Sunday, January 14, 2007

Administration Talking Points

Taking a break from my idleness at "Flying Goat Coffee". Came here after a hike to Bald Mountain. I met a young couple from Sonoma on the way up the mountain and, since our pace was the same, we stuck together to the summit. Jeff and Dawn are nurses at the hospital in Sonoma. It was their first hike on Sugarloaf Ridge.

Jeff is a sportsman, avid baseball fan, fisherman and hunter. I somehow sensed we probably were not on the same side of the political spectrum. When the topic turned to the lifestyles of many Humboldt County inhabitants (where they were both raised), Jeff's wife cautioned him "don't get started" (about "hippies").

So it came as some surprise that he considers "Global Warming" a very real and urgent problem. He said the next political candidate he votes for better have that high on their agenda.

Since we were talking most of the time, there wasn’t the usual space given to reflection (read "self-absorption"). It was interesting to learn about their situation. They just purchased a home in Boyes Hot Springs, a working-class community on Sonoma's fringe, and even though both are well-paid, buying the house was a big stretch.

They hope to move somewhere more affordable in a few years. Perhaps Wyoming, Montana, or back to Arcata.

***

Walking down the mountain later, I thought about the Iraq War. There can be little doubt this is a war for oil and regional dominance. If we're not already there now, we will soon be competing desperately with China (and no doubt India) for dwindling hydrocarbon reserves.

The top oil companies experienced their most profitable year last year. Is it any wonder that we have pledged our collective wealth and military might to defend this industry's interests, wherever they are threatened?

To describe our goals in the Middle East as "freedom" and "democracy" is ludicrous. (At the same time restraints on Americans' own freedoms are slowly ratcheted up.) When vital resources are the prize, we shape our diplomacy to appease whatever government controls those resources. Stability and control, not freedom and democracy, are essential to commerce.

The Administration's charge that Sunni extremists are determined to create a caliphate across South Asia, the Middle East and Northern Africa, is being marched out as today's "Soviet Bloc", "Domino Theory", "Axis of Evil". We always need an enemy. It motivates the populace and stimulates industry. It delivers "bottom line results". They, of course, fail to mention that the region that will comprise this new caliphate is a broad swath of free nations who have little interest in promoting the goals of Sunni extremists.

In speeches over the past week, both George W. Bush and Condoleeza Rice have reasserted this fear-mongering claim. They have also introduced a new talking point: Iran is supplying "sophisticated weaponry to Iraqi insurgents." The methods used by this Administration have become transparent to many Americans. Karl Rove will soon need a new playbook.

There is a right way and a wrong way to procure oil beyond our borders. We can buy it. We can trade for it. We can seize it. In Iraq, this Administration has attempted to procure oil "on the cheap" and it has paid with our soldiers' blood. It is dead wrong.

***

Many of us oppose the war, but we are all complicit. The goal of “energy independence” is simply an effort to create a more open marketplace to satisfy the demand of consumers. And there are no greater consumers on the planet than Americans.

In all the speech-making, all the rhetoric, one of the rarest statements in American politics seems to be “Americans must consume less.” Such a declaration would be political suicide. Profoundly un-American. Suggesting that Americans sacrifice is unacceptable. And more, it's bad for business.

The solution is to keep Americans distracted from this war to sustain America's oil habit. George W. Bush ("The Decider"), Dick Cheney and Condoleeza Rice offer regular assurances. “Trust us, we’re taking care of this messy little problem. We just need your continued support (and funding). Our freedom (to consume) is at stake.”

***

There is really nothing more incriminating than President Bush's own words. In his CBS "60 Minutes" interview with Scott Pelley, the President offers a demonstration:

PELLEY You think the whole region could be in play? Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait?

BUSH: Absolutely. No question in my mind. And I know this is hard for some Americans to understand. The operative phrase that I thought made a lot of sense about this war is: if we fail in Iraq, the enemy will follow us here. And the point I make is that what happens in the Middle East matters to the homeland. And that's different than in some past engagements. Secondly, chaos in the Middle East will empower extremists who hate America. And failure in Iraq, defeat of America, in quotes, will then embolden these extremists. They'll be able to recruit more. They'll be able to find more suiciders. They'll have resources at their availability, like energy if they were able to topple modern governments. In other words, these people have a plan. They have a vision of the world. And they intend to use murder to enact their vision. And I fully understand that.

But wait! There's more!!!
PELLEY: You know better than I do that many Americans feel that your administration has not been straight with the country, has not been honest. To those people you say what?

BUSH: On what issue?

PELLEY: Well, sir . . .

BUSH: Like the weapons of mass destruction?

PELLEY: No weapons of mass destruction.

BUSH: Yeah.

PELLEY: No credible connection between 9/11 and Iraq.

BUSH: Yeah.

PELLEY: The Office of Management and Budget said this war would cost somewhere between $50 billion and $60 billion and now we're over 400.

BUSH: I gotcha. I gotcha. I gotcha.

PELLEY: The perception, sir, more than any one of those points, is that the administration has not been straight with . . .

BUSH: Well, I strongly disagree with that, of course.

It would seem that, to some, this is just a game of cat and mouse.

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