July 09, 2007
Oil! …and Israel

There’s a lot of buzz about the editorial in the New York Times today calling for what loyal Bushies would term precipitate withdrawal.

Look Who’s Talking

Indeed, there are some striking statements from this organ of pre-war lies.

At first, we believed that after destroying Iraq’s government, army, police and economic structures, the United States was obliged to try to accomplish some of the goals Mr. Bush claimed to be pursuing, chiefly building a stable, unified Iraq. When it became clear that the president had neither the vision nor the means to do that, we argued against setting a withdrawal date while there was still some chance to mitigate the chaos that would most likely follow.

While Mr. Bush scorns deadlines, he kept promising breakthroughs — after elections, after a constitution, after sending in thousands more troops. But those milestones came and went without any progress toward a stable, democratic Iraq or a path for withdrawal. It is frighteningly clear that Mr. Bush’s plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor. Whatever his cause was, it is lost.

The editorial lists some of the harms the US has suffered as a result of what it calls “this unnecessary invasion and the incompetent management of this war”, and accuses the President and Vice President of using demagoguery and fear as weapons against American public opinion. It ends with a call to action.

This country faces a choice. We can go on allowing Mr. Bush to drag out this war without end or purpose. Or we can insist that American troops are withdrawn as quickly and safely as we can manage — with as much effort as possible to stop the chaos from spreading.

Executive summary: we thought it would be a cakewalk securing Iraq’s oil, but it wasn’t. So our advice is to cut bait; just don’t let it hurt Israel.

Oil! and Israel

But the Times is ready to give up on the occupation, not the oil.

The bottom line: the Pentagon needs enough force to stage effective raids and airstrikes against terrorist forces in Iraq, but not enough to resume large-scale combat.

This seems to me patently silly, totally PR, and the colors aren’t even particularly happenin’.

How can one tell whether a given number of ground troops and a fleet of bombers, fighters, and support craft constitute a force whose size is sufficient for effective raiding but not for large-scale combat? Is there a UN agency that does such surveys, or is it an NGO? Sounds like rhetorical cover is being sought.

Plus, there’s an argument to be made that the force we now have in Iraq is not a large-scale combat force; we didn’t expect to see large-scale combat except for a brief period during the invasion. If that argument held up, the Times would presumably be happy simply to remove US troops to bases in Kuwait and the budding Kurdistan. Bringing them home, and getting the hell out of Iraq, does not seem to be the primary goal.

Most importantly, why does our military need to “stage … raids and airstrikes against terrorist forces in Iraq” if we’re no longer bogged down there militarily? Are we claiming that we have vital interests in Iraq?

Cards on the Table

Which is really the point. Whether true believer (Bush, Wolfowitz) or shameless profiteer (Cheney, Perle) or lying propagandist (most of the MSM, including the Times), it’s clear that for establishment types in the US, the war in Iraq is subtitled “Oil! And Israel”. The question is not whether the interests are vital, but how best to secure them.

To me, on the other hand, it seems that there are two points to securing the oil in Iraq. One is imperial: to have, as Chomsky says, our hand on the spigot that dispenses an ever more precious resource. The other is corporate: the profits being made in the oil business are nothing short of criminal, and should be treated as such.

We could use the billions we’d collect in fines to fund research into alternative energy and transportation.

Our relationship with Israel has a strong imperial tint as well; as Kissinger said, Israel is our lieutenant in the Middle East. And, given our actions in that area over the past few decades, damn near our only friend. Sure, our military might reinforces some monarchies that wouldn’t last a year without our support; but that’s a different sort of friendship.

A Bad Plan Is Better Than No Plan At All

Clearly we need a new plan for our forces in Iraq. But we can only make an intelligent one if we state our premises and assumptions. The problem is that my premises and those of the New York Times editorial board don’t match.

Seems to me there are three kinds of problems in Iraq.

  • Resistance to foreign occupation
  • Sectarian conflict
  • Jockeying for government power and oil money

The last two overlap, of course, but it doesn’t matter, because we can’t solve either of them. All we’ve tried to do is buy the Iraqi government some time to get its act together and begin running the country.

Problem is, we know this isn’t going to happen. The Iraqi government did not win an election like those we (used to?) have in the US. Let’s not forget that candidates were often afraid to place their names on the ballot lest they be abducted, tortured, and killed. Campaigning was so dangerous that there was little of it, leaving people to vote for parties rather than individuals or clear positions on issues. As a result, the final tallies closely followed confessional lines.

Not to mention that the Saddam years provided a suboptimal training ground for up-and-coming Iraqi leaders.

In any case the Iraqi government has little real power to wield. It doesn’t control, in the classic sense, any territory at all in its own country. The US has the Green Zone, but even that receives mortar fire (which I don’t think is supposed to happen in an area you control).

The government cannot dispense those oil billions we were told to expect because of sabotage, part of the resistance to the occupation as well as the Sunni-Shia conflict.

It can’t even provide water and electricity — we’ve made sure of that by bombing the crap out of the infrastructure. And by creating a situation that killed or displaced many of the professionals needed to start anew.

How Can We Help?

Thus it seems that Cheney has succeeded in his plan: the establishment believes that to leave now would be to abandon our friends and give up on all that oil.

In the end, don’t you admire a man who persists in his plan in the teeth of resistance?

“He takes a range of medications that he and his doctors decline to detail. The extent of his atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries, which, if it extends beyond the heart to the brain, can cause hard-to-recognize changes in cognition) is unknown. Bypass surgery itself has long been associated with subtle changes in neurological function.

”At age 65, Cheney is easily 30 or more pounds overweight, seems to have slacked off on what was once a more rigorous diet, and appears to suffer from recurrent bouts of gout. At a roundtable lunch with reporters a couple of years ago, two who were present say, he cut his buffalo steak in bite-size pieces the moment it arrived, then proceeded to salt each side of each piece.“

If four heart attacks (that we know of) aren’t gonna teach him to avoid salt, it’s unlikely that he’s capable of learning anything.

Is it Cheney’s hope to tie us down in Iraq for many years to come, giving no-bid contracts to Halliburton, consuming lives in a perpetual war, and allowing enterprising young men to have other priorities than serving in it?

News reports have for some time shown the Iraqi resistance growing in size and in public acceptance. It’s increasingly clear that the US presence is aggravating the resistance problem to the point that it’s dominating the stage.

Without the US military, Iraq may well descend into a nightmare of bloodshed. Power struggles often go that way, especially among populations whose previous regimes have left them ill-prepared for self-government. But we can’t stop that.

Some of those who supported the war are now cloaking their imperial aims in humanitarian rhetoric. Others use similar rhetoric to cloak their interest in what they think is best for Israel.

We won’t make effective plans until we state our goals honestly. And we can’t do that because we don’t agree on whether the US should be an empire with a lieutenant in the Middle East.


Posted by Chuck Dupree at July 09, 2007 01:35 AM
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Right-On ! The NYTimes ownership/editorial direction has finally become scared silly by some realities, in particular the now-surfacing breakdown of Republican Party Leadership support of the Iraqi Invasion fiasco---and thus the NYTimes barfs up this editorial lamenting, in code words, that the current Iraqi "situation" has turned out after all to be not to Israel's advantage.

Posted by: Hoffmann on July 9, 2007 7:05 AM

I guess what I'd say to the Times is better late and partway than never and none of the way.

Great post, Chuck.

It's interesting that Bushco instinctively went after the wrong enemy by blaming Iraq for 9/11. But what's even more interesting is their absolute failure to go after what plainly were the right enemies (although for different reasons)--- Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. Instead we act like these are our greatest allies in the struggle.

Posted by: Fast Eddie on July 9, 2007 8:48 AM
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