Friday, June 06, 2003

Paul Wolfowitz seems to have a problem with logorrhea, and has been making the news lately with his ill-considered opinions on Turkey (where he wanted the Turkish military to take a "leadership role" in subverting Turkish democracy to force Turkey to conform to American wishes, the irony being that this was supposed to be in aid of establishing democracy in Iraq) and France (with his petulant and unnecessary comments that France should "pay some consequences" for failing to support the U. S. on Iraq). He has recently opened his huge trap again on the subject of Iraq:

  1. Replying to a question referring to the apparent difference in treatment of North Korea and Iraq by the Bush Administration, Wolfowitz said:

    "Look, the primarily difference - to put it a little too simply - between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil. In the case of North Korea, the country is teetering on the edge of economic collapse and that I believe is a major point of leverage whereas the military picture with North Korea is very different from that with Iraq. The problems in both cases have some similarities but the solutions have got to be tailored to the circumstances which are very different."

    Unfortunately, the Guardian leapt on this or a bad translation of it to publish an article claiming that Wolfowitz had admitted that the attack on Iraq was actually about oil. Since this took Wolfowitz's remarks out of context, they had to publish a retraction. But does what Wolfowitz actually said make any sense, even if taken in its proper context? He said: " . . . we had virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil." What does that mean? Iraq was under such a heavy regime of sanctions, the severity of which was largely controlled by decisions about enforcement that were effectively made by the British and Americans, that it was an economic basket case (this outstanding article describes how the British and Americans used interpretations of the sanctions to severely hurt the civilian population of Iraq). Iraqi Brig. Gen. Alaa Saeed, one of Saddam's most senior weapons scientists, claims that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass destruction because the sanctions stopped Saddam from importing the raw materials, equipment and spare parts needed to make them. The 'sea of oil', subject to development contracts or understandings with many countries, was completely useless as long as the sanctions were operating. Control of the sanctions gave the United States 90% economic control of the Iraqi economy (the 10% is the cheating Saddam was able to carry out with the assistance of, amongst others, erstwhile American ally Turkey), while the Americans have almost no economic options with North Korea (except to withhold some food aid, which has not helped matters). Wolfowitz's argument that the attack on Iraq wasn't about oil because the Americans lacked the ability to control Iraq using economic pressure is complete nonsense. While the poverty of his argument doesn't prove that the attack was about oil, it makes one wonder why he couldn't come up with a better, or even a coherent, argument.

  2. Wolfowitz, during a press conference in Japan in response to a Japanese reporter raising the question of whether the attack on Iraq was mainly about oil, said:

    "The notion that the war was ever about oil is a complete piece of nonsense. If the United States had been interested in Iraq's oil, it would have been very simple 12 years ago or any time in the last 12 years to simply do a deal with Saddam Hussein. We probably could have had any kind of preferred customer status we wanted if we'd been simply willing to drop our real concerns. Our real concerns focused on the threat posed by that country - not only its weapons of mass destruction, but also its support for terrorism and, most importantly, the link between those two things."

    Needless to say, Wolfowitz's explanation is a complete piece of nonsense. The United States had absolutely no chance of being able to do a deal with Saddam after the Gulf War, and all the oil development contracts or understandings that Iraq had were with countries like Russia, France, Italy and China. Of course, if the United States and Britain had agreed to the lifting of the sanctions, Iraqi oil production development could have proceeded normally, and the Americans could have bought the oil on the open market. But Bush's crony capitalist friends wouldn't have had a taste of the huge profits to be made. Wolfowitz's nonsensical rebuttal just emphasizes the fact that the attack on Iraq wasn't about oil itself - it was about the ability of Bush's friends to have a near monopoly position on the development of the Iraqi oil fields, something that would never have happened had the oil fields not been stolen by the Americans.

Feith has also opened his humongous pie hole, and I'll have to write about that later.