Why the USA Wages War in the Gulf Region
By Robert H. Countess, Ph.D.
Stephen Pelletiere, Iraq and the International Oil System. Why American Went to War in the Gulf, Praeger, Westport, CN, 2001, 241 pp. hardcover, $72.95
Stephen Pelletiere is Professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, PA, and is a specialist in Middle East politics, having worked also for the U.S. CIA some fifteen years prior. He took the Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley. In December 2001, I saw him on the Fox News "O’Reilly Factor" TV show and immediately observed that his interpretation was quite at variance from popular media and U.S. government spin on Iraq and its President Saddam Hussein. On May 11, 2002, I visited him in his home and discussed briefly his views, then obtained the present book.
The Pelletiere Thesis
In spite of a quite tedious--but necessary--series of five chapters that the reader must work through, Professor Pelletiere finally arrives at Chapter Six, "Iran-Contra and Iraq; The Media Campaign that Took America to War."
His thesis is that U.S. Middle East policy fixes itself on Saudi Arabia as the chief supplier of oil and that the U.S. promotes, therefore, a "Dual Containment" strategy to restrict Iran and Iraq from replacing Saudi Arabia. Both Iran and Iraq have sufficient oil reserves to challenge Saudi leadership. U.S. policy sees such a successful challenge to be destabilizing in the region and thus works to support Saudi Arabia and its royal family, in spite of the Saudi type of social and political totalitarian control of its relatively small population (about 17 million).
The obvious Saudi non-promotion of "democratic principles" does not appear to concern American presidents, Congress, academia, or media, whereas often one hears that Iran and Iraq are repressive regimes--with "regime" as a clear negative and, as such, not applied to the Saudi king and his thousands of family sub-rulers and government administrators.
The United States, Pelletiere writes on page 223, refuses
"to confess to the public that it is acting for purely economic motives--Iraq and Iran must be held down if the oil price is to remain low. […] As a consequence, Washington is forced to keep up this monumental deception--that the present status, which it is expending enormous resources to perpetuate, is actually movement toward a better condition for all the peoples of the region, including--and especially--those who are being most oppressed by America’s policy, the Iraqis and Iranians."
Then he adds that American policy is to repress not only Iran and Iraq--high product consumption countries, whereas Saudi Arabia is a low product consumption country due to its small population--but also to repress Algeria, Venezuela, Indonesia, and Nigeria--all being high product consumption countries.
The Pelletiere thesis is one of analyzing systems, and he concludes with this vital observation:
"The international oil system started out as a setup to control a commodity, oil. Over the years and most recently under the direction of the United States, that has metamorphosed into a form of people control. […] Americans evidently think that they can make Dual Containment work over time. The author [Pelletiere] doesn’t believe it for a minute." (p. 224)
A final page focuses on "The African Pipeline Scheme" and describes briefly the 2001 American support for "a $3.7 billion oil pipeline to run from the Kingdom of Chad to the Cameroons in Africa."
This Clinton supported scheme would enable the World Bank to finance a 659 mile pipeline from the landlocked central African Chad and allow Exxon-Mobil and Chevron to develop these fields and guarantee these producers a cheap but dependable means of bringing oil out to the western shore of Africa to waiting tankers.
"Washington wants to escrow the profits from the oil development that would accrue to the African regimes, stipulating how the money could be spent, supposedly just on worthwhile projects. […] But a government that does not have control over revenue derived from its chief natural resource is a protectorate!" (p. 224)
"what better way for Washington to get its way than this--shift the center of gravity of the oil industry yet one more time, away from the troublesome Persian Gulf to presumably stable Central Africa?"
Since the governments of Central Africa are about as developed as Middle Easteners during the 1930s--when the last major oil center of gravity shift occurred--the Central Africa governments ought to be easy to manipulate, and this possible shift deserves careful scrutiny by outside observers.
No Simplistic Conspiracy Theory.
Pelletiere does not offer simplistic views of a worldwide conspiracy by "Big Oil" or Israel, but he does offer data that demonstrate an Israeli eagerness to support the repression of Iran and Iraq.
For example, after the conclusion of the Iran-Iraq war that drained both countries of billions of dollars needed for internal development, Iraq President Saddam Hussein sought to reschedule payments on money borrowed to finance the war--a war that the Kuwaitis refused to fight with him against a common Iranian enemy, but a war whose loss could have had drastic negative consequences for Kuwait. He writes:
"The scare headlines [in U.S. media], the critical op-ed pieces, the television pundits castigating Iraq’s alleged irresponsibility--all this had the effect of intimidating the banks; in other words, no rescheduling. At this point Saddam, who was under tremendous pressure throughout this whole period, began to show signs of real paranoia." (p. 215)
This paranoia must be placed in the context of Israel’s announcement that it would launch a spy satellite that would enable Israel to acquire important, timely intelligence data, with Israeli officials hinting that "Israel would go after Iraq’s weapons plants. In other words, a repeat of Osirik." Saddam announced that if Israel were to attack Iraq again, he would incinerate half of Israel (p. 229, note 79).
Pelletiere emphasizes that Saddam was perhaps justifiably paranoid after all, since the Reagan administration had agreed to a nine-point program which included that the Iraqi President needed to be overthrown (p. 215). And in response to the American insistence that Saddam was himself responsible for enormous mortality to his own people after the Gulf War, Pelletiere writes:
"The claim of America’s leaders that this is Saddam’s fault is obscene." (p. 223)
President Clinton’s Secretary of State, the Jewess Madeleine Albright, had answered a question about Iraqi mortality during the U.S. imposed embargo with the declaration that 500,000 infant deaths were a statistic that Americans were willing to accept (p. 231, note 103).
The Homicidal Gassing Story
Of particular interest were the Professor’s analysis of the claim by the U.S. government that Saddam Hussein had used poison gas "on his own people." I made a point in my personal visit to ask about this and he said that at the War College in the early 1990s, a special conference was held to study this claim. Various specialists and some Iraqis were present. The conclusion was that Iraq had indeed used mustard gas on the mass waves of Iranian soldiers and with limited success. On the other hand, the claim of wholesale gassing of Iraqis and Kurds was without substance. The conclusion was that Iraq would not resort to poison gas on its own people unless the government regarded it as the only final resort to defense against attack--a position that would fairly describe most governments’ contingency plans for government survival.
"The first known and fairly well credited use of gas by the Iraqis was at Haj Umran in 1983. There, the Iranians, with the cooperation of the Barzani Kurds, had invaded the northern Kurdish territories, and the Iraqis, to dislodge them, used gas. The attempt was a fiasco, as the Iraqis dropped the gas on peaks held by the Kurds and the Iranians, only to have it drift down into the valleys, where the Iraqi forces were set up, which disoriented Iraq’s attack." (p. 226, note 27)
Then, in the next note:
"Iraq acknowledged use of gas on July 2, 1988, at which time Aziz said that every nation has the right to choose the means for its defense. ‘Iraq Acknowledges Its Use of Gas, but Says Iran Introduced It in War’, New York Times (July 1, 1998)." (dates as given by Pelletiere)
In U.S. media and on radio shows such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Fox News TV’s "The O’Reilly Factor" where I first saw Pelletiere, the usual story is that Saddam Hussein gassed "a hundred thousand of his own people." On the other hand, when reporters were taken to Halabja, an Iraqi Kurdish city near Baghdad in March of 1988 where both Iran and Iraq had used gas, the Iranians showed them scores, at most, hundreds, dead, but later, the claims rose toward the 10,000 level--a figure that Pelletiere regards to be impossible (p. 206; 227, note 33).
Of enormous significance is Pelletiere’s expert opinion about U.S. policy toward Iraq:
"Ten years after the end of the Gulf War, the U.S. State Department continues to devise policy toward Iraq as if it were a criminal society, which now we can see it is not. It is time for the United States, in effect, to put up. If it has evidence that Saddam Hussein gassed his own people, then it should present it to the world. If, as the author believes, the famous gassing incident was all a hoax--or perhaps we should say a nonevent--then it should admit it and lift the sanctions, as there is no justification to keep on with this harsh punishment." (p. 222)
His endnote to the above paragraph is remarkable for those interested in Holocaust claims from World War Two:
"The only satisfactory procedure for the United States would be either to say where the 100,000 alleged gassing victims repose (which it should be able to do with all of its satellite and infrared imaging equipment) or to give a convincing explanation of how the Iraqis could have gassed 100,000 people in a two-week period and disposed of them without a trace." (p. 230, note 100)
This, I suggest, is the indispensable attitude for an historian of real history. He does not merely accept a government’s propaganda story about "the enemy" but seeks to find physical evidence to back up the claim. In this case, it appears that the U.S. government has no evidence and thus continues to repeat the story endlessly in hope that the naïve public will never ask the hard questions.
In view of the Jewish claims about homicidal gassing chambers in many German POW and detainee camps from 1941-44, U.S. government and Israeli stories about Saddam Hussein gassing people are bound to attract widespread attention and create for a gullible public an idea that Hussein is a present-day Hitler ready to gas Kurds, Iraqis, and, of course, Jews. This story always sells well when promoted by Jewish dominated media and talk show hosts and most of their guests--probably none of whom have read the Pelletiere book but rather they will continue to trust pro-Israel "think-tanks" in Washington and elsewhere.
Professor Pelletiere demonstrates an in depth grasp of the history of the Arab factions and internecine wars in Iraq, Iran, Saudi, and Kuwait. His presentation of the development of oil in Pennsylvania from 1859 to the present day is more than adequate, though generally tedious and boring, but this is not his fault. Readers will do well to read the entire book rather than merely beginning with the final chapter which interests, perhaps, most readers. The first five chapters enable one to understand better the modern oil system wherein profits take precedence over morality and over the proven needs of the countries where oil has been exploited by the producers.
The book’s index is adequate but there is no bibliography, the sources being largely found in the chapter end notes. At $69.95 the book is terribly expensive but well worth the price for those seeking an expert analysis which is cogently at variance with the media and government spin doctors. I found almost no typographical errors, but I did notice several unusual terms that may send readers to a lexicon: "twigged," "stinted," "cadged," "chariness, and "vetted." A minor criticism is that Pelletiere regularly uses "Russians" when "Soviets" would have been more appropriate.
As for the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, and her important meeting with Saddam Hussein on July 31, 1990, wherein she has been interpreted to have given Iraq "a green light" to invade Kuwait, Pelletiere places this on pages 200-2 in a reasonable context and, as such, he does not give this meeting overly much emphasis.
The Gulf War was an American venture to control oil supplies. On the other hand, Israel had to have been a cheerleader urging on President George Herbert Walker Bush and his coalition to invade and destroy the Iraqi President and his army and special guard units and infrastructure, perhaps displaying an Israeli paranoia, a "The Arabs are always against us" mentality. Hence, one errs in ascribing the Gulf War even largely to Israeli machinations. On the other hand, Pelletiere makes clear that the Iran-Contra scandal of the Reagan administration should have been the "Israeli-Iran-Contra" scandal since Israeli hands were at the beginning and in the middle and at the end--except that the American media, largely in the hands of Jewish owners and promoters, succeeded in keeping Israel’s skullduggery from the public’s view.
Source: The Revisionist 1(1) (2003), pp. 109-111.
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