March 14, 2003

Oil War:

The Smoking Guns


While chants of "No War for Oil" mark an increasingly dissenting and
skeptical public, the Bush administration has continued bulldozing
its way towards a crushing Iraq rendezvous. As you read this war may
already have begun. But startling in its candor, a US Department of
Defense document has just been discovered, a top-level document
specifically discussing war for oil. This is the first official
document found explicitly confirming as policy the US Defense
Department's readiness to wage oil war.

According to the report--Strategic Assessment 1999--prepared for the
US Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense (and only
recently unearthed by this journalist), "energy and resource issues
will continue to shape international security". Explicitly envisioned
were potential oil "conflicts over production facilities and
transportation routes", particularly in the Persian Gulf and Caspian

Paradoxically, Strategic Assessment 1999 forecast it was "most
likely" that America would not need to "employ military forces" to
obtain energy. But the Assessment nevertheless ranks as
extraordinary, doing so because it positively documents an official
willingness to wage oil war, a willingness at the very highest levels
of the US defense community.

While the document was prepared under Clinton, it suggests he was
willing to wage war only to protect what he perceived as the existing
interests of America's economy. In contrast, war critics have
repeatedly charged that Bush is seeking to conquer new interests, not
defend old one's. Clinton may have opened the door, but Bush marched
through it.

In what many will see as a disturbing parallel to present events, the
Report also drew attention to pre-WWII Britain's pursuit of an
approach where "control over territory was seen as essential to
ensuring resource supplies". However, the defense policymakers
authoring Strategic Assessment also appear cognizant of the potential
consequences of such policies. The authors warned that if the great
powers should return to "the 19th century approach" of securing
resources, of conquering resource suppliers, "the world economy would
suffer and world politics would become more tense".

Although at the time of its writing, Strategic Assessment 1999
predicted adequate US energy supplies, it also found that supply
shortages "could exacerbate underlying political differences and
serve as a catalyst for regional conflicts", illustrating oil war's
potential trigger. And the Bush administration has repeatedly stated
that America is facing what has been termed an "energy crisis".

Highlighting the Assessment's importance, it was prepared by the
Institute for National Strategic Studies, part of the US Department
of Defense's National Defense University. The Institute is located at
Fort McNair in Washington, DC, and lists its primary mission as
policy "research and analysis" for the Joint Chiefs, the Defense
Secretary, and other key US Governmental security and defense bodies.
But this DOD "smoking gun" is linked to another.

In 2001 US VP Dick Cheney headed the Bush administration's National
Energy Policy Development Group, an energy task force working to
devise a National Energy Policy to address America's looming
shortages. In line with the defense policy outlined in Strategic
Assessment, it had been urged that Cheney's task force include DOD
participation. And so it will surprise few that the Bush
administration has been going to extraordinary lengths to conceal
both who attended the Cheney energy task force's meetings and what
those meetings were about.

Commenting upon the nature of this concealment, Congressman Henry
Waxman (D-CA), the ranking member of the Committee on Government
Reform, said "The White House should simply try telling the truth on
the Task Force's activities and stop hiding information that Congress
and the public have a right to see." The Administration's
stonewalling also spawned a lawsuit by the General Accounting Office
(GAO), the investigative arm of Congress.

The Cheney Task force confrontation resulted in the GAO pursuing the
first lawsuit in its 81 year history, though, that suit was dismissed
this December by Judge John Bates, a recent Bush appointee. Bates'
decision found that the GAO had "no standing" to sue Cheney or any
other executive branch official for information.

In a sharp reflection upon that decision, John Dean (the former
Republican Presidential Counsel) wrote, "the present situation is
absurd". Dean charged that Bates' ruling means an ordinary US citizen
has more power to compel the release of government information than
the investigative arm of America's Congress.

Cutting to what many perceive as the ruling's true basis, Congressman
John Dingle (D-MI), ranking member of the Committee on Energy and
Commerce, charged "Vice President Cheney's cover-up will apparently
continue for the foreseeable future". And summarizing the key
question, the former US Vice-Presidential candidate, Sen. Joseph
Lieberman, asked, "What are they hiding?".

While most speculation regarding the Cheney task force has centered
around its relationship to the energy industry, the military
implications of task force deliberations--military action to secure
oil and gas supplies--has yet to be addressed. And notably, according
to a February headline in The Hill--the largest of Capitol Hill's
political newsletters and among the most respected--"GOP threats
halted Cheney suit", with The Hill reporting that Republicans had
threatened to cut the GAO's budget should an appeal of Judge Bates'
ruling be pursued.

Ritt Goldstein can be reached at: [log in to unmask]