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Kunstler & Chomsky:Iraq & Peak Oil

By Bill Henderson

10 October, 2005

"It would 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 world’s 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 today?

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 defensive war.

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.

Recently prominent 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:

"You’ve 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? That’s 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 didn’t go over there to steal their oil. I think that’s 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 that’s also a project we can’t 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 it’s no longer possible, when we’ve 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 we’re 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:

"The New 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.

"That has 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?

"On the 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."

Slightly differently nuanced appreciation of using American military power to seize control of Iraq.

Kunstler's version 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.

Chomsky's story 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 accompli?

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 heavily armed?

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.











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