Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ideology as cover

Greg Sargent of TPM directs our attention toward Richard Cohen's inane argument, in the Washington Post, that Bush is a "neoliberal." This article gives us a foretaste of the strategies which historians will one day use to excuse both Bush and the neocon experiment.

Cohen's piece reminded me of the problem afflicting Adam Curtis' otherwise excellent BBC series The Trap. Both Curtis and Cohen fail to understand that we cannot talk about these schemers without first admitting that they are liars.

In Episode 2 of The Trap (available via Google video), Curtis interviews Michael Ledeen, who proudly announces that the neocon goal has been nothing less and nothing more than the end of tyranny, Communist and otherwise. Curtis allows the comment to stand, allows Ledeen to define the motives of his movement, without informing the public of the reasons why so many people have questioned Ledeen's honesty. Since I have already used these pages to detail the man's history, let us here confine ourselves to two simple truths:

1.Ledeen idolizes Machiavelli.
2.Machiavelli advocated lying.

This isn't rocket science, as Ledeen himself says into Curtis' camera.

Curtis also credits the neocons with the downfall of Ferdinand Marcos and Manuel Noriega. The Noriega/Bush I tiff was simply a falling out between drug thieves. Something similar can be said of Marcos's downfall, according to Sterling Seagrave, author of the most widely-cited biography of the dictator. Seagrave believes that Marcos fell after he demanded too large a share of the Japanese war loot recovered in the Philippines.

Returning to Cohen's hagiographic view of Bush the liberal, we find this:
For instance, there was a time when no group of Republicans could convene without passing a resolution calling for the abolition of the Education Department and turning the building -- I am extrapolating here -- into a museum of creationism.

Now, though, not only are such calls no longer heard, but Bush has extended the department's reach in a manner that Democrats could not have envisaged. I am referring, of course, to the 2001 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, better known as No Child Left Behind.
Is Cohen kidding? That Act has been despised by all liberals and most moderates. It exists to enrich Neil Bush and other cronies, who have made a killing selling crappy equipment designed to help schools comply with the Act. Nobody named Bush would give a damn about edumacation if there weren't a buck to be made.

But the real insanity begins when Cohen reaches Iraq...

(To read the rest, click "Permalink" below)

Allow me to make the case that this is also true when it comes to Iraq. I acknowledge that the war is a catastrophic mistake and was incompetently managed. But if you don't think it was waged on behalf of oil or empire, then one reason for our involvement was an attempt to do some good -- rid the world of a really bad guy and make life better for Iraqis and others in the region. This "liberal" intent may have left Dick Cheney cold and found Don Rumsfeld indifferent, but it appealed to Bush and it showed in his rhetoric and body language.
"Body language"? You mean that ludicrous shrug he makes when he grins?

More importantly, why -- why on earth -- should we discount the notion that the war was fought for oil or empire, if by "empire" we mean Israel? After all, Iraq's oil was, in fact, placed under the control of non-Iraqi interests. You can't discount theft as a motive after the thieves got the goods.

Greg Palast has had a few words to say about this subject:
The industry-favoured plan was pushed aside by yet another secret plan, drafted just before the invasion in 2003, which called for the sell-off of all of Iraq’s oil fields. The new plan, crafted by neo-conservatives intent on using Iraq’s oil to destroy the Opec cartel through massive increases in production above Opec quotas...
Palast goes on to argue that the Neocons' anti-Opec scheme was eventually scuttled by Shell's Philip Carroll, who took effective control of Iraqi oil and ruled against privatization. Although Palast is widely admired in progressive circles, few understand what he has said about the conflict between neoconservatism and Big Oil -- between the two vultures competing for the same cadaver. This lengthy passage is worthy of study, and perhaps even memorization:
New plans, obtained from the State Department by Newsnight and Harper’s Magazine under the US Freedom of Information Act, called for creation of a state-owned oil company favored by the US oil industry. It was completed in January 2004, Harper’s discovered, under the guidance of Amy Jaffe of the James Baker Institute in Texas. Former US Secretary of State Baker is now an attorney. His law firm, Baker Botts, is representing ExxonMobil and the Saudi Arabian government.

Questioned by Newsnight, Ms Jaffe said the oil industry prefers state control of Iraq’s oil over a sell-off because it fears a repeat of Russia’s energy privatization. In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, US oil companies were barred from bidding for the reserves.

Jaffe said “There is no question that an American oil company … would not be enthusiastic about a plan that would privatize all the assets with Iraq companies and they (US companies) might be left out of the transaction.”

In addition, Ms. Jaffe says US oil companies are not warm to any plan that would undermine Opec, “They [oil companies] have to worry about the price of oil.”

“I’m not sure that if I’m the chair of an American company, and you put me on a lie detector test, I would say high oil prices are bad for me or my company.”

The former Shell oil boss agrees. In Houston, he told Newsnight, “Many neo conservatives are people who have certain ideological beliefs about markets, about democracy, about this that and the other. International oil companies without exception are very pragmatic commercial organizations. They don’t have a theology.”
The neocons have no theology either; their plan for Iraq's oil was not a matter of high ideals. Keeping Big Oil out of the Great Iraqi Sell-Off was the entire point of their scheme. Given the strong ties between the neocons and the Russian oligarchs, I think it fair to presume that they wanted a repeat of the Russian disaster. When the Soviet Union fell, valuable state assets were sold at a pittance, in what has been called the greatest burglary in the history of the world. The crooks simply wanted another mansion to loot. Neocons may speak in terms of strategy and principles and ideals, but in their hearts, they were thinking: "Boris Berezovsky! That could be me!"

We cannot take the words of such men at face value. We cannot use their stated motives to reckon their real ones. Neoconservatism is a conspiracy, and we cannot be afraid to call it that. These people are not romantic idealists; they are Machiavellians who use ideology as a cover for theft, power and manipulation.


DrewL said...

And why the continued secrecy surrounding the now infamous early 2001 "energy policy" meeting at the White House? The one that oil company execs were proven to have attended, yet they denied having done so while testifying before Congress. Just a bit ironic that this meeting took place at the very outset of the new Bush presidency, arguably setting the tone - if not the path - for the events that followed. Since then we've had nothing but lies and deceit. Perhaps one of these days, months, years, decades...history will lay bare for all to see what actually took place that January in Washington, D.C. One can hope, anyway.

Anonymous said...

Our only extant peek into the meeting comes from Larry Klayman's Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit's fruits, which got a few documents out of the energy meeting.

What were those documents?

A listing of **IRAQ'S** oil fields, proven reserves and presumed reserves, who in the international oil community had rights to them, and so on.

Now, this was a meeting concerning US energy security and planning. It therefore appears that our energy security plan was to seize and control the Iraqi oil fields. Not that such a theory is much of a surprise, but it would be remarkable to have it all laid out on paper!