Wednesday, April 20, 2011

He doesn't mingle






Last week Dan Amira (New York magazine) wanted to have a few laughs at Donald Trump's expense. No problem there but don't mistake your own thoughts for universal. Specifically, Amira wanted to ridicule Trump for believing that the US should sieze Iraq's oil and assume that his revulsion over Trumps's proposal (link has transcript and video) was shared by many. I'm not sure it is nor do I think Amria can demonstrate that more people agree with him than agree with Trump. (For the record, I believe that Iraqi oil belongs to the Iraqi people -- only to them. Not to foreign governments, not to US-installed puppet governments in Baghdad.) The video is of Trump being interviewed by the Wall St. Journal, excerpt:
Trump: We have thousands of people that died, our great soldiers. They died. Men and women, lots of people. We have thousands of people all over this country that are wounded, horribly wounded, with legs and arms. And lots --

WSJ: I think that they thought they were --

Trump: Excuse me.

WSJ: Sorry.

Trump: And I would not want to be the one that would tell their parents that your son, your daughter, has died in vain, been wounded in vain. But I would not want to be the one who goes up to somebody that has a son or daughter that died in Iraq and tell them, "By the way, Iran has taken over Iraq, because we have so weakened that nation that they essentially don't have an army that can fight back as they have for hundreds of years." So I would absolutely keep the oil ...
WSJ: I think that the soldiers fighting in Iraq were also fighting for freedom, not necessarily fighting for oil.
Amira has all sorts of would-be pity remarks mixed in between excerpts. And he appears to have felt very proud of himself. But how accurate was he?
"National security" is a catch all that, less and less in the US government's use of the phrase, means preventing an attack on the country. More and more, it's used to note the perservation of a way of life. I don't agree with that switch in definitions but that switch has been ongoing for sometime now -- including all the years ago when I was a college student -- and, unlike Amira, I've had conversations with people who live more than five blocks from my home and there are many in this country -- and a lot of them in the government -- who happen to feel that "national security" is "preserving the way of life."
The Iraq War was sold and continues to be sold on numerous lies. In the US, those lies have included (but are not limited to) WMD, 'another Hitler,' democracy, freedom, etc. But no one in the White House since the illegal war began has been able to give a plausible reason for the ongoing war. This was what upset Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan, you may remember. George W. Bush was declaring that those US troops who died in Iraq died for a noble cause. Cindy camped out in Crawford hoping to ask him what noble cause? For what nobel cause did her son Casey Sheehan die in Iraq April 4, 2004?
It would appear that oil was at least one of the main causes. Whether or not you consider that a noble cause (I don't) or national security (ibid) is up to you. The reaction of most Americans to the news has not been mass revolts. The reaction has been less than shock or even mild surprise. For example, one of the most respected (by the press) people in the US releases a book in the fall of 2007. The Los Angeles Times reported September 17, 2007 that the former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World included: "The Iraq war is largely about oil."
Graham Paterson (Times of London) offers the full quote running continuously, "I'm saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil." Did you see Congressional hearings called on the issue? No, you didn't. Greenspan told the truth, a few were bothered, so he offered a half-hearted 'clarification' -- as if the brief statement contained subtle complexities hidden to the average reader? -- and everyone moved right on.
Iraq Oil Map Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts - Part 1 Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts - Part 2 United Arab Emirates Oil Map United Arab Emirates: Major Oil and Natural Gas Development Projects Saudi Arabia Oil Map Saudi Arabia: Major Oil and Natural Gas Development Projects
These are the topics the man given the title of Vice President of the United States (Dick Cheney) discussed with oil companies, before the Iraq War started. Judicial Watch made the documents public. Many media outlets looked the other way. (A number of news outlets supported the Iraq War because they did see oil as "national security." And you were "very naive" -- or I was told that I was -- if you couldn't 'see' the need for the war.) Project Censored provides context on the documents here. Some were bothered by the secrets revealed by the documents. Most took a pass.
Trump's position isn't a 'new' one. He's modified it a bit recently. George Stephanopoulos blogged about the interview he did with Trump for ABC News this week and includes some excerpts:
Trump: George, let me explain something to you. We go into Iraq. We have spent thus far, $1.5 trillion. We could have rebuilt half of the United States. $1.5 trillion. And we're going to then leave. So, in the old days, you know when you had a war, to the victor belong the spoils. You go in. You win the war and you take it.

Stephanopoulos: It would take hundreds of thousands of troops to secure the oil fields.
Trump: Excuse me. No, it wouldn't at all.

Stephanopoulos: So, we steal an oil field?
Trump: Excuse me. You're not stealing. Excuse me. You're not stealing anything. You're taking-- we're reimbursing ourselves-- at least, at a minimum, and I say more. We're taking back $1.5 trillion to reimburse ourselves.
Is that 'shocking'? If it is, few were shocked before the start of the war when Knut Royce's article began appearing around the country (starting in Newsday -- link goes to Sun-Sentinel) in January 2003. Opening paragraph: "Bush administration officials are seriously considering proposals that the United States tap Iraq's oil to help pay the cost of a military occupation, a move that likely would prove highly inflammatory in an Arab world already suspicious of U.S. motives in Iraq." That wasn't the end of the talk or similar talk which went continued. In June 2006, Lee Russ tackled this topic for Watching the Watchers and included many quotes such Donald Rumsfeld, then-Secretay of Defense -- testifying to the Senate Appropriations Hearing March 27, 2003 that "funds can come from those various sources I mentioned: frozen assets, oil revenues and a vareity of other things, including the Oil for Foood, which has a very substantial number of billions of dollars in it." January 7, 2007, Danny Fortson, Andrew Murray-Watson and Tim Webb covered the issue for the Independent of London noting:
Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Defense Secretary at the time of the war and now head of the World Bank, told Congress: "We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon."

[. . .]
Before the war, Mr Bush endorsed claims that Iraq's oil would pay for reconstruction. But the shortage of revenues afterwards has silenced him on this point. More recently he has argued that oil should be used as a means to unify the country, "so the people have faith in central government", as he put it last summer.

A number of people were bothered by such talk but it wasn't a majority judging by the response. So this oh-Donald-Trump-is-so-crazy-and-who-could-agree-with-him? Actually a lot more people might agree with Trump than may agree with either Dan Amira or me. I'd love for that to be reversed but if we're dealing in reality, there are no facts to back up the idea that Trump's going to be ridiculed throughout the land for his comments. (He will be ridiculed by a number of talking heads. They may get some cheap laughs but they'll fail to tackle the issue and likely only succeed in shoring up support for Trump.)
The issue is back in the news today not due to Donald Trump but due to a new batch of government documents -- this time UK documents. Paul Bignell (Independent) reports, "The papers, revealed here for the first time, raise new questions over Britain's involvement in the war, which had divided Tony Blair's cabinet and was voted through only after his claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction." Bingell explains:

Five months before the March 2003 invasion, Baroness Symons, then the Trade Minister, told BP that the Government believed British energy firms should be given a share of Iraq's enormous oil and gas reserves as a reward for Tony Blair's military commitment to US plans for regime change.
The papers show that Lady Symons agreed to lobby the Bush administration on BP's behalf because the oil giant feared it was being "locked out" of deals that Washington was quietly striking with US, French and Russian governments and their energy firms.
Minutes of a meeting with BP, Shell and BG (formerly British Gas) on 31 October 2002 read: "Baroness Symons agreed that it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq in that way if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the US government throughout the crisis."

Paola Totaro (Sydney Morning Herald) adds, "Another minute quotes Edward Chaplin, the Foreign Office's Middle East director at the time, who noted that Shell and BP could not afford not to have a stake in Iraq for the sake of their long-term futures, adding that 'we were determined to get a fair slice of the action for UK companies in a post-Saddam Iraq'."
The Daily Mail notes, "The theory that Iraq's oil was of interest to the UK was even dismissed as 'absurd' by then prime minister Tony Blair as the British government prepared for the invasion while BP also insisted they had 'no strategic interest' in Iraq." Jason Ditz ( picks up on that last point, "At the time of the invasion, officials insisted BP had 'n o strategic interest' in Iraq -- yet they were clearly tellling the Blair government the opposite." The Independent's Patrick Cockburn offers this conclusion, "It has never seemed likely that the US and Britain invaded Iraq primarily for its oil. Reasserting US self-confidence as a super-power after 9/11 was surely a greater motive. The UK went along with this in order to remain America's chief ally. Both President Bush and Tony Blair thought the war would be easy. But would they have gone to war if Iraq had been producing cabbages? Probably not." AFP (link has text and video) notes, "A new book by oil campaigner Greg Muttitt claims oil was one of the UK Government's main strategic considerations for going to war in Iraq and that there was collusion with oil companies." David Swanson (War Is A Crime) writes a parody of an apology-fest caused by the revelations: "Former Congressman David Obey, who screamed at Congressman Dennis Kucinich in a Democratic caucus meeting for suggesting that oil might be one factor in the war, is currently on a plane back to Washington to MC the mass apology."

Puppet and thug of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki is gearing up for another power grab. Al Mada reports that Nouri's State Of Law is stating that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi needs to go and quotes State Of Law's Hussein al-Asadi stating that al-Nujaifi isn't "fair" and al-Asadi's whine continues that "some cases" find al-Nufaifi allowing topics to be aired and some do not. [Flayeh al-Jourani (Zawya) covers the charges -- in English -- here.] that They say they can replace him the way Mahmoud al-Mashhadani was replaced.

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