By the way, elsewhere in the world -- and yes, in case you didn't notice, there is an elsewhere -- King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia set off on his first trip outside the Middle East, perfectly timed to the President's desire to ditch the whole region. (And given what's happened to him there, you can't blame the guy, can you?) The Saudi king, in search of reliable allies, boarded his plane and promptly headed for... China. At his blog, The Dreyfuss Report, Robert Dreyfuss sums up administration oil planning in the Middle East thusly:
"America's military effort to secure hegemony over the world's oil deposits in the Gulf looks like this: Iraq, a mess, governed by Iran-linked Shiites; Iran, angry once again at the Great Satan and looking toward Russia and China; and Saudi Arabia, the big enchilada, starting to learn to speak Chinese. Some hegemony."
Encouraging Energy Independence in Iraq: In his State of the Union Address, the President once again invoked victory in discussing the war in Iraq -- "Fellow citizens, we are in this fight to win, and we are winning. (Applause.) The road of victory is the road that will take our troops home." At a taxpayer cost of at least $4.5 billion a month, the price of "victory" in Iraq is now (in case you're curious) an estimated $100,000 a minute. Strangely, though, the President never mentioned how Iraq, with staggering oil reserves, might actually aid his plan for American energy independence from the Middle East. Who remembers those three to five million barrels of oil that Paul Wolfowitz and other administration neocons once knew the Iraqis would be pumping in next to no time at all, giving them the wherewithal to pay for us for occupying them, setting up permanent bases on their territory, and (unlike ET) never going home. After all, as Wolfowitz put it way back in May 2003, Iraq "floats on a sea of oil." ("The oil revenue of that country could bring between 50 and 100 billion dollars over the course of the next two or three years. We're dealing with a country that could really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.")
Well, in the years since our "cakewalk" invasion, oil production in Iraq has taken a slightly different turn. At about 2.5 million barrels a day in the final days of Saddam's rule, output nosedived by another 8% last year, reaching 1.5 million barrels a day, and is probably significantly below that now. In fact, it's been dropping faster than the President's polling numbers -- and last week, just as George was touting our coming victory in Iraq, rebels there mortared a major petroleum facility in Kirkuk, setting it ablaze, and hitting an important pipeline to Turkey. An Iraqi executive with the North Oil Co. called it the "most severe attack we have ever faced on an oil installation." So far, thanks to American "reconstruction" and insurgent sabotage, Baghdad has been liberated from all but a few hours a day of electricity. Soon, the whole country (and so the world) may be able to declare its independence from any significant amount of exportable Iraqi oil -- making it a model for energy independence on the planet.
Oh, and while we're talking about Iraq, we Americans are a proud, traditionalist nation and one of our more regular traditions of recent years has been firing missiles into crowded streets, or small villages across those lands long labeled an "arc of instability," knocking off innocent civilians, including women and children. After each such incident, our military announces an investigation that fades into space and out of media memory without any spokesperson ever having to utter the words, "We're sorry." (That's a matter of principle!)
On January 13, a Predator drone shot a Hellfire missile into a house in a Pakistani village near the Afghan border in a botched assassination attempt against al-Qaeda number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Of course, the requisite group of women and children was murdered in the process. Then, last Thursday, a U.S. helicopter, reportedly fired on by gunmen from a rooftop in Sadr City, the vast Shiite slum in Baghdad, sent one or more missiles into a crowded street, killing a 20 year old woman, Ikhlas Abdul-Hussein, and wounding a two-year old child. Admittedly, we haven't hit a wedding party -- a sub-specialty of our Air Force -- since 2004, but last week American soldiers did their best to make up for that oversight by extending another small tradition, shooting up the cars of diplomats in and around Baghdad. A trigger-happy gunner on an American convoy in that city's Green Zone riddled a vehicle ("with a Maple Leaf flag plastered to the windshield") occupied by a group of Canadian diplomats, including the Acting Ambassador. Miraculously, no one was hit. The Canadians, a sober lot, claimed they were driving slowly and at a careful distance from the convoy. The Americans insisted their car was overtaking the convoy at a rapid speed and that they had ignored warning hand-signals. The obligatory meaningless investigation is now underway, while "the Bush administration voiced regret but, so far, no official apology." (Canada, mind you, has just elected a conservative Prime Minister, friendly to Washington, but never saying sorry is a near-Constitutional matter and allies, after all, are only allies.)