BOOK REVIEW:  “It’s the Crude, Dude” (Linda McQuaig)

BOOK REVIEW:  “It’s the Crude, Dude” (Linda McQuaig)

by Stephen Lendman

Linda McQuaig is a prominent, admired, and
award-winning Canadian journalist writing about vital
issues of concern to everyone.  She was a national
reporter for the Toronto Globe and Mail before joining
the Toronto Star where she now covers Canadian
politics with her trademark combination of solid
research, keen analysis, irreverence, passion and wit.
She’s easy to read, never boring, and fearless. The
National Post called her “Canada’s Michael Moore.”

McQuaig is also a prolific author with a well-deserved
reputation for taking on the establishment. In her
previous seven books, she challenged Canada’s deficit
reduction scheme to gut essential social services.
She explained how the rich used the country’s tax
system to get richer the way it’s worked in the US
since Ronald Reagan and then exploded under George
Bush.  She exposed the fraud of “free trade” (never
called fair because it isn’t) empowering giant
corporations over sovereign states while exploiting
working people everywhere. 

She also showed how successive Canadian governments
waged war on equality since the 1980s, and in her
latest book, “Holding the Bully’s Coat - Canada and
the US Empire,” she takes aim at the conservative
Stephen Harper administration’s allying with George
Bush’s belligerent lawlessness and phony “war on
terrorism.” Canada chose not to be part of
Washington’s concocted “coalition of the willing” in
Iraq but partnered in its war of aggression and
illegal occupation of Afghanistan.

Her last book before her latest one is another
important tour de force and subject of this review.
It’s titled “It’s the Crude, Dude: war, big oil, and
the fight for the planet.”  It’s no secret America’s
wars in the Middle East and Central Asia are to
control what a Franklin Roosevelt State Department
spokesman in 1945 called a “stupendous source of
strategic power, and one of the greatest material
prizes in world history” - the huge amount of Middle
East oil with most of it believed to be in Saudi
Arabia then.  With it goes veto power over how it’s
distributed, to whom, at what price, for whose benefit
and at whose expense.  Today, one country above all
others may be that “greatest material prize” making it
target number one America intends to control for the
strategic power and riches it represents. 

The country is Iraq, and it’s the reason US forces
invaded and occupy it. McQuaig’s book explained it
stunningly, beginning on her opening page: The “oil
motive” drives America’s wars “given oil’s obvious
geopolitical significance, and the fact that Iraq is
the last easily harvested oil bonanza left on earth.”
More on that below and also on the fact that with less
than 5% of the world’s population and 3% of its oil
reserves, the US wastefully consumes one-fourth of all
oil production with no plan to cut back.  It means a
reliable outside source is essential pointing directly
at the Middle East where two-thirds of all proved
reserves are located.  They’re not inexhaustible,
however, as oil is a finite resource.  It means a
crunch ahead is inevitable.

McQuaig cited a US Department of Energy National
Energy Laboratory report saying: “The world has never
faced a problem like this….Previous transitions
(like ‘wood to coal and coal to oil’) were gradual and
evolutionary; oil peaking will be abrupt and
revolutionary,” and may already have occurred.
Further, with America waging two costly oil-related
wars for much of what’s left, gaining control has
become violent with no letup in sight and more
oil-rich nations in Washington’s target queue.  More
on that below as well and the fact that oil
consumption keeps increasing, two huge emerging
nations (China and India) need growing amounts of it,
just at a time production peaked and is declining.
That’s a combustible mixture now playing out in Iraq,
Afghanistan, and Somalia.  It also affects Iran,
Venezuela, Sudan (for its Darfur oil riches) and other
strategically important oil-rich nations that dare
defy America by wanting control of their own resources
along with the major share of revenue from them.

McQuaig deals with this timely and important subject
in the part of the world where it matters most - the
Middle East and especially Iraq where America came to
stay.  Her book is divided into 10 tantalizingly
titled chapters.  It was written in 2004, updated in
2006, and is just as relevant now as when first
published.  Some of the story is known, but much
information covered isn’t common knowledge and key
parts aren’t discussed at all in the mainstream.  They
include the rise of Big Oil and OPEC, Iraq’s strategic
importance, its potentially immense and easily
accessible untapped oil riches, and America’s
intention to turn the nation into a centrally located
Middle East military base with plans to stay as long
as there’s enough oil in the country and region to
make it worthwhile.  Current talk of future force
drawdowns and withdrawal is baloney. That will be
discussed further below as well.

McQuaig provides lots of relevant context for a full
understanding of why oil centrally dominates
geopolitics today:

—wars and the reason America fights so many of them
- for the essential resources, mainly oil, to keep the
heart of capitalism beating, without which it can’t;

—the dominant media’s vital hyperventilating lead
cheerleader role selling them;

—the power of the oil cartel and how it developed
and grew after Edwin Drake drilled the first
commercially successful well in Titusville, PA in
1859.

—how John D. Rockefeller ruthlessly built a powerful
Oil Trust he controlled; how it was nominally
dismembered by Theodore Roosevelt’s trust-busting
efforts early in the last century; yet how it endured
through joint ventures, interlocking directorates,
mergers and “working (partial ownership) control” of
its separate pieces, the largest of which was
Rockefeller’s Standard Oil of New Jersey, now called
ExxonMobil.  The old Oil Trust would fit in its back
pocket.

—the role of the US auto industry and its addiction
to gas-guzzling, hugely greenhouse gas emitting,
high-profit SUVs accounting for one-fourth of all US
auto sales;

—the rise, fall and reemergence of OPEC;

—the historical roles of Saudi Arabia and Venezuela
as dominant oil producing nations and the central role
Iraq plays today as the grandest of grand oil prizes;

—the hugely important issue of global warming fossil
fuel burning causes; how transportation is over
one-fourth of the problem with passenger vehicles the
main culprit, and this industry’s accounting for half
of total oil consumption;

—and still more in McQuaig’s powerful, riveting, and
relevant account of oil’s central importance in our
lives. Her book reads like a thriller.  But the story
is real, and it’s vital to know its contents.  Read on
for a detailed sampling.  Then buy and read the book
for the full account.

Fort Knox Guarded by a Chihuahua

The title refers to language about oil-rich Canada
that a US investment service, called Daily Reckoning,
used in a provocative newsletter article.  It said
Canada owes us (their) oil. “Without our protection,
(the country) is the natural resources equivalent of
Fort Knox guarded by a ‘No Trespassing’ sign and a
Chihuahua” because our military protects our northern
neighbor. That’s likely news to most Canadians for a
country with no enemies.  Canada, however, is
extremely oil-rich, and counting its huge amount of
hard to refine tar sands oil ranks second in the world
in total reserves. 

In her newest book, “Holding the Bully’s Coat,”
McQuaig explains her nation is currently the US’s
leading energy supplier.  Canada’s importance will
grow ahead as it plans to triple its oil sands
production by 2015 to three million barrels daily,
earmarking most of it for US markets.  It’s part of a
secretly launched 2005 scheme called the Security and
Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) or North
American Union.

It’s a tri-national agreement hatched below the radar,
controlled by Washington, and advocates greater
economic, political, social, and security integration
between the US (as boss), Canada and Mexico.  In fact,
it’s an ugly corporate-led plot against the
sovereignty of three nations for greater profits,
enforced by a common hard line security strategy
already in play in each country.  It’s goal is a
borderless North America under US control without
barriers to trade and capital flows for corporate
giants, mainly US ones. 

It’s also to insure America gets free and unlimited
access to Canadian and Mexican resources, mainly oil,
but Canadian water, too.  That will assure US energy
security while denying Canada and Mexico preferential
access to their own resources henceforth earmarked for
US markets.  The scheme amounts to NAFTA on steroids
combined with Pox Americana homeland security
enforcement partnered with Canadian and Mexican
contingents.  It adds up to the worst of all possible
worlds headed for an unmasked “deeply integrated”
police state. 

Canada is also currently hamstrung by a provision it
agreed to in ratifying NAFTA in 1993.  It gave up the
right to reduce its US energy exports (should it need
more of them) unless it cuts its own consumption by a
comparable amount.  Oil-rich Mexico, in contrast,
agreed to no such provision and got an exemption
Canada lacks. Canada has a loophole, though, SPP
provisions will close if enacted.  NAFTA can’t prevent
the country’s use of its newly developed tar sands oil
or the right to export them to other nations, as of
now.  With that in mind, Canada is building a 720 mile
oil pipeline from northern (oil-rich) Alberta to
British Columbia in the far west.  When completed, it
will enable resources to be exported to China or any
other oil-consuming nation Canada chooses to trade
with.

Meanwhile, back in the US, the Iraq war was launched
in March, 2003.  Dominant media fear mongering helped
sell it, giddy cheerleadering accompanied its start,
the reasons for going were reinvented when ones first
given were exposed as lies, excuse-making now explains
why things haven’t gone as planned, and all the while
we’re told it had nothing to do with oil.  And fish
don’t swim, and birds don’t fly.  Instead, as McQuaig
explained “....the Iraq saga (was to disarm) a
dangerous dictator (morphed into) a battle to bring
democracy to the Middle East (with) oil remain(ing)
strangely offstage, hidden in plain sight.”

Clearly, oil drives US policy because of this nation’s
insatiable appetite for 25% of world production
Washington feels it has a birthright to use
excessively.  We now compete with other growing
economies for a dwindling supply of an irreplaceable
resource we can’t do without. McQuaig noted that
prospect looms as “the world is much closer to running
out of oil than most government or industry officials
are willing to admit.”  We now compete with China and
India along with developed nations, with China’s
prodigious growth alone devouring huge amounts of a
fast-depleting resource at current rates of
consumption.

McQuaig quoted Edmonton-based energy economist Mark
Anielski saying: “There’s not enough oil to feed two
(voracious) superpowers.”  Enter Canada as already
explained above and Venezuela to be addressed later in
a separate chapter on that oil-rich nation under Hugo
Chavez.  For now, it deserves mentioning McQuaig
brings him up because he made some “far-reaching deals
with China to develop Venezuela’s considerable oil
reserves” and build a relationship with the Asian
giant to supply it with increasing amounts of future
output.

The problem is no matter how much more oil is left in
the ground, we’re now consuming more than we’re
producing.  “Oil is finite and not recyclable,” noted
McQuaig, and past experience shows humans aren’t smart
or caring enough to figure a way out of this dilemma
without making painful changes they haven’t been
inclined to do so far.  Today, the world runs on oil.
It touches nearly all parts of our lives from running
our factories to powering cars and other means of
transportation to growing the food we eat and much
more.  McQuaig explained “no energy source in
view….is as effective, versatile, and potent as
oil.”  Yet, the solution to our dilemma is to rely on
lots less of it, substituting less ecologically
damaging sources like wind, sun and waves.

We’ve already consumed around half the world’s supply,
according to many reliable estimates, and have done it
mostly over the last 100 years.  There may be about
one trillion barrels left in the ground, but at
current consumption rates it’ll be gone in forty years
or less.  Also, the easy to find and produce oil is
running out.  It’s nearly all been found except in
Iraq, making that country so attractive.  The vast
remaining reserves elsewhere are hard to find,
expensive to produce and more costly overall to bring
to market, like Canada’s tar sands and Venezuela’s
heavy oil.

McQuaig noted an oil industry rule of thumb is
companies should bring on at least as much new oil as
they produce.  The industry, however, falls far short
of that, and some analysts, like Matthew Simmons,
believe the world’s largest oil-rich nation, Saudi
Arabia, has considerably less oil left than it claims
because it used up so much supplying the West as its
swing producer.  As supplies get lower and scarcity
grows in the face of rising demand, oil prices will
also rise, and one Wall Street firm, Goldman Sachs,
thinks they’re not far from topping $100 a barrel.

McQuaig also raised a central issue she devotes an
entire later chapter to - a looming global warming
crisis barely getting the attention it deserves
although credible climate scientists no longer debate
what they know is a major problem demanding attention
now.  Here she cited a Pentagon-commissioned report
describing global warming as a phenomenon “that could
transform the world dramatically in the next twenty
years….with major European cities (submerged) and
Britain plunged into a Siberian climate.”  The report
also sees a coming plague of “typhoons, mega-droughts
and famine” ahead that will bring “catastrophic
changes” causing “widespread human strife and even
nuclear conflict.” 

The Pentagon’s concern is national security, so its
top brass are planning ahead for what McQuaig called
“the prospect of life on earth reverting to a
primitive, desperate, brutal quest for survival”
needing lots more Marines available to subdue.  That’s
no concern at the headquarters of the largest, most
profitable company on earth - oil giant ExxonMobil.
It earned a record $39.5 billion in 2006 on sales of
$377.6 billion, more than double oil-rich Venezuela’s
GDP the same year according to IMF data. 

If ExxonMobil were a nation, it would rank number 20
in the world (based on GDP) for 2006 ahead of
Switzerland and Indonesia and slightly behind Sweden
and Turkey. It means this company has immense power
and uses it to keep the world consuming increasing
amounts of what grows its sales and profits and keeps
elevating it higher in the world rankings of countries
by size. Notions like global warming, climate control
measures, and Kyoto agreements send chills through its
boardroom.  The company acts aggressively to deny a
problem exists or that oil and other fossil fuels are
a cause for concern.

Conservative think tanks like the Competitive
Enterprise Institute echo the same claim with its
director, Myron Ebell, calling Kyoto defenders “an
animus against humanity.” Because it gets generous
funding from ExxonMobil and other corporate interests,
it has every incentive to be dismissive about what
there’s virtual scientific consensus on.

Problem or not, the US intends to lock up control of
as much of this resource as possible by any means and
whatever the consequences.  The need for it goes back
decades as a “vital American policy objective.”
Referring to Saudi oil, the FDR state department
quoted above said their resources “must remain under
American control (to supplement and replace) our
dwindling reserves (when we had plenty of them), and
of preventing this power potential from falling into
unfriendly hands.” 

All American presidents accept this notion, even Jimmy
Carter in his January, 1980 State of the Union address
as he was about to leave office.  He laid out his
Carter Doctrine (written by Zbigniew Brzezinski)
stating: “An attempt by any outside force to gain
control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as
an assault on the vital interests of the United States
of America, and such an assault will be repelled by
any means necessary, including military force.”

The same theme with a different emphasis came out of
Dick Cheney’s 2001 energy task force.  It acknowledged
a dwindling supply of world oil reserves focusing on
the Middle East as a stopgap solution “where the prize
ultimately lies.” He had a plan to get it that’s
discussed below.

Along Comes Iraq

From inception, the US was always an imperial nation.
It was in our DNA from the beginning when our earliest
settlers slaughtered millions of Native Indians for
their land and resources in our great push West and
South “from sea to shining sea.”  Jefferson even
sanctified it in our Declaration of Independence
calling Native peoples “merciless indian savages,” and
our Constitution dismissed them as non-persons.

WW II changed everything, however, when America
emerged as the only dominant nation left standing.  We
became the world’s unchallengeable economic, political
and military superpower with designs for world
hegemony.  It emerged full-blown under George Bush
post-9/11 whose administration-picked officials
designed an imperial grand strategy in 1998 as members
of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC).  It
revived Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney aide Lewis
Libby’s 1992 hawkish Defense Planning Guidance putting
in new form a plan for “Rebuilding America’s Defenses:
Strategies, Forces and Resources for a New Century.
It also updated the Truman Doctrine (state department
advisor George Kennan devised) for “Cold War
containment” and an earlier strategy for US global
military and economic dominance. 

Today, the Middle East, Central Asia and all
independent-minded oil rich and other states have
replaced the Soviet bloc, and the new evil empire is
“international terrorism” and “Islamofascist” threats
to our national security.  It’s the same old scheme
for world dominance repackaged with new names and
faces replacing old ones.

Enter Iraq, the Bush administration had designs on
before settling into office. Treasury Secretary Paul
O’Neill revealed it was topic one in the early weeks
of 2001, months before 9/11 made attacking and
occupying it possible.  He was shocked to discover the
scheme was being hatched secretly by Dick Cheney in
the first meeting of the National Security Council
held 10 days after the President’s inauguration.  The
decision was taken with talk moving on to logistics of
“how” and “how quickly,” and whether Iraq or
Afghanistan was number one or two in our target queue.
The latter, of course, came first with Central Asia’s
immense resources in mind, but it was just prologue
for the “shock and awe” that began in March, 2003 in
the land between two rivers in the cradle of
civilization, now smashed by intent to free up its oil
bonanza for Big Oil to exploit.

Pulling off this scheme meant getting the public on
board that works best by scaring it to death with lots
of help from round-the-clock dominant media
hyperventilating.  It made it easy selling the
concocted notion of “Enemy Number One” Osama bin Ladin
(a former CIA asset), Al-Queda terrorists and the
“smoking gun threat” of WMDs showing up in the shape
of a “mushroom-shaped cloud.”  Former Dean of the
University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of
Communications, George Gerbner, explained how it
works: “Fearful people are more dependent, more easily
manipulated and controlled, more susceptible to
deceptively simple, strong, tough measures and
hard-line postures….they may accept and even welcome
repression if it promises to relieve their
insecurities” and anxieties.

Paul Wolfowitz may have inadvertently revealed the
Bush administration’s scheme to do it.  He first said
the WMD threat was chosen for “bureaucratic reasons.”
Then he told Singapore journalists on an Asian visit
it was the only reason everyone could agree on, and
finally he admitted Iraq was chosen over North Korea
because it’s swimming on a “sea of oil.”  That went
unreported in the mainstream where “the word ‘oil’
remained unmentioned and unmentionable.” 

When no WMDs were found, the reasons for war were
reinvented.  Now the emphasis was to bring democracy
to the country as a humanitarian intervention, and
being wrong about WMDs was chalked up as faulty
pre-war intelligence.  Again, the real oil motive was
kept off the table “in plain sight” as McQuaig
observed.  It was also to remove a leader unwilling to
let his nation become a US pawn, an unforgivable sin
in Washington’s eyes, especially if the state swims on
a “sea of (mostly undeveloped easily accessed) oil.”
Iraq’s oil treasure is the last bonanza of
“low-hanging fruit” on the planet making it too rich a
prize to pass up regardless of cost or degree of
difficulty getting control of it.

McQuaig explained exploration of Iraq’s oil potential
remained “frozen in time” with almost no new
development in over two decades because of intervening
wars going back to the 1980s and economic sanctions in
place following the Gulf war in 1991.  Yet, even with
dated information, it’s known Iraq has at least 10% of
world oil reserves.  If its potential ends up doubling
or tripling, as happened in Saudi Arabia in the last
20 years, it could, in fact, have the world’s largest
proved reserves.  McQuaig noted that possibility is
“staggering” in importance making the country “the
most sought after real estate on the face of the
earth” according to an oil analyst she interviewed. 

In future years, with its production potential fully
developed and oil at $50 a barrel (it could be double
that or more), it translates to revenue of $70 billion
a year pumping 5 million barrels daily and $100
billion at 7 million barrels.  Today, Saudi Arabia
produces 8 million daily barrels or more if called on.
Iraq is also strategically located between Saudi
Arabia and Iran at the top end of the Persian Gulf.
It’s thus ideally positioned for a military base as
McQuaig’s quoted oil analyst observed saying: “Think
of Iraq as a military base with a very large oil
reserve underneath….You can’t ask for better than
that.” 

It makes the country so strategically important,
Global Policy Forum’s James Paul argued losing Iraq
would have been devastating for Big (US) Oil.  It
represents “the whole future of the oil industry,”
frozen in time, hugely endowed, and easy pickings for
the lucky companies able to harvest it and reap
immense profits doing it.  Because of its importance,
the Cheney energy task force included Big Oil giants
in its secret discussions making plans for war with
Iraq and needing its input for parcelling out its
resources afterward.  The Wall Street Journal reported
in October, 2002 Cheney’s staff secretly met with
ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, ConocoPhillips and
Halliburton executives on plans to secure and
rehabilitate Iraq’s oil fields.  Thereafter, they’d
take them over and run them.

From the early 1970s, most Middle East countries and
Venezuela’s oil industries were nationalized, and
state-owned oil companies still control most of the
world’s oil.  McQuaig noted “major international oil
companies control a mere 4 per cent” but adjusted and
prospered under that arrangement nonetheless.  In the
Middle East, and most everywhere else, they do the
drilling and pumping under revenue sharing contracts
with host governments. 

We now know what McQuaig may have been the first to
report in her book - that Washington’s plan for Iraq
involved privatizing its oil industry along with
everything else in the country already sold off to
foreign investors by 2007 or will be.  She noted a
secret 100 page contracting document drafted by the US
Agency for International Development (USAID), with
Treasury Department help.  It detailed a plan to
replace Iraq’s state-run economy with a privately
owned one.  It was a “Mass Privatization Program”
calling for “private sector involvement in strategic
sectors, including privatization, asset sales,
concessions, leases and management contracts,
especially in the oil and supporting industries.”
McQuaig said it was to “make the country a safe place
for foreign investment,” or put another way, a
free-market paradise for corporate America.

A state department subtler form of oil privatization
was drafted as well with heavy oil industry input.  It
laid out seven possible production models all
involving Iraq’s oil nominally remaining under state
control with “operation and control of the oil
fields….handed over to foreign oil companies.”

Subtleties apparently were abandoned in the final
US-Big Oil drafted “Hydrocarbon Law” scheme filled
with secret provisions now before the Iraqi
Parliament.  It’s hugely contentious as it grants
Iraq’s National Oil Company exclusive control of only
17 of the nation’s 80 known oil fields.  The others
are set aside for Big US and UK Oil investors mainly
in a shameless act of plunder.  In addition, all new
deposits found (the bulk of the country’s oil) are to
be set aside for foreign investor development with
provisions allowing them to expropriate all earnings
and invest nothing in Iraq’s economy.  They also have
no obligation to hire local workers, respect union
rights, or share new technologies.  In addition,
they’ll be granted long-term contracts up to 30 or
more years, dispossessing Iraq and its people of their
own resources in a naked scheme to steal them. 

Because Iraqi resistance to US occupation is so
unrelenting, intense and violent, there’s no way for
sure to know how future events will play out.  One
thing is sure, however. Iraq’s oil bonanza won’t be as
easy for foreign investors to exploit as once thought
possible and may never be.

The Man to See

In this section, McQuaig details the lucrative
business of war-profiteering showing why conflicts
are great for business.  For companies close to the
Bush administration, it was a bonanza waiting to be
reaped from huge no-bid contracts.  First in line was
Dick Cheney’s former employer, Halliburton and its
subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root.  Since 2001 in
Afghanistan and Iraq, it was awarded upwards of $20
billion in war-related contracts the company then
exploited to the fullest with shoddy work, massive
cost-overruns and fraudulent billings, most barely
drawing attention.  Early on, Halliburton’s Iraq oil
field repairs were so poor the US Army estimated it
cost the country $8 billion in lost production.  It
also botched a simple job installing metering systems
at ports in southern Iraq to protect against oil being
smuggled from the country.

In all, well over 70 US firms, most well-connected and
many with familiar names, shared in the contracting
bonanza - companies like Bechtel, Fluor, Parsons, Shaw
Group, SAIC, CH2M Hill, the Louis Berger Group, the
Rendon Group, and at least 21 private security
companies like DynCorp, Triple Canopy, Erinys and
Blackwater USA supplying around 100,000 hugely
overpaid paramilitary mercenaries (not the official
phony 30,000 industry number).  They supplement
170,000 US occupying forces providing protection for
other war-profiteering companies and Iraqi officials.


Last year, Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz
estimated the war’s cost would ultimately exceed $2
trillion when all factors related to it are included
making it the most expensive war ever adjusted for
inflation.  Omitting parts of what Stiglitz included,
the conservative Congressional Research Service (CRS)
June 28, 2007 Report for Congress showed $610 billion
already approved through FY 2007 and May 25, 2007
supplemental funding covering Iraq and Afghanistan war
related costs and other Global War on Terror
operations since 9/11.  At that level, it’s
approaching the inflation-adjusted $650 billion
Vietnam war cost it may, in fact, have already
exceeded.

Add an administration requested $148 billion more for
FY 2008 and the cost jumps to $758 billion.
Projections will likely go higher still with monthly
“burn rates” spiraling from about $8 billion in 2005
to a Senate-estimated $12 billion now.  Add in an
administration requested DOD FY 2008 budget of $648.8
billion plus another $148 billion war-related
supplemental for a grand total $796.8 billion - and
rising for a bonanza of war-profiteering, waste, fraud
and abuse.  CRS conservatively under-projects a total
cost up to $1.4 trillion for the next 10 years at
reduced troop levels ranging from 30 - 70,000 on the
assumption America is in Iraq and Afghanistan to stay
with major permanent base installations in place and
being built to assure it.

Capable Iraqi professionals and workers haven’t shared
in the spoils of war and were never part of
Washington’s occupation plans.  They’ve been denied an
operational role rebuilding and running the country’s
essential services they can do as well as foreign
investors and for much less cost.  McQuaig quoted
former Iraqi oil minister under Saddam in the 1980s,
Issam Al-Chalabi. He’s not Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi
who conspired with the Bush administration to plunder
his own country, wanted to run it, and is the current
oil minister.  Issam Al-Chalabi was incensed that
companies like Halliburton got contracts to put out
Iraqi oil fires and rebuild the country’s oil wells
and production capacity.  “Iraqi professionals have
been doing this for decades,” he said.  “They are
among the best in the world.”

Iraq’s National Oil Company is also capable of running
the nation’s oil industry but will only get a sliver
of it if the new “Hydrocarbon Law” passes and becomes
law.  This was the key part of Washington’s plan for
ownership and management that includes all of Iraq’s
economy to pass largely into American business hands.
McQuaig quoted a Jane Meyer New Yorker article
explaining winning contracts in Iraq is the realm of
Dick Cheney, and “Anything that has to do with Iraq
policy, Cheney is the man to see.”  She should have
added anything to do with running America, Cheney’s
also the man to see.”

Washington always acts in Big Oil’s interest, but the
current administration is closer to the industry than
any previous one.  It’s staffed and run by former oil
and other energy industry executives, including the
President and Vice-President.  Oil is central to US
plans for world dominance, but Iraq is only one part
of the overall international oil picture, though the
most important one of all.  Vitally important as well
is OPEC, run by its member nations and seen as a
threat to Big Oil interests unless co-opted. 

McQuaig explained ever since it became an important
player in the mid-1970s, Washington tried to
“undermine its effectiveness and weaken its unity.”
It succeeded because OPEC hurt itself and became less
of a market influence after the early 1980s.  One Wall
Street analyst said “it was on its deathbed” by the
late 1990s, until it suddenly began to revive.  One
man made it possible by 2000, “sav(ing) OPEC” -
Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.  How it happened is covered
below.

Revolution and Ice Cream in Caracas

McQuaig reviewed Hugo Chavez’s dramatic rise to become
Venezuela’s president, his Bolivarian Revolution, the
transformation of his nation’s oil policies, and his
key role in the resurgence of OPEC.  Chavez was first
elected president in December, 1998 and assumed office
in February, 1999.  He proceeded to hold a national
referendum so his people could decide whether to
convene a National Constituent Assembly to draft a new
constitution to embody his visionary agenda.  It
passed overwhelmingly followed three months later by
elections to the Assembly to which members of Chavez’s
MVR party and parties allied to it won 95% of the
seats.  They then drafted the revolutionary
Constitucion de la Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela.
It was put to a nationwide vote in December, 1999 and
overwhelmingly approved changing everything for the
Venezuelan people.

The Constitution established the foundation and legal
framework for President Chavez’s revolutionary vision
for structural change.  He’s since transformed his
nation into a model participatory social democracy
serving the needs of all Venezuelans instead of the
privileged few alone the way it nearly always had been
in the past.  It allowed the people to choose their
leaders and gave them unimaginable benefits like free
quality health care as a “fundamental social right
and….responsibility of the state….to guarantee
it.”  It banned discrimination, established the
principle of participatory democracy from the
grassroots for everyone, guaranteed free speech, a
free press, free elections, equal rights for
indigenous people, and mandated government make
quality free education available for all to the
highest levels, and much more.  Venezuela under Hugo
Chavez would never be the same again, and the great
majority of Venezuelans won’t accept it any other way.

Chavez had another goal as well - to resuscitate OPEC,
give oil producing states more power over their own
resources and be fairly compensated for them through
prices they controlled, not Big Oil.  It would thus
allow him to implement his Bolivarian Revolution from
the greater revenues he’d get from a stronger, more
unified organization of 11 significant oil producing
nations. Chavez became a mediator to do it and
undertook a whirlwind tour of member states to sell
his plan to their leaders.

McQuaig explained his idea was based on the simple
notion that OPEC needed stable prices kept within a
“price band” Chavez proposed to be between $22 - $28 a
barrel that today seems low.  It wasn’t then with oil
prices down around $10 a barrel and less.  Making the
plan work was doable providing all OPEC nations agreed
to abide by it and not cheat as was common for added
revenue.  The idea was for a united OPEC to cut
production whenever prices dropped below its lower
band and increase it above the upper one, thus letting
basic supply and demand forces do their work.  Chavez
proposed an OPEC summit in Caracas in September, 2000,
all its nations agreed to come, and after discussion
signed on to implement the plan. 

McQuaig summed up Chavez’s achievement saying: “After
being on the verge of extinction only a year earlier,
OPEC was very much alive” and still is.  Chavez’s
vision was “shaking up the international oil scene
(but by doing it made) himself persona non grata in
Washington.”  He’s been at it ever since with his
revolutionary social programs endearing himself to
Venezuela’s majority poor and working population who
now receive essential services unheard of before and
unimaginable in America now.  He also promotes a bold
new trade initiative called ALBA - the Bolivarian
Alternative for the Americas. Unlike Global North
one-way neoliberal schemes, it’s an innovative “fair
trade” alternative based on complementarity,
solidarity and cooperation among participating Latin
American states.

Chavez’s policies are working.  He built alliances
with regional states and is using his nation’s oil
revenues responsibly with impressive results.  He cut
poverty in the country to around 25% of the population
(when benefits from state-funded social programs are
factored in) compared to its 1998 and 2003
post-management-led oil lockout high of 62%. 
Unemployment also fell from 20% in early 2003 to 8% in
May, 2007, and inflation at, current high levels, is
dropping as well with government measures being taken
to combat it.  All the while, business is booming with
economic growth the highest in Latin America.  It
averaged around 10% or more per quarter for over the
past three years, and finance minister Rodrigo Cabezas
told Venezuela’s state-run ABN news agency the country
will exceed 8% growth this year.  It’s coming mainly
from the private sector that added over 1100 new
businesses and industries in 2005 and 2006.

Nonetheless, Chavez is Washington’s Latin American
“enemy number one” having tried four times to remove
him and failed.  McQuaig covered the dramatic two day
CIA-orchestrated April, 2002 aborted coup.  It caused
mass street outrage and unwillingness of the country’s
military to go along. Chavez returned to office,
survived an economically devastating oil
management-led industry lockout, and resuscitated his
nation and people impressively enough to win
reelection as president last December by a nearly 2 -
1 margin. 

McQuaig sat down with him for an extended two and a
half interview at the Palacio de Miraflores
(presidential palace) in Caracas in March, 2004.
Chavez eschews pomp and remains true to his part
black, part Indian roots.  On December 3, 2006
election day, he drove himself to his polling station
in his signature red Volkswagen, accompanied by his
grandson. For his interview with McQuaig, he showed up
casually dressed, and near the end of the session
ordered ice cream for his guest that came in the form
of chocolate sundaes topped with cherries. 

Addressing questions posed, Chavez stressed the Bush
administration was “invaded by madness.”  He’s also
certain it tried ousting him in 2002, was behind the
oil management lockout, the August, 2004 staged recall
referendum to remove him that flopped badly, and
several attempts to kill him with more planned.  He
covered much more as well, including his desire for
closer cooperation among Global South nations in their
common interest to shake off the yoke of longstanding
Global North neocolonial domination.

McQuaig also briefly covered America’s involvement
with Venezuela after oil was discovered there early
last century. Ever since, Venezuela’s oligarch elites
and foreign oil interests collaborated to see “the
country’s immense oil wealth largely disappeared into
private hands, both at home and abroad.”  There were
occasional flirtations with change with leaders like
Juan Pablo Perez Alfonzo (a founding member of OPEC)
asserting more control over his nation’s resources.
Aligned against him, however, were powerful business
interests, and little success was achieved.  Although
the nation nationalized its oil industry in the
mid-1970s (along with most other oil producing
countries), its state oil company PDVSA was run by
Venezuelan managers deferential to foreign oil
interests, mainly US ones.

Chavez is changing that and making impressive progress
doing it, but still has miles to go toward
establishing his social democracy (or socialism) for
the 21st century.  His task is enormous and involves
no less than reversing generations of entrenched
privilege and institutionalized corruption in a nation
beholden to capital interests closely tied to
Washington. He has two vital things going for him
though - mass people-power support determined to keep
him as President as long as he wants the job and the
country’s military on board as well. If Chavez can
survive Washington’s aim to remove him, he may remain
Venezuela’s leader for many years to come. 

From Coffins to World Destruction

Here McQuaig dealt with one of the most vital issues
of our time getting increasing attention but few
efforts to address meaningfully.  Today, global
warming looms large as an urgent, pressing challenge
demanding action now. It emerged on the political
radar in the mid-1980s and got world attention at an
international scientific conference in Toronto in
June, 1988.  Conservative Canadian Prime Minister
Brian Mulroney, an unabashed corporatist, was its
opening speaker.  Astonishingly, he sounded an alarm
saying “humanity is conducting an unintended,
uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment whose
ultimate consequences are second only to nuclear war.”


Early persuasive evidence of trouble ahead began
surfacing back then.  Today, it shows conclusively
that human activity in modern industrial states is
warming the earth’s air and surface from fossil fuel
burning greenhouse gas emissions causing:

—arctic ice cap melting;

—rising sea levels;

—changed rainfall patterns;

—increased frequency and intensity of weather
extremes like floods, droughts, killer heat waves,
wildfires, and hurricanes and cyclones;

—water scarcity;

—agricultural disruption and loss of arable land;

—as many as one-third of plant and animal species
extinct by 2050 by some credible estimates; and

—increasing disease, displacement and economic
losses from extreme weather-related events, lowering
of ocean pH, reductions in the ozone layer, and the
possible introduction of new phenomena unseen before
or never extreme enough to threaten human life or
ecological sustainability that will when we experience
them.

There’s no longer a debate in the scientific community
on global warming.  The near-majority consensus is the
urgency to address it.  It was almost as true in 1990
when McQuaig noted the independent Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) met.  It was headed by
Robert Watson whose credentials included having been a
senior NASA scientist.  IPCC’s first assessment report
powerfully stated the problem.  It said the
“greenhouse effect” is real and the earth’s surface
has become noticeably warmer since the inception of
the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century.

IPCC was even grimmer in a 2007 report suggesting a
worst case scenario of “devastating harvests,
dwindling water supplies, melting ice and loss of
species (that likely understate) the threat facing the
world.”  The London Independent’s Information
Environment Editor, Geoffrey Lean, made things sound
even worse in his article titled “Global Warming Is
(accelerating) Three Times Faster Than Worst
Predictions” based on new authoritative studies.  One
is by the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS)
showing CO2 emissions increasing 3% a year now
compared to 1.1% in the 1990s.  It’s causing seas to
rise twice as fast and Arctic ice caps to melt three
times faster than previously thought.  Another grim
study was by the University of California’s National
Snow and Ice Data Center.  It showed “Arctic ice has
declined by 7.8 percent over the past 50 years,
compared with an average by IPCC computer models of
2.5 per cent.”

Global warming scoffers abound in a state of denial.
They’re in corporate boardrooms, halls of government
and a few co-opted climate scientists and some in
academia willing to sacrifice their integrity for
whatever benefits they get in return.  They say the
evidence is inconclusive, more study is needed, and
the financial costs of action will be prohibitive and
hugely damaging to the economy.  Watson’s response is
“The economic costs of inaction may be (far more)
prohibitive,” and many economists doubt addressing the
problem will be harmful at all.  McQuaig noted 2500 in
the profession believe “(S)ound economic analysis
shows that there are policy options that would slow
climate change without harming American living
standards, and these measures may, in fact, improve US
productivity (more than making up the difference).”

McQuaig then mentioned a second 1995 IPCC report
making their case even stronger, but not as strong as
their latest one.  Twelve years ago it said increasing
atmospheric carbon dioxide buildup is seriously
altering the world’s delicate ecosystem.  Since then,
we got an important, if greatly inadequate first step,
with the enactment of the Kyoto treaty.  It went into
effect in February, 2005 after 141 nations signed it,
absent one vitally needed one to make it work - the US
when the Bush administration brazenly withdrew from
the process in March, 2001, barely after assuming
office. 

No other administration in US history is more closely
aligned with dominant corporate energy interests
showing they call many of the shots in Washington.
One energy giant especially stood out in the
rejection, and McQuaig put it this way: Giant
“Exxon….found a friend.  The most powerful
government on earth had linked up with the richest
(and likely most influential) company on earth - and
the world no longer seemed invincible.”

One of the leading causes of global warming is a
popular product first introduced in the early 1980s,
gained popularity in the 1990s, and now dominates the
passenger car business.  It’s the so-called sport
utility vehicle, or SUV, that McQuaig said has “less
to do with sportiness and glamour, and more to do with
security in an age of fear.”  She refered to them as a
“mobile version of a gated community (with a) kind of
me-first aggressiveness” pushing everything out of its
way.  Thanks to the power of advertising, their sales
soared from a humble start.  They now account for
one-fourth of new car sales despite their cost, poor
fuel efficiency, and the fact that families got along
fine without them until Madison Avenue creative
geniuses convinced millions they couldn’t live without
them.

Here’s the problem.  SUVs are huge gas guzzlers, and
the transportation sector accounts for over one-fourth
of US greenhouse gas emissions.  SUVs are exempt from
so-called CAFE standards referring to “corporate
average fuel economy.”  The result is they emit around
40% more greenhouse gases per vehicle into the
atmosphere causing enormous damage.  And no one needs
these vehicles in the first place except the auto
industry earning huge profits selling them and not
about stop voluntarily.  Like the energy industry, the
auto sector has powerful friends in Washington as well
seeing nothing changes that hurts them.

The global warming issue is so serious it must be
addressed and can be if Congress gets around to
mandating it with a friendly administration willing to
go along.  One answer is greater efficiency to achieve
what automakers won’t address - making vehicles burn
less gas using technology now known to exist.  McQuaig
noted the Union of Concerned Scientists (USC) said it
can be done with current technology, and its engineers
did it with their own SUV design that’s 30% more fuel
efficient than production models.  Auto makers
continue increasing vehicle efficiency but use it for
more powerful engines and other new design features
increasing profits.  They reject fuel efficiency
citing the cost, but it really comes down to applying
their technological expertise where it produces the
greatest return.

McQuaig summed up the situation saying it’s clear “the
voluntary approach won’t work with fuel efficiency.”
With stronger mandated CAFE standards for cars and
light trucks, including SUVs, oil consumption will
drop dramatically. US autos of all types are now
projected to consume 12 million barrels of oil a day
by 2020.  With easily attainable CAFE standards,
consumption could be cut to 7.5 million barrels or a
40% savings.  The Bush administration made things
worse, not better, by adding a generous new tax
measure favoring SUVs in its 2003 $350 billion tax
cut.  It allowed the self-employed to deduct the cost
of a SUV purchase, thereby making them more attractive
to all kinds of new customers like doctors, lawyers,
accountants, the corner druggist, or anyone able to
claim self-employment.

There’s hope for change, however, based on recent
Senate action.  On June 21, that body passed the first
comprehensive bill on new CAFE standards in over 20
years, and it was a bipartisan effort.  It wasn’t a
perfect one but did raise the fleetwide average fuel
efficiency standards for all cars, trucks and SUVs by
10 miles per gallon over 10 years or from 25 to 35
miles per gallon by model year 2020.  So far, no
action is scheduled in the House so it remains an open
question what’s ahead along with what can be expected
if final legislation reaches an obstructionist
President.

The Great Anaconda

Enter the Oil Trust and man who built it and himself
into a hugely rich and powerful business titan and
king of the original “robber barons” - John D.
Rockefeller.  None had more power and wealth or used
it more ruthlessly than this corporate predator whose
central aim was crushing all competition and making
himself omnipotent in the growing oil industry.  He
did it by “employing a mix of enticement, threats,
coercion, double-dealing, lying, cheating, bullying
and ultimately using (his Oil Trust’s) massive
financial resources to crush opponents” as McQuaig
explained it.  Sounds about the way corporate giants
operate today, except they now have friendly
governments and courts making it easy for them.  John
D. had to work for his power and wealth starting from
the bottom and building his oil empire from the ground
up.

Early on, he spotted an opportunity to do it shortly
after oil was first discovered in Titusville.  He and
a partner first invested in an oil refinery in
Cleveland that became one of the city’s largest.  He
then bought out his partner and started a second
operation, opened an oil-selling company in New York,
and consolidated everything into what he called
Standard Oil Company.  From there, McQuaig traces his
rise to the business heights he achieved that included
entering into a phony, far-reaching “combination” with
major railways called the Southern Improvement
Company.  It was a scheme for preferential rebates and
eliminating competition. 

The story goes on to cover a four decade-long account
of how Rockefeller built and consolidated his empire,
crushing competition along the way ruthlessly but
effectively.  It came to a head in a New York City
courtroom in 1907 when Theodore Roosevelt-picked
lawyers went head-to-head in what McQuaig called “a
titanic legal battle.”  In the end, the government won
when the Supreme Court agreed with an earlier guilty
verdict.  It gave Standard Oil six months to divest
all subsidiaries that quickly dismembered the giant
company into a number of smaller but still large
entities.  The largest retained half the value of the
original conglomerate.  It was Standard Oil of New
Jersey, now giant ExxonMobil, the largest, richest,
most powerful company on earth and still one of the
most predatory and ruthless in the spirit of its
founder.

Today, the oil industry is more powerful than ever.
It remains “a tightly knit club” through its extensive
interlocking corporate ties and a cozy relationship
with all administrations.  None, however, are more
accommodating than the current one run by former oil
men and staffed by many energy industry officials
making policies favoring them.

How Did Our Oil Get Under Their Sand

McQuaig continued the story as Rockefeller’s spawned
corporate empire began eyeing opportunities abroad.
There were plenty around with the Middle East as
ground zero holding two-thirds of today’s proved
reserves with most of Iraq’s still uptapped and
uncounted.  She explained by the early 1950s
international oil companies gained effective control
of the region’s oil and sought to get back what they
lost when countries like Iran nationalized their
industries to get a larger share of their own
revenues.

Mohammed Mossadegh was its force as the nation’s
democratic leader.  He no longer would tolerate the
special concessions British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil
got in 1901 and had up to his tenure.  It greatly
advantaged Britain leaving Iran only a sliver of its
own oil wealth.  His government changed things by
nationalizing the company, causing the British to feel
he stole their property, that, in fact, belonged to
Iran.  In response, the international oil companies
reacted together and imposed a worldwide boycott on
the country’s oil.  It succeeded by devasting Iran’s
economy, cutting its oil revenue from $400 million in
1950 to less than $2 million in 1952.  A Dwight
Eisenhower-approved first ever CIA coup followed in
1953.  It toppled the Mossadegh government, returned
Shah Reza Pahlavi to power, and began his 26 year
tyrannical rule that, by all accounts, was as
repressive as Saddam’s and far less socially
accommodative.

McQuaig called the coup “a defining moment in the
Middle East.” It “became a powerful rallying point for
anti-Western nationalism.  It was embodied in Gamal
Abdel Nasser in Egypt whose advocacy of Arab
sovereignty and willingness to defy the West made him
a hero throughout the region.  It also arose in Iran
in the 1970s that resulted in the 1979 revolution.  It
deposed the Shah, installed fundamentalist Islamic
rule in his place, and sparked an anti-Western
fundamentalist movement across the region.

McQuaig also traced how oil was discovered early in
the last century in the Middle East with the
international oil cartel moving in to capitalize on
it.  She detailed the wheeling and dealing that went
on with oil giants jousting among themselves and with
rulers of the countries whose oil they wanted
favorable terms on to exploit. These powerful
companies mostly worked in collusion carving up world
oil markets and fixing prices among themselves to
their advantage. 

McQuaig described how three of the giants, Shell, BP
and Exxon, met at Achnacarry Castle, Scotland in late
summer, 1928 to end price competition and stabilize
world markets.  Their leaders “hammer(ed) out an
agreement in writing that set the course for the
international oil order for decades to come,” lasting
through the early 1970s.  It was not to compete, but
rather to set quotas, maintain existing market shares,
cooperate in sharing facilities, and avoid surplus
production to keep prices stable.

They brought in Texaco, Gulf, Mobil and Atlantic to
tighten their grip on world markets and eliminate
competitors by acquiring them.  The idea was to assure
world production grew at a steady pace, and oil
shortages and gluts were avoided.  The cartel was in
charge reaping enormous profits from their cozy
arrangement.  It was especially lucrative in the
Middle East where oil is easily accessible and
production costs very low.  It’s hard believe looking
back to when Saudi oil sold for $1.80 a barrel, but
easy to understand with production costs in the
Kingdom at just 8 or 9 cents leaving over $1.70 profit
with most of it going to the giants.

Things began changing when Libya’s King Idris “was the
first to figure out how to avoid becoming yet another
powerless country in the oil companies’ harem.”  He
began using independents outside the cartel.  Current
Libyan leader Mu’ammer al Qaddafi took power in 1969
and upped the anti further demanding a 40 cent
increase in the country’s share of the revenue.  He
got it and broke the cartel’s power to control the oil
game.  At the same time, he rewrote the rules in place
to that time.  As McQuaig put it: the “aura of
(cartel) invincibility was shattered.  Inside the
harem, things would never be the same again.”

The Harem Takes On the Sisters - The Rise of OPEC

The “Libyan breakthrough” turned out to be prologue
for 5 original oil producing member nations (that
became 11) to assert control of their own resources
through OPEC that was founded in 1960 but had no
effective power until the 1970s.  McQuaig reviewed its
history explaining it “was the brainchild of two men -
Juan Pablo Perez Alfonzo in Venezuela and Abdullah
Tariki in Saudi Arabia.  Alfonzo was given
responsibility for his country’s oil affairs after
1945 and set “guidlines (to redefine) the traditional
(one-way) colonial relationship” the oil cartel had
with his country.  A 1948 military coup disrupted his
plans until he reemerged as oil minister under a newly
elected government with much more ambitious plans in
mind.  His idea was for oil producing states to
control the international market for their essential
product, and why not.  It’s their oil.  The idea was
simple. Individually, the countries were weak, but
together they had collective strength.

Abdullah Tariki had similar ideas in Saudi Arabia.  He
opposed the oil cartel believing oil producing nations
should control their own destiny and assert their
sovereign rights.  Tariki was highly educated and his
country’s only university trained oil geologist.  He
became minister of oil affairs for the country’s
eastern province that was the location of the cartel’s
Aramco important Ghawar oil field operations.  In that
capacity, he saw how little revenue Saudis retained,
compared to the oil giants, and, as a result, wanted
to change the rules.  How?  By having Arab oil states
unite to assert their collective strength. 

McQuaig noted, Tariki understood the advantage of
making “common cause with Venezuela.” He wanted and
got a secret gentlemen’s agreement between the two
countries in 1958 that “constituted the first seed of
the creation of OPEC” that was later born in Baghdad
in September, 1960 with five original members having
80% of oil exports among them - Saudi Arabia,
Venezuela, Iran, Iraq and Kuwait.

It was a beginning but not as auspicious as conceived
as in March, 1962 Tariki lost his job as Saudi oil
minister.  It was after King Faisal decided to tilt
more toward Washington and adopt more Aramco favorable
oil policies as the way to do it.  Tariki was out, and
the more accommodating Sheikh Zahi Yamani was in.
McQuaig described him as a “charming, urbane,
thirty-two year old lawyer….who loved New York and
Western culture,” and enjoyed lots of it in his new
job.  Alfonzo in Venezuela lost his job as well, and
OPEC would never live up to his vision for it.
However, McQuaig explained “it would soon at least
ensure that its members were admitted to the feast.”

Things then changed dramatically in 1973.  Supplies
were tight, and the notion that oil producing nations
should control their own resources gained prominence
in the Middle East.  Industry nationalizations began
occurring, and in October, 1973 OPEC nations demanded
much higher prices.  They got them at a time of anger
over the West’s support for what became known as the
“Yom Kippur War.” Egypt and Syria fought it against
Israel between October 6 - 26 and almost won, save for
the help from America that turned Israeli defeat into
victory.  People old enough to remember recall the
energy crunch and long gas lines when prices rose from
$3 dollars a barrel in steps to $11.65 and Saudi
Arabia cut off shipments to the US until March, 1974.


Angst and rising prices in America affected politics
in Washington, but the oil companies loved it.
Industry profits rose “beyond anything they’d seen in
the previous thirty years (raising the speculation)
what role the companies” may have had orchestrating
the whole scheme that benefitted them and oil
producing states hugely at the expense of oil
consuming nations.  As borne out later, they played an
important role.  In the face of recession, demand fell
and production was adjusted down to meet it while
keeping prices high. They’re now around $70 a barrel
that in 1973 dollars would only be in the mid-teens
and would have to hit $100 a barrel to match the $38
dollar price in 1980.

McQuaig noted, all in all, “as pressure tactics go,
the (1973 - 74) oil embargo was pretty mild (and long)
gas lines may have been annoying, but nobody died in
them.”  Of greater significance was where the extra
revenue ended up.  It was in “the wrong part of the
world” with it rising from $22 billion in 1973 over
fourfold to $90 billion the following year and far
higher after the huge additional price hikes following
the 1979 Iranian Revolution.  It made oil producing
states rich but got them to recycle much of their
surplus back into Western investments, and in the case
of Saudi Arabia, in particular, into huge dollar
purchases of US weapons as well.

McQuaig then explained OPEC’s reformist zeal waned
after Saudi King Faisal’s 1975 death that had
“far-reaching consequences for both OPEC and the
world.” New Saudi King Fahd tilted toward a “special
relationship” with Washington and became accommodating
on the amount of oil it would produce to please his
powerful ally responsible for his security.  It meant
OPEC’s power as a unified force was gone.

King of the Vandals

In 428 AD, the title belonged to Geiseric the Lame (or
Genseric) who ruled for 50 years and transformed his
Germanic tribe into a major Mediterranean power after
he invaded North Africa to pillage and plunder.  A
more notable predator, Alexander the Great, did it a
century earlier and others like the Ottomans,
Mussolini and Hitler took their turns later on.  Fast
forward to today and you get the picture about a
modern-day plunderer doing the same thing for much
greater stakes than Genseric or Alexander could have
imagined.

For the past three decades, Washington’s attitude
toward the Middle East hardened with some in the
capitol believing America has a birthright to the
region’s oil, and we’ll send in the Marines any time
we choose to claim it.  So we have, but with
consequences partly anticipated in a 1975 US
Congressional Research Service study assessing the
difficulties of occupying the region for its
resources.  McQuaig explained it concluded “seizing
oil installations intact, securing them (possibly for
years), operating them without the owners’ assistance,
and guaranteeing safe passage overseas of supplies and
petroleum products….would be possible only if there
were minimal damage to oil installations and no Soviet
armed intervention” intervened, and no armed
resistance now.

At first, the strategy was to arm and rely on local
powers, like Iran under the Shah and Saudi Arabia, to
serve as proxy forces along with neighboring Turkey
and Israel. Chomsky notes these nations were to be
what Nixon called our “cops on the beat - the local
gendarmes” to keep order in the neighborhood.  We
still have them mainly in Israel and Turkey, but after
the 1979 Iranian Revolution the decision was taken to
assume a more direct role in managing our regional
interests that moved us “a step closer to
establishing…military control over the area.” 

The Carter Doctrine, noted above, threw down the
gauntlet in 1980.  It led to the establishment of the
Rapid Deployment (flexible, quick response) Force
(RFD) that became the US Central Command (CENTCOM) in
1983, focused mainly on the oil rich Middle East.

McQuaig also reviewed the rise of Saddam Hussein in
Iraq.  It began with a violent Baathist party coup in
1963. Saddam took part in it that led to his assuming
power in 1968.  He was a nationalist unwilling to sell
out Iraqi sovereignty to Western interests making him
a target from the start.  The lord and master of the
universe tolerates no outliers, and Saddam was a
considerable one.  He began nationalizing Iraq’s oil
fields in 1972 and finished doing it in 1975.  The oil
cartel saw this as “an unpardonable crime” requiring
action that was delayed by the Iran - Iraq war of the
1980s.  The Reagan administration saw an opportunity
and used Saddam against its greater Iranian enemy
hoping they’d both destroy each other, and we’d step
in and pick up the pieces. 

Once the war ended in 1988, things changed and plans
were drawn for Saddam’s removal that resulted in the
1991 Gulf war, 12 years of hugely destructive economic
sanctions, and the March, 2003 invasion and
occupation. US control of the region’s oil as the goal
was already explained above because it has the mother
lode amount of world supply, and by 2010 Muslim states
will have about 95% of remaining light oil.  Bush
administration belligerency has now raised the stakes.
It increased Muslim anger against the West,
Washington in particular.  If it continues growing,
the longer term odds are that America’s grip on the
region will slip and could end up lost.

It’s hurtling that way today as the prospect of war
with Iran looms that may be a nuclear one.  If it
happens, it may engulf the whole region and entire
Muslim world.  CIA’s assessment of the prospect is
blunt.  If the US attacks Iran, Southern Shia Iraq
will light up like a candle and explode uncontrollably
throughout the country.  It will also affect the Shia
oil rich part of Saudi Arabia producing a tsunami of
Shia rage everywhere that may unite the entire Muslim
world in fierce resistance to America that would have
very dire consequences when it comes to oil and the
interests of Big Oil giants that prefer peaceful
negotiations to open confrontation they fear will make
them big losers in the end.  That’s the state of
things today thanks to a modern day Genseric.  He
lasted 50 years.  Mr. Bush may not finish out his term
in office with growing cries for his head.

Vroooooom

It’s McQuaig’s last word on the subject referring to
Americans insane belief we have a birthright to drive
hugely gas-guzzling “18-wheelers that accelerate like
racing cars” and shove the world out of our way doing
it. She focuses on Bush administration policies in the
wake of the 9/11 attack.  It changed everything but
left the most important issues unaddressed.  There’s
little debate over how centrally important oil is that
government and industry focus on but the major media
ignore.  Controlling world supplies tops the list of
strategic aims starting in the Middle East and
headquartered in the richest of prizes in Iraq.
There’s no chance whatever we’d be there if the
country’s main export was olives instead of oil.  Then
there are nonsensical issues of removing a dangerous
dictator and bringing democracy to the region in the
form of a humanitarian intervention.  Unmentioned is
A


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