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OIL: WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION
Professor Marjorie Cohn
Thomas Jefferson School of Law
JURIST Contributing Editor
When Dick Cheney was CEO of Halliburton, the world’s largest oil services company, he told the Cato Institute: “The good Lord didn’t see fit to put oil and gas only where there are democratically elected regimes friendly to the United States.” He admitted: “Occasionally, we have to operate in places where, all things considered, one would not normally choose to go...we go where the business is.” After Cheney became vice president, he made hegemony over the world’s oil supply a priority for U.S. foreign policy. The blueprint for this strategy was developed in the 1992 draft Pentagon Defense Planning Guidance on post-Cold War Strategy, at the direction of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, when he was Undersecretary of Defense under Cheney in George H.W. Bush’s cabinet.
This 1992 draft, which was strategically leaked to The New York Times, advocated continued U.S. leadership in NATO by discouraging the advanced industrialized nations “from challenging our leadership.” It said: “We must maintain the mechanism for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.” The overall objective in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, according to the draft, “is to remain the predominant outside power in the region to preserve U.S. and Western access to the region’s oil.” The bombing of Afghanistan, and the impending Iraq war, both serve that goal.
The incessant drumbeat from Washington is that Americans must be protected from Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. Notwithstanding CIA Director George Tenet’s unambiguous declaration that Hussein does not pose an imminent threat to the United States, media commentators postulate unremittingly how many and what types of weapons Hussein must have. George W. Bush has manipulated and cajoled Congress and the Security Council into jumping on his WMD bandwagon. Yet, Bush’s war on Iraq is merely the next step in a concerted strategy to secure control over valuable oil deposits in the Middle East and Central Asia.
Bush’s agenda to reincarnate NATO, inspired by the Wolfowitz document, is key to this oil strategy. NATO was created as a defensive alliance during the Cold War to protect Western Europe from a perceived threat from the Soviet Union. After World War II, the countries of Western Europe were unable to defend themselves. Now they have the resources to provide for their own security, yet NATO has expanded eastward, added several former Soviet bloc countries to its ranks, and redefined its strategic purpose. Bush’s abandonment of containment in favor of preemption is a brazen manifestation of the Wolfowitz theology embodied in the 1992 draft. Indeed, Wolfowitz has been systematically bribing NATO countries to assist with Bush’s impending invasion of Iraq.
The U.S. bombing of Afghanistan, justified as a response to the September 11 attacks, was part of the U.S. oil strategy. Afghanistan never attacked the U.S. and most of the hijackers hailed from Saudi Arabia, a strategic U.S. oil partner. Yet, U.S. and U.K. warplanes ousted the Taliban and secured Afghanistan for the construction of an oil pipeline from Turkmenistan, south through Afghanistan, to the Arabian Sea. The Bush administration had been uncritical of the Taliban’s human rights record when Unocal oil company was negotiating for the pipeline rights before September 11. After assuming control of Afghanistan, Bush conveniently installed Hamid Karzai, a former Unocal official, as interim president of Afghanistan.
Bush likewise seeks to install a U.S.-friendly replacement for Hussein after conquering Iraq. Although couched as a battle against weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. allied with Iraq when it used chemical weapons on the Kurds; indeed, the U.S. furnished Iraq with its WMD technology, according to an Associated Press report. The U.S. played Iraq off against Iran for years, to ensure access to Middle East oil. Bush’s war with Iraq, and ultimate occupation of that country, will clinch that control. With the lives of thousands of Americans and Iraqis at stake, oil may prove to be the most terrible weapon of mass destruction.
Marjorie Cohn, an associate professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, is executive vice president of the National Lawyers Guild.
December 13, 2002
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