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The Price of Oil

From the Publisher of Chicago Life

By PAM BERNS

These are serious times. In a few weeks Americans will choose a president who will determine what course our country will follow. The differences between George Bush and John Kerry are profound. On Bush's clock we have gone to war in Iraq. We've watched health insurance premiums double while 45 million Americans have no insurance at all. The disparity between the rich and the poor is widening. The ballooning debt continues to be ignored while Bush tries to push through more tax cuts for the wealthy, further threatening social programs. Meanwhile, Bush's cronies and top campaign donors in the arms, insurance, financial and energy services industries have benefited from this administration's "industry-friendly" policies.

On the international front, Bush's recklessness has isolated our country from the rest of the world. It is inconceivable that Bush can diplomatically mend our relationships with American's long-time friends. A change of leadership is needed to rebuild our respect in the world. Kerry's agenda to mend international relationships and provide help for the middle class, health insurance, and stem cell research can help reverse the damage that has been caused by four years of arrogant diplomacy and brash governance.

I just finished reading Imperial Hubris, a most disturbing book penned by "Anonymous," a senior officer in the CIA who writes about the dangers inherent in the exaggerated self-pride and smug attitude of superiority in our country's dealing with terrorism. This is a chilling book.

Imperial Hubris is not for the faint of heart. It is opinionated and -- some would deem -- radical; it makes judgments about U.S. failures as a super-power, and holds individuals responsible for errors. According to The New York Times, since writing Imperial Hubris, "Anonymous" wrote a "blistering" letter to the Sept.11 commission, criticizing its failure to punish anyone -- including George Tenet -- in the intelligence agencies. He wrote that those whose responsibility was to protect U.S. citizens before Sept.11 neglected to do their jobs.

The author writes that the administration was ill-prepared to retaliate for the Sept. 11 attack until Bush okayed the plan on Oct. 2 to go after bin Laden, "Oddly, the National Security Council and FBI did move with speed to assist the 'dead of night exodus' of twenty-plus bin Laden family members from the United States to Saudi Arabia." The author cites Bob Woodward's book, Bush at War -- "a book that fascinates and terrifies by describing the ill-informed and timid support the president received as he led America to war, 'had no plans for Afghanistan, the sanctuary of bin Laden and his network.'"

"Anonymous" writes that despite the many years our analysts and military officers spent fighting the Russians in Afghanistan, we arrogantly ignored the important lessons of the past. We fought it on the cheap. For instance, he says that the U.S. paid Afghan locals to fight for us, although their loyalty was not with us. They gladly accepted our bundles of cash, the borders were not sealed, and about 80 percent of the Taliban scattered. He says that we should have learned that Afghanistan is a country of tribes and that even a man as intelligent and decent as President Hamid Karzai is, he is not considered one of their own, the author writes. "The government the West installed in Kabul in early 2002 was missing every component that might have given it a slim chance to survive without long-term propping-up by non-Islamic, foreign bayonets." He writes that remnants of the Taliban and Al Qaeda have now "regrouped and reformed" and they are ready to carry on a guerrilla war against the Kabul "regime" as long as it takes to expel the U.S. from Afghanistan.

The most eye-opening part of Imperial Hubris centers around how we view the term "terrorists." "For bin Laden, the [U.S.] Crusaders' offensive attacks on Islam are the main thing, Anonymous writes. "Unfortunately for America, U.S. policies and actions in the Muslim world provide Muslim eyes with inconvertible injustice, slaughter, and plunder." He writes that bin Laden's rhetoric includes evidence of the Western Crusaders' war against the Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chechnya, Timor, Afghanistan, the Philippines and the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. According to the author, bin Laden's rationale behind his jihad against us is simple -- "Because you attacked us and continue to attack us."

Despite what this administration claims, the author says the terrorists do not resent us because we have freedom and democracy. He says, rather, that "most of the world outside North America is not, does not want to be, and probably will never be just like us." He points to a Pew Trust poll that found "hostility is toward American policies, not American values." He writes, "The strength of Islam among Iraqi Shia and Sunnis was known...Only a dunce or a man ready to be silent to protect his career could have failed to know the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq would create a 'mujahedeen magnet' more powerful than Moscow created in Afghanistan."

From the perspective of Al Qaeda, this is a holy war. "Bin Laden is leading and inspiring a worldwide anti-U.S. insurgency; he is waging war while we fight him with counterterrorism policies dominated by law-enforcement tactics... It has not and will not work." Anonymous writes that the U.S. is ignoring the true terrorist states in the Sunni Persian Gulf because they own much of the world's oil.

"After 30 years' delay, we and our allies must move to energy self-sufficiency by exploiting domestic oil fields and, as important, by accelerating the development and use of alternative energy sources," writes the author. "Environmental, botanical economic, or zoological concerns must, for the moment, be back-burnered. We must act because this is a dire national security need, not a hedge against theoretical supply disruptions. With self-sufficiency, the United States can disengage from the Persian Gulf regimes -- especially Saudi Arabia -- which are among the earth's most corrupt, dictatorial, and oppressive. They rule peoples eager to be free of their yoke and who think their torturers survive because of U.S. protection. We have nothing in common with the regimes; the tie is based overwhelmingly on the West's obsession with cheap oil. Break the link and we are free of associations that earn us only hatred and violence in the Muslim world. Bin Laden and his like would have one less anti-U.S. grudge and over time would dispatch the medieval, authoritarian regimes the United States and the West have kept in power. War is being waged on us because of what we, as a nation, are doing in the Islamic world."

He says America is in a war for survival and we must question whether the "U.S. has the moral right to install secular, democratic systems in countries that give no hint of wanting them. Is our nation more likely to perish if the rest of the world is not just like us, or if our democracy-making crusade destabilizes much of the world? Do we need military and naval bases on the Arabian Peninsula, and do we need to continue occupying Muslim lands? "

The author asks, "Have we the moral courage to defy the alliance of oil companies, hard-line environmentalists, and the political backers of each and install an energy policy leading to self-sufficiency?" Cheney minimized conservation as a major part of his energy policy. Other countries have strategies to use wind power for 20 percent of their energy in the next decade. We don't.

The toughest question "Anonymous" asks in this controversial book is: "Today's wars show the direct tie between the West's dependence on Persian Gulf oil and the loss of U.S. lives; the more dependence, the more deaths. In a region where we have no national interest save oil, the question is: How many lives are we willing to pay per thousand barrels of oil?"

Published: October 01, 2004
Issue: November 2004