There IS a link between 911 and Iraq, and that link is oil. To al-Qaeda, showing a naked man being taunted by a female soldier is inhumane, but beheading a civilian U.S. worker is not. We may never be able to see the world through the eyes of Middle Eastern fundamentalists (and we may not want to), but if we don't find a way to use less oil (and quickly) we're going to have to deal with them for a long time to come.
The recent killing of Western oil workers in Saudi Arabia reveals a change in al-Qaeda's strategy. Al-Qaeda's Wahhabi Islam dominates the kingdom and they think the royal family's affiliation with Western interests is a betrayal of Islam. In the past, the royals dealt with this by telling the militants to go fight infidels somewhere else. But when several of them attacked the U.S. on 911, the United States confronted Riyadh for not dealing with the problem. Riyadh now has to deal with the militants within the kingdom. There will be more militant activity at home?which means more problems for Western oil workers there. Eventually, al-Qaeda forces may succeed in their goal of returning to the glorious past when their prophet was alive by turning Saudi Arabia into a fundamentalist Muslim country.
If Saudi Arabia has to fight a war against al-Qaeda on its own turf, this will cut off oil to the U.S., at least temporarily. Oil is a world market and in the past, if one country wouldn't sell directly to the U.S., another country would. But al-Qaeda is different, they don't want to sell to anyone. If Saudi Arabia falls, this will mean major economic changes for Western countries as they scramble over the small amount oil that's left. Looking around for another major source of oil, the Bush administration obviously seized on Iraq, especially since they knew no one would weep over the demise of Saddam.
If the Bush administration knew all this going into Iraq, why weren't they straight with us? None of us want the lights to go out. We may need to give up some of our oil-sucking luxuries in the future (or pay more for them), but we recognize that oil also supports things like medical research and hospitals, and the manufacturing of items that are necessary for a decent life. Why did the government feel they had to blame the war on WMDs? It was never very convincing. Kim has nukes (something Saddam never had) and we haven't invaded North Korea.
But how could the government justify the deaths of young soldiers for the cause of oil when it was unwilling to take steps to conserve oil usage here at home? During the oil shortages of the 1970s and 80s, oil demand lessened because car manufacturers created vehicles that used less gas. Now we're back where we started.
One reason may be our political system, in which the candidate who spends the most has the best chance to win. And where does all this money come from? Big business, making the government which is elected beholden to them for four years. The government couldn't advocate oil conservation when this would take dollars out of the pockets of the very companies that helped put them in the White House in the first place.
This is not a one-party problem; without campaign reform, both sides will always need to raise the kind of big bucks that only major corporations can provide. Kerry may have won the primaries partly because voters felt that here at last was a candidate who had enough money to make it unnecessary for him to woo big business. Whether or not he would make a good President is beside the point. We should not be choosing candidates based on the size of their wallets.
Defeating the evil Saddam and gaining control over oil, while at the same time giving Iraq the gift of democracy, seemed like a win-win situation. Unlike old-time colonialists, we never planned to steal Iraq's oil. We're willing to pay for it, bringing needed money into the country, which has become poor from UN restrictions imposed while Saddam was in power.
Too bad the Iraqis don't see it our way. For us, oil has become the weapon of mass destruction.
NOTE: This Diary entry, previously published on our old site, will have any links removed.