October 6, 2004

Cheney, Khadafi, Halliburton, and All That

In last night's vice presidential debate, Cheney praised the progress in Libya after the invasion of Iraq: Khadafi has announced his intention to close down his WMD programs and turn over all his nuclear material to the United States. These are great steps forward, but Newsweek has an interesting short piece in this week's issue that makes Khadafi look more like a shrewd businessman than a born-again peacenik. Consider:

  • Oil prices are at a record high $50 a barrel
  • Violence and instability have hurt oil production in Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Iraq
  • Libya has confirmed reserves of 36 billion barrels of "sweet oil"
  • Libya is only 25% explored for oil
Bush has recently lifted "a raft of sanctions" on Libya despite Libya still being on the State Department's list of countries that sponsor terrorism. The result is that American oil companies are now free to negotiate with Khadafi for rights to his oil, and Halliburton is now free to work with Khadafi directly instead of through an offshort, German subsidiary.

Remember in September, 2001, when Bush said, "You're either with us, or you're with the terrorists"? Khadafi has been with the terrorists for years and has a proven, storied, and well documented history of supporting terrorists and attacks on Americans. The US government says Libya sponsors terrorism.

A cynic would say that Bush has opened Libya up to big American corporations for oil. A Bush-backer would say that Khadafi got religion ever since we kicked Saddam's ass, and now he's terrified we'll kick his ass. A leopard does not change his spots, and Khadafi is a clever, shrewd, America-hater who will gladly take American corporate money and hand it over to terrorists to blow up, kidnap, and behead Americans in Iraq, Afghanistan, or wherever the conflict is.

This is the administration talking out both sides of their... mouths, again. Let's review:
  • Iraq had no connection to the 9/11 attacks or Al Quaida.
  • Khadafi has funded terrorists and attacks on Americans.
  • Iraq vehemently said they were disarming and had no WMDs. The weapons inspectors found no evidence of WMDs before, during, or after the invasion. Bush's conclusion: Saddam hid them or moved them out of the country before the invasion.
  • Khadafi has said he is disarming and has no WMDs. He has turned over some nuclear materials. Bush's conclusion: Send in the oil companies to work with our new friend!
It's hard to be a liberal under this administration. Liberals, by our very nature, are anti-cynical. We try to believe everyone means good even if it doesn't look that way. Yet again and again, Bush and Cheney and the whole crew say one thing and do another (with astounding consistency), and mislead the public with half-truths, stretched truths, or outright lies (like when Cheney said the vice presidential debate was the first time he'd ever met John Edwards; in fact, it was the third time they'd met).

What principles, exactly, is Bush using when he encourages American companies to do business with a country that is on the State Department's list of countries sponsoring terrorism? What principles, exactly, lead to war and devestation in Iraq but acceptance and welcome for Libya?

One final note:
9/11 did not "change everything." The US did not suddenly become vulnerable because we were attacked. The attack was an event, a dreadful and terrible affront to all civilized people everywhere. The USA was not suddenly more vulnerable on September 12, 2001 than we were on September 10, 2001. Some things have to change, mostly in port security, financial governance, corporate ethics, anti-terrorism enforcement at home, and intelligence gathering and analysis abroad. Bush did not want to know what really needed fixing--he opposed the mere existence of the 9/11 Commission.

The invasion of Afghanistan to oust the Taliban and catch or kill bin Laden was the right call--it was the easy call, the onlycall. Invading Iraq was a terrible error where the catastrophic results have far outweighed any potential gain in the "war on terror." The "war on terror" will not be fought with tanks and aircraft carriers in the deserts of Iraq but in the dark places where the terrorists work and live, the places that spies go and the newspapers don't hear about. We are no more in danger today of terrorists releasing biological weapons in Chicago and San Francisco and New York than we were when Tom Clancy wrote about it in Executive Orders in 1997, four years before the 9/11 attacks. And I believe that we are no safer from those things today than we were on September 12, 2001. Bush invaded Iraq when he should have been pouring that $200 billion into homeland security, intelligence, and anti-terrorism enforcement.

Bush simply does not know how to fight the war on terror. Resolute and tough, yes, but blind and incompetent as well. The combination make for a good bully but a bad Commander-in-Chief.

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