In the days after 9/11, PNAC wrote to President Bush encouraging him in the “war on terrorism” but stating that, “We agree that a key goal, but by no means the only goal, of the current war on terrorism should be to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, and to destroy his network of associates.” It then moved quickly on to Iraq. Saddam Hussein, in the words of Secretary of State Colin Powell, is “one of the leading terrorists on the face of the Earth” and “It may be that the Iraqi government provided assistance in some form to the recent attack on the United States. But even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.”
The real problem posed by Iraq was further outlined in great detail in a 2001 report resulting from a task force sponsored by the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy of Rice University and the Council on Foreign Relations entitled “Strategic Energy Policy Challenges for the 21st Century”. The document noted that (emphasis added throughout) “For many decades now, the United States has been without an energy policy” and that, “In fact, the world is currently precariously close to utilizing all of its available global oil production capacity, raising the chances of an oil-supply crisis with more substantial consequences than seen in three decades. These limits mean the America can no longer assume that oil-producing states will produce more oil. Nor is it strategically and politically desirable to remedy our present tenuous situation by simply increasing dependence on a few foreign sources. So, we come to the report’s central dilemma: the American people continue to demand plentiful and cheap energy without sacrifice or inconvenience. But emerging technologies are not yet commercially viable to fill shortages and will not be for some time”.
The report stated, “For the most part, U.S. international oil policy has relied on maintenance of free access to Middle East Gulf oil and free access for Gulf exports to world markets. The United States has forged a special relationship with certain key Middle East exporters, which had an expressed interest in stable oil prices and, we assumed, would adjust their oil output to keep prices at levels that would neither discourage global economic growth nor fuel inflation. Taking this dependence a step further, the U.S. government has operated under the assumption that the national oil companies of these countries would make the investments needed to maintain enough surplus capacity to form a cushion against disruptions elsewhere. For several years, these assumptions appeared justified. But recently, things have changed. These Gulf allies are finding their domestic and foreign policy interests increasingly at odds with U.S. strategic considerations, especially as Arab-Israeli tensions flare. They have become less inclined to lower oil prices in exchange for security of markets, and evidence suggests that investment is not being made in a timely enough manner to increase production capacity in line with growing global needs. A trend toward anti-Americanism could affect regional leaders’ ability to cooperate with the United States in the energy area. The resulting tight markets have increased U.S. and global vulnerability to disruption and provided adversaries undue potential influence over the price of oil. Iraq has become a key ‘swing’ producer, posing a difficult situation for the U.S. government.”
To further complicate the situation, “U.S. unilateral sanctions as well as multilateral sanctions against oil-producing countries have discouraged oil resource investment in a number of key oil provinces…. In the case of Iraq, the U.N. sanctions imposed as a result of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait have had a severe effect on potential Iraqi production.” Moreover, “Iran and Iraq accuse Saudi Arabia of seeking higher production rates to accommodate the economic interests of the United States, Japan, and Europe at the expense of the needs of local populations, creating internal pressures in the Arabian Gulf region against a moderate price stance. Bitter perceptions in the Arab world that the United States has not been evenhanded in brokering peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have exacerbated these pressures on Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and given political leverage to Iraq’s Saddam Hussein to lobby for support among the Arab world’s populations…. Over the past year, Iraq has effectively become a swing producer, turning its taps on and off when it has felt such action was in its strategic interest to do so. Saudi Arabia has proven willing to provide replacement supplies to the market when Iraqi exports have been reduced. This role has been extremely important in avoiding greater market volatility and in countering Iraq’s efforts to take advantage of the oil market’s structure. Saudi Arabia’s role in this needs to be preserved, and should not be taken for granted. There is domestic pressure on the GCC leaders to reject cooperation to cool oil markets during times of a shortfall in Iraqi oil production. These populations are dissatisfied with the ‘no-fly zone’ bombing and the sanctions regime against Iraq, perceived U.S. bias in the Arab-Israeli peace process, and lack of domestic economic pressures.”
The report’s recommendation was to “Review policies toward Iraq with the aim to lowering anti-Americanism in the Middle East and elsewhere, and set the groundwork to eventually ease Iraqi oilfield investment restrictions. Iraq remains a destabilizing influence to U.S. allies in the Middle East, as well as to regional and global order, and to the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East. Saddam Hussein has also demonstrated a willingness to threaten to use the oil weapon and to use his own export program to manipulate oil markets. This would display his personal power, enhance his image as a ‘Pan Arab’ leader supporting the Palestinians against Israel, and pressure others for a lifting of economic sanctions against his regime. The United States should conduct an immediate policy review toward Iraq, including military, energy, economic, and political/diplomatic assessments.”
In line with the requirement of a “new Pearl Harbor” to be able to implement the “transformation” of the military to further U.S. global hegemony and secure U.S. “interests” in the region, “primarily Persian gulf oil”, the Bush administration did indeed take advantage of the “opportunity” provided by 9/11. Thus, their case against Iraq centered on either psychologically linking Iraq to the terrorist attacks or claiming directly that Iraq had some role, in addition to the blatant lies and deceptions about Iraq’s possession of WMD. It was crude propaganda, but effective enough manufacturing consent for the war by deluding ignorant Americans with their political science degrees incapable of exercising independent thought outside the confines of the state religion into the belief that it was “the only decent course”, even a benevolent humanitarian intervention totally absent any self-interest.
Never mind the facts, though; it is a “myth” that “Past American failures in Iraq were reasons to stay out in 2003”—both a strawman argument and a reiteration of the “change of course” doctrine—according to Matt Johnson. All the devastation and dead Iraqis are merely the “price” that has been “worth it” in a “cost-benefit calculus”, because the good deed of getting rid of an evil dictator outweighs any and all other considerations, which, under the familiar doctrine, we may consign to irrelevancy.
Matt describes Ron Paul as my personal “savior” and my “hero”, and he calls me “the vicar of the venomous, illogical, and overconfident Ron Paul revolutionaries.” This is, of course, intended to characterize me, and supporters of Ron Paul in general, as cult-like fanatics, blind followers of a personality. How does Matt explain, then, my own criticisms of Ron Paul, such as have appeared within these two responses to him, or, to cite another example, in my editorial that appeared at Foreign Policy Journal titled “Ron Paul’s Position on Israel is a Betrayal of His Values”? It’s true, there are those who seem cultish in their fanatical support for Ron Paul, if the comments on that editorial are any indication. But what Matt doesn’t get is that for people like myself, Ron Paul is not the message but merely a messenger. It’s not about Ron Paul, it’s about ideas. It’s about wanting change—real change, and not just campaign slogans—for our country. As Dr. Paul says, “An idea whose time has come cannot be stopped by any army or any government.” Ron Paul is not that idea. But he does speak about that idea. And I will congratulate Matt for being right about one thing: Ron Paul is a hero of mine. He is a hero for having the courage to speak out and tell Americans the truth they do not want to hear, such as telling them that 9/11 was what the intelligence community calls “blowback” for U.S. foreign policy, and refusing to back away from speaking the truth even when booed by his audience for it. He insists that the U.S. should exercise the golden rule in its foreign policy, and follow the teaching of Jesus to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, even when he is booed by his audience for it. He has near single-handedly changed the nature of the debate in the country on important issues like the role of the Federal Reserve and U.S. foreign policy. I disagree with Dr. Paul on some of his positions, but I respect him as a person of principle, honesty, courage, and integrity—which is certainly more than I can say for Matt Johnson and the rest of the practitioners of the state religion. One difference between people like Matt and people like myself is that people like him must “choke down some aspirin” just to endure thinking about Ron Paul and his “reactionary” ideas that “should be consigned to obscurity as soon as possible”, whereas I and many other Americans think Ron Paul is someone we should at least listen to. If the Matt Johnson’s of the world were to do that, they might actually learn something.