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