The Greater Good – Part 2 of 2

Situation RoomBooks have been booked and blogs have been blogged.  Pundits have pundited and liars have lied.  The consensus seems to be that the invasion of Iraq was about oil.  Clearly, it wasn’t about WMD’s or Saddam’s non-existent links to al Qaeda.  So, let’s play with the oil theory.

We are now in the Situation Room.  Seated around the table are President George W. Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice and the head of the CIA, George Tenet.  The topic is global energy stability and U.S. national security.  The concern is that Saddam is a loose cannon with the second largest known reserves of oil on the planet and he could upset world order.

President Bush declares, “This is about Amer-ka and we have to focus on the greater good.  Besides, I don’t like that guy.”

Rumsfeld raises his hand.  “You’re right, Mr. President.  If Saddam gets any more unpredictable the world oil markets could become crazy and force major disruptions to our national well-being and even threaten our future economic and political stability.  We must devise a plan to protect us from the ‘known unknown’ outcomes.

“We’ll invade Iraq,” snarls Cheney.  “It’s simple, plus it will be quick and easy.  We’ll just apply massive force, topple Saddam’s regime and install a new U.S.-friendly leader.”

Rumsfeld lights up upon hearing Cheney’s idea, “Our soldiers will be greeted by Iraqi citizens tossing flowers to them.  Best of all, the war will only last a few weeks and will cost just $300 million.  And, get this:  we can pay for it with Iraqi oil.”  There are big, self-satisfied smiles all around the table.

President Bush is really getting into it now and says, “That’s a great stratergy, Dick.  Oil market confidence’ll soar, we’ll have a continuing supply of cheap oil and the Amer-kn way ‘a life and our national secur-ty will be assured.  Plus, we can make ’em into a democracy just like us.  It’s all ’bout the greater good, get it?  And don’t you just love simple solutions to complex problems?”  Everyone at the table agrees with the boss.

“But wait,” Rice says.  “We can’t just tell the world that we’re going to invade Iraq because we want their oil.  We have to come up with a cover story for the invasion.”  That is when they begin to craft a lie about the smoking gun being a mushroom cloud.  And, because this conversation happens just months after 9/11, the tie between secular Saddam and Islamist al Qaeda is fabricated and, voila!  An American hunger for retribution is served by providing the lynch mob with someone to lynch.

George Tenet has been quietly scheming as he listens and can no longer contain himself.  “We can get real creative here.  We’ll make up a story about yellow cake from Nigeria, telling everyone that Saddam is making the yellow cake into weapons grade uranium. We’ll tell everyone that Joe Wilson is a liar and we’ll out his wife, Valerie Plame.  How ’bout you handle that, Dick?”  Cheney grunts.

“Oh, wait!” continues Tenet.  “I just thought of the best part.  You known those flimsy little aluminum tubes we found in that abandoned trailer in the desert?”  A few heads nod affirmatively.  “This is great.  We’ll tell everyone that Saddam’s going to pack his enriched uranium into them.  Hey, Colin – how ’bout you spout that one at the UN?”  Powell looks at Tenet, then to Bush, his brow furrowed.

“Look, Colin,” continues Tenet, “We’ve got the intel and we can spin it any way we want.  We can make it sit up and bark, if that sells the program.  It’ll be a slam-dunk.”  Powell acquiesces.

Cheney blurts, “We’ll probably take some heat for this, but we can sidetrack criticism by doing some illegal stuff.  We’ll call it legal and then we’ll stonewall critics by saying, ‘So?’  This is a no-brainer.”   Cheney snarls again.

Let’s leave that imaginary meeting and scratch our own heads about “the greater good” and other paths that might have served it.

If the issue was fossil fuel energy, we could have pursued a path like the one we’re on now, poking more holes into the ground in America and in different ways than ever before.  In fact, we are now extracting more fossil fuels domestically than at any time in our history.  Our dependence on foreign supplies has dropped from 60% a few years ago to 36% now and none of that domestic extraction cost the life or limb of any military personnel, nor did it cost the U.S. Treasury even a buck.  And we didn’t become even more hated throughout the Muslim world as a result of finding our own oil.

If the bigger picture of energy (i.e. beyond just burning more hydrocarbons) and its impact on national welfare and security were the issue, there is far more that we could have done.  We could have elected to take some of the billions we spent on war materiel, resources and personnel and instead put that into research and development of alternative, renewable energy sources, as well as a better battery for electric automobiles.  Indeed, just imagine what we could have accomplished with 12 years of well-funded research and Yankee ingenuity.

There is a lot of craziness that can be rationalized using the words “the greater good”.  Too often the only participants in discussions about the greater good are those with a limited or bizarre imagination, capable only of short-term thinking and with a vested interest in the outcome.

There are wacko-birds in congress right now who think that the greater good will be served by the United States of America, the bedrock upon which the world economy rests, defaulting on its debt.  Never mind the global catastrophes that will be visited upon us.  Ignore the massive economic depression that will put tens of millions of Americans out of work.  Just take it on faith that the crazies wearing the propeller hats of the Tea Party, the new American terrorists, understand “the greater good”.

But once again those controlling power have a limited and bizarre imagination capable only of short-term thinking and with a vested interest in the outcome.

We need better than that.

Copyright 2024 by Jack Altschuler
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