Despite the fact that we're proud of our military men with their extraordinary courage and wonderful technology, many of us are still confused about why we're fighting a war in Iraq. Sure, Saddam is a nasty dictator and no one will be sorry to see him go, but unless a dictator threatened us or our allies, that's never been enough reason for us to attack before. And despite all the talk about bioterrorism weapons and nukes, we've found very few. So why are we there?
In the May issue of The Atlantic Monthly magazine, former CIA agent Robert Baer says that the government of Saudi Arabia is about to collapse, and terrorists are ready to take over. Since we rely almost totally on Saudi oil, this is a major emergency for us. It's likely that we're fighting in Iraq so we can substitute Iraqi oil for Saudi oil, and with a little extra from other sources, maybe we'll be all right.
Baer points out that oil fields in Saudi Arabia are concentrated in just a few areas, making them easy for terrorists to take out. But what would be their motivation, since the country needs to sell oil to make money? Baer writes, "Even if the Saudi rulers one day did turn anti- American, the argument went, they would never stop pumping oil, because that would mean cutting their own throats. But this was ?before 15 Saudis and 4 other terrorists launched their suicide attacks on September 11; before Osama bin-Laden suddenly became for the Arab world the most popular Saudi in history; before USA Today reported last summer that nearly 4 out of 5 hits on a clandestine al- Qaeda website came from inside Saudi Arabia; and before a recent report commissioned by the UN Security Council indicated that Saudi Arabia has transferred $500 million to al- Qaeda over the past decade."
The House of Saud is getting nervous about the fact that it rules over a kingdom that is dangerously at war with itself, according to Baer. Some of the opinions going around are that the country's leaders have failed to protect fellow Muslims in Palestine and elsewhere; and that the House of Saud has let Islam be humiliated: that, in short, the country needs a "radical purification."
He says, "The kingdom's mosque schools have become a breeding ground for militant Islam. Recent attacks all point back to the House of Saud itself, which, terrified at the prospect of a militant uprising against it, shovels protection money at fundamentalists and tries to divert their attention abroad."
As we've reported before on unknowncountry, Islamic fundamentalists would be delighted to take the world back to Medieval times, for the pre-industrial past represents for them a perfect era, when their prophet Mohammed was still alive and the world was as perfect as possible. This would also prevent the West from spreading its capitalist culture of modernization, which fundamentalists blame for everything that's wrong with the world today.
We can debate about whether we should eventually learn to live without burning oil (although scientists tell us that day is a long way off) and we can discuss the moral implications of invading another country in order to feed our oil habit, but if you're president of the United States and you find your country, along with other developed nations, at risk of being destroyed, you're obliged to take action. And if you take down a nasty dictator and liberate that country's citizens as well, so much the better.
We might feel better about the war if we remember we're also defending Western culture. Despite our appreciation of cultures of the past, the West has produced the greatest art, ideas and way of living that the world has ever known. One reason for this is that we're willing to incorporate ideas from other times and places. But people living on the brink, who are only able to scratch out a living, don't produce much culture: great artistic innovations have always come from rich countries. Fundamentalists may sneer at us, but that shouldn't make us hate ourselves. Our world has great value, and right now, that value has to be purchased with oil.
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