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The Price of Oil? War

As troops and equipment pour into the Gulf for a looming war with Iraq, United States military thinkers admit that “defence” means protecting the circumstances of “daily life” – and in the US daily life runs on cheap oil.

As far back as 1975, Henry Kissinger, then secretary of state, said America was prepared to wage war over oil. Separate plans advocating US conquest of Saudi oilfields were published in the ’70s. So it should come as little surprise that in May last year – four months before the terrorist attacks on Washington and New York – a battle plan for Afghanistan was already being reviewed by the US Command that would carry it out after September 11. Military strategists were highlighting the energy wealth of the Caspian Sea and Central Asia and its importance to America’s “security”.

The Indian media and Jane’s Intelligence Review reported that the US was fighting covert battles against the Taliban, months before the “war on terrorism” was declared.

General William Kernan, commander-in-chief of the US Joint Forces Command, let the revelation about the battle plan review casually drop in July while extolling the success of America’s Millennium Challenge war games to Agence France-Presse.

Earlier, during the northern spring last year, Michael Klare, an international security expert and author of Resource Wars, said the military had increasingly come to “define resource security as their primary mission”.

Over several months beginning in April last year a series of military and governmental policy documents was released that sought to legitimise the use of US military force in the pursuit of oil and gas.

Simultaneously, the energy task force of the Vice-President, Dick Cheney, was working to tackle a looming US oil crisis. Reflecting a shifting strategic policy, the influential Council on Foreign Relations urged that the Defence Department be included in Cheney’s energy group.

During that spring of 2001, as the US military examined the all-out battle scenario that would soon become the operational plan for the war in Afghanistan, events fatefully spun towards September 11’s trigger. But these events did not occur in a vacuum.

Providing a summary of the US military’s coming role, over the summer of 2000 the Army War College (a foundry for the US military’s strategic thinking) published a declaration that security “is more than protecting the country from external threats; security includes economic security”.

The policy statement appeared in an article by Lieutenant-Colonel P. H. Liotta, professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College, one of a handful of present US national security gurus.

His article went on to advocate the use of military force “for more than simply protecting a nation and its people from traditional threat-based challenges”. Colonel Liotta argued that defence meant protecting the US lifestyle, the circumstances of “daily life”.

Reflecting the relationship between pronouncements by such policy gurus and Washington’s actual policies, in the Journal of Homeland Security of August this year, Colonel Liotta said America “will practise pre-emption against those who seek to harm our vital interests and our way of life”.

At the end of September President Bush unveiled a national security strategy of pre-emption.

And so the months preceding September 11 saw a shifting of the US military’s focus. Publications of the US Army War College and the army General and Command Staff College argued that, when it came to oil and gas, “where US business goes, US national interests follow”. They highlighted the energy wealth of Central Asia and its importance to America’s “security”. Oil and gas were on the military’s agenda.

Cutting to the crux of present-day issues, a spring 2001 article by Jeffrey Record in the War College’s journal, Parameters, argued the legitimacy of “shooting in the Persian Gulf on behalf of lower gas prices”.

Mr Record, a former staff member of the Senate armed services committee (and an apparent favourite of the Council on Foreign Relations), also advocated the acceptability of presidential subterfuge in the promotion of a conflict. Mr Record explicitly urged painting over the US’s actual reasons for warfare with a nobly high-minded veneer, seeing such as a necessity for mobilising public support for a conflict.

Amplifying the impact of the military papers, in a document commissioned early in the Bush presidency, two key US policy groups, the Council on Foreign Relations and the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, explicitly advocated a convergence of military and energy issues.

Their joint report – Strategic Energy Policy Challenges for the 21st Century – aproved of “military intervention” to secure energy supplies. It also urged Pentagon participation in Mr Cheney’s energy task force. And the report warned that the US was running out of oil, with a painful end to cheap fuel already in sight.

Virtually concurrent with the report’s release on April 10 last year, Tommy Franks, commander of US forces responsible for the Persian Gulf/South Asia area, added his voice.

An April 13 report on his congressional testimony defined General Franks’s command’s key mission as “access to [the region’s] energy resources”. That May it was his command that reviewed the soon-to-be-used details for the coming war in Afghanistan.

Also early last year, the security expert Michael Klare warned that US military action to secure oil “could emerge as the favoured response to future [oil] crises”. In the months preceding September 11, US governmental and military policymakers increasingly built military frameworks around energy questions.

Iraq has 10 per cent of the world’s proven oil reserves, with The New York Times reporting in October that the Bush White House is planning for the installation of a US military government there in the event of a war leading to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. In a parallel with Afghanistan, US covert action has reportedly already begun.

RITT GOLDSTEIN can be reached at: ritt1997@hotmail.com

 

More articles by:

Ritt Goldstein is an American investigative political journalist living in Sweden.

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