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When Presidents Attack!

3:44 pm in Uncategorized by JP Sottile

Let the Birthers be silenced, let those who question the veracity of Obama’s patriotism be damned. And put to rest any doubt about his commitment to the nation’s ideals.

By dropping bombs on an oil producing country, he’s kept alive a rich White House tradition of using military force to assist oil companies, to enrich the military-industrial complex and to buoy the chief executive’s image as a forceful decision-maker.

Obama is now officially an American President.

Of course, he’s ducking behind the cover of an international coalition. Like all coalitions, be they of “the willing” or merely the able, they diffuse possible guilt by expanding the association. And wasn’t it amazing to see just how quickly after the UN vote those Tomahawks flew and those bombs fell? Only a cynic would consider the vote a fait accompli. Right?

To be fair, Obama and Co. had no choice. Libya’s kooky dictator, the Qaddafi Duck of oil regimes, crossed an all-important line in the sand. The chaos caused by his loosening grip “disrupted” Halliburton’s operations and “forced” them to evacuate personnel.

Now, that’s some aggression we cannot stand.

It’s not that oil companies dislike uncertainty. Quite to the contrary, “uncertainty” in the market is a boon to short term profits. How many times have you heard that the price of oil is spiking on “fears” of political turmoil or possible disruptions in the supply chain? Even if the supply never falters, these emotional reactions translate into windfalls for Saudi princes and well-heeled American investors. Fear is the mother’s milk of short selling.

For Halliburton, though, this is an iffy battle between their long-time partner and people who’ve probably not gotten rich off of their homeland’s oil. This creates the one type of uncertainty all oil companies work to avoid—the vacuum caused by the loss of a dictator.

Dictators are easy to deal with and predictable. One-stop shopping. You know exactly who to pay and what to pay them. A democracy or, god-forbid, a post-revolutionary morass, presents unique challenges to those accustomed to grasping a reliable set of greasy palms. New leadership may be harder to pay off and oil spigots harder to keep on, particularly if rebels hold true to some amorphous, market-shifting ideals about “the people” benefitting from the fruit of their own land.

Perhaps that is why Halliburton, for the better part of two decades, sold its extraction equipment and banquet of oil-related services to the reliable Colonel. Even after the Berlin Disco and Lockerbie bombings, his productive oil fields and dictatorial grip gleamed like a coveted prize throughout the executive offices of the ubiquitous, shadowy and strategically-diversified oil giant. In fact, they ignored laws against trading with and selling to Libya. They were even found guilty of illegally dealing with Qaddafi in 1995.

Despite the rebuke, they fought hard throughout the Cheney Years to change those restrictions. Just as they had with Iran and Iraq, Halliburton worked tirelessly to evade and remove legal obstacles. Squishy concepts of immorality or illegality do not apply to the world of petrodollars. Ultimately, who are they to determine the moral or ethical legitimacy of those regimes? As far as the oil industry is concerned, there is no judgment in money. They love it unconditionally.

And presidents must learn quickly to toe the bottom lines drawn in Middle Eastern sand.

This might explain President Carter’s popular legacy as a “failed president.” Forget about bombing oil-rich nations, jovial Jimmy never bombed anyone! Fool that he was, he actually worked on peace deals and went on TV to plead with the American people to divest themselves of the oil economy. Considering the “Windfall Profits tax” and those solar panels on the roof of the White House, Jimmy was obviously ill-suited for the Executive Branch. His short time in the Oval Office served as a real-time history lesson in geopolitics.

Not surprisingly, every president since Carter has dropped bombs on an oil-producing country. They’ve all proven their allegiance to the code words: “national interests.” Words that actually mean corporate investment in the extraction of resources in far-off lands, and the use of their profitable, sometimes-affiliated investments in the defense industry to keep those resources secure.

Clinton did his part by continuously bombing Iraq and making certain that the UN inspectors got out before WMD compliance could be verified. It kept Iraq’s oil in the ground and commodity prices from plummeting even lower than the 25 bucks per barrel we enjoyed during those economic glory days.

But, despite making bank on the Iraq Oil for Food program, Halliburton still couldn’t openly do the deals they wanted with Libya and Iran, or maximize the potential of the Iraqi market. When Halliburton inserted Dick into the Oval orifice, their desires and, by extension, the desires of the entire industry were mapped out and methodically satisfied.

In 2004, it all came to a head in a remote Libyan turkey farm. It was there that Qaddafi stored his WMDs—supposedly ranging from mustard gas canisters to “centrifuge parts.” The Great Quack of Libya renounced WMDs forever and, in rather quick succession, was dropped from the official list of terrorist nations and began striking deals with Halliburton and other oil industry partners.

It happened almost as quickly as the assault that followed the UN vote to protect Qaddafi’s “own people” from his attacks. Luckily for the people of Libya, they cling to the surface of an oil rich land. This is something the people of Rwanda could not say…so we just watched as they ended up buried in their worthless soil.

Attacking your own people is no guarantee of US action.

We’re still banking on the de facto dictators of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The military is not coiled to strike at those regimes and there are no votes pending in the UN, because they are too important to the corporations that profit from their power. No matter how greasy those palms might be, we will clench tightly until the bitter end.

Almost as tightly as Obama is trying to hold onto the Oval Office.

He’s gone the extra mile. Gitmo is open for business. He’s brought Guantanamo’s naked, extra-legal imprisonment to American soil. He’s kowtowed to Wall Street and extended tax relief to the rich. And he’s dispelled any long-term speculation in the halls of Halliburton and their oily friends that his presidency is, like Carter before him, going to be a “failure.” Not only did he bail them out on the Gulf Oil Spill, but he’s also attacked an oil producing nation, thus positioning the White House to help determine who will need to be paid off once the bombing is over.

When it comes to the modern presidential checklist, no one can say he hasn’t done his duty.

Sharing with FDL’ers…for the original, complete with hyperlinked references, please go here. Cheers, JP

Obama’s To Do List

8:07 am in Uncategorized by JP Sottile

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We all have "to-do lists," but rarely is the very foundation of an entire, 230-year-old governmental system at stake when we jot down the do this and get that of day-to-day living.

Sorry Obama, but you have much more riding on your "to-do list" than picking up the cleaning, getting pet food and finally washing windows.

We live in a country where the legal system and government are based on precedent, and the last seven-plus years have seen a number of bad precedents set. If we go another 4 years without those changes challenged, it is likely that we will never get rid of them.

So, Mr. President-Elect, here is a to-do list that you might…really, you must…take on as soon as you settle into that chair…behind that desk…in that office:

1. End Torture: Okay, you’ve promised to shut down Gitmo. But that was sorta in the cards, so no props for that. How about re-defining torture along the lines of the Geneva Convention? Issue an Exec Order…or prod Congress to pass a law that includes waterboarding, extreme stress positions…all of it…as torture. Stop the semantic games about "enhanced interrogation," which Naomi Wolf points out in my film–The Warning–is what the Nazis called torture. Read the rest of this entry →