The Strange Business of Invading Iraq

When ECOTECTURE launched its first issue three years ago, it was our intention to stay out of politics and report only on design issues—expressing our political views by implication, as it were. That quickly proved impossible, as any system designed with improving the planet in mind automatically becomes a political statement. A solar house, an efficient car, a gray water system—all of these are symbols as well as systems, statements that fly in the face of the prevailing corporate/government ethos. A journal of ecological design is automatically a journal of eco-politics. And politics, so often, comes down to the politics of oil.

It is our position that the Bush Administration plans to invade Iraq not to liberate the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein's oppression or to secure peace in the Middle East but to get Iraq's oil. It is also clear that the Administration's adventurism has the backing of, and direction from much of America's corporate elite, including the mainstream media. Although the media consistently presents information in a disconnected fashion, that is, refuses to relate one fact to another, I believe that the following facts, when taken together, paint a very clear picture.

• Saddam Hussein and his "weapons of mass destruction," real or imagined, surfaced as front page news just as the Enron scandal was peaking and there were increasing calls for an investigation of the relationship between Enron's executives and President Bush. But Hussein was always there, and, presumably had his weapons all along. Suddenly, however, America's front pages were filled with "news" of the Iraqi menace.

• No amount of Iraqi compliance with the weapons inspection regimen seems to satisfy the Bush Administration. In late December, 2002, the Iraqi government invited the CIA to join the U.N. Inspection Team (why not?). I read that tidbit in a small article posted at the back of the San Francisco Chronicle's sports section! I don't know what, if any response the U.S. made to that invitation, but it is clear that the administration is not crediting Iraq for its cooperation and is looking for any opportunity to go to war while keeping the Iraqi "weapons crisis" in the headlines for as long as possible.

• Iraq has the largest established oil reserves on the planet.

• If there is a war, and Iraq's infrastructure, especially its oil production facilities are destroyed, the Bush administration already has a "post-war" plan in place for rebuilding that infrastructure. (It seems as though someone with a "post war plan" is planning a war, not its avoidance.) The only problem is that the rebuilding plan will cost the U.S. government money that, normally, would be raised through taxation. Not to worry—the Bush Administration plans to sell Iraq's oil on the world market to pay for the cost of the war and reconstruction.

• Vice President Dick Cheney's oil development corporation, Halliburton, Inc., floated proposals several months ago for rebuilding Iraq's oil infrastructure. My guess is that Halliburton will be first in line for the lucrative reconstruction contracts, assuming we successfully invade Iraq.

Stringing together this information as we have done does not "prove," that the Bush Administration intends to invade Iraq to secure a stronghold on that country's oil reserves. Such constructs cannot be proven, but can only stand on a preponderance of evidence. We believe the evidence is more than sufficient.

We are not alone in this opinion. It is shared by millions of Americans, many more millions around the world, almost all of the Arab and Muslim states (or at least the majority of their people) and the governments and even the corporate establishments of much of the rest of the world. In fact, the only people who seem to think, or pretend to think that our proposed invasion is not motivated by power geopolitics and oil grabbing are the heads of the U.S. Government and our oil corporations and media (Tony Blair excepted—go figure).

Invading Iraq is a bad and dangerous idea. Not only is the plan to kill, potentially, tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis in order to gain control of their oil reserves morally reprehensible, starting a war in the Middle East has real potential to destabilize the entire region. The consequences could include open revolt by Muslim fundamentalists against moderate, pro western governments in numerous Arab states, the deployment of the same weapons of mass destruction we are ostensibly trying to control, the deaths of thousands of American troops, renewed attacks on Israel, and, potentially, the involvement of Russia which has strong interests in the region. The tumbling of a geopolitical house of cards that could lead to a wide spread nuclear war, including "terrorist" nuclear attacks on the United States is certainly not out of the question.

The sad fact—to relate these political opinions to our basic message that ecological design could be a solution to the world's problems—is that the Administration's oil politics are not only not justified, they are entirely unnecessary. By making even minor adjustments to our energy consumption patterns, we can do away with the need for foreign oil in a few short years.

As Fritjof Capra points out in Part One of his ECOTECTURE interview, an increase in fuel efficiency of 2.7 miles per gallon for America's light vehicles only would entirely obviate the need for foreign oil imports. That reduction could be easily achieved with existing technology.

A similar energy savings can be easily and cheaply accomplished by insulating our existing buildings. America's energy use is equally divided, roughly, between transportation, manufacturing/agricultural applications and the heating and cooling of buildings. One of my former graduate students calculated that about 20% of the energy used for buildings could be saved with better insulation. (20% of 33% equals about 6.5 percent of our overall energy consumption.)

So, the solutions exist, and they don't require new technologies or massive investments in infrastructure. While insulation and mileage reduction are not the ultimate solutions to our energy problems, they are certainly cheap, fast and easy to implement and can buy us desperately needed time.

Why don't we adopt these measures? Why do we stand apart from the rest of the world as the only industrialized country that has no national energy conservation plan?

Perhaps we can understand the mentality of those who continue to promote such backward policy and planning by comparing them to a man who runs a bakery in a small village. The man makes his living selling bread, and is used to selling about the same amount every day, with his overall sales slowly increasing as the population of the village grows. Also, the man is secure because he has a monopoly on the village's flour market and owns its only oven. He is free to charge whatever he feels like for his bread. The baker is motivated to sell more bread, not less.

Then, someone moves into the village and starts telling people that bread really isn't that good for them, that they should reduce the amount bread they consume and eat more vegetables. An advantage, this person claims, of eating vegetables is that the villagers can grow their own, and won't have to be dependent on the baker for all their needs. Also, vegetables are healthier and, potentially, cheaper.

If you were the baker, wouldn't you try to discredit the vegetable promoter? You might even try to get the village police to invent some pretext for arresting the newcomer.

—Philip S. Wenz
January 2003