Showing posts with label Saudi Arabia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Saudi Arabia. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Conspiracy = Breathing Together

"Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” “Here I am Lord, and Me." – Isaiah 6:8
— SecDef EyesOnly Daily Memo to POTUS (17 Mar 03)

The significance of the torture controversy is that it leads to exposing a raw truth — that the policy of invading Afghanistan and Iraq was fixed around a “War on Terror” mythology built whole cloth from testimony obtained by torture. The torturers, directed in minutiae from the highest levels of the US government, elicited the story that was needed to fix the policy.

The significance of exposing the Cheney Energy Task Force deliberations (or for that matter, the stolen national elections of 2000 and 2004) is that they lead to the understanding that the real reason to invade the Middle East and build scores of military bases was not to fight terrorists but to keep the oil flowing back to the US consumer culture in ever increasing increments, ie: winning the oil end game. The “enemy” was not Osama Bin Laden, but other competitors for that oil, such as Japan, China and India, or future economic competitors for other resources who have their own oil, such as Russia and Brazil.

The significance of the 9-11 controversy is that what was actually a false flag black operation was portrayed, and is still held sacred in popular culture, as a terrorist strike on the homeland of the USA; one that originated in the caves and tribal territory sanctuaries of fanatical Al Qaeda cells in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with state support from Iraq and Iran, and what the heck, lets throw in Syria, Libya, North Korea, Pakistan, a.k.a. “The Axis of Evil,” justifying expenditure of trillions in treasure and buckets of coalition blood. That Donald Rumsfeld headed each of his daily briefings for the President with a quote from the Bible was no coincidence. To the Neocons, oil hegemony was God’s command.

The significance of exposing the torturous logic of 9-11 for the mythology it represents, is that without that illusion, the justification for US presence in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan disappears and instead we see clearly the real reason the US Army is in the Middle East — oil. Jimmy Carter’s 1977 warning about our addiction and its hazards takes on the importance it is due. Illusions are shattered. Thirty-five miles per gallon is a laughable band-aid on a limb that will have to be amputated.

Or are we still thinking the USA can just bully its way through?

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” — Ephesians 6:13
— SecDef EyesOnly Daily Memo to POTUS (31 Mar 03)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Our National Pastime: The Great Dick Cheney Psyche Out

"Enhanced interrogation was reverse-engineered to create a false linkage between Iraq, Al Qaeda and the events of 9/11. Just ask yourself — why would anyone want to do that?"

In a recent interview with the C-realm, petrocollapse author James Howard Kunstler said he was allergic to conspiracy theories. While we are sympathetic, we find it hard to draw a firm line between conspiracy rants, news shows, and intelligence briefings these days. Maybe it is the effect Wikipedia has had on the study of history, or perhaps it is the blurring of the line between popular culture infotainment and the more serious work of running countries, economies, and wars.

Just now the talking heads in the mediasphere are all abuzz: why hasn’t Dick Cheney clammed up and disappeared into the woodwork like Bush? He is expending great energy to psyche us all out. Why? To what end?

The popular storyline from the left (The Nation, Slate, MSNBC, Air America, Sirius-Left) is that Cheney is filling the void on the Republican right wing and vying with Limbaugh for party boss. That nearly 60% of Republicans wish he would just disappear for a couple of years makes it fun fodder for Saturday Night Live.

The bobblehead thread on the right, when it can be coalesced for longer than one news cycle, is that (a) Cheney is right, Obama is undermining national security, torture works, waterboarding is not torture, and extremism in defense of liberty is … whatever; or (b) Cheney is wrong, but well-reasoned, and good people can disagree, nothing amiss here, these are not the ones we are looking for, move along.

But there is a darker side here, and it traces to 9/11, the quest for control of oil, and the New American Century and Empire Strikes Back meta-goals involving dominance and hegemony.

What we know from the Congressional hearings this week and from other sources contradicts Dick’s talking points pretty definitively. To paraphrase George Washington’s blog:

Torture doesn't work. It can’t provide reliable information that could keep us safe. It provides whatever confessions the torturers want it to.

Torture actually reduces our national security. It is just a different form of terrorism, and it begets more terrorism by example and reprisal.

Most of those we have tortured since 2001 were innocent, and a untold number -- at least 99 that we know of so far -- died, the most recent this past week of post-traumatic “suicide.”

HUMAN RIGHTS INVESTIGATOR JOHN SIFTON: These aggressive techniques were not just limited to the high-value detainee program in the CIA. They spread to the military with disastrous results. They led to the deaths of human beings. And when there’s a corpse involved, when there’s a dead body involved, you can’t just have a debate about policy differences and looking forward or looking backward.

Sleep and sensory deprivation and other techniques can cause permanent brain damage. There are US torture victims still imprisoned who have been reduced to zombies, and who can never be tried because they lack mental capacity. They are consigned to vegetable wards. If we close Gitmo, they will have to be root cellared in Kansas, Missouri, or other federal fruit baskets.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of victims were not tortured in order to prevent terrorist attacks, but in order to do precisely what “enhanced interrogation” was reverse-engineered to do: create a false justification for the war in Iraq (by creating a false linkage between Iraq and Al Qaeda) and to conceal and obfuscate the events of 9/11. The first victims singled out for torture were used to create a narrative story-line for 9/11 — and other justifications for invasion of the oil-rich Middle East came later.

Torture, historically, is a form of intimidation, to terrorize people into obedience. The English aristocracy were especially good at it, which may have something to do with its appeal to Republicans (both in the US and Ireland). It is continued, even though ineffective, according to the FBI interrogation specialist who just testified to Congress, because it is easy, not because it works. It is used to coerce false confessions, or lay false rabbit trails, not to gain intelligence.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, the Vice President’s suggesting that there was good information obtained, and I’d like the committee to get that information. Let’s have both sides of the story here. I mean, one of the reasons these techniques have survived for about 500 years is apparently they work.

FBI SPECIAL AGENT ALI SOUFAN: Because, sir, there’s a lot of people who don’t know how to interrogate—


ALI SOUFAN: —and it’s easier to hit someone than outsmart them.

The 9/11 Commission report was primarily based upon confessions from those who were excessively waterboarded. Some who survived have since recanted. None of the 9/11 information obtained this way is credible. Did Al Qaeda hijack the jetliners? Was Osama Bin Laden involved? We simply do not know. We know more about Marvin Bush or Prince Bandar’s involvement in 9/11 than we know about Osama Bin Laden’s.

If we really want to reduce attacks against the U.S. and against NATO troops, than the way forward is to prosecute those who created the torture program and to understand what the purpose for that program really was. Cheney knows, but is not telling.
Or was Cheney a dummy? Is he being proactive in defense (of torture prosecution/extradition), while not understanding the full crime being exposed (9/11)? We don’t know.

Is he setting himself up as the fall guy, making it embarrassing to prosecute him because it would seem like a political reprisal? Hard to say. We just observe that the Kabuki is getting very interesting.
JOHN SIFTON: Yeah, well, I don’t know if it’s successful yet, but I certainly think that his methodology is one in which he thinks he will be covered if there is ever, God forbid, a terrorist attack on US territory again, and then he will be vindicated, in his mind. I hope Americans are intelligent enough to see through that and realize that it’s not that simple.
We do know Dick is smart, just maybe not as smart as he thinks he is. This is a high stakes enterprise. If Bush Sr., James Baker and the rest of that cabal begin to feel the heat, they may have more tools at their disposal than Dick foresees. Squirming is not what they do. He is vulnerable, even with a waning Secret Service protection cordon.

You are on a pacemaker, old man, after all.

Seeing Cheney as a patsy, or patsy-to-be, is a reach, but not entirely impossible. Bush is laying low, building a presidential library, giving a non-controversial speech or two in safe venues, like Canada. Keeping his head down. That is what a guilty party would do. Cheney is out making noise, trying to pre-empt or politicize the investigations. It is also what a guilty party might do, but the risks are much higher. He is tickling the dragon’s tail.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Did President Bush know everything you knew?

DICK CHENEY: I certainly, yeah, have every reason to believe he knew—he knew a great deal about the program. He basically authorized it. I mean, this was a presidential-level decision, and the decision went to the President, and he signed off on it.
The spin from the Republican inner circle is that Cheney is hawking a memoirs deal. Bull. He doesn’t need the money. No, he is casting himself as a victim, making it impolitic to arrest and deport him. It is also a (presumedly futile) attempt to derail the torture investigation, before it leads back up the 9/11 trail. Maybe he thought he had nailed that deal with President Obama and Speaker Pelosi before he left Washington, but now it seems to be unraveling, so he is doing darning.

Or maybe he is falling on his sword, taking one for the team, a la Ollie North or E. Gordon Liddy. With all eyes on Darth, no-one seems to look around and notice the expanding Drone Wars to hold back the oil famine.

As Will Ferrell's George Bush told Darrell Hammond's Dick Cheney on last night’s Saturday Night Live, “Just stick to our plan. Let’s let history be the judge, okay? It’s an awesome plan because history takes forever.”

Whether you buy into the conspiracies or are allergic like Mr. Kunstler, it makes great theater. So will the trials.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Tea Leaves

At the last US presidential election in 2004 I researched the subject of gasoline prices and discovered that every election year a Bush was in the White House the price of gasoline peaked in early July and then declined sharply to Election Day, rebounding gradually after that. Every year a Bush was outside but wanting to get into the White House, the opposite happened. There is one exception to this, which came in 2004, when Bush-II was trying to defeat John Kerry and prices should have come down but did not.

Until now I have attributed the pattern to the relationship between the House of Bush and the House of Saud. It is a little more nuanced than that, because who really sets prices is the refineries, and although it helps to have more crude in the pipeline when you are taking prices down, that has not always been the case in election years. If you are into conspiracy theories, you might say Pappy Bush and his close advisor, James A. Baker III, strongly influence the management of the refineries and hence are in a position to set prices, regardless of supply and demand. See, for instance, the client list of Baker's Houston law firm. Of course, you would never be able to prove that.

The lone exception year that broke the pattern can be explained by peak oil. By 2004 the world was lurching into a shortfall in crude inventories, demand was soaring in China, Venezuela was rumbling, and the Saudis were miffed over the worsening Palestinian situation (similar to the position OPEC found itself in, after the US peaked and they could turn the screws on Richard Nixon in 1973 in response to the Yom Kippur/Ramadan War, precipitating a global crisis at the gas pumps, which abated only when Henry Kissinger got the Israelis to promise to give up the Golan Heights).

However, if the explanation is credible, that same exception should apply this year. One glance at refinery crude inventories (This Week In Petroleum from the EIA) — down 25.8 percent from this time last year — and you can see the tension between supply and demand has never been greater. At the peak of Hurricane Gustav preparations, shut-in Gulf of Mexico crude production totaled approximately 100 percent of the U.S. Gulf crude production (1.3 million barrels per day). Last week 14 Gulf refineries were shut down by the evacuations. As of the end of this week, shut-in Gulf of Mexico crude production still totals 1.25 million barrels per day and 13 of those 14 refineries remain closed. Hurricane Ike is a Category 4 on a westerly track into the Gulf, skirting the north coast of Cuba on this coming Monday.

Saudi production is little changed and Mexico is in steep decline (down some 30% year-over-year at their Cantarell field, as I reported here 2 weeks ago).

Based on all these tea leaves, back in July I went out and re-filled my 550-gallon storage tank with regular unleaded. Dumbest purchase I ever made. If I had waited just one week I would have seen the change in price direction and waited. I could just not imagine the election year pattern re-establishing. So far that lack of imagination has cost me $637.68.

So how is it that gasoline peaked in early July and is now declining sharply in the march towards Election Day, and crude on the world markets just closed the week at $104.58? The U.S. average retail price for regular gasoline fell for the eighth week in a row. The West Coast price fell for the tenth week in a row. I don't think either the Beijing Olympics or demand destruction in the US can explain that sudden, unpredicted fall.

On my transoceanic flight today they were screening Recount, the HBO movie about the 2000 election. The answer was right there in front of me: Bush Senior’s go-to-guy, Jim Baker.

I think the only reasonable explanation is that the House of Bush decided to anoint John McCain as Bush-III and now has put the nation's wholesale gas prices on a Labor Day special, against the financial interests of refinery owners (who, after all, are making record profits and can afford to light their cigars with million-dollar bills). But see Tom Whipple's caution about refinery stocks. If you push prices down, you push demand back up in the USA. If you are teetering on your front-end inventories to begin with, what you get from that is shortages. That won't be good for McCain if it comes in the next 65 days. But perhaps the refineries have their fourth quarter calendar already scoped out, and 65 days is _exactly_ their inventory limit.

That is, unless Ike, or another major hurricane, decides to pay a call at the Gulf oil patch. Eisenhower had a staff meteorologist. Maybe John McCain should too.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Change or Die

If George W. Bush seems to have a haggard look and often be heard speaking with a bit of a slur lately, it is just the sound of a legacy crumbling. With that goes the hope of Republicans to install their surrogate for a Bush third term. You’ll forgive the crocodile tears.

Bush’s signature piece in his final year was to have been peace in Palestine, but the emissaries he sent to get it done were as inept at making peace as they were at making war. Dick Cheney and Condoleeza Rice had promised the Saudi royal family, lifelong friends of the House of Bush, that they would have a roadmap, a road, a full tank of gas, and a cooler of Powershot by now.

They haven’t even found the map.

And the Saudis know it. They have been stalled and jerked around long enough, and its time now to trim the Powershot supply for the American Empire. According to today’s Gulf Daily News ("The Voice of Bahrain") Saudi Arabia has sliced oil production to about nine million barrels per day (bpd).

For those who have been following this, that is another 200,000 bpd cut. Actual Saudi production capacity, which is what the Empire needs to continue, is said by the Saudis to be somewhere north of 11 mbpd, rising to 12.5 mbpd by next year. This latest production cut is not a small overture. It is a slap-down.

The Gulf Daily News cannot be a joy to read at the White House. Global oil consumption will rise by 1.27 mbpd in 2008, the International Energy Agency tells us in its latest monthly report, putting further price pressure on oil products, from gasoline and plastics to fertilizer and jet fuel. Worse, if you look at the USA’s other principal trading partners for crude oil, they are all on the same down escalator, headed for the nearest exit.

Mexico’s giant Cantarell field is in terminal decline and any thought of offshore replacement wells has fallen into a political Marianas Trench. The puppet government installed by Diebold, headed by Felipe Calderon, is being prevented from nationalizing Petroleos Mexicanos by the pot-banging opposition, who knew the election was rigged and now want to protect Mexico’s state-owned company from being looted. Without foreign investments in oil exploration, the Calderon government is forced to choose between skimming PEMEX profits to pay for its economic plan (more tourism) or investing in high-tech offshore drilling technology run by Mexicans. So far, they have preferred to keep skimming. It’s an addiction.

All of that is great news for the fragile coastal environment of Yucatan, but bad news for Houston, where EIA beancounters will soon be seeing much less Mexican crude arriving at refineries. Moreover, in another year or so, Houston shipwatchers will be counting far fewer Venezuelan tankers sailing up the harbor channel.

Part of Venezuela’s mutual defense treaty with China (if China is attacked by, say, Tibet, Venezuela has promised to send troops) allows China to build the special refineries needed to process Orinoco Heavy. Those special refineries never existed outside the USA before, and it means that in a year or so, Venezuelan tankers will be skirting the Penisula de la Guajira and dropping Southwest toward the Panama Canal instead of sailing Northwest past Jamaica and into the Gulf.

Of the four countries that export more than a million barrels of oil to the USA every day, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and Venezuela have now begun twisting off their respective spigots, although the pinch and squeeking sound is still a little ways into our future. The fourth dealer is Canada. Can Canada make up the difference? Can any of the smaller suppliers — Nigeria, for instance? No. Of course not.

Peace in Palestine was the precondition that the Saudis placed on giving the USA a chance to transition more smoothly out of the petroleum era, or procrastinate longer, take your choice. With more deaths every day in Gaza —from lack of water, lack of food, lack of hospital access, and lack of hope — the American Empire is now looking more like Napoleon’s legions, right after they took Moscow. It is spread out thinly, with no supply line, in retreat, and the winter is blowing cold.

Just to balance this piece with a prescription for a way out, let me add an epilogue. The day after the US election next November, Mr. Obama needs to find the means to accomplish what Lamar Alexander did when he was elected Governor of Tennessee in 1979. He didn’t wait for the scheduled inauguration, but was directly sworn to the oath of office by the Tennessee Supreme Court in order to bring an abrupt halt to his predecessor’s crime spree.

After that nifty trick, Mr. Obama needs to appoint several emergency commissions. One will have to be for Truth and Reconciliation, or perhaps a Nuremberg trial, assigning responsibility for eight years of murder, torture and mayhem.

Another will focus on the hemorrhaging economy and provide a Rooseveltian program for jobs, housing, rail and agricultural revitalization. Still another will revamp US foreign and military policy, phasing the withdrawals from unsustainable bases all over the world and employing those assets at home, where they can begin the urgent work of greening our deserts, net sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, cleaning up after hurricanes or floods, and making and storing more food.

If too much Fox News has conditioned you to think of Roosevelt as an evil socialist, brace yourself for rapid reconditioning. Capitalism is based on endless growth. We are entering an era of sustained contraction. When Enterprise Capitalism fails, Progressive Social Democracy is a viable alternative to Feudal Theocracy or Militarized Autocracy. Fox News would give you the last of those choices as the best. I’m prodding President Obama towards PSD. We'll need socialized medicine, housing, food security and jobs. We'll need it to be delivered in a local, compassionate, egalitarian and non-bureaucratic fashion.

There will indeed be a need for grand scale public projects. But, instead of building another carrier fleet, the Pentagon can help Mr. Obama build desalination plants on the coasts, powered by wind and tidal energy, to pump water inland to stop the deserts’ spread. Mr. Obama can also shut down NASA’s Mission to Mars and redirect that effort towards renewable energy applications for transportation, communications and vital infrastructure.

I’m only getting warmed up. In his first hundred days, Mr. Obama should announce a program to reverse population growth through family planning and economic incentives. Foreign aid, both monetary and technical, must henceforth be conditioned on good-faith efforts by recipient countries to curb population. At home, we should set a goal of one half in one century (a modest population decline, really — just 0.7 %/yr).

Our atmospheric carbon reduction goal should be 110% by 2010. (Thank you George Monbiot.)

While the private automobile becomes increasingly expensive to fuel and service, public transportation can be publicly subsidized, even free to use in many markets, to speed conversion. Rail nodes will once more extend to every small town and neighborhood, making bike-and-jitney-to-rail possible for many routine needs and permitting freight and commerce to stay in motion. Powering this system can be an giant grid of natural energy systems — rain, sun, wind, tide, wave and geothermal.

This is not a science fiction fantasy. This is inevitable. Or else.
“[S]aid Scrooge, 'answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?'
“Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.”
— Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843)

Our choice is to change or die.




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