Sunday, August 11, 2013

Before the Jihad VI


The rains are over, and the blistering heat has lifted from these friendly mountains.  Was climate change yesterday's delusion?  One might hope so, but....

Last week an alert went out to many of our embassies and consulates in the Near East.  Al Qaeda had been overheard on a conference call. The threat is getting worse, Senator McCain assures the Sunday audience.

Sometimes it's a good idea to run back over the history, especially the incidents we've tended to bury like road kill because they looked so unsightly.  Best to start with 1945, when F.D.R. and Ibn Saud agreed to trade the sweet Arabian oil beheath the Saudi sands for Pentagon protection.  American drillers moved in, and whenever the shadow of nationalization fell across business as usual -- Iranian moves by Mossadegh to recover ownership of the country's resources from the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, predecessor of B.P. -- Westerners stepped in to turn that around, in this case Kermit Roosevelt of the fledgling CIA operating by British blueprints.  In time the Ayatollahs recovered ownership in 1989.  See my treatment in The Old Boys.

Early in the eighties, when a cataclysmic war broke out between Iran and Iraq, we had not forgotten.  Behind the scenes we backed Saddam Hussein, once a CIA protege, providing intelligence and arms.  Donald Rumsfeld was photographed regularly during his profitable     visits to Baghdad, uninterested, apparently, in Saddam's willingness to gas thousands of Kurds.  Weapons of mass destruction wasn't that important an issue during the Reagan years.

The crunch came during the nineties during the runup to Desert Storm.  Saddam, who maintained that the Kuwaitis were slant-drilling into the vast oil reservoirs beneath the South Iraqui oil fields, sat down with the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, and posed the question, between allies, as to whether America would have any objection to a Saudi military action to take out the Kuwaiti drilling sites.  Glaspie didn't see any problem.  Saddam invaded; the first Bush administration brought down Desert Storm and left Iraq with much of its infrastructure destroyed and the Kurdish north of the country essentially autonomous, under CIA protection.

The second Bush administration came into office determined to finish what the first Bush administration had started.  All that oil! The pretext would be the threat to the West of purported weapons of mass destruction.  Saddam -- who had hit Israel with Scud missiles during Desert Storm and seemingly attempted to assassinate George H.W. Bush -- was supposedly a threat, despite clear evidence from U.N. inspectors that Iraq had been cleaned out militarily by saturation bombing.  Meanwhile, after 9/11 a few detachments of CIA special operations troops moved into post-Soviet Afghanistan and appeared to take things over.

The Arabs were evidently easy targets.  We had soon captured Baghdad and in the process stirred to life a region-wide religious war that erupted as the Arab Spring and at this moment is convulsing Syria and Egypt. Time to look elsewhere.  Lacking a coherent energy policy, we have started to place our bets on tar-sands technology and fracking, both likely to poison the aquifers and release enough methane into the atmosphere to kill us off before climate change can fry us.  We are an inventive civilization.

Enjoy these last, balmy summer days.

Burton Hersh