economy. Watson's response is "The economic costs of inaction
may be (far more) prohibitive," and many economists doubt addressing
the problem will be harmful at all. McQuaig noted 2500 in the profession
believe "(S)ound economic analysis shows that there are policy
options that would slow climate change without harming American living
standards, and these measures may, in fact, improve US productivity
(more than making up the difference)."
McQuaig then mentioned a
second 1995 IPCC report making their case even stronger, but not as
strong as their latest one. Twelve years ago it said increasing atmospheric
carbon dioxide buildup is seriously altering the world's delicate ecosystem.
Since then, we got an important, if greatly inadequate first step, with
the enactment of the Kyoto treaty. It went into effect in February,
2005 after 141 nations signed it, absent one vitally needed one to make
it work - the US when the Bush administration brazenly withdrew from
the process in March, 2001, barely after assuming office.
No other administration in
US history is more closely aligned with dominant corporate energy interests
showing they call many of the shots in Washington. One energy giant
especially stood out in the rejection, and McQuaig put it this way:
Giant "Exxon....found a friend. The most powerful government on
earth had linked up with the richest (and likely most influential) company
on earth - and the world no longer seemed invincible."
One of the leading causes
of global warming is a popular product first introduced in the early
1980s, gained popularity in the 1990s, and now dominates the passenger
car business. It's the so-called sport utility vehicle, or SUV, that
McQuaig said has "less to do with sportiness and glamour, and more
to do with security in an age of fear." She refered to them as
a "mobile version of a gated community (with a) kind of me-first
aggressiveness" pushing everything out of its way. Thanks to the
power of advertising, their sales soared from a humble start. They now
account for one-fourth of new car sales despite their cost, poor fuel
efficiency, and the fact that families got along fine without them until
Madison Avenue creative geniuses convinced millions they couldn't live
Here's the problem. SUVs
are huge gas guzzlers, and the transportation sector accounts for over
one-fourth of US greenhouse gas emissions. SUVs are exempt from so-called
CAFE standards referring to "corporate average fuel economy."
The result is they emit around 40% more greenhouse gases per vehicle
into the atmosphere causing enormous damage. And no one needs these
vehicles in the first place except the auto industry earning huge profits
selling them and not about stop voluntarily. Like the energy industry,
the auto sector has powerful friends in Washington as well seeing nothing
changes that hurts them.
The global warming issue
is so serious it must be addressed and can be if Congress gets around
to mandating it with a friendly administration willing to go along.
One answer is greater efficiency to achieve what automakers won't address
- making vehicles burn less gas using technology now known to exist.
McQuaig noted the Union of Concerned Scientists (USC) said it can be
done with current technology, and its engineers did it with their own
SUV design that's 30% more fuel efficient than production models. Auto
makers continue increasing vehicle efficiency but use it for more powerful
engines and other new design features increasing profits. They reject
fuel efficiency citing the cost, but it really comes down to applying
their technological expertise where it produces the greatest return.
McQuaig summed up the situation
saying it's clear "the voluntary approach won't work with fuel
efficiency." With stronger mandated CAFE standards for cars and
light trucks, including SUVs, oil consumption will drop dramatically.
US autos of all types are now projected to consume 12 million barrels
of oil a day by 2020. With easily attainable CAFE standards, consumption
could be cut to 7.5 million barrels or a 40% savings. The Bush administration
made things worse, not better, by adding a generous new tax measure
favoring SUVs in its 2003 $350 billion tax cut. It allowed the self-employed
to deduct the cost of a SUV purchase, thereby making them more attractive
to all kinds of new customers like doctors, lawyers, accountants, the
corner druggist, or anyone able to claim self-employment.
There's hope for change,
however, based on recent Senate action. On June 21, that body passed
the first comprehensive bill on new CAFE standards in over 20 years,
and it was a bipartisan effort. It wasn't a perfect one but did raise
the fleetwide average fuel efficiency standards for all cars, trucks
and SUVs by 10 miles per gallon over 10 years or from 25 to 35 miles
per gallon by model year 2020. So far, no action is scheduled in the
House so it remains an open question what's ahead along with what can
be expected if final legislation reaches an obstructionist President.
The Great Anaconda
Enter the Oil Trust and man
who built it and himself into a hugely rich and powerful business titan
and king of the original "robber barons" - John D. Rockefeller.
None had more power and wealth or used it more ruthlessly than this
corporate predator whose central aim was crushing all competition and
making himself omnipotent in the growing oil industry. He did it by
"employing a mix of enticement, threats, coercion, double-dealing,
lying, cheating, bullying and ultimately using (his Oil Trust's) massive
financial resources to crush opponents" as McQuaig explained it.
Sounds about the way corporate giants operate today, except they now
have friendly governments and courts making it easy for them. John D.
had to work for his power and wealth starting from the bottom and building
his oil empire from the ground up.
Early on, he spotted an opportunity
to do it shortly after oil was first discovered in Titusville. He and
a partner first invested in an oil refinery in Cleveland that became
one of the city's largest. He then bought out his partner and started
a second operation, opened an oil-selling company in New York, and consolidated
everything into what he called Standard Oil Company. From there, McQuaig
traces his rise to the business heights he achieved that included entering
into a phony, far-reaching "combination" with major railways
called the Southern Improvement Company. It was a scheme for preferential
rebates and eliminating competition.
The story goes on to cover
a four decade-long account of how Rockefeller built and consolidated
his empire, crushing competition along the way ruthlessly but effectively.
It came to a head in a New York City courtroom in 1907 when Theodore
Roosevelt-picked lawyers went head-to-head in what McQuaig called "a
titanic legal battle." In the end, the government won when the
Supreme Court agreed with an earlier guilty verdict. It gave Standard
Oil six months to divest all subsidiaries that quickly dismembered the
giant company into a number of smaller but still large entities. The
largest retained half the value of the original conglomerate. It was
Standard Oil of New Jersey, now giant ExxonMobil, the largest, richest,
most powerful company on earth and still one of the most predatory and
ruthless in the spirit of its founder.
Today, the oil industry is
more powerful than ever. It remains "a tightly knit club"
through its extensive interlocking corporate ties and a cozy relationship
with all administrations. None, however, are more accommodating than
the current one run by former oil men and staffed by many energy industry
officials making policies favoring them.
How Did Our Oil Get Under
McQuaig continued the story
as Rockefeller's spawned corporate empire began eyeing opportunities
abroad. There were plenty around with the Middle East as ground zero
holding two-thirds of today's proved reserves with most of Iraq's still
uptapped and uncounted. She explained by the early 1950s international
oil companies gained effective control of the region's oil and sought
to get back what they lost when countries like Iran nationalized their
industries to get a larger share of their own revenues.
Mohammed Mossadegh was its
force as the nation's democratic leader. He no longer would tolerate
the special concessions British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil got in 1901
and had up to his tenure. It greatly advantaged Britain leaving Iran
only a sliver of its own oil wealth. His government changed things by
nationalizing the company, causing the British to feel he stole their
property, that, in fact, belonged to Iran. In response, the international
oil companies reacted together and imposed a worldwide boycott on the
country's oil. It succeeded by devasting Iran's economy, cutting its
oil revenue from $400 million in 1950 to less than $2 million in 1952.
A Dwight Eisenhower-approved first ever CIA coup followed in 1953. It
toppled the Mossadegh government, returned Shah Reza Pahlavi to power,
and began his 26 year tyrannical rule that, by all accounts, was as
repressive as Saddam's and far less socially accommodative.
McQuaig called the coup "a
defining moment in the Middle East." It "became a powerful
rallying point for anti-Western nationalism. It was embodied in Gamal
Abdel Nasser in Egypt whose advocacy of Arab sovereignty and willingness
to defy the West made him a hero throughout the region. It also arose
in Iran in the 1970s that resulted in the 1979 revolution. It deposed
the Shah, installed fundamentalist Islamic rule in his place, and sparked
an anti-Western fundamentalist movement across the region.
McQuaig also traced how oil
was discovered early in the last century in the Middle East with the
international oil cartel moving in to capitalize on it. She detailed
the wheeling and dealing that went on with oil giants jousting among
themselves and with rulers of the countries whose oil they wanted favorable
terms on to exploit. These powerful companies mostly worked in collusion
carving up world oil markets and fixing prices among themselves to their
McQuaig described how three
of the giants, Shell, BP and Exxon, met at Achnacarry Castle, Scotland
in late summer, 1928 to end price competition and stabilize world markets.
Their leaders "hammer(ed) out an agreement in writing that set
the course for the international oil order for decades to come,"
lasting through the early 1970s. It was not to compete, but rather to
set quotas, maintain existing market shares, cooperate in sharing facilities,
and avoid surplus production to keep prices stable.
They brought in Texaco, Gulf,
Mobil and Atlantic to tighten their grip on world markets and eliminate
competitors by acquiring them. The idea was to assure world production
grew at a steady pace, and oil shortages and gluts were avoided. The
cartel was in charge reaping enormous profits from their cozy arrangement.
It was especially lucrative in the Middle East where oil is easily accessible
and production costs very low. It's hard believe looking back to when
Saudi oil sold for $1.80 a barrel, but easy to understand with production
costs in the Kingdom at just 8 or 9 cents leaving over $1.70 profit
with most of it going to the giants.
Things began changing when
Libya's King Idris "was the first to figure out how to avoid becoming
yet another powerless country in the oil companies' harem." He
began using independents outside the cartel. Current Libyan leader Mu'ammer
al Qaddafi took power in 1969 and upped the anti further demanding a
40 cent increase in the country's share of the revenue. He got it and
broke the cartel's power to control the oil game. At the same time,
he rewrote the rules in place to that time. As McQuaig put it: the "aura
of (cartel) invincibility was shattered. Inside the harem, things would
never be the same again."
The Harem Takes On the Sisters
- The Rise of OPEC
The "Libyan breakthrough"
turned out to be prologue for 5 original oil producing member nations
(that became 11) to assert control of their own resources through OPEC
that was founded in 1960 but had no effective power until the 1970s.
McQuaig reviewed its history explaining it "was the brainchild
of two men - Juan Pablo Perez Alfonzo in Venezuela and Abdullah Tariki
in Saudi Arabia. Alfonzo was given responsibility for his country's
oil affairs after 1945 and set "guidlines (to redefine) the traditional
(one-way) colonial relationship" the oil cartel had with his country.
A 1948 military coup disrupted his plans until he reemerged as oil minister
under a newly elected government with much more ambitious plans in mind.
His idea was for oil producing states to control the international market
for their essential product, and why not. It's their oil. The idea was
simple. Individually, the countries were weak, but together they had
Abdullah Tariki had similar
ideas in Saudi Arabia. He opposed the oil cartel believing oil producing
nations should control their own destiny and assert their sovereign
rights. Tariki was highly educated and his country's only university
trained oil geologist. He became minister of oil affairs for the country's
eastern province that was the location of the cartel's Aramco important
Ghawar oil field operations. In that capacity, he saw how little revenue
Saudis retained, compared to the oil giants, and, as a result, wanted
to change the rules. How? By having Arab oil states unite to assert
their collective strength.
McQuaig noted, Tariki understood
the advantage of making "common cause with Venezuela." He
wanted and got a secret gentlemen's agreement between the two countries
in 1958 that "constituted the first seed of the creation of OPEC"
that was later born in Baghdad in September, 1960 with five original
members having 80% of oil exports among them - Saudi Arabia, Venezuela,
Iran, Iraq and Kuwait.
It was a beginning but not
as auspicious as conceived as in March, 1962 Tariki lost his job as
Saudi oil minister. It was after King Faisal decided to tilt more toward
Washington and adopt more Aramco favorable oil policies as the way to
do it. Tariki was out, and the more accommodating Sheikh Zahi Yamani
was in. McQuaig described him as a "charming, urbane, thirty-two
year old lawyer....who loved New York and Western culture," and
enjoyed lots of it in his new job. Alfonzo in Venezuela lost his job
as well, and OPEC would never live up to his vision for it. However,
McQuaig explained "it would soon at least ensure that its members
were admitted to the feast."
Things then changed dramatically
in 1973. Supplies were tight, and the notion that oil producing nations
should control their own resources gained prominence in the Middle East.
Industry nationalizations began occurring, and in October, 1973 OPEC
nations demanded much higher prices. They got them at a time of anger
over the West's support for what became known as the "Yom Kippur
War." Egypt and Syria fought it against Israel between October
6 - 26 and almost won, save for the help from America that turned Israeli
defeat into victory. People old enough to remember recall the energy
crunch and long gas lines when prices rose from $3 dollars a barrel
in steps to $11.65 and Saudi Arabia cut off shipments to the US until
Angst and rising prices in
America affected politics in Washington, but the oil companies loved
it. Industry profits rose "beyond anything they'd seen in the previous
thirty years (raising the speculation) what role the companies"
may have had orchestrating the whole scheme that benefitted them and
oil producing states hugely at the expense of oil consuming nations.
As borne out later, they played an important role. In the face of recession,
demand fell and production was adjusted down to meet it while keeping
prices high. They're now around $70 a barrel that in 1973 dollars would
only be in the mid-teens and would have to hit $100 a barrel to match
the $38 dollar price in 1980.
McQuaig noted, all in all,
"as pressure tactics go, the (1973 - 74) oil embargo was pretty
mild (and long) gas lines may have been annoying, but nobody died in
them." Of greater significance was where the extra revenue ended
up. It was in "the wrong part of the world" with it rising
from $22 billion in 1973 over fourfold to $90 billion the following
year and far higher after the huge additional price hikes following
the 1979 Iranian Revolution. It made oil producing states rich but got
them to recycle much of their surplus back into Western investments,
and in the case of Saudi Arabia, in particular, into huge dollar purchases
of US weapons as well.
McQuaig then explained OPEC's
reformist zeal waned after Saudi King Faisal's 1975 death that had "far-reaching
consequences for both OPEC and the world." New Saudi King Fahd
tilted toward a "special relationship" with Washington and
became accommodating on the amount of oil it would produce to please
his powerful ally responsible for his security. It meant OPEC's power
as a unified force was gone.
King of the Vandals
In 428 AD, the title belonged
to Geiseric the Lame (or Genseric) who ruled for 50 years and transformed
his Germanic tribe into a major Mediterranean power after he invaded
North Africa to pillage and plunder. A more notable predator, Alexander
the Great, did it a century earlier and others like the Ottomans, Mussolini
and Hitler took their turns later on. Fast forward to today and you
get the picture about a modern-day plunderer doing the same thing for
much greater stakes than Genseric or Alexander could have imagined.
For the past three decades,
Washington's attitude toward the Middle East hardened with some in the
capitol believing America has a birthright to the region's oil, and
we'll send in the Marines any time we choose to claim it. So we have,
but with consequences partly anticipated in a 1975 US Congressional
Research Service study assessing the difficulties of occupying the region
for its resources. McQuaig explained it concluded "seizing oil
installations intact, securing them (possibly for years), operating
them without the owners' assistance, and guaranteeing safe passage overseas
of supplies and petroleum products....would be possible only if there
were minimal damage to oil installations and no Soviet armed intervention"
intervened, and no armed resistance now.
At first, the strategy was
to arm and rely on local powers, like Iran under the Shah and Saudi
Arabia, to serve as proxy forces along with neighboring Turkey and Israel.
Chomsky notes these nations were to be what Nixon called our "cops
on the beat - the local gendarmes" to keep order in the neighborhood.
We still have them mainly in Israel and Turkey, but after the 1979 Iranian
Revolution the decision was taken to assume a more direct role in managing
our regional interests that moved us "a step closer to establishing...military
control over the area."
The Carter Doctrine, noted
above, threw down the gauntlet in 1980. It led to the establishment
of the Rapid Deployment (flexible, quick response) Force (RFD) that
became the US Central Command (CENTCOM) in 1983, focused mainly on the
oil rich Middle East.
McQuaig also reviewed the
rise of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. It began with a violent Baathist party
coup in 1963. Saddam took part in it that led to his assuming power
in 1968. He was a nationalist unwilling to sell out Iraqi sovereignty
to Western interests making him a target from the start. The lord and
master of the universe tolerates no outliers, and Saddam was a considerable
one. He began nationalizing Iraq's oil fields in 1972 and finished doing
it in 1975. The oil cartel saw this as "an unpardonable crime"
requiring action that was delayed by the Iran - Iraq war of the 1980s.
The Reagan administration saw an opportunity and used Saddam against
its greater Iranian enemy hoping they'd both destroy each other, and
we'd step in and pick up the pieces.
Once the war ended in 1988,
things changed and plans were drawn for Saddam's removal that resulted
in the 1991 Gulf war, 12 years of hugely destructive economic sanctions,
and the March, 2003 invasion and occupation. US control of the region's
oil as the goal was already explained above because it has the mother
lode amount of world supply, and by 2010 Muslim states will have about
95% of remaining light oil. Bush administration belligerency has now
raised the stakes. It increased Muslim anger against the West, Washington
in particular. If it continues growing, the longer term odds are that
America's grip on the region will slip and could end up lost.
It's hurtling that way today
as the prospect of war with Iran looms that may be a nuclear one. If
it happens, it may engulf the whole region and entire Muslim world.
CIA's assessment of the prospect is blunt. If the US attacks Iran, Southern
Shia Iraq will light up like a candle and explode uncontrollably throughout
the country. It will also affect the Shia oil rich part of Saudi Arabia
producing a tsunami of Shia rage everywhere that may unite the entire
Muslim world in fierce resistance to America that would have very dire
consequences when it comes to oil and the interests of Big Oil giants
that prefer peaceful negotiations to open confrontation they fear will
make them big losers in the end. That's the state of things today thanks
to a modern day Genseric. He lasted 50 years. Mr. Bush may not finish
out his term in office with growing cries for his head.
It's McQuaig's last word
on the subject referring to Americans insane belief we have a birthright
to drive hugely gas-guzzling "18-wheelers that accelerate like
racing cars" and shove the world out of our way doing it. She focuses
on Bush administration policies in the wake of the 9/11 attack. It changed
everything but left the most important issues unaddressed. There's little
debate over how centrally important oil is that government and industry
focus on but the major media ignore. Controlling world supplies tops
the list of strategic aims starting in the Middle East and headquartered
in the richest of prizes in Iraq. There's no chance whatever we'd be
there if the country's main export was olives instead of oil. Then there
are nonsensical issues of removing a dangerous dictator and bringing
democracy to the region in the form of a humanitarian intervention.
Unmentioned is America does no such interventions, and our aim is to
subvert democracy, not bring or support it. That's how the rules of
imperial management work.
There are further vital issues
unaddressed and unmentionable in public as well. What's the real motive
behind America's "war on terrorism" that's quite different
from the fictional media account we've gotten since it was launched
right after the 9/11 attack. Few in the West know "Enemy Number
One" bin Ladin was a CIA asset (not an agent) recruited through
Pakistan's ISI to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and
the idea one sickly man in a cave outwitted the entire $40 - $50 billion-a-year
American intelligence establishment is preposterous.
He and Al-Queda have been
assets ever since. They're used to scare the public to death and provide
a pretext for the Bush administration's permanent war on the world and
against the homeland. It's in the form of hugely bloated military budgets
and adventurism, oppressive police state laws and loss of civil liberties,
the greatest ever wealth transfer in history from the public to the
rich, and the systematic dismantling of what remains of an imperfect
social state Americans were once proud of nonetheless. That's all sacrificed
for the greater aim of unchallengeable world dominance and an unrestrained
use of military power maintaining it. It's all for the sake of making
the world safe for capital and limitless amounts of energy resources
needed to make it hum and grow.
We know incontrovertibly
the Afghan and Iraq wars were planned well in advance of September 11,
2001 to kick things off. We were practically signaled they were coming
in 1998 by the Project for a New American Century schemers. They stated
their wishes for a revolutionary hard line transformation of the nation
that would be long in coming "absent some catastrophic and catalyzing
event - like a new Pearl Harbor" that, low and behold, happened
that fateful day. The "shock and awe" on Afghanistan began
four weeks later, moved to Iraq in March, 2003, never stopped, and now
everyone's paying for it and targeted if we get in the way.
The danger today is greater
than ever as the Bush regime may have more ominous schemes in mind to
bail itself out of its disastrous Middle East adventure. It may even
be extreme enough to be unthinkable - using another major terror attack
some analysts and DHS Secretary Chertoff think is inevitable as a pretext
to declare martial law in the name of national security and end a functioning
democracy as we know it.
Consider that compared to
our claimed birthright to control and consume limitless amounts of the
world's dwindling resources and emit enough greenhouse gases to destroy
it way in the future that's someone else's problem. McQuaig concluded
her important book explaining that "efficiency is our god (but)
when it comes to the engine of the modern economy - energy" - efficiency
is discarded. Workable solutions abound at least effective enough to
mitigate our wasteful consumption habits, but volunteer methods to achieve
them won't work. Mandating them along with convincing the public they're
important is the only approach that can succeed and will if implemented.
If they are, the savings will be dramatic and enormous.
If not, we face an eventual
ecological calamity too dire to imagine. In addition, they'll be huge
economic costs according to one analyst McQuaig cited. He believed it
could cost America 1 - 2% of GDP annually and the world $1 trillion
a year at least and likely much more. And it will only get worse in
the out years. Global warming is far and away the single greatest environmental
threat to the planet, second only to a nuclear winter. Rich and poor
alike will be victims because "We're all in the big greenhouse
together." It's the moral and survival challenge of our age with
no time to waste implementing a solution. Everyone's future depends
on it as does ending our resource wars that will destroy us if we don't.
"It's (all about) the Crude, Dude," and we better not forget
lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his web site at
sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to the Steve Lendman News and Information
Hour on The MicroEffect.com Saturdays at noon US central time.
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