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John McCain said it. Right out loud in the third debate.
“Obviously, we had to take Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait or it would’ve threatened the Middle Eastern oil supply.”
The first gulf war was about defending access to oil after all. McCain reiterated the theme later on, as he has in past debates, when he said that we need to “eliminate our dependence on the places in the world that harm our national security.”
What he didn’t say out loud is that the current war, the one in Iraq, is also about defending access to oil and other energy resources. This war has cost us $656 billion and counting. Our country has a long history of using military intervention to secure energy resources.
Indeed, according the latest report by the National Priorities Project (NPP), the US will spend around $100 billion of our defense budget this year alone defending access to fossil fuels worldwide. That figure does not include what is spent on the Iraq War, which, when included, will add an additional $100 billion.
That’s $200 billion dollars that could be spent, in one year alone, on alternative energy resources and infrastructure, on renewable energy subsidies that will help create green collar jobs for working America.
Yet we spend just a couple of billion dollars each year on renewable energy and conservation. This number needs to be increased dramatically, and neither candidate has gone into detail about how to do that.
However, in response to Bob Sheiffer’s question last night about what should be cut from the budget, McCain said, “We have presided over the largest increase in government since the Great Society.”
What he didn’t say was that the military budget has increased by over 100% since 2000, and we now spend more than the rest of the world combined. But McCain did say he’d cut spending on defense. “I know how to save billions of dollars in defense spending,” he said. “I know how to eliminate programs.” He said it, although he didn’t name the programs.
Let us offer some suggestions. The Unified Security Budget for the United States, FY 2009, has identified reasonable ways of eliminating $61 billion worth of unnecessary weapons programs and waste in one year. Add to that the total amount of money NPP estimates the US spends defending oil in one year, and we are well on our way to a renewed investment in energy that is clean and efficient, and to eliminating these global conflicts over energy resources.
In the New Yorker in early September, Sarah Palin was quoted as saying, about the Iraq War, “it better not have to do with oil and dependence on foreign energy”. She has a son there, after all.
The fact is, our economic and military policies are intertwined. Energy is the life-blood of our economy, and our energy policy is, to this point, inextricably tied to our foreign policy. Let’s bring this issue, and our soldiers, home.
In this post-debate environment, let’s forget about performance, forget about facial expressions, forget about Joe the Plumber. Let’s get to the most important issue of our time – energy and its connection to war. McCain said it. Sarah Palin said it. We need to be fearless and continue saying it. Right out loud.
SUZANNE SMITH is the Research Director at the National Priorities Project (www.nationalpriorities.org), which has just released a ground-breaking report, “The Military Cost of Securing Energy.”