Saturday, December 30, 2006

Everything Is Coincidental

I'll be the one to protect you from your enemies and all your demons.
I'll be the one to protect you from a will to survive and a voice of reason.
I'll be the one to protect you from your enemies and your choices, son.
They're one and the same; I must isolate you, isolate and save you from yourself.

Swayin' to the rhythm of the new world order and
Countin' bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums
The boogeymen are comin'
The boogeymen are comin'
Keep your head down, go to sleep, to the rhythm of the war drum.
-- A Perfect Circle, Pet

Still digesting the imminent repercussions and ramifications of what the (well-deserved in the moral sense, if potentially very damaging in the strategic sense) execution of Saddam Hussein entails. I have a feeling that at least half the arguments to take place will be over whether any escalation or (incredibly unlikely but you never know) de-escalation of violence in the near future should be attributed or not to popular sentiment regarding said execution. How many insurgents can dance on the head of a pin? Let's have another pro-wrestling screamfest between Ann Coulter and some hapless "liberal" and find out!

One thing that still sticks in my craw seems like such a small, niggling detail, yet says so much to me about the overall decision-making process for Bush. It has already been reiterated several times by several major news sources that Bush signed off on his post-execution statement and went to sleep, right before the execution was to take place. Consider that for a moment. The last time a head of state was deposed by the United States, brought to trial, and formally executed was (correct me if I'm wrong) Hideki Tojo. This is, in many respects, a momentous, historic event, most especially if you are a true believer in the liberation trope.

And what does the leader of the free world, the supposed architect of all these wheels o' freedomocracy set in motion, culminating in the ultimate revenge, do, literally as the noose is placed around his arch-nemesis' neck for the final drop? He finishes watching Ghost Whisperer, pulls on his footie jammies, and goes night-night at 9:00 PM. I'm sorry, I will never understand such a mindset (or, more accurately, the utter lack of one). Just basic intellectual curiosity would have kept most of us up half the night, wondering, speculating -- hell, just asking for a range of opinions on what could happen. George W. Bush tucks in at the usual early time, as if everything were everything, and drifts off to sleep untroubled by dreams or doubt.

But maybe that's what people like him are supposed to do, since life never has any real consequences for them. He's never had to work for anything, nor will he; he'll always have his family of fellow grifters, his line of "donors" willing to prop him up and bankroll his failures for a favorable ROI. He's probably not lying when he says he doesn't care about polls or legacy; there's little doubt that he could spend the next two years below ten percent and the rest of his life at the top of every knowledgeable commentator's shit list, and it wouldn't matter to him. Polls and opinions are for suckers; certitude is where it's at.

Looking back at the rhetorical origins of the excuses put forth to invade Iraq, one finds odd coincidences. For instance, Saddam's declaration of an embargo in protest of Israel policy in Palestine, and barely weeks later Bush's initial declaration of what for him was a completely different policy from what he had endorsed as a candidate in 2000, a policy turnaround that even Tweety Matthews decried at the time. That's just coincidence.

That Poppy Bush and a slew of lifelong family cronies set themselves up to make tons of money regardless of whether Saddam was their man anymore -- also purely coincidental. It's entirely coincidental that Hussein was a good earner for them before it was decided that he had to sleep with the fishes. This administration is basically the Godfather movie from an alternate universe where Sonny and Fredo had lived (Junior's a bit of both), taken over the family business, and sidelined Vito and Mike. It's completely coincidental that the same people are still making money rebuilding what they were paid to destroy in the first place.

A good analogy to the Carlyle system is a Japanese tradition known as amakudari (literally, "descent from heaven"). Under this system, senior officials from Japanese ministries retire, only to be instantly hired as senior advisers by the companies and industry groups they were paid to regulate. "What we're really talking about is a systematic merging of the private and public sectors to the point where the distinctions get lost," said Chalmers Johnson, president of the Japan Policy Research Institute and author of two acclaimed books on the Japanese system of governance. "The Carlyle Group is a perfect example. It's the use of former government officials for their access to government bureaucracies to determine contractual relations. It's inside knowledge--knowing where the government is going to spend money and then investing in it."

In turn, Carlyle executives influence policy--sometimes profoundly. On March 12 Carlucci, who is chairman of the US-Taiwan Business Council, a coalition of US multinationals doing business in Taiwan, invited Tang Yao-Ming, Taiwan's Defense Minister, to attend a closed-door summit of US and Taiwanese defense officials sponsored by the council and key US military contractors, including Carlyle's United Defense Industries. Tang's visit, which was capped by a meeting with US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, marked the highest-level defense contacts between Taipei and Washington since diplomatic relations were severed in 1979--and paralleled President Bush's push to expand arms sales to Taiwan, where Carlyle has significant investments. Carlyle people also testify frequently before government panels: senior adviser Arthur Levitt, the former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, has been ubiquitous before Congressional hearings on Enron.

Carlyle's investment philosophy, as described in its brochures, is to focus "on industries we know and in which we have a competitive advantage," in particular "federally regulated or impacted industries such as aerospace/defense." Its capital is siphoned into fourteen funds, seven focused on US industries and real estate, four on Europe and three on Asia. The $1.3 billion Carlyle Partner II fund is the majority owner of United Defense, maker of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and other weapons systems, and owns Vought Aircraft, the world's largest supplier of commercial and military airline parts. Carlyle's largest acquisition took place two years ago in South Korea, when its $750 million Asia Buyout Fund invested $145 million to buy a controlling stake in KorAm Bank. Through United Defense, Carlyle owns Bofors Defense, a Swedish manufacturer of naval guns and other weapons. In its latest deal, finalized March 13, Carlyle is investing $50 million in Conexant Systems, a spinoff from defense giant Rockwell International, to manufacture silicon wafers for wireless communications and Internet supply markets around the world.

That we only seek to stabilize that which we also covet, and that Bush, his father, his siblings, his friends and donors manage to make a huge buck from that as well, wherever it occurs in the world, is perhaps the greatest coincidence of all.

In recent weeks, the Bush administration has taken bold steps to implement this strategy in several far-flung regions of the world. In the Caspian Sea basin -- said to harbor the second biggest reservoir of untapped petroleum after the Persian Gulf -- the United States is building new military bases and providing training to local defense forces. In Colombia, U.S.-equipped government forces will soon be guarding the Occidental Petroleum Company's Cano Limon oil pipeline. And in Venezuela -- America's third largest supplier of oil -- U.S. embassy personnel reportedly met with leaders of an abortive coup against President Hugo Chavez.

All of these developments are obviously tied to other foreign policy considerations besides oil. The United States clearly seeks to promote stability and fight terrorism in these and other areas of the world. But it is also true that the areas that are garnering the greatest degree of attention from Washington -- the Middle East, the Caspian Sea basin, and the Andean region -- are also areas that figure prominently in the administration's long-term energy strategy.

The aim of this strategy is simple: to procure as much of the world's oil for ravenous U.S. markets as possible. With domestic U.S. production facing progressive decline and national consumption rising with every passing day, the United States must obtain more and more of its oil from abroad. Exploitation of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), if allowed by Congress, could reduce U.S. oil imports by a tiny amount, but would not make any significant difference in the larger energy equation.

The only way to significantly reduce imports is to increase the fuel efficiency of U.S. motor vehicles -- but because President Bush is reluctant to require this, the administration has instead launched a global effort to expand U.S. access to foreign sources of petroleum.

This campaign was first laid out in the national energy plan drawn up by Vice President Dick Cheney in early 2001 and released by the White House last May. Because the plan calls for drilling on ANWR and was prepared with assistance from representatives of the scandal-ridden Enron Corporation, Congress and media have ignored its foreign policy implications. But however significant the domestic debate over Enron and ANWR, it is its international repercussions that are most likely to affect America's long-term future.

In essence, the Cheney report makes three key points:

* The United States must satisfy an ever-increasing share of its oil demand with imported supplies. (At present, the United States imports about 10 million barrels of oil per day, representing 53 percent of its total consumption; by 2020, daily U.S. imports will total nearly 17 million barrels, or 65 percent of consumption.)

* The United States cannot depend exclusively on traditional sources of supply like Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Canada to provide this additional oil. It will also have to obtain substantial supplies from new sources, such as the Caspian states, Russia, and Africa.

* The United States cannot rely on market forces alone to gain access to these added supplies, but will also require a significant effort the part of government officials to overcome foreign resistance to the outward reach of American energy companies.

In line with these three principles, the Cheney plan calls on the Bush administration to undertake a wide range of initiatives aimed at increasing oil imports from overseas sources of supply. In particular, it calls on the president and secretaries of state, energy and commerce to work with leaders of the Central Asian countries and Azerbaijan to boost production in the Caspian region and to build new pipelines to the West. It also calls on U.S. officials to persuade their counterparts in Africa, the Persian Gulf and Latin America to open up their oil industries to greater U.S. oil-company involvement and to send more of their petroleum to the United States.

In advocating these measures, the Cheney team is well aware that U.S. efforts to gain access to increasing amounts of foreign petroleum could provoke resistance in some oil-producing regions. By 2020, the report notes, America "will import nearly two of every three barrels of oil (it consumes) -- a condition of increased dependency on foreign powers that do not always have America's interests at heart."

This means, of course, that American efforts to obtain increased supplies foreign oil will require more than trade deals and diplomacy - - it will also require the threat of or the use of force to dissuade hostile forces from attempting to obstruct the flow of petroleum to the United States. This, in turn, will require an enhanced U.S. capacity to operate militarily in areas of likely fighting over oil. It is for this reason that Washington is expanding the American military presence in the Persian Gulf area and beginning to establish such a presence in the Caspian basin (notably in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan). And while these efforts have been accelerated since Sept. 11, it is important to note that they began well before that date.

Don't worry. It's all just coincidence. Nothing to see here, folks; go back to your post-Christmas shopping sprees on the margin. Consume and waste as much you can. Something utterly mindless and retarded will be along momentarily to distract you.

Go back to sleep.

No comments: