UPDATE: This journal entry was posted before I was aware of the fact that the Bush Administration was lying about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, and about the fact that it actually had no plan of governance for postwar Iraq.
Had I known of these lies at the time, I would have spoken very differently. However, my primary motive remains the same now as it was then: the world needs Iraqi oil. The US doesn’t need it much, but Europe and the third world do. For every penny that the price of oil rises, somebody in the third world begins to starve, usually in Africa. That matters to me. We have a moral obligation to those people, and if the world is deprived of the 10% of OPEC oil that Iraq contributes, there will be a major price increase, with a subsequent increase in that largely unseen and ignored suffering and death.
Sadly, we are very close to war with Iraq. This war is being called ‘needless’ and the president is being excoriated as a warmonger. However, this is not, for the most part, being done by the Democratic leadership, but by people who are not close to the realities, and knowledge, of congress.
The reason is that every diplomatic effort that was made by the previous administration to get Saddam Hussein to change his ways failed, and most congresspeople can see this. Meanwhile, the longer Hussein remains in power, the more unstable the situation becomes. Even if the Democrats had remained in office, they might well have ended up in a situation similar to the one the administration is in now.
Saddam Hussein, by his actions, is demanding war. This complex and brilliant man is much like Adolf Hitler, whose overweening arrogance compelled him to crucify his own people on the cross of his twisted ideals.
There are lots of people beating the drum that this war is needless. Saddam sympathizers, anti-semites, peace-at-any- price idealists who are ill-read in their history, and many ordinary people very much like me, who think that there just has to be a better way. But the current peace movement has the same creepy quality that pre-WWII peace movement had. It was hard to tell where the peace lovers stopped and the Hitler lovers started, and everybody was real quiet about the Jews. Add, in the case of this peace movement, a surprising indifference to the danger to the third world of high oil prices, and you can see a deeply inhumane aspect to it that certainly was not present, for example, in the anti-war movement of the 1960s.
Let’s be clear: Saddam Hussein is a fascist monster who has murdered thousands of his own people, and perverted the sanctions process in order to prevent its humanitarian provisions from protecting ordinary Iranians, while using them to surround himself and his croines with luxuries. He’s no different from Hitler, and the peace movement, if it is ever to attain credibility, must face that, if it succeeds, it must also take moral responsibility for him.
Normally, I would be in the peace camp, but not this time. There isn’t a better way than war, and the situation is much more serious than it appears–not because Saddam has the devastating weapons the administration fears, but because of what is happening in the world of oil.
If we don’t fight and win this war, oil prices are going to rise dramatically over the next few years, and there is going to be tremendous suffering as a result. When oil prices are high, the first world is inconvenienced, but the third world starves, and the peril to these helpless people is what we must seek to avoid. That’s in the near term. In the medium term, the situation is, if anything, more perilous.
As I write this, evidence is growing that the climate is already in a process of sudden change. The Laurentian sea is being flooded with fresh water from the melting north polar cap. Greenland is melting much faster than predicted. The flow rates of the Gulf Stream and dropping.
Once this climate change takes place–after the upheavals of the first few years–the northern hemisphere is going to be much colder. There will be a massive and permanent increase in fuel needs across the whole northern half of the region, where the most productive (and oil-hungry) segment of the human population lives.
At the same time, there is every evidence that the middle east is going to decline further and further into a stance of profound hostility toward the west, meaning that, just as we are at our most desperate, they will be at their most hostile.
Obviously, we must try to do something to prevent even the chance of such a scenario happening. In itself, though, it isn’t a reason to go to war–not as long as it remains hypothetical, anyway.
But there are other reasons, many of them. As sad as it is, going to war may be the most humanitarian thing we can do.
If the preparations Saddam Hussein has been making since the end of the Gulf War mean anything, it will be a dangerous and difficult affair. Unfortunately, the American people are expecting an easy war, if there could ever be such a thing. If that?s what happens, all will be well. But if it gets hard, then our resolve will obviously be tested.
What troubles me is the total lack of media interest in educating the public about why the president would think that this war is so essential to our welfare and the welfare of the world that he would be willing to engage in it even without the support of the UN, and even without a coalition of allies. But there are reasons, and they are good ones.
Of course, I cannot be sure of the president’s motives. They may be simple and self-serving: a desire to correct a world- historical error made by his father, and to guarantee a flow of cheap oil, thus perpetuating his administration and concealing the riskiness of his long term energy policy behind a curtain of plentiful oil.
Nevetheless, I know that I am going to get excoriated for writing this. But it’s the truth. Ideals are not going to change the reality of the situation. We’re in a pickle, and it just isn’t clear that there is another way out–at least, not one that will actually help.
When Unknowncountry.com ran a poll on war in Iraq, 58% said that you thought that we should not go to war under any circumstances. I deplore war just as much as you do, but there are overwhelming reasons why this must be done, that go far beyond the publicly stated goal of removing a potential future threat from a mad dictator, or rescuing a beautiful country full of good people from slavery and terror.
In recent years, the petroleum community had come to believe, with substantial evidence, that there were around 200 billion barrels of oil in the area of the Caspian Sea. This is as much oil as exists in the middle east. The mere existence of this oil had decisively altered the character of the market. Because the current oil producers saw this as a huge supply overhang, they viewed the world as a buyer?s market for their product. OPEC was therefore accommodating and relatively unaggressive, and oil prices stayed low.
However, over the past two years, it has become clear that the Caspian area does not contain nearly that much oil. In fact, it doesn?t contain much oil at all. There are perhaps 20 billion barrels in the region, and much of this oil appears to be so highly sulfured that it?s not really commercially viable, because the costs of moving it and refining it will exceed its value.
This has radically changed the oil picture. We?ve moved from a buyer?s market to a seller?s market, and the oil producing countries are well aware of this. What is worse, there have been rumors for a long time that the Saudi reserves are not as high as published. This means that the market may remain a seller?s market for a long time to come. In fact, the only thing that would change that would be a worldwide depression brought on by high oil prices.
Easy to say, oh, we mustn’t go to war for oil! We have no right to do that! We’ve got to conserve, not feed our bloated SUVs more gas we really don’t need.
Maybe so, but if that is your position, then please do this: you and your family go absolutely without gasoline. Plus, you pretend that the trucks that deliver food to your grocery store are stranded. Don’t even walk to the store for food. See how long you can manage it. A couple of days? A week? When will your kids start to cry from hunger? When will you actually begin to starve?
What you will be doing is living the way more and more of the world’s people will be living if oil prices continue to rise. Because this is not just an issue of first world consumption. High oil prices slow down our economies, but out in the third world where live the great masses of human beings, high oil prices flat-out kill.
To those of you who say that war for oil is immoral, have you thought past the SUVs to the little people of the world? Probably not. It’s interesting how rhetoric and blind ideals always seem to plant themselves in a bed of human suffering.
War is ugly. But, in this case, the alternative is far uglier.
I have lived through a depression brought on by oil scarcity, back in the seventies. I well remember the terror of the gas lines, of not being able to get gasoline anywhere at any price, and just what that meant. It was bad enough in the US and France and Japan. In Zambia, in Brazil, in Burma it meant that the busses and the trucks stopped, and the food ran out.
Meanwhile, talk show hosts are singing a siren song right now about how the free market will always supply us with more oil.
It?s another pipedream, nothing more. The free market is well and good–unless somebody else gains control over something the others can’t live without. Then watch out: the free market is liable to make you a slave.
I don?t think that we are running out of oil, but what is happening is that control of the market is moving into the hands of the suppliers, and the suppliers in the past have been able to operate as a monopoly, and are showing signs of doing so again.
The war will result in an immediate drop in world oil supplies. The AP has predicted $4.84 a gallon for gasoline in the US. But the International Energy Agency says it can deliver millions of stored barrels for up to a month. If Saddam burns his oil fields, as is highly likely, it is likely that oil will go to $45.00 a barrel in the short term. It is now at $35.00 a barrel, and reserves onshore in the US are at 1975 levels.
But that’s the short term. In the long term, Iraq holds a gigantic reserve of oil, enough to convert the market at a stroke from a seller?s to a buyer?s market and keep it that way for years. Enough, in other words, to keep those trucks in Africa and South America and Asia running, carrying the food and supplies essential to life.
It will give us in the first world the breathing room we need to develop alternative energy sources that are real on the massive scale that we need, and to evolve efficent, useful and–above all–practical means of conservation, so that we can wean ourselves from the oil addiction. Of course, the Bush administration won’t hear of this part of the equation. They’re dismantling alternative energy research, which is a great shame, not to say downright foolish.
However, they’re not entirely to blame. It has been clear since the seventies that we need alternative energy, and, despite the current administration, we may some day get it. But the truth is that the replacement of oil is at least a generation away, and would be even if research was allowed to continue. Administration after administration has had poor energy policy, as is shown not only by our lack of clear energy goals, but also accomplishments that should have been made years ago.
We should be so efficient already that this war should not matter. But we are not that efficient, and the war does matter.
Back before Saddam came long, Iraq was a sophisticated, westward-looking country. It had an educated population and was a functional democracy. There were deep ethnic divisions, but they were not nearly as dangerous as they are now. Saddam is not beloved in Iraq. He’s feared and hated– despised, would be the most accurate word. And the moment the terror is removed, his whole state apparatus will collapse.
There will be a chance then–an essential, golden chance–to allow the wonderful, sophisticated, well-educated Iraqi people to regain their independence and their leadership role in the middle east.
At a time when it seems increasingly likely that Saudi Arabia is going to fall entirely under the influence of fundamentalist Wahhabite Moslems, a free and politically moderate Iraq could be the cornerstone of regional stability. It could provide the moderate majority in Iran with the impetus it needs to throw off the fundamentalist leaders who are choking that country to death as well. Above all, it could provide enough oil to move prices down and get the world economy moving again.
The alternative is stark indeed: an unstable middle east, continuously rising oil prices, and economic turmoil and stagnation for the foreseeable future. Every penny that gas rises, a couple more people curse their gas guzzlers, and that’s too bad. But a few more third world mouths remain unfed, and that is cruel.
It could be said that what we need is conservation now and alternative energy now.
Agreed, but what about the real world, as it is now? Let’s not forget that small problem, because people’s lives depend on our remembering it.
First, alternative energy is not going to change anything in the near term?not in the next ten years or even the next twenty-five. Even draconian conservation and an extremely aggressive alternative energy policy will not be enough to change the situation as it stands right now: without the Caspian, the oil market is going to be a seller?s paradise for the foreseeable future.
The president is not going to say that the oil situation is a motive for attacking Iraq. But it is nevertheless the most important of all the motives, and there are many. Mr. Bush has been criticized for describing Iraq and North Korea as a axis of evil. He has been called ?geopolitically challenged.? It?s been said that this was an off the cuff remark that forever altered foreign policy, because he did not really understand the power of his position.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. At the present time, North Korea is providing a diversion, attempting to frighten the US into thinking that we could end up with a two-front war. Because of the position of South Korea’s capital, Seoul, so close to the border with North Korea, there is a very genuine potential for a damaging attack from the north.
If these are not the actions of one ally in support of another, I don?t know what else they could be. North Korea is supporting Iraq, clearly. So the president?s notion that they are allies is not wrong, and has never been wrong.
Yesterday, Richard Perle, the chairman of the Pentagon?s Defense Policy Board, told senior British officials that plans for an early war would not be put on hold, and that the United States would press ahead even without the support of the UN. He criticized the UN inspectors for visiting previously known sites, saying, ?they are the last place you?d expect Saddam to put something.?
The United States has not offered the inspectors much intelligence about where to look. Ostensibly, this has been to protect intelligence sources, but the real reason may be more stark: we may not have such sources. Despite the obvious threat that Iraq has posed since the day we stopped fighting in the Gulf War, little effort has been made to develop covert sources of intelligence in Iraq. The CIA has not until this administration had the budget or the support to develop an intelligence infrastructure like we had during the Cold War, that were the eyes and ears of this country. Satellite and electronic eavesdropping are no substitute.
So not only is the president in a position where he must fight an essential war, he is going into it with far less knowledge of the ground than would be optimal. As a result, there may be unexpected causalities, and you can be sure that the world media will be screaming bloody murder when that happens. It could be that the Iraqi oil fields will be mined, and probably more effectively than the Kuwaiti fields were during the Gulf War. It could be that our troops will be facing pernicious and awful weapons, and an Iraqi army obsessed with redressing its previous humiliation.
But if we lose this war, it will be lost in the same way that the Vietnam war was lost: at home. Of course, the anti-war movement of the sixties was much more humane and cogent than the present one, and the war far less defensible.
But if it is lost, it will be because the media is failing right now to educate the American people on just how much their futures?and I am talking about the way each of us lives his life?depends on success in this conflict. Believe me, being a buyer in a seller?s market can get very, very unpleasant, as those of you who lived through the oil crisis of the seventies must remember. What is worse, this time we could well be facing a hostile Saudi Arabia, its royal family overthrown, its government in the hands of religious leaders who will make the Ayatollah Khomeni look like a real gentleman.
A loss presents a picture of the future that is, to say the least, extremely depressing. It is a picture of the United States as a supplicant nation with a failed foreign policy, forced to rely for its life blood on its mortal enemies.
Of course the president is taking the country to war. This war is essential to our future. It?s all well and good to argue peace at any price. It?s convenient to brand the United States as a wanton aggressor and the president as a fool, and if, God forbid, we must take significant casualties, the world media is going to be screaming these things. The nascent American anti-war movement will explode in the president?s face. He risks ending up like Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon, destroyed by his own understanding of the necessity of the conflict. Only the difference is that they were wrong about their war and he is not wrong about his.
Our loss of the Vietnam war did not set the cause of freedom on this planet back many years, and could not have devastated it. But it could have prolonged the agony of Soviet communism. Fortunately, the economic situation in the former Soviet Union enabled us to find an eventual victory, as it were, by another means.
The president is not a fool, and it is outrageous to paint him as one. He has seen the future clearly, and stood up to the hard necessities that must be addressed if the world our children will inherit is to be a place of happiness and prosperity. Maybe his motives are purely national, or even simply to create an economic situation that will get him re- elected. But the effect of his actions is going to be that a whole lot of innocent people in the third world keep eating.
Going to war alone, as it now appears that we will do, perhaps with lukewarm British support, is an act of extraordinary courage, in a world that cares nothing for the overwhelming reasons that we must fight this battle, and seeks in its heart our downfall.
If the war lasts a few weeks, we will be able to stay the course. But what if it last months? What if an aircraft carrier is blown up, or a battle group devastated by some poison? Or an American city infected with smallpox? Will we then have the stomach for a fight?
You will be hearing the screams of those whose secret desire is the destruction of our country?s power. Their rhetoric will be convincing, and they will be editorializing, commenting, speaking, demonstrating. We will be dead alone on this planet in our conflict, with even our allies shouting that we must end it. The will of the country is bound to falter.
The president has seen that the future must be built on a stable oil supply, and has had the courage to gamble the destiny of his administration on this bid to guarantee it. But will we be with him if the road gets rough? Will we support him then?
Remember, then, what you have read in these pages. I hate war. My inclination is always to find a peaceful solution. But when you look at what Iraq has become, fallen as it has from the most advanced and sophisticated country in the mideast to a hell of torture and misery run by a paranoid lunatic with children ready to follow him who are just as bad, it could not be more clear that there is no peaceful solution, not this time.
Normally, our prayer group has a monthly intention, but we have instituted a special prayer at this time: for all who must suffer in the coming conflict. In addition, it is going to become important to remember our soldiers in another theater of conflict, which the media will forget entirely: Afghanistan. They are there, living hard lives under the most atrocious conditions, bringing a measure of stability and hope to people who have been without hope for generations. Read the current Insight article, an e-mail from a soldier in that far place, and keep them and the Afghani people who are dependent upon their lonely sacrifice, in your hearts as well.
I know that many of you will write me off because of this journal. But please realize that you’re doing this because you’re hypnotized by rhetoric and lies. A lot of you will resent the fact that I’m saying, essentially, that sucking gas like there was no tomorrow is inhumane and unamerican. But it’s true. Every moral person has to conserve, on behalf of mankind. Others–the peace at any price crowd–are going to excoriate me for being a warmonger. But they don’t stop to think who life is really on the line, here–not just the powerful, luxury-loving first world, but the third world, and for the third world the situation is far, far more stark.
Far better to wake up to the reality of the world as it is. The situation isn’t pretty. I wish we weren’t addicted to oil. If I’d had my way, the roads would already be full of high mileage, low-emission vehicles. But they’re not, and that is what is real right now and what has to be faced and lived with.
If you want to see something really ugly, leave Iraq alone. Your children will curse you for your peace. Or, use the fact that we’ve secured this oil–if we do–as an excuse to keep on sucking it up like there was no tommorrow. You’ll create a self-fulfilling prophecy: there won’t be one.
I am going to get a load of angry email about this, so if you think I’m right, or have something good to say about it, please do write also. I’ll need the moral support!
The address is simple enough: firstname.lastname@example.org
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