It's About the Oil: Congresswoman Kaptur Speaks Out
Editor's Note: Congresswoman Kaptur's remarks and those of many others speaking out in opposition to war on Iraq can be listened to a Democracynow.org.
Washington, DC -- Mr. Speaker, 3 weeks before election seems to be an odd time to be authorizing war. It is especially odd when President Bush himself said at the United Nations that Iraq represents a "grave and gathering threat," not an imminent threat. For a month, this debate has frozen off the front pages Social Security, prescription drugs, rising unemployment, growing deficits, robbery of pension accounts, corporate abuses and the inaction of this Congress itself.
The generals have not weighed in either. Retired General Norman Schwartzkopf, who headed the Persian Gulf War campaign, called on President Bush "not to go it alone." Retired General Wesley Clark, who headed up the Balkans campaign, called on President Bush "not to go it alone." Former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft said an attack on Iraq without addressing the problems of the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict "could turn the whole region into a cauldron and thus destroy the war on terrorism."
In Cincinnati, President Bush said Iraq is seeking nuclear capability. He did not say Iraq had such a capability. And never has Saddam Hussein risked his regime's annihilation, which would be a certainty if he exhibits any adventurism.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported yesterday (Tuesday) that a Central Intelligence Agency report, which was released last Friday, concluded that it could take Iraq until the last half of this decade to produce a nuclear weapon, unless it could acquire bomb grade uranium or plutonium on the black market.
Intelligence sources confirm chemical capabilities have been substantially reduced as a result of inspectors and Iraq's armed forces are 40% of their strength prior to the Gulf War.
The President claimed Iraq had acquired smooth aluminum tubes for its secret nuclear weapons program. But analysts at the Energy and State Departments concluded that the Iraqis probably wanted the tubes to make conventional artillery pieces. On chemical and biological weapons, all the evidence indicates the inspection regime of the 1980s worked and that civilized nations are effective in dismantling rogue states' arsenals when they join in common cause.
Last weekend, Israel's chief of military intelligence, speaking on television, disputed contentions that Iraq is 18 months away from nuclear capability. He concluded Iraq's time frame was more like four years, and he said Iran's nuclear threat was as great as Iraq's. I daresay Israel's chief of military intelligence is not the type of person who would engage in self-delusion.
Yet, Congress, on behalf of the American people, must decide: whether U.S. military incursion now into Iraq will make our country more secure, whether it will make that region more stable.
On both counts, my conclusion is "No."
It won't make America safer because unilaterial military action, without broad international support, will isolate America further. It will thrust us into the position of becoming a "common enemy" in a volatile region where anti-Western terrorism grows with each passing year.
It won't make the region more stable, either. The Bush approach will yield more terrorism and instability, not less. We should insist on rigorous inspections in concert with our allies and enforce all U.N. resolutions relating to the Middle East. Indeed, if the politics of the oil regimes and lethal force had been successful over the past 25 years, America's citizens would not be the victims of escalating terrorist violence at home and abroad. Since 1975, more American diplomats and military personnel have been killed or taken hostage abroad as a result of Middle Eastern tumult than in the first 187 years of our nation's history. And it worsens with each decade. After 9/11, 3025 additional names of civilians here at home were added to that growing list.
In 1980, Jimmy Carter lost his bid for re-election because economic conditions at home so deteriorated. Carter had dubbed Arab oil price manipulation as the "moral equivalent of war." He had launched a major effort to restore America's energy independence.
Ronald Reagan and George Bush were elected in a campaign that highlighted the "misery index," the combination of unemployment and interest rates exploding over 20 percent.
By the 1980's, OPEC's cartel had realized that it lost revenue when America caught economic pneumonia. So OPEC learned something it practices to this very day: how to dance a clever pirouette of price manipulation rather than outright price gouging.
Meanwhile, America, rather than becoming energy independent at home, sinks deeper into foreign oil dependence -- from the undemocratic regimes of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq to also include the state-owned monopolies of Nigeria and Venezuela and Mexico. While our military enforces the no-fly zone over Iraq, we import 8% of our oil from her.
America has become more and more an economic hostage to the oil regimes, with our future intertwined with the politics that Islamic fundamentalism breeds in the Muslim world.
America's ill-fraught alliances with unpopular Middle East regimes was vividly revealed in 1979 when Iran, though not an oil state, fell despite the fact the U.S. and our CIA had supported its Shah and his secret police, purportedly to assure regional stability. It produced exactly the opposite -- a revolution.
Recall 1983, in the thick of Lebanon's civil war, when suicide bombers attacked the U.S. Marine compound in Beirut, killing 241 Americans. They were caught in the crossfire of that civil war. From that point forward, U.S. casualties escalated every year, as more and more U.S. citizens were killed abroad and at home. If you travel to Lebanon today, our U.S. embassy is built like a bunker, underground. This is happening to U.S. facilities around the world.
Here is our nation's capital -- barricades, concrete barriers, truck-bomb checks have become commonplace. A citizen can no longer drive down Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House. It is blocked off. We now have red, orange, yellow warning lights across the land. It is harder for our people to access their institutions of government. Block by block, our freedom is being circumscribed. In 1993, at the World Trade Center, six people died and one thousand were injured here at home in a bombing masterminded by a Pakistani trained in Afghanistan. In 1996, a truck bomb killed 19 Americans in Saudi Arabia at Khobar Towers, a residence for American military personnel. Last week a Green Beret was killed in Manila by a terrorist bomb, and yesterday in Kuwait two U.S. military personnel were fired upon -- one died. Dozens of such tragedies now happen each year, and the body count mounts.
Al Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden, a Saudi national, is but the latest face of international terrorism. Al Qaeda's goal is expulsion of Western influence in the Gulf and the creation of a religious, unified Islamic caliphate. But Al Qaeda and Osama are not Iraqi.
Mohammed Atta grew up in the undemocratic oil regimes of Saudi Arabia where 17 of 19 hijackers originated. They believed in the religious fundamentalism of the Wahhabi sect, but not its economic imperative that holds power through billions earned from vast oil reserves. Despite oil wealth, the king has become less and less able to control the disgruntled in that society, who resent the secular nature of the religious kingdom.
By contrast, the goal of Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party has been control of the vast oil deposits in Iraq and access to waterborne shipping in the Persian Gulf. Hussein has been a fairly predictable foe. In 1990, he conventionally invaded Kuwait. The raw truth is he received his early encouragement and support from the first Reagan-Bush Administration, in the early 1980s. That administration engaged Saddam Hussein and provided him with resources, and credits to depose Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, who had just deposed the CIA-supported Shah in 1979. Through his U.S. contacts, Hussein assumed Iraq's quid pro quo would be access to the Persian Gulf on Bubiyan Island. Kuwait, however, never agreed.
When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the dispute not only involved Iraq's belief that Kuwait was part of its historic territory. Iraq also surmised that Kuwait was asking too low a price for oil sold to the West. Yes, America went to war to defend Kuwait's border. But essentially the struggle involved who within OPEC would control that oil. Subsequent to the Persian Gulf War, America began stationing more and more troops in Saudi Arabia, ostensibly to guard the oil flow out of the Persian Gulf. Is defending oil reserves worthy of one more life?
Of course, these forces also conveniently offered some threat to unwelcome enemies of the Saudi regime, at home and abroad. Anti-western resentment in the region continues to rise. In 2000, our destroyer USS Cole was suicide bombed in Yemen harbor guarding the oil flows. Thirteen U.S. service members were killed and 39 wounded.
Over the last quarter century, it is interesting to reflect upon the intimate connection between the George Bush family, oil, and the shaping of foreign policy towards the Middle East. During the 1950s and 1960s, George Herbert Walker Bush, an oilman from Midland, Texas sought international exploration and investments as Texas oil wells were depleted prior to seeking office. In the 1960s and early 1970s, George Herbert Walker Bush served in the U.S. House, Senate, U.S. Ambassador to China, and was appointed head of the CIA in 1976 and served until March 1977.
Simultaneous with George Herbert Walker Bush's service in the CIA, Syria sent troops to Lebanon to stem the civil war, the Iranian Revolution gained steam, and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat traveled to Jerusalem and became the first Arab leader to recognize Israel.
George Herbert Walker Bush served as Vice President from 1981 to 1989 and as President from 1989 until 1993. During this period, the U.S. was drawn more directly into a central role in Middle East security.
In 1990, with the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, President George Herbert Walker Bush fashioned a U.S.-led coalition of nations to push Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. More than 400,000 U.S. troops were involved in that war. One hundred forty Americans died in that war, thousands have sustained war injuries and tens of thousands of Iraqis died.
With each succeeding decade, wars involving terrorism and America escalated. Now George Bush's son is serving as President and a second war resolution is being contemplated. It is fair to say that the Bush view of the Middle East literally has dominated U.S. policy for 75 percent of the past two decades.
9/11 was but the latest chapter in the expanding violence.
It is also important to inquire as to what private oil interests in the Middle East are held, or were held, by key officials in the current Bush Administration and how that might influence their views of U.S. "vital interests."
In the past, according to the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf Studies Project (supported by the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences). George W. Bush sat on the board of Harken Oil of Grand Prairie, Texas, as a private citizen, and held major oil company involvement in Bahrain both professionally and personally.
Halliburton, the firm that hired Vice-President Dick Cheney as its CEO subsequent to the Persian Gulf War, had previously operated in Iraq. During the early 1980's, Vice-President Chaney served as U.S. Secretary of Defense and Donald Rumsfeld as one of his Assistant Secretaries of Defense.
Newspaper reports now indicate that during that same period, biological and chemical germ samples were transferred to Iraq from the government of the United States through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to several Iraqi sites that U.N. weapons inspectors determined were part of Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program. Indeed, the U.S. government provided agricultural credits to Iraq to finance these transactions and the purchase of large amounts of fertilizer and chemicals to be used in Iraq's protracted war with Iran.
Congressional records and CDC documents for that period show Iraq ordered the samples, and claimed them for legitimate medical research. The CDC and a biological sample company called the American Type Culture Collection sent strains of several germs. The transfers were made in the 1980's.
Included among these strains: anthrax, the bacteria that make botulinum toxin, and the germs that cause gas gangrene. Iraq also got samples of other deadly pathogens, including the West Nile virus. Senator Robert Byrd has questioned Secretary Rumsfeld, as President Reagan's envoy to the Middle East at that time, inquiring about how contacts were made with Iraq to transfer chemical and biological agents from the U.S. to Iraq as its launched its attacks on Iran.
Meanwhile, America, rather than becoming energy independent at home, sinks deeper into foreign oil dependence, from the undemocratic regimes of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq, to also include the state-owned monopolies of Nigeria and Venezuela and Mexico. While our military enforces the no-fly zones over Iraq, we import 8 percent of our oil from her. America has become more and more hostage to the oil regimes, with our future intertwined with the politics that Islamic fundamentalism breeds in the Muslim world.
Al Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden, a Saudi national, is but the latest face of international terrorism. Al Qaeda's goal is expulsion of western influence in the Gulf and the creation of a religious, unified Islamic caliphate.
Mohammed Atta grew up in the undemocratic oil regimes of Saudi Arabia where 17 of the 19 hijackers originated.
By contrast, the goal of Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party has been control of the vast oil deposits in Iraq and access to waterborne shipping in the Persian Gulf. Hussein has been a fairly predictable foe. In the 1990s, he conventionally invaded Kuwait; and the raw truth is he never got what he expected, which was access through Kuwait to the Gulf.
When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the dispute not only involved Iraq's belief that Kuwait was part of its historic territory, but essentially the struggle involved who within OPEC would control that oil. Is defending oil reserves worthy of one more American life?
Before launching another war, Congress must vote to place our priorities where they belong, security here at home and a valued partner in the global community of nations.
Please vote for the Spratt-Skelton resolution and no on the Hastert-Gephardt resolution.
Three weeks before election seems an odd time to be authorizing war.
It is especially odd when President Bush himself said at the United Nations that Iraq represents a "grave and gathering threat," not an "imminent threat." For a month, this debate has frozen off the front pages Social Security, prescription drugs, rising unemployment, growing deficits, robbery of pension accounts, corporate abuses and the inaction of this Congress.
Before launching another war, this one unilaterally, Congress must vote to place U.S. priorities where they belong -- security here at home and a valued partner in the global community of nations.
Three policy prescriptions deserve greater weight:
First, inspection now, rigorous and full, in legion with the world community.
Second, America must restore energy independence here at home. If we could land a man on the moon in 10 years, surely we can gather ourselves to master this scientific imperative. No longer should oil become a proxy for America's foreign policy. Our economic relations should not reward dictatorships.
Third, the U.S. must regain momentum to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. President Bush should dispatch former U.S. Senators George Mitchell and Warren Rudman to the Middle East as ambassadors without portfolio to exercise their considerable talents.
In closing, let me re-emphasize:
What is the "imminent threat" to the United States that justifies going to war now?
Where is the hard evidence of the new threat?
With unilateral action, how will the United States avoid being viewed in the Islamic world as a "common enemy?"
What specific threat justifies abandoning 50 years of strategic policy in favor of a unilateral policy of pre-emption?
Who would succeed Saddam Hussein in power in Iraq? How would a partitioned Iraq be a stabilizing force?
Does the United States want to engage in nation building in Afghanistan and Iraq simultaneously?
Who will pay for this nation building?
When will the United States wean itself from its dangerous dependence on foreign oil, which takes money from our people and distorts our foreign policy?
Why should the U.S. military be asked to serve as an occupying force in Afghanistan and Iraq?
What makes Iraq's threat to the United States so much more serious today that it was four months ago or even two years ago?
In closing, let not America be perceived as the "bully on the block" in the most oil-rich region of the world, where not one democratic state exists. Vote for security. Vote for stability. Vote for energy independence. Vote for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Vote for Spratt-Skelton. Vote "no" on the Hastert-Gephardt resolution.
Last weekend, Israel's Chief of Military Intelligence, speaking on television, disputed contentions that Iraq is 18 months away from nuclear capability. He concluded Iraq's time frame was more like 4 years, and he said Iran's nuclear threat was as great as Iraq's.
Yes, Congress, on behalf of the American people must decide whether the United States incursion now into Iraq will make our country more secure and whether it will make that region more stable. On both counts, my conclusion is no.
It will not make America safer, because unilateral military action without broad international support will isolate America further. It will thrust us into the position of becoming a common enemy in a volatile region where anti-western terrorism grows with each passing year.
It will not make the region more stable either. The Bush approach will yield more terrorism and instability, not less.
We should insist on rigorous inspections in concert with our allies and enforce all U.N. resolutions relating to the Middle East.
Indeed, if the politics of the oil regimes and lethal force had been successful over the past 25 years, America's citizens would not be the victims of escalating terrorist violence at home and abroad.
Since 1975, more American diplomats and military personnel have been killed or taken hostage as a result of Middle Eastern tumult than in the first 187 years of our Nation's history, and it worsens with each decade. After 9/1l, 13,025 additional names of civilians here at home were added to that growing list.
Look more deeply at the roots of the rising levels of hatred and terrorism toward our people. Even if Iraq were able to serve as an instrument of global terrorism, the causes of that terrorism will not disappear with the demise of Saddam Hussein. The enemy has many fresh faces. They spring daily from the growing resentment of western influence over an Islamic world that is awakening to its own political destiny. America must not wed itself to the past but to the rising aspirations of subjugated people; and we must do it in concert with our friends, both inside the Arab world and outside it.
What propels the violence? A deep and powerful undercurrent moving people to violence in that region. It is the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The other major destabilizing force is America's utter and dangerous dependence on imported oil, whose purchases undergird repressive regimes. We must address both.
Think about it. Modern terrorism dawned in our homeland in June, 1968, with the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. The unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict lay at the basis of that tragic loss. His disgruntled assassin, a Jordanian Arab, revealed in his diary that loss of his homeland in East Jerusalem lay at the root of his discontent. Sirhan Sirhan is one such face.
The intifada now proceeding in the West Bank and Gaza proves the lingering tragedy of the Holy Land resists peaceful resolution until today, and its irresolution instructs the street and produces sacred rage.
Now, let us look at oil, the one word the President left out of his address in Cincinnati. As the 1970s proceeded, America's economic security became to be shaped more and more by events abroad. Thrust into two deep recessions due to the Arab oil embargoes as petroleum prices shot through the roof, our economy faltered. And the current recession, too, has been triggered by rising oil prices.
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