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Oil and Trouble

Crank Call


Published March 5, 2003 at 5:00 p.m.

What is it about this Iraqi war that just won't get off the ground? Last week, oil prices rose to their highest level since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, and still the press talks about a "possible" or "probable" or "seemingly inevitable" attack. It may not be "about the oil," as many think, but it will be if the Bushmen don't get moving. The New York Times reports, "Every time that oil prices have risen by at least 60 percent since World War II, a recession has occurred in the United States." We've hit 69 percent so far this year.

"It's just reached the stage where it can't take much more," says a distraught Paul Horsnell, an "oil analyst" at JP Morgan. "It's a meltdown." Horsnell and his firm are counting on a "short, sharp conflict" in Iraq -- a common assumption -- but "if anything goes wrong with this scenario," he admits, "we have a problem. There's no room for maneuver."

Well, there's war for you. It's like the space shuttle: You don't know what might go wrong until it does. Writing for the anti-Bush Web site "The Smirking Chimp," columnist Peter Lee wonders if this will be "the first war whose timing was decided by gas prices. Bush doesn't want Americans deciding they hate $2/gallon gas more than they fear Saddam Hussein."

On the other hand, that's not how Dubya does business. This president is a divider, not a uniter -- a hatchet man for hidden interests, with an ego tending to religious mania. "Size of protest," he mused after February's worldwide rally against the war, "it's like deciding, 'Well, I'm going to decide policy based upon a focus group.' The role of a leader is to decide policy based upon the security -- in this case -- security of the people."

In fact, that's not the role of a leader -- it's the role of a policeman. A conquistador, if not yet a dictator, who lost the popular vote for president and adds with stunning audacity, "Democracy is a beautiful thing, and that people are allowed to express their opinion."

"Allowed?" Where are we living? In the United States, at least, people aren't allowed to "express their opinion." They are endowed with the right of free speech and, for that matter, association and privacy. With war and ratings looming, media pundits have been busy dispelling any lingering suspicion that Bush might be the "moron" and "stooge" of earlier reports. This won't do in wartime, and we are daily assured the President "is in charge," "calling the shots," "fully in command of his team," etc. If it's true, we're right to worry.

"This dictator will not be allowed to intimidate and blackmail the civilized world," Bush declared over the weekend, referring, of course, to Saddam Hussein. "Weapons of mass destruction" are no longer the issue -- it's "democracy" we want for Iraq! Like the democracy that allowed even the Turkish parliament, bribed to the gills, to reject a measure that would have allowed U.S. troops on Turkish soil to invade Iraq from the north. Even through the muck of money, threats and favors, it appears, 95 percent of the Turkish people are against this war, and that's high even by local standards.

The miraculous capture of al-Qaeda operative and "9/11 mastermind" Khalid Shaikh Mohammed -- in Pakistan, of all places, one of the UN Security Council's "undecided" votes on Iraq! -- was followed by assurances that Mohammed won't be brought to the United States for interrogation. The aim is to "disorient and break" him into telling what he knows. This means torture.

Worse, it means torture acknowledged and approved. The Los Angeles Times quotes Dubya's lament: "In Texas, everybody was a lot friendlier, and a lot more interested in the result than the process." This is the only kind of "democracy" Bush wants anywhere, ends before means and Fuhrers first. It's the exact antithesis of the U.S. Consti-tution.

On Sunday, London's Observer published a leaked memorandum of the U.S. National Security Agency to its senior officials, declaring an immediate and "aggressive surveillance operation" against the still wavering "Middle Six" nations of the Security Council: Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Mexico, Guinea and, maybe, Pakistan.

"The United States is conducting a secret 'dirty tricks' campaign against UN Security Council delegations in New York as part of its battle to win votes in favor of war against Iraq," The Observer reports. NSA's memo itself describes "a surge" of spying, "aimed at gleaning information not only on how delegations on the Security Council will vote on any second resolution on Iraq, but also 'policies‚' 'negotiating positions‚' 'alliances' and 'dependencies' -- the 'whole gamut of information that could give U.S. policymakers an edge in obtaining results favorable to U.S. goals or to head off surprises.'"

Those damned surprises! Trying to explain how the Turkish parliament managed to defy the Greatest Power on Earth, one legislator said: "The Americans dictated to us. It became a business negotiation, not something between friends." But a Pentagon official thinks it's not "that big a deal. As Secretary Rumsfeld likes to say, democracies aren't very tidy."

And "the Americans" will get the war they want -- they're already back in Ankara twisting arms. "Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders," said Nazi Luftwaffe Commander Hermann Goering, just before he killed himself in a Nuremberg prison cell in 1946. "That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

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