FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Are SUVs Really the Reason for Bush’s War?

At the massive January 18 antiwar demonstration in San Francisco, demonstrators from a group called Environmentalists Against the War carried placards blaming Sports Utility Vehicles for the U.S. war drive against Iraq. “If War is Inevitable, Start Drafting SUV Drivers Now!” said one sign. Another showed a picture of a Ford Explorer and an oil drum, with the slogan “Axle of Evil.”

SUVs have come under attack from environmentalists and other left-wing activists over the past few years–and not only because these vehicles have become a status symbol for yuppies flaunting their wealth.

Most SUVs are inefficient gas guzzlers that produce disproportionately high amounts of carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming. According to the Sierra Club, SUVs “spew out 43 percent more global-warming pollution and 47 percent more air pollution than an average car.”

And in his recent book High and Mighty, journalist Keith Bradsher reports that SUVs “roll over too easily, killing and injuring occupants at an alarming rate, and are dangerous to other road users, inflicting catastrophic damage to cars that they hit and posing a lethal threat to pedestrians.”

Last month, Jeffrey Runge, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said that some SUVs are so dangerous he wouldn’t ride in them “if they were the last vehicles on earth.”

But some critics have gone further. In January, the Detroit Project–a group spearheaded by columnist Arianna Huffington–produced two TV ads blasting SUV drivers for damaging national security, on the grounds that money spent on gas for the vehicles goes to Middle Eastern oil-producing states that fund terrorists.

The ads were partly intended to mock those silly government public service announcements that claim drug users fund terrorism. But intentionally or not, the Detroit Project ads promote a racist stereotype that Middle Easterners are terrorists.

Underlying both the Detroit Project and the sentiments of demonstrators who carried anti-SUV signs at the January 18 demonstration is the belief that the Bush administration’s war on Iraq is motivated in part by a need to grab Iraq’s oil resources so SUV drivers can keep their vehicles on the road.

But pointing the finger at SUVs is wrong for two reasons. In the first place, this faults consumers, rather than auto manufacturers and oil companies, for the fact that SUVs are inefficient. We desperately need more efficient methods of transportation. But the big auto and oil companies contribute millions of dollars to both Democrats and Republicans to prevent the passage of tougher fuel efficiency requirements and air pollution standards.

In addition, the U.S. “automobile-industrial complex” has worked hard to undermine public transit and research into renewable energy. And because auto companies earn 80 percent of their profits from SUVs and other light trucks, they advertise them relentlessly to convince people to buy them. If we’re going to draft anybody first, perhaps it should be the auto and oil executives.

But there’s a second misconception behind the idea that this is a war for SUV drivers. It is undoubtedly true that a large part of the Bush administration’s motivation for going to war with Iraq is increasing U.S. control over Middle Eastern oil resources. But this isn’t primarily to satisfy the needs of U.S. consumers.

Oil is the most important commodity in the world, vital for both industry and the military. Even when consumer demand was much lower, Washington still wanted to control the world’s oil supplies. In the 1940s, the State Department described the Middle East’s oil as “a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history.” This is the reason why the U.S. has intervened repeatedly in the Middle East over the past half century.

Capitalist economies aren’t driven by consumer demand, but by the need of capitalists to make profits. If we want to change the nature of the system–including its tendency to destroy the environment and its drive towards war–we need to change the way production is organized, not point moralistic fingers at SUV drivers or other consumers.

PHIL GASPER writes for the Socialist Worker.

 

More articles by:
September 25, 2018
Kenneth Surin
Fact-Finding Labour’s “Anti-Semitism” Crisis
Charles Pierson
Destroying Yemen as Humanely as Possible
James Rothenberg
Why Not Socialism?
Patrick Cockburn
How Putin Came Out on Top in Syria
John Grant
“Awesome Uncontrollable Male Passion” Meets Its Match
Guy Horton
Burma: Complicity With Evil?
Steve Stallone
Jujitsu Comms
William Blum
Bombing Libya: the Origins of Europe’s Immigration Crisis
John Feffer
There’s a New Crash Coming
Martha Pskowski
“The Emergency Isn’t Over”: the Homeless Commemorate a Year Since the Mexico City Earthquake
Fred Baumgarten
Ten Ways of Looking at Civility
Dean Baker
The Great Financial Crisis: Bernanke and the Bubble
Binoy Kampmark
Parasitic and Irrelevant: The University Vice Chancellor
September 24, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Hiding in Plain Sight: Why We Cannot See the System Destroying Us
Gary Leupp
All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)
Robert Fisk
I Don’t See How a Palestinian State Can Ever Happen
Barry Brown
Pot as Political Speech
Lara Merling
Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles
Patrick Cockburn
Iraq’s Prime Ministers Come and Go, But the Stalemate Remains
William Blum
The New Iraq WMD: Russian Interference in US Elections
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Has Been Dealt a Serious Blow
Joseph Matten
Why Did Global Economic Performance Deteriorate in the 1970s?
Zhivko Illeieff
The Millennial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction
Thomas Hon Wing Polin – Gerry Brown
Xinjiang : The New Great Game
Binoy Kampmark
Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Max Wilbert
Blue Angels: the Naked Face of Empire
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will There Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail