December 19, 2006

By Nick Mottern, Director, ConsumersforPeace.org

On December 5, a day before the release of the Iraq Study Group report, I interviewed Michael Klare about what he envisions happening in Iraq.

He is Five College Professor of Peace and World Security, based at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, teaching also at Amherst, Mt. Holyoke and Smith Colleges and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He is the author of the authoritative “Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependency on Imported Oil” and defense correspondent for The Nation magazine. He has published a variety of books and articles on oil and on U.S. intervention, including in 1974 “War Without End: American Planning for the Next Viet Nams.”

I started out by asking Professor Klare about the relationship of the Iraq War to the goals of major oil companies. The oil companies, he said:

“…just want to ship oil, peacefully and profitably. And they don’t have the capacity to protect the safe flow of oil so they rely on the U.S. military for that, which it has provided since 1945. So the war in Iraq was begun with the promise of providing everlasting peace and stability. You know that was the ultimate promise…the current promise is everlasting chaos and instability. So they (the oil companies) have to be tearing their hair out.”

The major concern for the oil companies now, he said, is that the Iraq fighting may spread into neighboring countries:

“… what the oil companies have to worry about now is that this spreads into Kuwait, into Saudi Arabia. If that happens then that’s a catastrophy. If it’s confined to Iraq they can live with it. You know oil is now being pumped from Kuwait right across the border. They (oil companies) don’t have interests in Iraq. If it spreads into Kuwait and Saudi Arabia then you’re talking about a catastrophic situation. So they have to be saying wall it in.

“Iraq is a lost cause. It has to burn itself out the way Beirut burned itself out. You know Kofi Annan compared this to Beirut. It’s Somalia, it’s Mogadishu and Beirut we’re looking at. And Somalia still is out of control, and Beirut is teetering again on the brink, and in Beirut it took what a decade and nothing worked, in the end fatigue. It may be that’s the only solution. Eventually it will be like Somalia and the people will just get so sick of the violence that they’ll work out a modus operandi. But for the oil companies it is important not to let this spread. And for that you need the agreement of the surrounding states to contain it.”

The Iraq Study Group, as anticipated weeks before its release, suggested that the United States open talks with Iraq’s neighbors Iran and Syria. The purpose, Professor Klare says is to get these governments to agree on a containment policy which would mean an agreement to not be transit points for weapons, people, money, oil or anythingelse that would fuel the Iraq conflict. To get agreement on this, he speculated that the U.S. might have to offer to: back off on threats of regime change; stop pressing for an investigation of Syria’s role in the assassination of a prominent politician in Lebanon; and relax pressure on Iran about its nuclear energy plans.

(President Bush has said the United States will not deal directly with these countries at this point. However, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, D-Florida, met on December 13 with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to discuss controlling the Syria-Iraq border. Several other U.S. senators, including John Kerry , D-Massachusetts, Christopher Dodd, D-Connecticut and Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, have said they will visit Syria.)

Professor Klare is extremely skeptical that the plan laid out by the Iraq Study Group will work:

“I think that in all likelihood (American) plans will go awry, the best laid plans will go awry, that’s my prediction. That is, you know, they’ll try one thing, and it will fail, then they’ll try something else and that will fail, then they’ll try a third thing and that will fail because they’re aren’t any plans that will work.

“But they’re not going to give up. So you know its like Viet Nam, they tried one plan, it failed, they tried another plan, it failed, they kept trying plans until somebody finally pulled the plug and left. Bush isn’t going to do that. So it awaits somebody with the courage to do that, and we can’t see who that person is.”

“I cannot conceive of an American outcome led by anyone that I can see that will lead to a more stable situation in the Middle East. This could prove to be the worst mistake in American history. And I think that’s slowly dawning on people in Washington. Bigger than Viet Nam, by orders of magnitude.

“That’s why in the short term, I actually think this pendulum is swinging in favor of increasing U.S. troops with Democrats coming behind that. And I regret to say I think that’s going to happen. Because the current course of action is a disaster, pulling out will be a disaster. So the notion of somehow sending in more troops to create a breathing space seems like, SEEMS like, the only viable suggestion.

“Gen. (Anthony) Zinni, who’s a critic of the war, proposed that today. I could see that gaining momentum only because of, as he put it, because he understands the potential for spreading chaos in the region…Its like a gambler, an inveterate gambler, doubling his bets in desperate bid and losing double. If you ask me, that’s what I see happening.”


Thanks to Nick Mottern and Consumers for Peace for this article.
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