It’s not about the oil. God bless every one of the antiwar spirits, but the prevalent conviction-that the oil industry is behind this sale guerre , as the froggies say-is simply mistaken. This war isn’t of the oil companies’ making. I wish it were, because it would be settled over a weekend in Davos. We know that business people can be as stupid, shortsighted and blind to their own self-interest as the rest of us, but they’re not all incompetent. Hence, the oil industry has enough halfway-smart people running it to know that the odds on making money via a war on Iraq aren’t worth the betting.
Given the Iraqi performance when they were driven out of Kuwait by the United States, we can assume that their own oil fields will be destroyed in a desert version of a scorched-earth defense. The billions of dollars and years that it will take to reconstitute them tells us that any profits to be made by the big oil companies will be a long time coming.
From an oil company’s point of view, the present situation is tolerable. Thanks to the sanctions imposed on Iraq, that country’s oil production is a fraction of what it could be, and therefore a fraction of the oil the Iraqis might otherwise be dumping on the world market, dragging down the prices charged by Exxon or B.P. or the rest of them. There are so many ways an oil company can do a profitable business without a war in the Middle East-and its attendant dangers to oil-company investments in the other countries in the region-that the idea the industry is behind aggression is farfetched. Besides, with an administration committed to encouraging profligate energy consumption, the oil industry has no motive for joining the war lobby. Naturally, after the war, the American oil industry will do its best to get possession of the Iraqis’ oil fields, but that’s a far cry from instigating the war.
So why is the United States determined to strike against a country which has about as much firepower as the Cleveland Police Department? To defend itself? The preemptive-strike proposition? You could make almost as good a case for it as Adolf Hitler made for his invasion, with his Communist allies, of Poland in 1939. The Germans dressed up their own soldiers in Polish Army uniforms and had them pretend to invade Germany for their casus belli . The American discovery of nonexistent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction is a close parallel: two examples of two governments -one fascist and one democratic-lying and making up evidence for waging unjust war. We have been brought up to think that democracies and republics are always the good guys, the nonaggressors, the defenders of the weak, but history teaches otherwise. The classic case for all times of a great democracy going sour and becoming the terror of its neighbors is ancient Athens. Athenian behavior was so predatory and invasive that the other Grecian city-states joined in a defensive alliance, headed by authoritarian Sparta, to save themselves from Athens.
To justify the indefensible, the administration and its defenders are prone to talk about “appeasement” and compare Saddam Hussein with Hitler. But one of the reasons Hitler was appeased was that he commanded a frightening, nearly invincible war machine. It took almost the entire world to defeat him, and it was a close thing at that. The Second World War lasted from 1939 to 1945. Will it take six years to defeat Saddam, or six days, or six hours? Whatever his intentions, he has no tanks, no airplanes, no submarines, no nothing. Anyone comparing this guy with Hitler has no understanding of how terrible Hitler was. That Saddam is a despicable gangster politician does not make his country a military power. It is all but defenseless against the United States, which has been bombing the place for years without losing a single aircraft or pilot. It even lacks the military capabilities of North Korea, a country which does have a set of sharp little teeth, and you can see the difference in George W. Bush’s approach to Kim Jung Il. Instead of the nailed boot, he gets the pussied foot.
Preemption is but one reason given for attacking Iraq. Other reasons for letting fly with the bombs are to demonstrate “credibility” for the United States or just for George Bush; a lack of proactivity by Saddam Hussein; the impossibility of keeping the armed forces keyed up for battle over many months; the weather; Saddam Hussein’s murderously criminal career; the dictator’s provocative attitude, arrogance and indifference to American wishes; the fear that he will supply terrorists with weapons of mass destruction; George Bush’s loss of patience, his irritation and his need to show leadership and strength of resolve-persuasive reasons all for endangering the lives of thousands of human beings.
So what is going on here? Some day they may call this the Bait-and-Switch War. George Bush promised us Osama bin Laden in the ads, but when we called up to place an order, he gave us Saddam Hussein-whose only affinity with Osama seems to have been that he also was armed and encouraged by American officials, some of whom are still in office. It remains to be seen if bait-and-switch politics will work, but there are other aspects, hysteria aside, to this Middle Eastern adventure.
What jumps out is how much of an Anglo-Saxon crusade this is turning into. It is almost literally the case that the only nations which are buying into the dirty war with anything like enthusiasm are English-speaking ones controlled by Anglo-Saxons: the United States, England, Canada (albeit with increasing reluctance), Australia (always willing to shed its blood when England calls) and New Zealand. The non-Anglo-Saxons, be they in Africa, Asia or Europe, aren’t having any, thank you. It must be said that many Jews, in Israel and the United States, are also hot for this bloodletting, but many are not and, in any case, the Jewish population of the earth is minuscule.
Mr. Bush’s war derives its greatest support among the Anglo-Saxon elements of the population. You don’t need to hire the Gallup organization to realize that the enthusiasm for this killing spree among persons of color-or persons of non-color who don’t identify with the ruling circles of Anglo-Saxon culture-is decidedly tepid. If war comes, it is going to be a churchgoers’ war. The huge and obvious divide between the Anglo-Saxons and the rest of us goes little commented on. From the snake-handling Christian fundamentalists to the J. Press–clad propagandists who issue forth from their think tanks, this is an Anglo-Saxon operation -their religion, their world view, their missionary zeal, their intolerance, their disdain for people who speak other languages and have other histories.
The last time the United States launched itself into an Anglo-Saxon crusade of this sort was 1898. Just as, 40 years later, Hitler would begin a war by perpetrating a clumsy fraud, so America initiated its war of conquest against Spain by insisting that the battleship Maine , which blew up in Havana harbor after its boilers exploded, was surreptitiously destroyed by the Spaniards. The United States commenced an Anglo-Saxon war in the name of its superior values, to rid Cuba and the Philippines of the Roman Catholic religion, poor sanitation practices, degenerate other cultures and a pride unseemly in little brown men. The Spaniards gave up and decamped for Spain early, leaving the Americans to fight a perfectly vile war of oppression against the native inhabitants by means which Saddam Hussein would intuitively understand. Today, similar assumptions of the inferiority of the Muslim religion and Arabic civilization suffuses every statement coming out of Washington, where the Anglo-Saxon chieftains are poised to let loose a firestorm on the inhabitants of the region of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
The threat of a religio-cultural, imperial war of domination has terrified the Middle East. The officialdom in those parts is suffering premonitions about what happens after Iraq is destroyed. The Anglo-Saxons haven’t exactly been discreet about their intentions: Saudi Arabia is next as, one by one, the United States lops off the present heads of states, installs its own puppets and calls it democracy.