Whenever I talk about politics or world affairs with my father, he always reminds me, "Follow the money."
He's right. National leaders may dress up their saber rattling with ideology ("We're bringing democracy to Iraq"), religion ("Take the Holy Land back from the infidels"), or national defense ("The Global War on Terror), but it always comes back to the money.
It's always been thus -- think about all those Spaniards, searching the new world for El Dorado, the famed city of gold. Look at Africa, still reeling from colonization because of all its diamonds and gold.
Today money means oil. In the future, money may well mean water -- and that's likely to be true regardless of whether global warming and other human idiocies send us back to the stone age or whether we are able to keep our move toward human civilization on its shaky path forward.
But for now, it's oil. And as Juan Cole demonstrates brilliantly today on Informed Comment, the quest for control of the world's oil reserves is the only coherent explanation for US policy in the Middle East.
Using a map, Cole gives us the strategic ellipse -- location of 70 percent of the world's oil reserves and about 65 percent of the natural gas reserves. It includes Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Russia, and several former parts of the Soviet Union: Kazakhistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan.
Why did we invade Iraq? Well, there wasn't any oil to speak of in Afghanistan. Why are we threatening Iran? Could it have more to do with oil than the potential for nuclear weapons?
Cole also lists all the actual enemies of the United States -- North Korea, Syria, the Shiites of southern Lebanon, the Sunnis in Iraq (mostly secular, he says, with a few fundamentalists thrown in), Iran, Pushtun guerrillas in Afghanistan, and Al Qaeda and other tiny terrorist groups. It looks pretty pathetic when he lays out all the facts. They're not exactly Hitler's Germany, no matter how many times Bush calls them "Islamic fascists."
And some of our allies make our enemies look good. Check out this report from Craig Murray, Britain's former Ambassador to Uzbekistan in Sunday's Washington Post:
The next day, an envelope landed on my desk; inside were photos of the corpse of a man who had been imprisoned in Uzbekistan's gulags. ... We sent the photos to the University of Glasgow. Two weeks later, a pathology report arrived. It said that the man's fingernails had been pulled out, that he had been beaten and that the line around his torso showed he had been immersed in hot liquid. He had been boiled alive.For taking a stand against human rights abuses in Uzbekistan, Murray was accused of misconduct and hounded out of his job by his own government. Uzbekistan is important to is. It's in the strategic ellipse.
Follow the money.
And if you still think all this warmongering is about terrorism, take a look at this report from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a data gathering, data research, and data distribution organization associated with Syracuse University. According to TRAC:
- Prosecution of people charged as terrorists has dropped to pre-September 11 levels.
- Assistant US attorneys have declined to prosecute nine out of ten of the international terrorism charges recommended by law enforcement.
- The median sentence for those who were convicted is 28 days. Before Sept. 11, the median sentence was 41 months.
Al-Qaeda is proven dangerous, and should be combatted by good police and counter-terrorism work. But it is small and mostly disrupted or under surveillance. If its ideology were so challenging to Bush, then he should shut up those videotapes by capturing Bin Laden and Zawahiri. He has not done it.In other words, the only thing the Bush administration is doing about terrorism is using it as a red flag to scare us into supporting his attacks on civil liberties, his incredible accumulation of executive power, and his wars. Meanwhile, the real goal is the control of the strategic ellipse by the major oil companies. Never forget that Bush was elected to be the president from Enron. Enron itself may be gone, but the power structure it represented hasn't disappeared.
Follow the money.