Friday, February 16, 2007

Raimondo Is Wrong

I admire Justin Raimondo the editorial director and intrepid columnist for the indispensable antiwar.com, for his tireless dedication to truth (and for his ability to get paid for writing), and I'm grateful for his existence, but he is completely wrong on two counts.

Raimondo has been supportive, even zealous, in his promotion of the (Chuck) Hagel for President boomlet which has derived from that Senator's perceived opposition to the Iraq war. Fair enough. Hagel has gone further than most Democrats in his criticism of the Bush administration's conduct of the war. Regardless of whatever regrets Hagel may have, he did vote for the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq (2002)--as did a number of Democrats, of course. He is also a strong ally of the Pentagon, as Raimondo notes, and therefore of the American right to develop/maintain the means to eternal, apocalyptic violence. These two facts should be enough to convince any war critic, especially those of a libertarian bent, like Raimondo (an issue to which I'll return), that Hagel may not be the ideal peace candidate.

On top of this, add the fact that Hagel has a sordid past, having been the chairman (and maintaining part-ownership) of a "company that owns the company that installed, programmed, and largely ran the voting machines that were used by most of the citizens of Nebraska", as Thom Hartmann wrote in 2003. Hartmann goes on to note that eighty percent of his state's votes were tallied by the company's machines in Hagel's 2002 re-election, which the Senator won with...roughly eighty percent of the vote. This caused quite a bit of a scandal in 2003-2004, which seems to have died down--one wonders, what was the resolution? The scandal, after all, had less to do with Hagel's part-ownership in the company than with his having originally failed to disclose the fact. Nonetheless, it's not the stuff that peace candidates are made of; one can imagine that Hagel, as president, may end the occupation of Iraq, but will he do anything to reform the systemic defects that brought about the initial war and have allowed it to continue?

In Raimondo's belief, there seems to be but one such systemic defect responsible for the American invasion and occupation of Iraq: Israeli influence in US politics. He wants to disabuse us of "the tired leftist idea that this was a war for oil,'" since "I don't see any oil flowing"... "This war was about one thing and one thing only: advancing Israel's interests in the region." So, the oil industry hasn't seen any profits resulting in a rise of oil prices that might have begun in March 2003, right? And pre-existing Iraqi hydrocarbons laws haven't been changed to allow production sharing agreements in which the lion's share of initial profits go to the foreign companies investing in the Iraqi oil sector, right? And the Energy Task Force that Cheney won't talk about was just using this map as scratch paper to try out a fun new crayon set, right? And the fact that the US hasn't gotten Iraqi oil production back to pre-invasion levels proves that the war wasn't about oil, right? Future profits also don't matter to oil companies, right?

Right.

Mr. Raimondo may not have seen the record profits achieved by the oil industry in each of the past two years; they do not entirely result from the war in Iraq, but they're not independent of it, either. The fact is that whether or not the invasion of Iraq was a was a war for AIPAC/ Likud's view of what constitutes "Israeli security" (of course it was, to a degree), it also simultaneously served the interests of enormous US oil corporations and the neoconservative designs for perpetual American hegemony. The execution has been flawed, largely because of the immense, stultifying ignorance and arrogance of the involved parties. But to say that "[t]his war was about one thing and one thing only: advancing Israel's interests in the region" is a simply whitewash. The effect is of such rhetoric is, whether intended or not, to return the US image to its pedestal, by claiming that it has fallen so far only because of another country.

The imperial designs of Cheney et al. are generally long-term, though the profit motive is mostly short-term. American control of Iraqi oil, and positioning in the heart of the "arc of instability" allows for indefinite US control of the resources China and India (and the whole world, in fact) will need to develop. For a government headed by former oil executives to embark on a war in Iraq without considering all of the above is absolutely unthinkable.

Dilip Hiro, an excellent journalist who has recently written a book called "Blood of the Earth: The Battle for the World's Vanishing Oil Resources", says as much.

The US and Israel are close not just because of the Lobby (which as I have myself indicated plays an important role in regulating discourse in the US), but because they actually share geopolitical interests. This should really be axiomatic at this point.

A problem with Raimondo's American brand of apparently conservative libertarianism is that without a critique of the political influence of multinational corporations in modern politics, and their effective control of the global economy, resistance to modern states is relatively toothless. If you can't recognize that the inherent structure of political power in the world and especially in the United States rests largely in the hands of private capital, and that by virtue of this fact nothing that happens in domestic or foreign policy is independent of the interests of said capital, then you're just tilting at windmills. (Raimondo may say that the multinational corporation is in fact an outgrowth, or indeed a creation, of national governments--that is fair, and I don't disagree.) There is a major systemic flaw besides Israeli influence that led to the Iraq war, and it ought to be addressed if future wars in the Iraq model are to be prevented.

This is why supporting Hagel as a peace (or at least antiwar) candidate would be short-sighted and ultimately self-defeating (totally separate from his apparent antidemocratic credentials), as it will do nothing to beat back the culture of militarism that allows governments to wage illegal wars of choice nor will it limit the increasing confluence of private capital and government (a little something Mussolini called fascism), nor will it target the inequalities that said confluence preys on to sustain itself. I concede there may be no other choice for the anti-war movement, barring one of the allegedly "viable" Democrats currently in the race re-positioning due to pressure from the left (as Obama has already done, to a degree), or a run by Al Gore. In any case, even successful electoral politics by the anti-war movement will only be a bandage on the gaping deficiencies of US democracy that led to the crimes against peace that are the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. I think that Raimondo knows this.

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