September 23, 2002
Here, in the room, they come and go talking of..., parroting in front of the cameras, on Sunday news programs, with the same message echoed complacently by the print media. "Regime change, regime change," they chant in unison. Iraq is a threat to humanity; to us, the US of A, and to our friends and allies. Saddam, a true vampire out of some Transylvanian crypt, a resuscitated Hitler, a reincarnated Attila the Hun, is readying himself to wreak mayhem on the world. He, the "evildoer," the "gasifier," the "ear-eating cannibal," has developed these terrible Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and, worse yet, is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons. This Viagra loaded tin-pot despot is up to no good; never been, never will. "Regime change, regime change," sings the choir.
"And indeed there will be time
"Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse."
The time is now, and we dare! We ARE the US of A! Not only do we dare but we have the means to dare and the will (and interest) to act. Want to get a taste of our B2s? It's coming your way as we speak, via Diego Garcia, with the help of our cousins.
Baby, are we on, or what?
Okay, back to reality.
Why did the war on terrorism and Osama bin Laden shift to the war on Iraq and Saddam Hussein, overnight?
For the few who still read, and the fewer that read alternative news sources (I'm talking about 0.00001 percent of humanity, assuming all of humanity can read English!) we know that Iraq has no nuclear weapons. We know that Iraq's military capabilities have been drastically downgraded compared to Gulf War I (aka Operation Desert Storm). We know that Iraq has no serious technical capacity to deliver its chemical and biological WMD, even assuming that it has a stockpile of them, and that if it could hit US forces or Israel the consequences would be far more severe for Iraq.
How can I be so confident and so assertive?
Simple enough. Beside the heavy rhetoric, the PR campaign and the propaganda, the US administration has not presented one thread of evidence. Innuendoes, yes; allegations, certainly; but evidence, nope. Now, I am fully aware of the circular thinking in high places -- "the absence of evidence does not mean the evidence of absence" -- and the fact that the Scott Ritters of this world and the folks at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists can easily be discredited or, more likely, disregarded, simply ignored. After all, the "what if" scenario, advanced ad nauseam to an already paranoid US public, looks like a rock-solid argument, at least on paper. What if, indeed, Iraq had such unspeakable destructive power at its disposal? To suggest that the Iraqi regime is quite rational and far from suicidal would be tantamount to treason, so I won't suggest it (I don't want to be accused of "helping the enemy" and placed on yet another FBI watch list)... Nor will I put forward the amorality of the scheme. That would be insulting to the sensitivity of the oh-so virtuous American people. Yet, the weight of that argument is even lighter than the weight of the paper on which it is written. It's a smokescreen.
There is this tiny but immensely powerful country in the neighborhood, a close client-state and "friend" (1) of the US of A, that for better or worse has always lived with an existentialist threat that is deeply rooted in the country's psyche. It is so tiny that should a nuclear attack occur it would likely wipe out the entire country -- and its population. This country has a well-recorded history of taking unilateral, pre-emptive actions -- military strikes against real or perceived or even fabricated threats. Two quick examples: it launched a pre-emptive attack against Egypt in 1967 and, in 1981, it unilaterally bombed the Osiraq 40 megawatt light-water nuclear reactor at the Al Tuwaitha Nuclear Center near Baghdad that Iraq was building with French assistance. Faced with an existential threat, this is a country that would not hesitate to use its nuclear arsenal (it seriously considered that option in 1973). This country, obviously, is Israel. The question then is, for graciousness sake (to use Rumbo Rumsfeld's favorite quip), why haven't the Israelis pre-empted if the Iraqi threat is so flagrant and formidable? Again, Israelis are not in the business of going to the United Nations and ask for resolutions. They tend to take matters into their own hands and they do it in a hurry. I don't think that Sherlock Holmes is needed to answer the question. They have not pre-empted because there is neither an imminent nor a significant threat to the existence of their country.
That's what ultimately convinced me that the US administration's case is bogus. That, as well as the fact that the rationale for Desert Storm was also fabricated and that recent reports show how the Iraqi military has been weakened and degraded by a decade of sanctions and repetitive bombings of its military infrastructure by the US and British air forces. (2)
So there must be an explanation behind the smokescreen, a reason or series of reasons that the US of A is determined to take over Iraq, no?
Personally, I see a mix of three factors: domestic politics, the "drunk with power" syndrome, and resources (that would be oil and natural gas). To rate the respective importance of each is no easy task but I would submit that the last one, resources, is the predominant one; an opinion that should not surprise our regular readers (Milo Clark expanded on this two weeks ago).
The first two factors, domestic politics and the "drunk with power" syndrome, are independent of the target. Whether the US chose to invade Zimbabwe or Cuba or North Korea, or Syria, countries that are now characterized as "failed states" ("states of concern" are out of vogue) -- all candidates for "postconflict reconstruction" ("nation-building" is also passé) -- the arrogance of power and the domestic tribulations would still be significant, even essential dynamics to consider.
The mounting economic and social crisis in the US as seen by the magnitude of the mushrooming health crisis, rising unemployment, loss of benefits, financial melt-down, infrastructure deteriorations, budget deficits, deflationary trends to name a few, requires deflection which foreign ventures and ratcheting security paranoia amply provide. As to the power gone off the deep-end, people on both sides of the aisle are literally drunk with it and the quest for more, becoming increasingly insane year after year. Read David Armstrong's essay, "Dick Cheney's Song of America," in the October 2002 issue of Harper's to understand the extent of that insanity, that thirst for global dominance, the actual domination of the entire planet and beyond. If you haven't done so already, read "The National Security Strategy of the United States," available online at nytimes.com. And remember Lord Acton, in an 1887 letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."
While I don't want to minimize the importance of power and politics, I wish to focus this essay on the real prize: Iraq has oil and is in the Gulf, next to Saudi Arabia, and China is looming.
In a recent article, Israeli-Palestinian And American Sad Minuet, I alluded to a 1998 317-page, seven-part report by Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), The Changing Geopolitics of Energy. Mr. Cordesman is possibly better known as a national security analyst for ABC News but he holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at CSIS where he is a prolific writer and a respected analyst with an impeccable pedigree. (3) Just about one year later, in September 1999, Mr. Cordesman published a 472-page book, Geopolitics and Energy in the Middle East. Both the report and the book (as well as a plethora of other publications) are available online in Acrobat format at csis.org, and an executive summary of the book is available in HTML at http://www.csis.org/stratassessment/reports/MEenergy.html. Mr. Cordesman looks into the long term (2020) and analyzes the trends in export and import, consumption and production, risks, problems and challenges, potential conflicts, required investments, status of each producing country, other sources of energy, the population time bomb, the downside of sanctions (Iraq, Iran, Libya) etc., to secure a stable flow of oil and gas in the future.
The very first lines of the executive summary encapsulate the strategic importance of the region. "The Middle East dominates world energy exports. It has about 64% of the world's proven oil reserves and 34% of its gas reserves. According to estimates by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), it exported an average of 17.7 million barrels of oil a day (MMBD) in 1995. This was 47% of the world total of 37.7 MMBD. The DOE projects that Middle Eastern oil exports will reach 39.8 MMBD by 2020. This will be 60% of the estimated world total of 66 MMBD. "
One unmistakable trend is the dramatic oil needs of the so-called developing world, in particular Asia -- and within Asia, China. In 2000, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the industrialized world imported 29.9 MMBD and the non-industrialized world 12.5 MMBD. In 2020, the respective estimates are 40.3 MMBD and 30.6 MMBD. As a matter of comparison, the US, with 280 million people, imported 10.7 MMBD in 2000 and the projection for 2020 is 18.2. China, with 1.2 billion people, imported 1.1 MMBD in 2000 and is expected to import 7.6 MMBD in 2020. (4) India will also significantly increase its imports. In other words, "developing Asia" (China, India, Pacific Rim) will experience an exponential rise in oil and gas imports in the coming decades, a period which according to the EIA will see the peak of conventional oil production (in 1998, the EIA projected that the peak will be reached in 2012).
Note in passing that for 2020 the estimated world oil exports are 66 MMBD and the estimated world oil imports are 70.9 MMBD...
Another telling point made by Mr. Cordesman is the specific strategic importance of not the entire Middle East, but the Gulf Peninsula; that is Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, the UAE, and, to a lesser extent Oman, Qatar, etc. If you add Iran to the equation, over 90 percent of Middle Eastern oil deposits are located in this geographical area. (Wonder why Iran was included in the "axis of evil"?) And obviously, says Cordesman, "Saudi Arabia is the key to stable world oil exports. It has well over 260 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, or one-quarter of the world's total. Saudi Arabia is the pivotal oil exporter in the Gulf, the Middle East, and the world. It is the world's largest 'swing' producer, and Saudi Arabia plays a critical role in ensuring moderate and stable oil prices. It is also the world's largest oil producer, and the growth in Saudi oil production will outstrip the growth in all of the nations in the Former Soviet Union, in spite of major increases in production by the former Soviet republics in the Caspian and Central Asia."
However, to reach the projected level of production these countries will need to substantially invest in their oil-producing capacities, not just palaces for patriarchal rulers. The quandary is how can those investments be made when the oil revenues of these countries have decreased over the past two decades. Without a steady source of income, without committed financial investments in oil and gas production, the region will not reach its expected and needed export capacity. Heavily sanctioned countries such as Iraq and Iran fall dangerously short from the required financial investments. But even Saudi Arabia, because of falling prices since the seventies (in constant dollars), and because of its patriarchal system, is not investing enough. Cordesman writes: "Even before the 'oil crash,' Saudi Arabia had serious financial problems. In 1997, it had a $4.5 billion budget deficit. Since that time, the decline in oil revenues has created a major challenge for the Saudi government since oil export revenues account for nearly 90% of total Saudi export earnings." "Saudi Arabia does not face any imminent risk of instability, but it will enter the twenty-first century in the midst of major political, social, economic, and military transitions."
In addition, the Anglo-American oil behemoths such as ExxonMobil and British Petroleum have substantially lost ground to French, Russian, Japanese and even Chinese consortia in the development of oil fields in the region -- a consequence of the economic sanctions inflicted upon Iraq and Iran by principally the USA and Great Britain, as well as the relatively recent intent by Saudi Arabia to open its future oil and gas developments to non Anglo-American oil and gas business interests.
Mr. Cordesman gets into the notion of " failed states" with a profusion of details. Not surprisingly, Iraq and Iran are on the list; but so is Saudi Arabia. "Failed states," as noted earlier has become a big deal in the corridors of power. John J. Hamre, the president and CEO of CSIS, wrote an article (with Gordon R. Sullivan) for the current issue of CSIS's publication, The Washington Quarterly, emphasizing the need for the "international community." (read the USA and England on its coattails) to deal with "failed sates." He ends the piece, "The United States should enable itself to catalyze on indigenous and international reconstruction efforts in order to protect U.S. interests. Doing so will also help others to pursue that which U.S. citizens hold most dear-life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." (5)
CSIS, like other powerful think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation or the Hoover Institute, is peopled by individuals whose names belong to the who's who of the power elites, the cream of the cream of the power structure. Former Georgia senator Sam Nunn is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees; Zbigniew Brzezinski, Henry A. Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft, R. James Woolsey, James R. Schlesinger, Anthony C. Zinni, Joseph T. Gorman (TRW), Donald Marron (Paine Webber), William S. Cohen, Ray L. Hunt (Hunt Oil) and many more are all trustees, counselors or senior advisers. (6) CSIS, a private, tax-exempt institution has a budget of $17.5 million (2001). Its 190 researchers and support staff regurgitate what the decision-making elites want to hear and see disseminated (disinformation included).
The Gulf Peninsula is strategically vital to the US. The competing interests of the developing world (read China) at a time when oil resources are reaching their peak will become an increasing and potent threat to the Western economies, especially when all the projections show that the world will have a black gold deficit in the near future. The instability in the Gulf (7) and the lack of financial resources to develop the oil and gas fields to the hilt pose a major technical and monetary dilemma. It takes years for these investments to get a return, both technically (oil and gas output) and financially (profits). The latest vilification of the Saudi regime coming from think tanks and the main media as well as the designation of China being an "enemy" by senior officials of the present US administration, which abated after 9/11 but has been a constant for many years (there is already plenty of literature about how to "dissuade" China from acting upon Taiwan using the same US necessity to pre-empt -- check The Washington Quarterly,), indicate where the concrete focus is indeed. (8)
The US of A will soon be in Iraq, make no mistake about it. But the real prize IS Saudi Arabia and the "real enemy" IS what the French used to call the "yellow peril," PRChina, at least according to this insane oligarchy.
So, let me end where I started, with J. Alfred Prufrock and T.S. Eliot:
"We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown."
· · · · · ·
References and Notes
1. I put quotes around "friends" for nations do not have friends. People do (rarely enough). Nations have interests and their "friends" change according to those interests. This is a truism, even at the smallest level of organizational structures. Power is the name of the game. (back)
2. The Military Threat from Iraq, Anthony H. Cordesman, Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 2001 (Acrobat format) (back)
3. "Anthony H. Cordesman holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at CSIS. He is also a national security analyst for ABC News, and his television commentary has been featured prominently during the Gulf War, Desert Fox, the conflict in Kosovo, and the fighting in Afghanistan. During his time at CSIS, Professor Cordesman has been director of the Gulf Net Assessment Project and the Gulf in Transition study, and principal investigator of the CSIS Homeland Defense Project. He has led studies on national missile defense, asymmetric warfare and weapons of mass destruction, and critical infrastructure protection. He has also written on U.S. defense programs and force transformation, the Western military balance, the nuclear balance, arms control in the Arab-Israeli military balance, the economic stability of North Africa, the Asian military balance, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. He directed the CSIS Middle East Net Assessment Program and acted as codirector of the CSIS Strategic Energy Initiative. He is the author of a wide range of studies on U.S. security policy, energy policy, and Middle East policy, a number of which are available on the CSIS Web site (www.csis.org). Professor Cordesman has previously served as national security assistant to Senator John McCain of the Senate Armed Services Committee, as director of intelligence assessment in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as civilian assistant to the deputy secretary of defense, and as director of policy and planning for resource applications in the Department of Energy. He has also served in numerous other government positions, including in the State Department and on NATO International Staff, and he has had numerous foreign assignments, including posts in Lebanon, Egypt, and Iran, with extensive work in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. Professor Cordesman is the author of more than 20 books, including a four-volume series on the lessons of modern war. His recent books include Terrorism, Asymmetric Warfare, and Weapons of Mass Destruction (Praeger, 2002), Cyber-threats, Information Warfare, and Critical Infrastructure Protection (Praeger, 2002), Strategic Threats and National Missile Defenses (Praeger, 2002), The Lessons and Non-Lessons of the Air and Missile Campaign in Kosovo (Praeger, 2001), Peace and War (Praeger, 2001), A Tragedy of Arms (Praeger, 2001), Iraq and the War of Sanctions (Praeger, 2000), and Iran's Military Forces in Transition (Praeger, 2000). He has been awarded the Department of Defense Distinguished Service Medal. A former adjunct professor of national security studies at Georgetown University, he has twice been a Wilson Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars at the Smithsonian Institution." Source: http://www.csis.org/html/4cordesm.htm (back)
4. International Energy Outlook 2002, Worldwide Petroleum Trade in the Reference Case, 2000 and 2020, Energy Information Administration (EIA). (back)
5. One question that is rarely posed and never answered is how will "others pursue that which U.S. citizens hold most dear -- life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?" That I know, if the US with 4 percent of the world population consume (waste?) roughly 25 to 40 percent of the world's resources, with Europe taking another big chunk of those resources, to believe such paradigm one either lives in a fairy land or needs to revisit one's three R's or, again epitomizes hypocrisy. It simply does not compute. (back)
6. The cream of the cream of the power structure... Here are a few names. More can be found at http://www.csis.org/about/index.htm#4 (scroll down) and read the bios, they are quite instructive as they demonstrate how these people move from the private sector to the government back and forth (revolving doors). For the 22 years since I have lived in the US, the same people have essentially been in power one way or the other continuously.
Former Senator (Georgia) Sam Nunn
Former US Senator (Maine) and Secretary of Defense, William S. Cohen
Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski
Former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger
Former assistant to the president for national security affairs to Presidents Ford and Bush General Scowcroft
Former director of the Central Intelligence Agency R. James Woolsey
Former US Senate (Tennessee) and Secretary of Labor William E. Brock
Former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and secretary of defense James R. Schlesinger
Former secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and US Trade Representative Carla Anderson Hills
Former secretary of defense Harold Brown
General Anthony Zinni, USMC (Ret.)
Business and Finance are also well represented
William A. Schreyer, chairman emeritus, and President and COO E. Stanley O'Neal of Merrill Lynch & Co.
Ray L. Hunt, chairman of the board, president, and chief executive officer of Hunt Consolidated, Inc., and chairman of the board and CEO of Hunt Oil Company. Additionally, he serves as a member of the boards of directors of Halliburton Company.
Joseph T. Gorman, chairman and chief executive officer of TRW
Donald Marron, chairman and chief executive officer of Paine Webber Group Inc.
Kenneth Langone, founder, chairman, and CEO of Invemed Associates LLC, a New York Stock Exchange member firm engaged in investment banking and brokerage; and co-founder of Home Depot, Inc.
Douglas N. Daft, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of The Coca-Cola Company
J. Michael Cook, retired chairman and chief executive officer of Deloitte & Touche LLP
Felix G. Rohatyn, former US ambassador to France and managing director of the investment bank Lazard Freres and Company (back)
7. Population time bomb, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, fundamentalism, nationalism, poverty, patriarchy... (back)
8. "'Our forces will be strong enough,' Mr. Bush's document states, 'to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military buildup in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States.' With Russia so financially hobbled that it can no longer come close to matching American military spending, the doctrine seemed aimed at rising powers like China, which is expanding its conventional and nuclear forces." David E. Sanger, analysing "The National Security Strategy of the United States," in "Bush to Outline Doctrine of Stricking Foes First," The New York Times, Sept. 20, 2002, front page. (back)
The 1991 Gulf War Rationale by Gilles d'Aymery - 08/26/02 (revised Sept. 22, 2002)
Gulf War II by Gilles d'Aymery - 08/26/02
Iraq on Swans
Gilles d'Aymery is Swans' publisher and co-editor.
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