Saturday, February 10, 2007

Connecting the Dots With Oil

The Liberal Journal linked to an article by Richard Behan at TruthOut that is one of the few essays written contemporaneously that reads like the kind of historical account that will get written many years hence. It sees the current fiasco as part of a larger whole and explains what was behind BushCo's Middle Eastern misadventure. Read the whole thing; it's a real education.
The "global war on terror" began as a fraud and a smokescreen and remains so today, a product of the Bush Administration's deliberate and successful distortion of public perception. The fragmented accounts in the mainstream media reflect this warping of reality, but another more accurate version of recent history is available in contemporary books and the vast information pool of the Internet. When told start to finish, the story becomes clear, the dots easier to connect.

Both appalling and masterful, the lies that led us into war and keep us there today show the people of the Bush Administration to be devious, dangerous and far from stupid.

The following is an in-depth look at the oil wars, the events leading up to them, and the players who made them possible.

The Project for a New American Century, a D.C.-based political think tank funded by archconservative philanthropies and founded in 1997, is the source of the Bush Administration's imperialistic urge for the U.S. to dominate the world. Our nation should seek to achieve a "...benevolent global hegemony," according to William Kristol, PNAC's chairman. The group advocates the novel and startling concept of "pre-emptive war" as a means of doing so.

[...]

But sixteen members of the Project for a New American Century would soon assume prominent positions in the Administration of George W. Bush, including Dick Cheney, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Armitage and John Bolton.

The "significant portion of the world's oil supply" was of immediate concern, because of the commanding influence of the oil industry in the Bush Administration. Beside the president and vice president, eight cabinet secretaries and the national security advisor had direct ties to the industry, and so did 32 others in the departments of Defense, State, Energy, Agriculture, Interior, and the Office of Management and Budget.

Within days of taking office, President Bush appointed Vice President Cheney to chair a National Energy Policy Development Group. Cheney's "Energy Task Force" was composed of the relevant federal officials and dozens of energy industry executives and lobbyists, and it operated in tight secrecy. (The full membership has never been revealed, but Enron's Kenneth Lay is known to have participated, and the Washington Post reported that Exxon-Mobil, Conoco, Shell, and BP America did, too.)

During his second week in office, President Bush convened the first meeting of his National Security Council. It was a triumph for the PNAC. In just one hour-long meeting, the new Bush Administration turned upside down the long-standing focus of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Over Secretary of State Colin Powell's objections, the goal of reconciling the Israel-Palestine conflict was abandoned, and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was set as the new priority. Ron Suskind's book, The Price of Loyalty, describes the meeting in detail.

The Energy Task Force wasted no time, either. Within three weeks of its creation, the group was poring over maps of the Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, tanker terminals, and oil exploration blocks. It studied an inventory of "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts" - dozens of oil companies from 30 different countries, in various stages of negotiations for exploring and developing Iraqi crude.

Not a single U.S. oil company was among the "suitors," and that was intolerable, given a foreign policy bent on global hegemony. The National Energy Policy document, released May 17, 2001 concluded this: "By any estimation, Middle East oil producers will remain central to world security. The Gulf will be a primary focus of U.S. international energy policy."

That rather innocuous statement can be clarified by a top-secret memo dated February 3, 2001 to the staff of the National Security Council. Cheney's group, the memo said, was "melding" two apparently unrelated areas of policy: "the review of operational policies toward rogue states," such as Iraq, and "actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields." The memo directed the National Security Council staff to cooperate fully with the Energy Task Force as the "melding" continued. National security policy and international energy policy would be developed as a coordinated whole. This would prove convenient on September 11, 2001, still seven months in the future.

The Bush Administration was drawing a bead on Iraqi oil long before the "global war on terror" was invented. But how could the "capture of new and existing oil fields" be made to seem less aggressive, less arbitrary, less overt?

During April of 2002, almost a full year before the invasion, the State Department launched a policy-development initiative called "The Future of Iraq Project" to accomplish this. The "Oil and Energy Working Group" provided the disguise for "capturing" Iraqi oil. Iraq, it said inits final report, "should be opened to international oil companies as quickly as possible after the war ... the country should establish a conducive business environment to attract investment in oil and gas resources."

Capture would take the form of investment, and the vehicle for doing so would be the "production sharing agreement."

[...]

With the capture of Iraqi oil resources prospectively disguised, the Halliburton Company was then hired, secretly, to design a fire suppression strategy for the Iraqi oil fields. If oil wells were to be torched during the upcoming war (as Saddam did in Kuwait in 1991), the Bush Administration would be prepared to extinguish them rapidly. The contract with Halliburton was signed in the fall of 2002. Congress had yet to authorize the use of force in Iraq.

So a line of dots begins to point at Iraq, though nothing illegal or unconstitutional has yet taken place. We are still in the policy-formulation stage, but two "seemingly unrelated areas of policy" - national security policy and international energy policy - have become indistinguishable.

[...]

By equating a criminal act of terrorism with a military threat of invasion, the Bush Administration consciously adopted fear mongering as a mode of governance. It was an extreme violation of the public trust, but it served perfectly their need to justify warfare.

[...]

(In retrospect, the monumental fraud of the "war on terror" is crystal clear. In Afghanistan the Taliban was overthrown instead of bringing the terrorist Osama bin Laden to justice, and in Iraq there were no terrorists at all. But Afghanistan and Iraq are dotted today with permanent military bases guarding the seized petroleum assets.)

[...]

Mr. Baker is a clever and relentless man. He will endorse pages and pages of changes in strategy and tactics - but leave firmly in place the one inviolable purpose of the conflict in Iraq: capturing the oil.

[...]

The oil wars are abject failures. The Project for a New American Century wanted, in a fantasy of retrograde imperialism, to remove Saddam Hussein from power. President George Bush launched an overt act of military aggression to do so, at a cost of more than 3,000 American lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, and half a trillion dollars. In the process he has exacerbated the threats from international terrorism, ravaged the Iraqi culture, ruined their economy and their public services, sent thousands of Iraqis fleeing their country as refugees, created a maelstrom of sectarian violence, dangerously destabilized the Middle East, demolished the global prestige of the United States, and defamed the American people.

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