Oil, not Saddam Hussein’s “evil,” key to US invasion plans

In its September issue, the inestimable Monthly Review published a revealing snippet from the June 14, Wall Street Journal.

How Bush Decided That Iraq’s Hussein Must Be Ousted

“It’s not because you have some chain of evidence saying Iraq may have given a weapon to al-Qaeda,” [National Security Advisor] Ms. [Condoleeza] Rice says, as she recounts the evolution of Mr. Bush’s thinking, “But it is because Iraq is one of those places that is both hostile to us, and frankly, to make this available.”

Which is to say, Iraq, or more specifically, Saddam Hussein, is irresponsible and cruel enough to make “this”–a stepped up attack on Iraq to depose the Iraqi dictator–“available” as an option the US can plausibly pursue.

Nobody is going to call Hussein a saint, or even a guy with a few blemishes, but if the US and its allies are going to jackboot around the world deposing cruel and irresponsible regimes, we could have a problem.

Apart from the fact that all that deposing is cruel and irresponsible to the innocent people who get caught in the crossfire, for every “enemy” led by a thoroughly monstrous leader, there is an “ally” headed by an equally monstrous government.

The Taliban, of which we’ve heard a lot, were cruel, backward, intolerant, anti-democratic, misogynist, fanatical, and thoroughly dislikeable.

The Saudis, of which we’ve heard little, are cruel, backward, intolerant, anti-democratic, misogynist, fanatical, and thoroughly dislikeable.

Moreover, they were the Taliban’s model, and major sponsor.

Shall we bomb Riyadh and oust the Saud family, in favor of an elected government with a commitment to equal rights for women? While democracy and human rights are preferable to Saudi Arabia’s absolutism and human rights atrocities, only the cruel and irresponsible would recommend a military strike to oust the Saud family in the name of “liberating” the country. We already bombed 5,000 Afghans to death who had nothing to do with the Taliban, except as victims. Should we do the same to 5,000 Saudis?

Iraq has attacked its neighbors, treated people under its jurisdiction atrociously, has a fondness for weapons of mass destruction, and ignores UN resolutions.

Israel has attacked its neighbors, treats people under its jurisdiction atrociously (the dropping of a one-ton bomb on a densely packed Gaza neighborhood being one of the latest instances in a depressing decades-long string of atrocities committed against Palestinians under Israeli occupation), has a fondness for weapons of mass destruction (including an arsenal of at least 200 nuclear warheads), and ignores UN resolutions.

Should Israel be attacked? Could Washington make the case that “frankly, Israel is irresponsible and cruel enough to make a casus belli against the Jewish state available”?

With ease.

And that’s because crimes aren’t committed solely by people we don’t like. They’re committed by everyone, including our own governments, and their allies. It’s simply a matter of drawing attention to the cruelty and irresponsible acts of enemies while shielding allies, and ourselves, from similar scrutiny.

This operates on many levels.

Writer Michael Parenti once pointed out that many people “find association with communist organizations morally unacceptable because of the ‘crimes of communism’,” but at the same time have no qualms about association with the Democratic party, even though the “crimes” of Democratic administrations include the detainment of 120,000 Japanese Americans in concentration camps during W.W.II; the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the creation of the Neutrality Act that worked in favor of Franco’s fascists during the Spanish Civil War; the engineering of counterinsurgency programs in Third World countries; the Vietnam War; and the Clinton administration’s illegal acts of aggression, including the bombing of Yugoslavia.

And yet, left-leaning Americans excuse the Democrats for their mistakes, while denouncing the assertion “mistakes were made,” in defense of communist regimes, as a morally corrupt apology.

How blind we are to our own crimes, and those of allies; how eager to point out, and avenge, those of “enemies.”

But are our “enemies” really our “enemies” for the reasons they’re said to be our enemies?

If war needs to be waged to oust Saddam Hussein because he ignores UN resolutions, how can we explain Israel being allowed to ignore resolution after resolution without consequence?

If numberless Iraqis need to die to deal with a cruel dictator, why is Pakistani dictator General Pervez Musharraf hailed as a good friend and ally, and free to continue his cruel, dictatorial rule, without repercussion from the United States?

The inconsistencies suggest Washington’s stated reasons for attacking Iraq are false, pretexts to justify a war to topple Mr. Hussein.

But there’s more that reveals Washington’s true reasons for war lie elsewhere: It’s own official documents say toppling Saddam Hussein and killing tens, even hundreds of thousands, of Iraqis in the process, has nothing to do with the Iraqi leader being a dictator, or gassing his own people, or defying the UN.

It has to do with oil.

Central Command (Centcom), headed by General Tommy Franks, is the United States military command in the Middle East and East Africa. It has formulated a “theatre strategy” based on “the broad national security interests and objectives expressed in the President’s National Security Strategy.”

Centcom’s theatre strategy is built around “dual containment of the rogue states of Iraq and Iran…to protect the United States’ vital interest in the region – uninterrupted, secure U.S./Allied access to Gulf oil.”

For emphasis, Centcom adds: “Primary among U.S. interests in the USCENTCOM [operating region] is uninterrupted secure access to Arabian Gulf oil.”

And this, the Middle East command plans to achieve, by ensuring “free market economies … take root and flourish,” consistent with the President’s emphasis on using the US military to preserve and extend free markets and free trade, an emphasis articulated in his recently presented National Security Strategy.

A government that lets it be known it’s prepared to destroy whole populations in first strike attacks to enforce the primacy of US values of open markets, can hardly be expected to be incensed by Iraq’s regrettable record of human rights violations and military aggression.

Access to oil, on terms suitable to US corporations, is a more interesting prize.

Centcom’s theatre strategy is posted at http://www.milnet.com/milnet/pentagon/centcom/chap1/stratgic.htm

The Bush administration’s National Security Strategy can be read at http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss.pdf

Mr. Steve Gowans is a writer and political activist who lives in Ottawa, Canada.