Thursday, November 2, 2006
(Click on slide to enlarge)
""If you listen carefully for a Democrat plan for success, they don't have one. Iraq is the central front in the war on terror, yet they don't have a plan ..."
- US President George W Bush, campaigning for Republicans in next week's congressional elections.
So, does the Bush administration have a plan for Iraq, and if so, is it working? The answer to both questions could well be "yes". But it's not a plan that Bush could publicly boast about, despite the fact that it's working like a charm.
This is how things are shaping up in Iraq (see image below), according to US Central Command itself, which keeps a "chaos gauge" to measure Iraq's progress from chaos to peace.
According to the New York Times, the "gauge" was shown as a slide at a classified briefing on October 18. (Click here to see the full slide, titled "Iraq: Indications and Warnings of Civil Conflict".)
Unfortunately for the benighted Iraqis, the gauge is moving steadily in the "wrong" direction: away from peace and into the "red zone" of chaos. So how is it that the Bush plan can be said to be working? Easy, if the plan is ... chaos.
Asia Times Online columnist Spengler has pointed out that chaos is probably the best option for the Bush administration, not only in Iraq but in the region (see How I learned to stop worrying and love chaos, March 14, 2006, and Mistah Kurtz, he clueless, May 11, 2004). And a strategy of fomenting chaos makes perfect sense in a twisted sort of way: a stable, autonomous Iraq means oil will be pumped, bringing down international crude prices, and that's the last thing the Bush administration's backers want.
Who are the administration's backers, and who has a hotline to the presidency, via Vice President Dick Cheney? Big Oil. Consider these well-known facts:
Cheney was formerly chief executive officer of oil-services company Halliburton, which, incidentally, was found by a 2003 Pentagon audit to have overcharged the US government by US$61 million for delivering gasoline to Iraq.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sat on Chevron's board of directors from 1991 to 2001, and Chevron named an oil tanker after her.
James A Baker III, secretary of state for Bush's father and now "fixer" for the Bush family, has been appointed co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, charged with advising Bush Jr on future Iraq policy. His law firm, Baker Botts, was ranked by Who's Who Legal last year as "Global Oil and Gas Law Firm of the Year". His clients include the royal family of Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries kingpin Saudi Arabia.
Bush himself was a Texas oilman, though not a very successful one. Ever heard of Bush's company, Arbusto? Probably not. Arbusto was going busto before it eventually ended up in the hands of Harken Energy in 1986. Harken gave Bush a seat on the board, some stock options and a $120,000 consulting contract. The energy industry pumped $2.8 million into Bush's 2000 campaign.
Consider too that oil-industry behemoth ExxonMobil this week announced third-quarter earnings of $10.49 billion, largely on the backs of US consumers paying high prices for oil. This is the second-biggest quarterly profit ever recorded by a publicly traded US company.
Better not brag about your plan before the elections, Mr President."