September 13, 2002

Two reasons: Oil and Israel (not necessarily in that order)

The President's war speech to the United Nations, delivered just a day after the first anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, not only underscored the paucity of his case, but pointed to the great diversion represented by this new adventure:

"We meet one year and one day after a terrorist attack brought grief to my country, and to the citizens of many countries. Yesterday, we remembered the innocent lives taken that terrible morning. Today, we turn to the urgent duty of protecting other lives, without illusion and without fear."

"Other lives" and whom would they be? Amid the litany of familiar charges Dubya leveled at Saddam was this:

"Iraq also possesses a force of Scud-type missiles with ranges beyond the 150 kilometers permitted by the U.N. Work at testing and production facilities shows that Iraq is building more long-range missiles that could inflict mass death throughout the region."

Surely he isn't saying that Saddam Hussein has developed intercontinental ballistic missiles, and thus poses a threat to American lives. For months we have heard the phrase "weapons of mass destruction" repeated like a mantra by the War Party, but they almost never tell us where these weapons, if they exist, will be aimed: not at New York, or Chicago, or even Riyadh and Amman, but at Israel.

So, we must go to war to save Israeli lives: that, in so many words unspoken, is what the President is saying.

It was quite telling that, while Bush was standing before the United Nations, laying down the law to the governments of the world, Israeli hard-liner and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave the U.S. Congress its marching orders, declaring before the Government Reform Committee:

"We understand a nuclear armed Saddam places Israel at risk. But a nuclear armed Saddam also puts the entire world at risk. After Saddam gets a nuclear weapon, it is only a matter of time before the terror networks get nuclear weapons."

That Iraq is years away from developing any such weapon was demonstrated by the very evidence submitted by the U.S. to justify its rush to war. An International Institute for Strategic Studies report, cited by the administration, concludes that, given plutonium or enriched uranium, the Iraqis could "probably" build a nuke in a period of months, but with this important qualification as noted by CNN:

"The report also concluded Iraq did not currently have a nuclear weapons capability, and probably lacked the systems needed to deliver chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons."

So the threat to Israel is nonexistent and, even if it weren't, surely Saddam would be deterred from ever attacking Israel for fear of massive retaliation. Remember, Saddam may be trying to acquire nukes, with not much success so far, but Israel has already got the Bomb. Who doubts that they would use it, and without asking for a UN resolution first? In his address to the congressional committee, Netanyahu went on to laud the 1981 attack by Israel on an Iraqi nuclear facility as an example of just the kind of unilateralism embraced by the President:

"Did Israel launch this pre-emptive strike with the coordination of the international community? Did we condition such a strike on the approval of the United Nations? Of course not."

Well, then, why don't the Israelis go in and take out Saddam? Let them expand the "occupied territories" to include Baghdad: they, after all, have plenty of experience in this area. Let them also bear the costs: the casualties, the economic burden, the universal condemnation and diplomatic isolation such an unprovoked attack would incur. But why should Israel fight its own battles, when Ariel Sharon has an American President at his beck and call?

The utter dishonesty and fuzzy logic that permeated the President's speech was encapsulated by his reference to "outlaw groups and regimes that accept no law of morality and have no limit to their violent ambitions." Next to the United States, Iraq is a piker when it comes to outlawry and the ruthless pursuit of violent ambitions. Indeed, the ambition of America's rulers is so overwhelming that it overrides the pleas of our allies, cancels out world opinion, and even violates our own national self-interest (rationally defined).

For what we are embarked on and troop movements in the region all point to a military operation that has already begun is nothing less or more than a war of outright conquest. Furthermore, it is launched against precisely those nations whose cooperation is necessary in the entirely legitimate struggle to exterminate Al Qaeda. Our first stop is Iraq, but that will hardly be the end of it. This is the beginning of a regional conflagration, one that would soon drag in Iran, Syria, and even the Saudis. The unannounced but inevitable result: a U.S. occupation of virtually the entire Middle East, from Afghanistan to the River Jordan. Which brings us to the second reason for this war: oil.

Look not to Iraq, but to Saudi Arabia, which sits atop the richest oil and natural gas reserves on earth and forget about "weapons of mass destruction," unless we're talking about the mass destruction of Big Oil's projected profits. For the real scoop on this war has nothing to do with the tired reiteration of Iraq's broken promises to the UN that the President presented in his speech: a similar list, in any case, could be prepared in support of a us-UN invasion of Israel. The actual casus belli is intimately bound up with the economic tug-of-war between the Saudi government and Big Oil over the future development of its rich natural gas deposits, and access to Saudi territory.

For a year, the Saudis have been negotiating with consortia headed by Exxon-Mobil, the Royal Dutch-Shell Group, and British Petroleum over the terms of an agreement that would give Western oil companies access to regions long denied to them. Negotiations broke down last week coincidentally (or not), just as the President's war rhetoric heated up. Awash in cash because of rising fuel prices, oil companies face an unusual conundrum where to invest it? As Petroleum World points out:

"Established U.S. and North Sea oil areas are in decline, and new exploration zones in Russia and Africa have proved politically challenging. Oil companies have been using cash to buy back shares rather than invest in subpar projects."

With the $25 billion Saudi project stalled, if not completely nixed, and investment on the Arabian peninsula increasingly problematic, the President's oil company executive friends are looking to do an end run around the House of Saud via the oil fields of occupied Iraq.

Why the rush to war and why Iraq? Israel, and oil it's that simple.

All this guff about how Saddam is a simply awful dictator "tens of thousands of political opponents and ordinary citizens have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, summary execution, and torture by beating, burning, electric shock, starvation, mutilation, and rape," averred Dubya could easily be said about Communist China. Mao's heirs have signed on to the idea of a never-ending "war on terrorism," and are doing their part by stepping up repression against any dissident minorities that might be less than happy with rule from Beijing.

The same might be said of our Turkish allies, who have managed to repress the Kurds far more effectively than Saddam, and whose penchant for torture is well-known to human rights advocates. The Chechens are tortured by the Russians, the despots of Africa are remarkably brutal even by the bloodthirsty standards of twentieth century rulers – and what of Pakistan, a key ally in the "war on terrorism," ruled by a military dictator and armed with nuclear weapons? Are all these countries and peoples to be "liberated" by U.S. force of arms?

Of course not. Yet they are no different than the Middle Eastern regimes on which the U.S. has set its sights, except in two vital areas: none contain vast deposits of oil, and none of them, with the exception of Pakistan, have the least impact on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

This war is a fraud, and a dangerous one. For it comes at a time when we do face a threat the possibility of another 9/11. The President was forced to acknowledge this in his UN speech after all, it was the first anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in our history but with a twist:

"In the attacks on America a year ago, we saw the destructive intentions of our enemies. This threat hides within many nations, including my own. In cells and camps, terrorists are plotting further destruction and building new bases for their war against civilization. And our greatest fear is that terrorists will find a shortcut to their mad ambitions when an outlaw regime supplies them with the technologies to kill on a massive scale."

Say what? This tortured attempt to link Al Qaeda to an "outlaw regime," i.e. Iraq, is proffered with proof, or irony. For the terrorists didn't need "technologies" to ram two airliners into the World Trade Center and another into the Pentagon they only had to turn our own technology against us. Armed just with box-cutter and fanatic boldness, it was Al Qaeda, and not Saddam, that killed some 3,000 New Yorkers. Even as Bush spoke, the American media was reporting the presence of a ship off the New Jersey coast suspected of carrying radioactive material. For a U.S. President to focus on projecting our military forces halfway across the globe under these circumstances – when our own shores are under threat from terrorists in our midst is utter madness. But what else can we expect of a President so clearly in the pocket of corporate and foreign interests, whose last thought is the national security of the United States?

The money-paragraph in Bush's speech is here:

"In one place – in one regime – we find all these dangers, in their most lethal and aggressive forms ... exactly the kind of aggressive threat the United Nations was born to confront."

Since the terrorist attacks on 9/11 apparently tore a hole in the space-time continuum, and landed us all in Bizarro World, where up is down and right is left, Bush's peroration makes sense only when inverted, to wit:

"In one place in one regime we find all the allurements, in their most lethal and poisonous forms exactly the kind of temptation to which American foreign policymakers must never succumb."

– Justin Raimondo

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.