Backtalk, December 26, 2005

Syriana: It’s Not About the Oil

Mr. Peña refers to the “mysterious” Stan played by William Hurt – there is nothing mysterious about Stan. He works for the Rendon Group or the Lincoln Group or some other such private consulting contract spy organization. He is a former CIA man who has transferred out of an organization which is subject (theoretically) to congressional oversight, into an organization performing EXACTLY the same functions but which is NOT subject to any oversight. Where is the mystery?

~ Richard O’Leary, Bronx NY

Charles Peña replies:

By “mysterious” I did not mean that who Stan works for is a mystery. Clearly – as you pointed out – he is ex-CIA and is employed by one of the many alphabet soup beltway bandits. But his motives, relationship to Bob, possible interaction with other characters, and what (if anything) he might do (or did) ultimately remain myteries not answered by the movie’s ending.

Wow. A more embarrassingly half-witted account of U.S foreign policy and oil and the Middle East I couldn’t have dreamt of reading, save perhaps, on Faux News or CNN.

Glad you enjoyed the film, though. Even if your disdain for a “liberal” perspective on U.S. interventionism lacks even a rudimentary understanding of the history of major oil-producing regions, and the historical relationship between international oil companies (predominantly U.S. and British) and the U.S. government.

It is about oil. And nothing else. See “Oil has always been top of Bush’s foreign-policy agenda,” by Ritt Goldstein, Sydney Morning Herald, October 2002:

As the United States prepares for war with Iraq, a report commissioned early in George Bush’s presidency has surfaced, showing that the US knew it was running out of oil and foreshadowing the possible need for military intervention to secure supplies. The report forecasts an end to cheap and plentiful fuel, with the energy industry facing “the beginning of capacity limitations.” Prepared by the influential Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations and the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, it urged the Bush Administration to admit “these agonising truths to the American people”. Strategic Energy Policy Challenges for the 21st Century, written early last year, was a policy document used to shape the new administration’s energy policy. … It suggests that a minimum three to five years is needed to find a solution, and says a “reassessment of the role of energy in American foreign policy” is called for, with access to oil repeatedly cited as a “security imperative”. …

~ S. Wong

Charles Peña replies:

My apologies if I didn’t make my point clear enough. Indeed, oil predominates U.S. national security thinking about the Middle East (and this is the view portrayed in Syriana). I wrote about the relationship between oil and Iraq for the Chicago Tribune in September 2002 ("It’s Not About Oil?"). But the economics of oil are such that it shouldn’t be a national security issue and we would be better off if we changed the conventional wisdom of how we think about oil.

Christmas in Malaysia

Justin Raimondo once again shows why he accused of anti-Semitism. His essay passes on the disgusting anti-Semitism in Malaysia. Is he aware of the former Prime Minister’s infamous speech two years ago stating the Jews rule the world by proxy? Also is he aware of the sharia law being applied to Muslims?

I bet Raimondo did not mention to his hosts that he is gay or a quarter Jewish and that Eric Garris did not mention he is Jewish. Maybe Raimondo and Garris should have gone around the entire country and then they would have seen the real Malaysia.

~ Sam Karpov

Eric Garris replies:

Not only did I “mention” that I am Jewish, but I talked about it personally with Mahathir and publicly in front of the entire conference, because I wanted to make clear that I did not support such anti-Semitism and that it is important to repudiate it. I talked about how most U.S. Jews are antiwar and an important part of the movement. (There were other Jewish speakers at the conference, including a rabbi.)

I also did interviews with both Iranian and Islamic television, and made a point in both cases to explain at the beginning that I am Jewish and proud of it. Several of the speakers also openly denounced the barbarian policies of sharia and capital punishment in Malaysia, and Daniel Ellsberg called for Malaysians to investigate the use of their country for CIA torture “rendition,” after a report listing Malaysia as participating in such activities.

Jews (and libertarians) should not cower and only speak to those who are open to us; we need to speak to the world, including professed anti-Semites.

Also, Justin isn’t any part Jewish.

Mr. Raimondo,

Kudos for your visit and speech. I read as often as I can. I don’t always agree with you but I admire your courage and candor.

I write this to express my pleasure for your visit to Kuala Lumpur. Now your writings will have more force to confront the shrill war party.

I grew up in a city more cosmopolitan than Kuala Lumpur, that is Bombay, and knew Malaysia in ’60s and ’70s. People of the region are culturally closer than one would imagine. If we Americans would look at the period of my youth we would learn of the admiration and respect in which the USA was held then. We need to cut some slack to the poor and illiterate (particularly of Indonesia and Pakistan) and try to look at the causes of their attraction to hateful and violent ideologies…. There is no restriction on the free market or women in Islam but our Saudi ally has poured billions into this poor region to instill their brand and limit any debate.

So writers like you can bring these people to admire our values if we Americans start looking for different policies and thinking than those of the ruling elite. That would take time and I may not live to see it but it may happen in the lifetime of my children and grandchildren.

Keep on writing, I pray for your success.


Bush’s Wartime Dictatorship

Supreme power during wartime, and permanent war – sounds like a plan to me.

~ Bob Jones

I believe it is time for a purge – mind you, a decidedly nonviolent one.

It is time for the Democratic Party to make it a violation of its bylaws for a person to be a member BOTH of the Democratic Leadership Council, and of the Democratic Party.

Oh, but this would dry up Party funds? So be it. What has the DLC gained for the Democratic Party? Two presidential terms for a de facto Republican. A crushing loss in generations-long leadership in the House of Representatives (and, most of the time, loss of control of the Senate). The loss of statehouses, and control of state assemblies and senates.

But most of all, the loss of a determined, consistent and opposite ideology – one that would be exemplified by unified rejection of illegal and immoral wars. Never mind the usual surveys and opinions of Democratic “liberals” versus Republican “conservatives” on issues that may indeed bear weight at another time. We have an unchecked and unchallenged warmongering President abusing his powers at home and abroad. He and his administration must be stopped, rebuked, and stripped of power, or our republic has failed.

Yes, as an aged Ben Franklin said to a woman after the end of the Constitutional Convention, when asked what type of government we would have: “A republic ma’am – if you can keep it.” Indeed. The last test, and hope, is right before us, now.

If we can’t break common bread on this issue, and build an antiwar party, than we have already purged ourselves out of any real power, and any meaningful debate within the nation. Will scathing finger-pointing later, said sotto voce, remove the chains from our once-vaunted freedoms?

Dump the DLC, and let a grassroots opposition party called the Democratic Party be reborn.

Of course, I’d have no problem with Chuck Hagel and Pat Roberts reclaiming the conservative mantle, and the Republican Party, while moving us quickly away from the aims of the neoconservative cabal. But the odds against that happening seem even longer.

~ David J. Bailey

Exit Strategy

The pundits say that the Democrats need an Iraq strategy. I offer one here, free of charge. The Democrats could turn the entire direction of this debate by demanding one simple thing – a vote of the Iraqi people, every six months, on whether or not they want our troops to leave. It could easily be the “exit strategy” that many uneasy Republicans could embrace, also.

~ Warren Dekker

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