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The Two Elephants
April 16, 2004
By Nancy Waterman

Doomed from its inception, the Bush administration's crusade to "liberate" Iraq has become a violent conflagration of conflicting intentions and discordant ideologies, with the casualties and the potential for disaster increasing daily. The wildfire of nationalism has begun to sweep the land, uniting Sunnis and Shiites for the first time in centuries against a common enemy, the Americans. Already, more troops are being injected into the equation, and the repeated American mantra is that we must "stay the course and prevail," always accompanied by threatening assurances of civil war and regional chaos if we do not.

Underlying all of the failures of this war in Iraq, however, and all of the deception used to get us there, is a flawed ideology that obsesses a small cabal of neoconservatives currently sitting in the highest reaches of power. The ambitious and grandiose plan of men such as Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle, to name but a few, is well-documented in the writings of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). In short, it seeks to maximize American hegemony, prevent any other nation from competing with that global dominance - both militarily and economically, and it begins with the ousting of Saddam Hussein and the creation of a puppet democracy in Iraq.

According to this plan, Iraq would then become a strategic center for American military power and dominance from which the entire oil-rich Middle East would be policed and controlled. It is important to understand that any significant transfer of authority to the United Nations during the current Iraqi transition, any allowance of the UN to supervise the creation of the new government and its economic foundations, is to relinquish the heart of the neoconservative agenda. This is why the Bush administration has thus far refused.

But this refusal has grave consequences. It is increasingly clear to the Arab world, and to Iraq in particular, that America plans to keep huge military bases in Iraq and control its oil resources. The grip of the multinationals on the recreated economy of this devastated land is all too clear. Such actions only feed the resentment and simmering anger of the Islamic world and strengthen the accusations of the terrorists, swelling their ranks.

This neoconservative ideology is like the proverbial elephant in the living room. It has recently been buried under a lot of distracting rhetoric about making Iraq a beacon of democracy, just as it was initially hidden by all the lies about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and the coming mushroom cloud. But it stands as the true reason for our invasion, and it is the fatal flaw that underlies all of the mistakes, the unrealistic expectations, and the deceptions of the Bush administration's Iraq policy. Any sane plan to extract the United States from Iraq and from the current fiasco must first and foremost define and then repudiate the entire neoconservative doctrine.

The human race is ever-evolving, and one of the signs of that evolution is the increase in attempts at global cooperation and ideals expressed in the 20th and now the 21st Century. The League of Nations, the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, the Kyoto Treaty, and numerous other international treaties, are all examples of this growing phenomenon. The Bush administration's attempts to unilaterally establish our power over other nations and at their expense, while refuting international cooperation, is a throwback to the failures of the imperialism of the past and ultimately will lead to disaster. Iraq stands as the signature of the failed neocon agenda, and the grip of that agenda must be removed from our Iraq policy, or this nation will continue in the downward spiral that has already begun.

But there is another elephant in the living room that must also become a central theme in our national discourse. And this is America's addiction to oil. In reality, this elephant helped spawn the first. Without our rapidly growing consumption of a finite resource, would we be establishing a ring of military bases around the Middle East? Would we need to aggressively ensure our oil supply as the likelihood of decreased output rushes toward us from the future?

In the life of an addict, the landscape is strewn with the casualties of his addiction. His family, his career, and his finances are all riddled with chaos, but the tendency is to blame his wife, his mother, and his boss rather than to face the truth about his addiction. In reality, it is his substance abuse, including the changes it creates in his behavior and the desperate measures he takes in order to satisfy his dependency, that is the ultimate source of his ever-increasing problems.

America's rapidly growing oil consumption is obscenely out of proportion with its percentage of the world's population. But even worse, American military actions, foreign policy, and environmental policy have all been hijacked by this addiction, wildly twisted onto a self-destructive collision course by the contortions necessary to feed a reckless dependency on oil. The neoconservative plan for global dominance is only one example.

Our environmental policy is another casualty of our oil addiction. As with the addict who denies as long as possible the ravages his addiction causes on his health, the current administration is resolutely ignoring the coming environmental disaster caused by global warming and the increased pollution in our homeland. Instead, it is focusing on increasing the supply and the out-of-control burning of fossil fuels. Meanwhile, the toxicity of our land and water supply increases, and severe and irreversible climate changes are imminent.

What is called for is no less than a paradigm shift in our policies and our world view. The Bush administration is incapable of such a shift, being joined at the hip with the oil industry. Our current government is essentially in bed with our "dealer", the oil companies. And it is the "dealer" who is enriched by our continuing addiction. Talk about conflict of interest!

From this point on, our energy policy must be seen as inextricably connected to our foreign policy. Some of the huge sums of money being used to sustain numerous military bases now ringing the Middle East need to be siphoned off in a war on our oil addiction. This would benefit national security, eventually weaken what motivates the terrorists, benefit the environment, create numerous new jobs, etc. We could start with mandating solar panels on all government buildings and public housing. The factories could be located where the most manufacturing jobs have been lost.

There is a whole host of polices that can be implemented, but the public must be educated on the connection between our irresponsible consumption of resources and our foreign entanglements. The terrorists don't "hate our freedom." They hate us being in their world, supporting their repressive regimes, so that we can ensure a steady supply of the black gold into our national bloodstream. It is time we took some responsibility for the mess we are in.

This is not to say we don't continue to utilize police and intelligence work and military strikes when necessary to remove terrorism as a threat. But it is to suggest that we had better look at how our own behavior has incited much of the hatred and begin to radically change it.

Continuing the Bush/neocon pre-emptive, aggressive policies is a recipe for disaster. It is a policy that dominates, manipulates, and lies in order to control the world's resources as a way to ensure an adequate supply for an inordinate appetite. It alienates and enrages other countries, it empties the treasury, creates wars, and pollutes the world. It is time that our policies not be tainted and distorted by an unhealthy addiction to oil and a corresponding compulsion to control others.

When the construction contracts in Iraq and the national resources are returned to Iraqis, and the UN oversees development in a dispassionate way, much of the resentment will dissipate. When our government focuses on developing alternative energy sources and moves away from a need to control and bully the rest of the world, alliances will again be possible. In a globalized world, the goals of our nation - economic, environmental, and even military - will increasingly necessitate coordination and cooperation with international allies. The alternative path will only lead to more and more Iraqs.

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