Thursday, October 04, 2007

Luft balloons

For someone about whom it is claimed specializes in "strategy, geopolitics, terrorism, Middle East and energy security," Gal Luft doesn't seem to know very much about strategy, geopolitics or energy security. Because there, on the pages of the Baltimore Sun, Gal Luft refutes Alan Greenspan's ad hoc confessional and tells us that the war in Iraq is not about the oil, or even about the geopolitical significance of the Middle East. He says such claims just "don't fit the facts." These would be the facts as Luft is aware of them and not, apparently, a larger superset of facts about which he is either blatantly misleading or singularly unaware.

He begins,
As director of an organization dedicated to reducing America's dependence on oil, I'd be last to deny the toxic influence oil dependence has on America's foreign policy, its international conduct and its selection of "friends and allies" in the Middle East. There is no doubt that since the 1945 meeting between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Saudi King Ibn Saud, the United States has been militarily committed to the stability of the Persian Gulf and time and again has used its muscle to guarantee the supply of oil from the region.
And then proceeds to deny the "toxic influence" of oil considerations in the invasion of Iraq. He proceeds with one of the most fatuous statements imaginable.
While proponents of the view that "it's the oil, stupid" offer little evidence to support their claim, the evidence to the contrary is ample. Take, for example, the report of the 2000 National Energy Policy Development Group, also known as the Cheney Report. This policy paper, composed by no fewer than eight Cabinet members, reflects the pre-9/11 mindset within the Bush White House on how to achieve energy security. Yet it has almost no mention of Iraq and its vast oil reserves. The opposite is true: The report warns against concentration of world oil production in one region and calls for the United States to diversify its energy supply away from the Middle East.
Luft offers up this boilerplate nonsense as his "ample" evidence -- Cheney's conspicuous name attached to lend some heft and seriousness -- but it was really nothing more than a stale plate of public grits designed, as these things usually are, to assuage and mollify by sounding ponderous and meaningful. In offering us this less than convincing evidence and claiming that little evidence otherwise exists, he conveniently seems to be unaware that other reports were being drawn up for the National Security Council at the very same time.

In January 2001, the first meeting of Bush's NSC focused on a particular subject:
the top item on the agenda of the National Security Council's first meeting after Bush entered the Oval Office was Iraq. That was January 30, 2001, more than seven months before the 9/11 attacks. The next National Security Council (NSC) meeting on February 1st was devoted exclusively to Iraq.

Among the relevant documents later sent to NSC members ... was one prepared by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). It had already mapped Iraq's oil fields and exploration areas, and listed American corporations likely to be interested in participating in Iraq's petroleum industry.

Another DIA document in the package, entitled "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts," listed companies from 30 countries -- France, Germany, Russia, and Britain, among others -- their specialties and bidding histories. The attached maps pinpointed "super-giant oil field," "other oil field," and "earmarked for production sharing," and divided the basically undeveloped but oil-rich southwest of Iraq into nine blocks, indicating promising areas for future exploration.
The contents here hardly strike as containing "no mention of Iraq." From one meeting for public consumption to the private ones of the NSC, the differentiation of content could not be starker.

But, of course, there is much more.
On October 11, 2002 the New York Times reported that the Pentagon already had plans to occupy and control Iraq's oilfields. The next day the Economist described how Americans in the know had dubbed the waterway demarcating the southern borders of Iraq and Iran "Klondike on the Shatt al Arab," while Ahmed Chalabi, head of the U.S.-funded Iraqi National Congress and a neocon favorite, had already delivered this message: "American companies will have a big shot at Iraqi oil -- if he gets to run the show."

On October 30, Oil and Gas International revealed that the Bush administration wanted a working group of 12 to 20 people to (a) recommend ways to rehabilitate the Iraqi oil industry "in order to increase oil exports to partially pay for a possible U.S. military occupation government," (b) consider Iraq's continued membership of OPEC, and (c) consider whether to honor contracts Saddam Hussein had granted to non-American oil companies.
Halliburton, the energy services company previously headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, had prepared a confidential 500-page document on how to handle Iraq's oil industry after an invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Now, after his remarkable display of ignorance on these points, Luft really dives in, with both arms flapping, by saying that Big Oil is on the sidelines, apparently unable to enjoy the fruits of war.
Before the war, the United States imported very little oil from Iraq, and oil stood at $30 a barrel. Today, only 4 percent of U.S. oil imports come from Iraq, and oil is at $80. With 160,000 American troops in Iraq, America's oil companies are nowhere to be seen. Russian and Chinese companies are enjoying the spoils of war.
Sky-high record profits for ExxonMobil, Chevron and other western oil interests are of no seeming concern here and it is really the Russian and Chinese who are benefiting from the Iraq war.

While I would certainly agree that that is true: nemeses Russia, China, and Venezuela, as well as every other oil producing country, are certainly gaining tremendous advantage from the high price of oil without having dumped $500 billion into the heart of the Iraqi insurgency, it is also true that Big Oil is making out extremely well. The difference here, which Luft also fails to grasp, is that Russia, China and Venezuela profit -- as national entities -- from the high price of oil. The United States does not. The profits go straight to Exxon, while the Bush administration does what it can to ensure that oil companies don't even pay the proper royalties on domestic oil here. Russia and Venezuela are flush with oil revenue and doing things they could not have dreamed when oil was $20/bbl before the invasion. As the Bush administration, and likely the next one, continue to dump untold American tax payer dollars into the Middle East sinkhole, ensuring a lengthy extension to the hostilities and, hence, the high price of oil, emerging powers will only emerge more. There is no "upside" here for the American citizen, who will bear of the brunt of increased prices for everything and will continue to pay for the privilege to pay those prices. But to claim that Russian and Chinese companies are the only ones enjoying the spoils of war? Please, Dr. Luft, we know better than that. After all, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) just signed four more oil contracts along with the one already signed with Hunt Oil of Dallas, Tx, while the big American oil companies are simply awaiting the passage of a national oil law.

But Luft really augers in when he ventures into a discussion of Afghanistan, which he offers as prima facie evidence that the invasion of Iraq was not about oil.
Despite the involvement of Saudi nationals in the 9/11 attacks, the Bush team did not for one moment contemplate invading oil-rich Saudi Arabia. Instead, it chose to invade Afghanistan, the country with the least amount of oil in Central Asia. Furthermore, the administration decided to end the decades-long American military presence in Saudi Arabia, a country that produces five times as much oil as Iraq, and move U.S. bases to Qatar, which produces one-tenth as much as Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain, which has essentially run out of oil - a questionable move for a nation whose supposed main driver was oil.
Got that? We didn't invade close allies with lots of oil and hijackers -- Saudi Arabia -- therefore invading Iraq was not about oil. Oh, and as a specious side note, Afghanistan has no oil. So there!

But, of course, to those who are not associated with the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, the reality of Afghanistan's crucial geopolitical position is more than clear. Texas oil companies like Enron and Unocal were wining and dining the Taliban government in the late 90's, efforts geared toward building the potentially lucrative Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, a project meant as a direct competitor to the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline that had been in the works for years prior. While Afghanistan itself is not much of a petroleum producer, the country is a locus for major pipeline projects planned througout Central and Southeast Asia.
One year after the invasion of Afghanistan and the rout of the Taliban, the TAPI pipeline deal was signed in December, 2002 with the encouragement of then interim president Hamid Karzai. Karzai had also reportedly been a consultant for Unocal, and was made Chairman of the Transitional Administration shortly after the US-led invasion and then appointed interim president.
In fact, Luft's specious reasoning about the fact that "the Bush team did not for one moment contemplate invading oil-rich Saudi Arabia" actually argues against his very ill-conceived point. If oil was not a consideration, the Bush administration should have invaded Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, routed al Qaeda there and then knocked out the terrorist funding networks in Saudi Arabia. But they didn't do that. At all. The Sauds are long time Bush family friends, the major supplier of petroleum and have been firm American allies since the early seventies. No need to invade Riyadh, no matter the provenance of 9/11 hijackers or their source of funding. That Bush further acceded to bin Laden's demand that US troops withdraw from Saudi Arabia, which they did, is hardly encouraging behaviour from someone who claims he won't heed terrorist demands.

As a specialist in "strategy," Luft once again displays an uncanny thickness of mind in claiming that moving US troops in the Middle East from Saudi Arabia to Qatar and Bahrain surely indicated that the invasion of Iraq was not about oil, as though this troop movement must have devastating consequences for US strategic position in the region because Bahrain itself has "essentially run out of oil." Once again, please Dr. Luft. Look at a map. Perhaps Dr. Luft simply understands the word "strategy" differently than you and I.

Gal Luft's ridiculous article has all the trappings of COIN (I hope Meatball 1 would agree) -- a damn poor one to be sure -- something put out to counter Greenspan's headline making claim. One look at some of the staff of Luft's organisation, which include war-humpers and various neocon "advisors" as James Woolsey, Kenneth Pollock, and Eliot Cohen, is all one needs to be sure that the piece is nothing more than officious disinformation; one of a flotilla of distracting balloons designed to ease the pain of the reality of the invasion, that it was not done for that which it obviously was, that we invaded for good reasons and not grimy ones and because we, as a nation, simply cannot be allowed to admit the truth about the nature of our own foreign policy.


Blogger 5th Estate said...

(visiting via Newshoggers)
Nicely done. Luft is being wilfully ignorant.
The great thing about traditional media for such people is that there is no immmediate challenge to their opinions, and those that are allowed (in letters to the ed) are limited to a couple of paragraphs.

Patrticularly interesting is the description of Luft as a
“tireless and independent advocate of energy security.”
Energy security for Cheney and the neocons does not involve a reduction in ME-oil depence, but in SECURING the oil for US use.

What a remarkably fatuous article Luft has vomited out.

11:38 AM  
Blogger theBhc said...

Yes, it was. Which is why I felt compelled to tear it apart, if only in my own mind. As director of some semi-neocon outlet, and like the rest of the terrible hacks we see spouting thoughtless drivel, Luft will never be challenged on his nonsense.


1:24 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home