Five Cent Problem, Three Dollar Solution

Random Lengths News | August 18, 2005
Cindy Sheehan waits outside of President Bush’s Crawford Texas ranch, holding a vigil to ask the question that more than half of this nation wants the answer to. Tonight thousands more will join her across the country to light a candle in solidarity with Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, they will ask the question as well. It is the question many more American voters wished that John Kerry asked last November, but never received satisfaction. It is the question haunting the urban landscapes and now the countrysides of this land-of-the-free and home-of-the-brave, but there is no one at liberty with the courage to respond adequately. Just why are our soldiers dying in the deserts of Iraq? What are they fighting for?

Is the answer to win the War on Terrorism, or is it to eliminate weapons of mass destruction? Or is it to give Iraqis democracy? Each has been used as a premise for war. The first two exposed as convenient excuses, while the last one is still deemed noble. What is more telling in this chase for the truth is two-fold. First is the book on top of Bush’s vacation reading list, “Salt: A World History” by Mark Kurlansky, which gives a thorough accounting of the one commodity that created more conflict over its control and distribution in the history of mankind. The second was a small item that ran in the LA Times a few weeks ago about how gasoline is still subsidized in Iraq to the effect that a litre of petrol costs only five cents!

This last item only seems to have made the news because there has been some considerable smuggling of gas across the boarder from Iraq to Kuwait where the price is seventy-nine cents. Now it is in the long-standing (American) tradition of war profiteering to take advantage of just such circumstances and this would probably never even raise an eyebrow except for the fact that Haliburton has a contract with our government to supply fuel to our forces in Iraq at a much higher price. This of course is only complicated by the news that the price of crude oil has reached an all time high of $65 per barrel. Translating this into good ol’ American dollars means three dollars per gallon at the pump or a few cents below it if you are lucky.

But luck does not seem to be with the American people, for not only are we paying for the “liberation” of Iraq and its occupation, we are also paying for its “democratization.” We are paying for it in both billions of dollars–which could be spent building hospitals and schools at home–and in the blood of our soldiers– a commodity not listed on the stock exchange. This is Sheehan’s point and it does have resonance in the heartland. It has a grating echo every time we pull up to the pump–blood for oil.

Just how many lives will you spend, Mr. Bush, to exert American influence over the world oil market? And just how much profit are the oil companies making at our expense? And shouldn’t it be they, spending their capital to subsidize their war?

What is lost in all of this clamor on the War on Terrorism, what is lost on the media pundits, the politicians, rightwing mouth pieces and administration plutocrats and that idiot cartoonist at the LA Times– Michael Ramierz– is that the real Jihad is not so much a war against America or our liberal values (the ones Bush is trying so hard to destroy) but it is a battle within the religion of Islam between fundamentalism and reformation of that faith. This perspective is completely lost on us Americans because of the lack of true critical analysis coming from our government and the ignorance of the US media on foreign affairs reporting.

America, too is mirrored in this same kind of internal conflict between fundamentalists Christians and those who believe in the non-sectarian creed, which separates church from state, which casts significant doubt on the true nature of Bush’s “war on terrorism.” Is it predicated more on a conflict between fundamentalists–Islamic versus Christian, between fundamentalists and religious pluralists, or between Western control of oil versus Iraqi national interests?

There are more questions than there are answers being given at this point, but the noble cause of spreading democracy is not the answer—especially since we’re doing everything we can to undermine democracy elsewhere. For if the Iraqis truly desired it, they would steal it from us, or better yet smuggle it in like so many liters of black market gasoline. No one has ever been made free by having it forced upon them, yet when the truth is finally out on this one the last remaining question will be – how do we leave this morass without getting shot in the back?

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Founded in 1979 as a counterbalance to the conservative, corporate- owned daily paper, Random Lengths News draws on the rich history of the Los Angeles Harbor Area. The name harkens back to a description of the lumber that used to...
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