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[casi] P: This looming war is about oil

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This looming war is about oil
By Robert Fisk

AMMAN - I was sitting on the floor of an old concrete
house in the suburbs of Amman this week, stuffing into
my mouth vast heaps of lamb and boiled rice soaked in
melted butter. The elderly, bearded, robed men from
Maan sat around me, plunging their hands into the meat
and soaked rice, urging me to eat more and more of the
great pile until I felt constrained to point out that
we Brits had eaten so much of the Middle East these
past 100 years that we were no longer hungry. There
was a muttering of prayers until an old man replied.
"The Americans eat us now," he said.

Through the open door, where rain splashed on the
paving stones, a sharp east wind howled in from the
east, from the Jordanian and Iraqi deserts. Every man
in the room believed President Bush wanted Iraqi oil.
Indeed, every Arab I've met in the past six months
believes that this - and this alone - explains his
enthusiasm for invading Iraq. Many Israelis think the
same. So do I. Once an American regime is installed in
Baghdad, our oil companies will have access to 112
billion barrels of oil. With unproven reserves, we
might actually end up controlling almost a quarter of
the world's total reserves. And this forthcoming war
isn't about oil?

The US Department of Energy announced at the beginning
of this month that by 2025, US oil imports will
account for perhaps 70 percent of total US domestic
demand. (It was 55 percent two years ago.) As Michael
Renner of the Worldwatch Institute put it bleakly this
week, "US oil deposits are increasingly depleted, and
many other non-Opec fields are beginning to run dry.
The bulk of future supplies will have to come from the
Gulf region." No wonder the whole Bush energy policy
is based on the increasing consumption of oil. Some 70
percent of the world's proven oil reserves are in the
Middle East. And this forthcoming war isn't about oil?

Take a look at the statistics on the ratio of reserve
to oil production - the number of years that reserves
of oil will last at current production rates -
compiled by Jeremy Rifkin in Hydrogen Economy. In the
US, where more than 60 percent of the recoverable oil
has already been produced, the ratio is just 10 years,
as it is in Norway. In Canada, it is 8:1. In Iran, it
is 53:1, in Saudi Arabia 55:1, in the United Arab
Emirates 75:1. In Kuwait, it's 116:1. But in Iraq,
it's 526:1. And this forthcoming war isn't about oil?

Even if Donald Rumsfeld's hearty handshake with Saddam
Hussein in 1983 - just after the great father figure
had started using gas against his opponents - didn't
show how little the present master of the Pentagon
cares about human rights or crimes against humanity,
along comes Joost Hilterman's analysis of what was
really going on in the Pentagon back in the late

Hilterman, who is preparing a devastating book on the
US and Iraq, has dug through piles of declassified US
government documents - only to discover that after
Saddam gassed 6,800 Kurdish Iraqis at Halabja (that's
well over twice the total of the World Trade Centre
dead of 11 September 2001) the Pentagon set out to
defend Saddam by partially blaming Iran for the

A newly declassified State Department document proves
that the idea was dreamed up by the Pentagon - who had
all along backed Saddam - and states that US diplomats
received instructions to push the line of Iran's
culpability, but not to discuss details. No details,
of course, because the story was a lie. This,
remember, followed five years after US National
Security Decision Directive 114 - concluded in 1983,
the same year as Rumsfeld's friendly visit to Baghdad
- gave formal sanction to billions of dollars in loan
guarantees and other credits to Baghdad. And this
forthcoming war is about human rights?

Back in 1997, in the years of the Clinton
administration, Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and a bunch of
other right-wing men - most involved in the oil
business - created the project for the New American
Century, a lobby group demanding "regime change" in
Iraq. In a 1998 letter to President Clinton, they
called for the removal of Saddam from power. In a
letter to Newt Gingrich, who was then Speaker of the
House, they wrote that "we should establish and
maintain a strong US military presence in the region,
and be prepared to use that force to protect our vital
interests in the Gulf - and, if necessary, to help
remove Saddam from power".

The signatories of one or both letters included
Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, now Rumsfeld's Pentagon
deputy, John Bolton, now under-secretary of state for
arms control, and Richard Armitage, Colin Powell's
under-secretary at the State Department - who called
last year for America to take up its "blood debt" with
the Lebanese Hezbollah. They also included Richard
Perle, a former assistant secretary of defense,
currently chairman of the Defense Science Board, and
Zalmay Khalilzad, the former UnocaL Corporation oil
industry consultant who became US special envoy to
Afghanistan - where Unocal tried to cut a deal with
the Taleban for a gas pipeline across Afghan territory
- and who now, miracle of miracles, has been appointed
a special Bush official for - you guessed it - Iraq.
The signatories also included our old friend Elliott
Abrams, one of the most pro-Sharon of pro-Israeli US
officials, who was convicted for his part in the
Iran-Contra scandal. Abrams it was who compared
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon - held "personally
responsible" by an Israeli commission for the
slaughter of 1,700 Palestinian civilians in the 1982
Sabra and Chatila massacre - to (wait for it) Winston
Churchill. So this forthcoming war - the whole
shooting match, along with that concern for "vital
interests" (i.e. oil) in the Gulf - was concocted five
years ago, by men like Cheney and Khalilzad who were
oil men to their manicured fingertips.

In fact, I'm getting heartily sick of hearing the
World War II being dug up yet again to justify another
killing field. It's not long ago that Bush was happy
to be portrayed as Churchill standing up to the
appeasement of the no-war-in Iraq brigade. In fact,
Bush's whole strategy with the odious and
Stalinist-style Korea regime - the "excellent" talks
which US diplomats insist they are having with the
dear leader's Korea which very definitely does have
weapons of mass destruction - reeks of the worst kind
of Chamberlain-like appeasement. Even though Saddam
and Bush deserve each other, Saddam is not Hitler. And
Bush is certainly no Churchill. But now we are told
that the UN inspectors have found what might be the
vital evidence to go to war: 11 empty chemical
warheads that just may be 20 years old.

The world went to war 88 years ago because an archduke
was assassinated in Sarajevo. The world went to war 63
years ago because a Nazi dictator invaded Poland. But
for 11 empty warheads? Give me oil any day. Even the
old men sitting around the feast of mutton and rice
would agree with that. (The Independent)

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