A Gusher of Propaganda

Slick Talk About How the War's Not About Oil

The administration's propaganda machine is grasping at implausible theories to gain support for war in Iraq.

The latest invention of Bushspeak is the so-called reverse domino theory, which allows the president to reach well beyond the goal of disarming Iraq toward transforming the entire region. As Bush put it in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute last week, "A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region." Almost as an afterthought, the administration suggests that a reverse domino effect could lead to the creation of a Palestinian state.

Richard Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board and apparently a principal architect of Bush foreign policy on the region, explained to Arab journalists in London last week that transformation of Iraq could lead to regime change in Iran, Syria, and Libya. "Change is needed in all those three countries and a few others besides," he said.

This doesn't necessarily mean armed intervention. "I think Iran can be changed by the action of the Iranian people," Perle said. "I believe that Syria, too, can organize change from within." As for Libya, "it is a weird case," Perle said. "For the time being it is out of world reality. But the colonel knows that we have our eyes on him." One controversial briefing paper prepared for Perle's Pentagon advisory board advocated seizing Saudi oil fields in retaliation for that nation's alleged support for terrorism. Among other things, this paper proposed that a "Grand Strategy for the Middle East" should concentrate on "Iraq as the tactical pivot, Saudi Arabia as the strategic pivot, and Egypt as the prize."

As always, the purpose of propaganda is to distract the public from the facts, which means denying that oil has anything to do with our intentions in Iraq. The administration has hammered away at this, with designated dove Colin Powell declaiming, "The oil of Iraq belongs to the people of Iraq." Paul Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld's undersecretary of defense, said on Fox News on February 25, "This is not a war about oil. This is going to—if we have to use force, it's going to be to liberate Iraq, not to occupy Iraq. The oil resources belong to the Iraqi people." Rumsfeld himself is quoted as saying, "An Iraq war has absolutely nothing to do with oil." And on Meet the Press on February 23, Perle, in a retort to presidential aspirant Dennis Kucinich, said, "Allow me to say: I find the accusation that this administration has embarked upon this policy for oil to be an outrageous, scurrilous charge for which, when you asked for the evidence, you will note there was none. There was simply the suggestion that, because there is oil in the ground and some administration officials have had connections with the oil industry in the past, therefore it is the policy of the United States to take control of Iraqi oil. It is a lie, congressman. It's an out-and-out lie."

Four years ago Perle was singing a different tune. On January 26, 1998, Perle, Wolfowitz, and Rumsfeld, along with several others, signed a letter to President Clinton that said, "It hardly needs to be added that if Saddam does acquire the capability to deliver weapons of mass destruction, as he is almost certain to do if we continue along the present course, the safety of American troops in the region, of our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world's supply of oil will all be put at hazard."

Additional reporting: Phoebe St John and Rebecca Winsor

 
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