The two words we never hear in the corporate media's discussion of Iraq are "oil" and "nationalism." Yet these are the keys to understanding why we got into Iraq, why we only want "limited" involvement from the U.N., why we won't succeed in stopping attacks against us in Iraq, and why George W. Bush's crony capitalism and aircraft-carrier-landing phony-warrior drama have so terribly harmed our nation and set up a disaster for our children's generation.
If we stay, we'll continue to control ten percent of the world's oil (and perhaps as much as twenty percent - Iraq still has vast unexplored areas that Cheney was dividing up in his pre-9/11 Energy Task Force meetings with Halliburton and Enron). Maintaining control of Iraq's oil will keep OPEC off balance, and will keep faith with Rupert Murdoch's advice to George W. Bush before the war that cheap oil resulting from seizing Iraq's oil fields would help the American economy more than any tax cuts.
(Actually, we should stop calling our invasion of Iraq a "war" - we'd already crippled the nation with 12 years of attacks and sanctions, and then sent the UN in to verify that they were helpless. It's like beating somebody senseless on the street, breaking both their legs with a baseball bat, blindfolding them, and then challenging them to fight. This was an invasion, not a war.)
Thus, keeping control of Iraq's oil will help us keep our SUVs and keep faith with Poppy Bush's famous dictum that "the American lifestyle is not negotiable." And transferring the money from Iraq's oil to large corporations that heavily support Republican candidates has obvious benefits to those currently in control of the White House, Senate, House, and Supreme Court.
But let's consider the future. Our occupation troops are mostly European-, Hispanic-, and African-American-ancestry Christians in an Arab Muslim land that suffered during the Crusades. Thus, we will continue to draw thousands of Jehadists who find it infinitely easier to travel to Iraq than New York, and our presence will continue to inflame nationalists passions just as the British did in their failed venture in Iraq nearly a century ago. And George W. Bush will probably lose the 2004 election, unless he can divert our attention by ginning up a war somewhere else within 13 months.
On the other hand, if we declare victory and leave Iraq to its warlords and zealots (as we've done in almost all of Afghanistan except the city of Kabul), we'll lose access to all that oil, re-empower OPEC, further drive up domestic gasoline prices, and leave Iraq either as a warlord-dominated state like Afghanistan, a cleric-dominated state like Iran, or a strongman-dominated state like...well...Iraq was before we arrived. And it'll cost Arnold more to run his Hummer.
Adding insult to injury, every tinpot dictator in the world will figure there's little downside in thumbing his nose at the United States, and, unless he can gin up a war somewhere else within 13 months (or once again fail to prevent another 9/11-type attack, God forbid), George W. Bush will probably lose the 2004 election.
August of 2003 brought two milestones that flow directly from the
invasion: the U.S. national deficit reached an all time high, surpassing for the first time in history the previous all-time record held by President G.H.W. Bush; and the price of gasoline hit an all-time high, surpassing the previous record held by President G.W. Bush.
A small part of the deficit is related to the cost of the Iraq invasion and occupation, and roughly 70 percent of the positive uptick in the last quarter's economic activity was from payments to defense contractors for the invasion itself (private for-profit Republican-supporting companies get about a third of all the money we're spending every month in Iraq). Profits from the occupation help Halliburton, but don't create many jobs in Peoria.
Similarly, while the price of gasoline is high in part because we've been slow to pump Iraq's oil (mostly because of looting and sabotage), it'll go even higher if we turn the administration of the oil over to a UN consortium. Every other industrialized nation in the world is aggressively working to cut reliance on oil and is ready for higher crude oil prices; the US under the Bush administration and their corporate cronies has put forth, instead, an energy policy that requires increasing amounts of foreign oil imports and will be a disaster to our nation in the face of sustained high oil prices or oil shortages.
At least Bush/Cheney knew where they'd get the oil to fuel their National Energy Policy. Documents pried by a Judicial Watch lawsuit against the Cheney energy task force meetings (at
http://www.judicialwatch.org/071703.c_.shtml) show that Cheney and his buddies from Enron and other energy companies had drawn up maps of Iraq's oil fields and made lists of potential corporate purchasers of Iraqi oil - all months before 9/11/01.
These former oil industry executives know their priorities. When George W. Bush spoke on national television to announce the start of "war" against Iraq, he looked into the camera and asked to speak directly to the Iraqi people. He could have appealed to their nationalism, and asked them to join our soldiers (or at least not shoot at them) in toppling Saddam. He could have appealed to their knowledge of the peaceful side of Islam and asked them to go to their mosques, which we would protect from bombing, and pray for a quick resolution of the conflict. He could have apologized in advance for the death and destruction he was about to unleash on their land, that would kill many times more innocent civilians than died in the World Trade Center, and promise that the US would do our best to make it good after the war.
But these were not the things on Bush's mind. Instead, he said, "And all Iraqi military and civilian personnel should listen carefully to this warning. In any conflict, your fate will depend on your action. Do not destroy oil wells..."
Corporations that contribute heavily to Republican campaign coffers are now firmly in control of Iraq's oil and have started taking payment for reconstruction and supply that will amount to billions of US tax dollars.
It's unlikely these multinational corporations (many of them allowed by the Republicans in Congress to reincorporate in Bermuda to avoid US
taxes) will look kindly on efforts to turn control of Iraq and its oil over to the United Nations or an Arab-led consortium, even if it will mean stability in the region and will save the lives of U.S. servicemen and servicewomen, and Iraqi civilians caught in the crossfire.
If Bush turns the oil and the reconstruction bonanza over to the UN, he could lose millions in campaign contributions, and Cheney's company Halliburton, which lost $498 million last year but just reported (July
31) a $26 million profit, may go back to losing so much money it can't continue the million-dollar-a-year payoff he's still receiving.
George W. Bush confronts one of the most difficult choices of his
life: Should he turn Iraq over to the UN and thus save the lives of our men and women in uniform, but lose the oil, the campaign cash, and probably the election? Or should he keep our troops in Iraq to protect Halliburton, Bechtel, and his other Republican corporate campaign donors, skim millions in campaign cash out of the billions these friendly corporations are being paid by American taxpayers, and hope all that money can buy enough commercials to make Americans forget about the price of gasoline, growing Iraqi nationalism, and the resulting coffins returning to America on a daily basis.
Or maybe there's a third option. If the American media keep ignoring the oil, don't report on Bush's unwillingness to attend GI funerals (he'd rather take a month-long vacation and play golf), and continue to overlook the obvious connections between Iraqi nationalism and dead Americans, Bush could repeat his very successful political strategy from the middle of the fall 2002 election campaign that threw the Senate into Republican hands. He could simply declare his intention to start another war mid-2004, stimulating anti-war protests and dividing Americans, and then again use that division to paint Democrats with a yellow brush.
Which will it be? Only Karl Rove knows for sure. But whichever way it goes, you can bet American taxpayers and soldiers will pay the bill in cash and blood, and democracy will be the weaker for it.
Thom Hartmann (thom at thomhartmann.com) is the bestselling author of over a dozen books, including "Unequal Protection" and "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," and the host of a nationally syndicated daily talk show, "The Thom Hartmann Program," that runs opposite Rush Limbaugh. www.thomhartmann.com This article is copyright by Thom Hartmann, but permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media so long as this credit is attached and the title is unchanged.