My neighbor Frank Mead was staring into space as I jogged past the open double doors of his woodworking shop in the country. I said "Hi" and he looked at me like one experiencing a revelation.
"It's about the oil," he said.
I shrugged, unimpressed, but then he laid a theory on me that, for the life of me, I can't find the flaw in. It's a big, mind-blowing theory, and I've been all over the Internet, scoured papers and magazines, read opinion pieces and analyses from left, right and center, looking for the hole in his logic. I can't find it. Here it is, with some embellishing:
Premise Number One: We're engaged in a war against terrorists backed by millions of Muslim fundamentalists. Many of those millions live in Saudi Arabia. Their leaders and ours pretend to be friends, even though it was mostly Saudis who fire-bombed New York. (What is a fuel-laden jet plane, in the wrong hands, other than a super-sized Molotov cocktail?) Fifteen of the 19 hijackers of 9-11 were Saudis. True, they were not agents of the Saudi government, but that is a distinction without a difference, as the saying goes. As long as the Saudis promote Wahhabism, and pay off the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, teach hatred in their streets and mosques, and spread absurdly one-sided propaganda in their state-owned media, what's the difference? Neither we nor the Israelis are safe. Millions of Saudis hate us and they are moneyed, trained, convinced of their dogma and otherwise empowered. Therefore, Saudi Arabia is an enemy in everything but name.
Premise Number 2: We dare not oppose them, because they control the world's largest oil deposits. You can bet that if Saudi Arabia didn't have half the world over the (oil) barrel we would be opposing them, up to and possibly including war. As is, Bush can barely bring himself to criticize them on any front.
Premise Number Three: A generalized war between Muslim fundamentalists and the West could shut down the oilfields. If radical Muslims, from within or without, should take over Saudi Arabia or sabotage the oilfields, we would be in big trouble.
Premise Number Four: Peaceful solutions to the world's dependence on Arab oil are years away. We're working to tap Russian oilfields, but it will take years before they're operating at full capacity. Same with Alaska, much of which is still off-limits and is miniscule in comparison to Middle Eastern deposits. Alternative technologies, such as hydrogen-fueled cars are years away from mass-production.
Premise Number Five: Iraq has proven oil deposits second only to those in Saudi Arabia, and they're there for the taking. Our government has the mandate, the means, the pretext, the ethical cover and the will to seize and occupy Iraq and, therefore, those oilfields.
Premise Number Six: The reasons Bush has given for a land invasion of Iraq are not compelling. The head of the CIA recently said there's little reason to believe Iraq has nukes or is even very close. Others have pointed out that biological weapons and chemical weapons are too unwieldy to be effective world threats. It's doubtful Saddam and Bin Laden are working together. They hate each other. Besides, Iraq has mostly behaved, more or less, in recent years and has begun loudly agreeing to unlimited inspections. Furthermore, we could disarm Iraq without a ground invasion. For instance, we could send in inspectors, as agreed, and should Iraq refuse to open, say, a presidential palace, we could withdraw the inspectors and bomb that palace. There's no need to invade and occupy Iraq, except to seize the oil.
Premise Number Seven: A secure hold on Iraqi oil would free us--at the least--to fight any potential foe who wishes us harm and--at the most--allow us to pursue a policy of global hegemony. Only such a boon as Iraqi oil assures our energy independence, and therefore, our military independence.
Premise Number Eight: A secure oil supply, which we could manipulate like Greenspan manipulates interest rates, gives us back our bullish economy.
Premise Number Nine: Bush and Cheney are realists. They are also oilmen, former energy executives and patriots who understand the many ways geo-politics, energy and the economy are intertwined. They are also all too human. Surely as oilmen and world players they find the prospect of seizing those fields enticing, if not irresistible. They know that Iraqi oil holds the key to power, wealth, vengeance, popularity among friends, family and associates, and to an invincible America asserting its dominance across the globe and into the future and securing their own places in history.
Therefore: Frank's right. It's about the oil. And so much more.