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Fuel Conservation: No War Needed

GUEST COLUMN

By Robert J. Kendra | February 2007
Robert J. Kendra, who writes from Putnam, Connecticut, retired in 1995 after a 32-year career as a civil engineer.

The New Oxford Note “The So-Called War on Terror” (Nov. 2006) correctly concludes that “the war on terror is a delusion.” But its analysis, which primarily blames Israel and the Israel lobby for the Iraq war, misses the mark. Israel’s U.S.-supported, aggressive usurpation of Arab lands and persecution of Palestinians may contribute to Arab anti-Americanism, but has virtually nothing to do with our immoral invasion and occupation of Iraq, which is geared toward controlling Iraq’s vast oil reserves.

Americans are addicted to the wasteful consumption of oil. Average per capita petroleum consumption in the U.S. is 26 barrels a year, compared to 12.5 barrels a year in Europe, and a meager two barrels a year in China. From the Civil War until World War II, we were the world’s leading oil producer and exported surplus oil throughout the world. But U.S. production peaked in 1972 at 11 million barrels per day (mbd), is now 9 mbd, and is projected to decline further by 2020.

However, U.S. consumption is now 20 mbd and is projected to be 26 mbd in 2020. The increase in imported oil, therefore, will rise from 11 mbd to 17 mbd or greater to feed our insatiable and profligate use of petroleum.

Future imported oil must come from the Middle East, which has two-thirds of the world’s known oil reserves, and will be the only region in the world with a significant surplus. Iraq alone has the world’s second largest reserves, behind only Saudi Arabia, and its oil can be produced for less than $2 per barrel, compared to costs ranging from $6 to $15 in other parts of the world.

In 1945 King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia agreed with President Franklin D. Roosevelt to co-operate with Big Oil for U.S. protection of their detested and corrupt royal monarchy, which now includes 7,000 mostly freeloading princes, against external but primarily internal attack. The result has been modernization of their country, exemplified by the most technically advanced cities rising out of the desert. On the other hand, Saddam Hussein would not capitulate to the U.S. exploitation of Iraqi oil, and even had the audacity to contact Russia, France, Italy, and China to develop its untapped oil reserves, while shutting out the U.S. and Britain. Had Hussein capitulated to the plutocratic extortion, the same modernization could have happened in Iraq and, in the words of former international marketing operative John Perkins, “Saddam would still be in charge if he had played the game as the Saudis had” (Confessions of an Economic Hit Man). Hence, the paramount importance of the “regime change” in Iraq that was planned well before 9/11 (with which Iraq was in no way connected). Our despised occupation, allegedly part of our “war on terror,” has not only spawned an atrocious insurgency in Iraq, but has increased the threat of terrorism worldwide.

The very first U.S. military objective of Operation Iraqi Freedom was to secure control over the oil fields and refineries in southern Iraq, then seize the Oil Ministry in Baghdad. In March 2005 Congress passed an $81.4 billion supplemental appropriation for the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, which included funds for 14 permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq (to secure oil) and the world’s most expensive U.S. embassy in Baghdad commensurate with the newly magnified importance of the Iraqi Oil Ministry. The only problem now is stabilizing the country, so Big Oil and its affiliates can modernize the oil infrastructure to significantly increase oil production and reap future mega-profits off our continued wasteful and selfish use of petroleum.

The U.S. has eight major military bases in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, U.A.E., and Oman protecting Persian Gulf oil. And now we have several more in Iraq. In March 2006 Gen. John P. Abizaid, a member of the powerful and influential Council on Foreign Relations, told a subcommittee of the House of Representatives that the U.S. is planning extensive basing in Iraq in order to secure the flow of oil and assert U.S. and allied interests in the oil-rich region.

U.S. presence on Arab soil after the Gulf War fueled the terrorist campaign of Osama bin Laden more than U.S. support for Israel. Bin Laden attacked U.S.-affiliated facilities in the Arabian Peninsula, where U.S. exploitation of Arab oil is greatest, bombing Saudi Arabian National Guard headquarters (constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) in Riyadh in 1995, attacking Khobar Towers (housing U.S. Air Force personnel) in Dhahran in 1996, and attacking the U.S.S. Cole berthed in Yemen in 2000.

The prime beneficiary of the alleged Israel lobby has not been Israel, but the U.S. defense industry. The U.S. has supported former terrorists (Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, and Ariel Sharon) as prime ministers of Israel and an aggressive Israel “Defense” Force, thereby creating violent hostilities in the Arab streets of surrounding Islamic countries. The result has been a massive arms race in the Middle East that benefits the likes of Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrup Grumman, and other U.S. defense contractors.

Oil-rich states such as Saudi Arabia and Iran have purchased inordinate quantities of armaments with petrodollars, which are recycled back to the good ol’ USA. Israel, which is without revenue-producing oil and other vital natural resources, must be heavily subsidized by U.S. taxpayers to purchase U.S. armaments (a convoluted way of transferring wealth from the taxpaying middle class to the super-rich plutocratic owners of mega-corporations), which have helped make Israel’s reputedly the fourth most powerful military in the world (Israel is the only country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons). Notwithstanding Israel’s overwhelming military superiority in the Middle East, U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia and Iran have dwarfed those to Israel. Actual U.S. military aid for fiscal 1950-1982 was $42.2 billion to Saudi Arabia, $12.6 billion to Iran, and $9.8 billion to Israel. In the years 1995-2002, Egypt (with more U.S. subsidies) replaced Iran, and military aid totaled $25.7 billion to Saudi Arabia, $8.3 billion to Egypt, and $5.9 billion to Israel.

President George W. Bush has flippantly remarked that it is better to fight terrorism abroad than at home. Al-Qaeda has reacted by rolling out the red carpet for U.S. troops to become sitting ducks in al-Qaeda’s backyard. Over 3,200 soldiers have been killed halfway around the globe (some 2,850 in Iraq and 350 in Afghanistan, as of this writing), exceeding the 2,996 people killed in the 9/11 attacks over here. Our troops were originally sent to Iraq to find alleged WMDs, remove Saddam Hussein (whom the U.S. supported during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s), and establish democracy — but we are now supposedly fighting terrorism. Yet this phony war on terror has not only increased terrorism worldwide, it has tragically become a death sentence for too many of our GIs and Marines, who will be stuck in Iraq until the oil reserves can be secured for exploitation by the plutocratic corporatocracy.

In war, truth is the first casualty. The Iraq war is no exception, exemplified by the lies of the Bush Administration and publicized via the controlled major media regarding the motive for this unprovoked war. As long as the U.S. spends as much as a quarter of its Defense Department budget protecting its sources of Persian Gulf oil with a massive military presence, terrorism will flourish in the Middle East and the mythical war on terror will be unending.

There is currently no economically viable alternative to gasoline-powered vehicles, so we Americans must exit the fast lane and embark on drastic fuel-conservation measures. Otherwise, the consequence will be more U.S. blood shed and treasure spent for oil in the fanatically anti-American Middle East.

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