While chants of “No War for Oil” mark an increasingly dissenting and skeptical public, the Bush administration has continued bulldozing its way towards a crushing Iraq rendezvous. As you read this war may already have begun. But startling in its candor, a US Department of Defense document has just been discovered, a top-level document specifically discussing war for oil. This is the first official document found explicitly confirming as policy the US Defense Department’s readiness to wage oil war.
According to the report–Strategic Assessment 1999–prepared for the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense (and only recently unearthed by this journalist), “energy and resource issues will continue to shape international security”. Explicitly envisioned were potential oil “conflicts over production facilities and transportation routes”, particularly in the Persian Gulf and Caspian regions.
Paradoxically, Strategic Assessment 1999 forecast it was “most likely” that America would not need to “employ military forces” to obtain energy. But the Assessment nevertheless ranks as extraordinary, doing so because it positively documents an official willingness to wage oil war, a willingness at the very highest levels of the US defense community.
While the document was prepared under Clinton, it suggests he was willing to wage war only to protect what he perceived as the existing interests of America’s economy. In contrast, war critics have repeatedly charged that Bush is seeking to conquer new interests, not defend old one’s. Clinton may have opened the door, but Bush marched through it.
In what many will see as a disturbing parallel to present events, the Report also drew attention to pre-WWII Britain’s pursuit of an approach where “control over territory was seen as essential to ensuring resource supplies”. However, the defense policymakers authoring Strategic Assessment also appear cognizant of the potential consequences of such policies. The authors warned that if the great powers should return to “the 19th century approach” of securing resources, of conquering resource suppliers, “the world economy would suffer and world politics would become more tense”.
Although at the time of its writing, Strategic Assessment 1999 predicted adequate US energy supplies, it also found that supply shortages “could exacerbate underlying political differences and serve as a catalyst for regional conflicts”, illustrating oil war’s potential trigger. And the Bush administration has repeatedly stated that America is facing what has been termed an “energy crisis”.
Highlighting the Assessment’s importance, it was prepared by the Institute for National Strategic Studies, part of the US Department of Defense’s National Defense University. The Institute is located at Fort McNair in Washington, DC, and lists its primary mission as policy “research and analysis” for the Joint Chiefs, the Defense Secretary, and other key US Governmental security and defense bodies. But this DOD “smoking gun” is linked to another.
In 2001 US VP Dick Cheney headed the Bush administration’s National Energy Policy Development Group, an energy task force working to devise a National Energy Policy to address America’s looming shortages. In line with the defense policy outlined in Strategic Assessment, it had been urged that Cheney’s task force include DOD participation. And so it will surprise few that the Bush administration has been going to extraordinary lengths to conceal both who attended the Cheney energy task force’s meetings and what those meetings were about.
Commenting upon the nature of this concealment, Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), the ranking member of the Committee on Government Reform, said “The White House should simply try telling the truth on the Task Force’s activities and stop hiding information that Congress and the public have a right to see.” The Administration’s stonewalling also spawned a lawsuit by the General Accounting Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress.
The Cheney Task force confrontation resulted in the GAO pursuing the first lawsuit in its 81 year history, though, that suit was dismissed this December by Judge John Bates, a recent Bush appointee. Bates’ decision found that the GAO had “no standing” to sue Cheney or any other executive branch official for information.
In a sharp reflection upon that decision, John Dean (the former Republican Presidential Counsel) wrote, “the present situation is absurd”. Dean charged that Bates’ ruling means an ordinary US citizen has more power to compel the release of government information than the investigative arm of America’s Congress.
Cutting to what many perceive as the ruling’s true basis, Congressman John Dingle (D-MI), ranking member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, charged “Vice President Cheney’s cover-up will apparently continue for the foreseeable future”. And summarizing the key question, the former US Vice-Presidential candidate, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, asked, “What are they hiding?”.
While most speculation regarding the Cheney task force has centered around its relationship to the energy industry, the military implications of task force deliberations–military action to secure oil and gas supplies–has yet to be addressed. And notably, according to a February headline in The Hill–the largest of Capitol Hill’s political newsletters and among the most respected–“GOP threats halted Cheney suit”, with The Hill reporting that Republicans had threatened to cut the GAO’s budget should an appeal of Judge Bates’ ruling be pursued.
RITT GOLDSTEIN can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.