October 07, 2004

Petro Panic, Draft Dementia and Nov. 2

NO MATTER HOW L. Paul Bremer may try to retract or spin his remarks, the recent disclosure by the former U.S. administrator of Iraq – that the Bush Administration failed to deploy adequate numbers of troops – is entirely substantiated by the ongoing epidemic of successful terrorist attacks against Iraq’s oil production facilities. I know this partly because a long-ago friend of mine, now dead – an Australian who served as a commando during the Malaya Emergency (for which Google) – also spent six or seven post-war years as a mercenary in the Middle East, where he commanded a battalion-sized unit that guarded Arab oil pipelines. From what my friend told me, and from what I have gleaned from other sources, pipeline-guarding is a soldier-intensive, boots-on-the-ground duty, dependent mostly on sharp eyes and fast reactions. In today’s high-tech world, aircraft and motion sensors can partially compensate for a shortage of sentries and can see in the dark as well, but the ultimate need is still for mechanized or airborne squads of grunts or mercs who can move swiftly enough to interdict saboteurs wherever and whenever they strike – before they have time to plant their explosives and ruin someone’s day. Such attacks are relatively easy to prohibit, or so it is said, but prohibition requires the proper tactics, which in turn demands adequate numbers of personnel. This is precisely what is lacking in Iraq, proven beyond dispute by the fact Iraqi oil pipelines have been blown up at least 130 times between May 1, 2003 – Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” party aboard the carrier Abraham Lincoln – and June 15, 2004, the last date for which I could Google up complete records (“iraqi oil pipelines” and “iraqi oil”). And the attacks are continuing relentlessly to this day.

Moreover the inability of the United States and its allies to get Iraq’s oil production back on line is having disastrous results, not just in Iraq but in the global economy, which is the point where Bush Administration foreign policy intersects ruinously with American domestic reality. Crude oil just spiked again to an all-time high of $52 plus, as reported here. While the inability of the U.S. and its fellow victors to protect Iraqi petroleum output is not the only panic-factor driving the price – hurricane damage in the Gulf of Mexico is the immediate trigger of the most recent upsurge – industry experts agree that Iraq’s chronic and seemingly endless instability is one of the most important underlying causes. And we all suffer from it – from the Bush Administration’s decision to deploy an insufficient number of troops in Iraq. We suffer not only from again-skyrocketing gasoline and diesel prices (which have already inflated the cost of groceries) but from winter heating fuel prices that industry analysts say are likely to reach unheard-of heights. Make no mistake: when the cost of heating oil spirals beyond the reach of poverty wages and fixed incomes, people – Americans – will die.

Because at least some of the public can see past the smokescreen of the administration’s steadfast refusal to acknowledge its blunders, the escalating chaos in Iraq – so obviously the result of a garrison too small to impose an effective occupation – has given birth to the patently hysterical allegation that re-election of Bush will mean automatic resurrection of the military draft. This is doubly ironic: the draft-resumption legislation that spawned the dementia was introduced by Democrats as a purely-ideological ploy – specifically an especially demagogic form of anti-war protest – and for a long while it appeared to have dwindled to a non-issue. Surely the Democrats never intended (nor even imagined) their pro-draft proposals would become potent anti-Bush weapons. But after the U.S. had so obviously lost the initiative in Iraq, the draft-rumor arose again from the dead, this time as pro-Kerry propaganda that, among college students (who are not customarily polled) may have been far more effective than we will know until election day. Kathleen Parker – a columnist for whom I have considerable respect – acknowledges the underlying reality in her own anti-draft commentary: “Nearly everyone agrees that we need more troops both in Iraq and to meet future challenges...,” which of course is precisely the perception that is feeding the rumor-mill. The remainder of Parker’s essay is available here. It is well worth reading despite the fact we disagree – for I believe we should resurrect the draft.

At this point I should note that I am well aware my discussions of the Bush Administration’s failings will probably so infuriate some readers they will conclude I am on the brink of reverting to the leftist compulsions of my youth. Not so – but, at the same time (just as I cannot ignore the dreadful, multi-pronged implications of Kerry’s pledge to relinquish America’s bunker-buster nukes in the face of nuclear saber-rattling by Iran and North Korea), neither can I blind myself to the special-interest pandering that has characterized Bush homeland-security policies at home and the colossal ineptitude of the measures that were effected in Iraq after the American version of the blitzkrieg ended conventional warfare there. Nor can I overlook the fact that the by-products of Bush’s governance – especially the petroleum panic and the draft hysteria – could yet cost him re-election. I am a journalist, not a propagandist, and thus even in blogging I am committed to an ethic of fairness – yes, even when I am taking sides – precisely why I can criticize Bush quite harshly though I’m certain I will pull the lever beside his name on November 2. Not because I believe Bush is a political genius or a great war leader – the past four years prove him to be neither – but because I cannot bear the notion of wartime America led by a man whose post-Vietnam record reveals his private ideology to be perilously close to genuine pacifism, closer to that credo than any major-party candidate in U.S. history: a man who would therefore disarm us in the face of criminals at home just as he would disarm us in the face of our enemies abroad – John Kerry, the reincarnation of Neville Chamberlain, whether metaphorically or in truth.

Posted by Loren at October 7, 2004 05:36 AM

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Posted by: jennifer love hewitt at July 18, 2005 05:35 PM