Comments on Greg Palast’s New Book Armed Madhouse – by Stephen Lendman
I’ve known about and followed Greg Palast’s important work for some time. I read his eye-opening book The Best Democracy Money Can Buy a few years ago and have mentioned it several times in some of my other writing. Greg is one of the most important and exhaustively thorough investigative journalists anywhere, which is especially important at a time when that kind of effort is needed more than ever. I knew he had a new book in the works, and I looked forward to getting and reading it knowing it would be full of important and explosive material we all should know about. I wasn’t disappointed nor did I expect to be.
Living in the US under a rogue administration bent on world conquest and dominance, I can easily understand what Greg might have had in mind by his title. But as he explained, he chose it from his late teacher Allen Ginsberg who wrote: “The soul should not die ungodly in an armed madhouse.” He also explained before he became an investigative journalist he was a “forensic economist” meaning he cut deeply into the inner workings of companies like Enron and Exxon-Mobil (my favorite one to pick on because they make it so easy for me to do) to learn what they’ve really been up to – no good for sure as everyone now knows about Enron which was little more than a crime organization posing as a legal business.
I suspect not enough people know about Greg in the US. That’s because the dominant corporate media won’t go anywhere near him. Why? Because he uncovers and discloses some of the most important information we should know that gets people upset when they find out about it. That’s not the kind of material an empire wants in circulation nor its corporate media. It might interfere with the empire’s plans if the public knew what it was up to, and it wouldn’t be good for business either as the corporate media and the rest of corporate America profit from its government’s antics which are engaged in on their behalf. So to assure it’s business as usual, the public is kept uninformed except for the steady stream of propaganda, lies and distortion reported that’s called news and information.
Greg does get some air time on BBC Television’s Newsnight in the UK. But I’m surprised he gets any as that august organization is as much in bed with its government as our dominant media is with ours. Nonetheless, apparently over there some important information slips between the sheets and manages to come out over the airwaves and into peoples’ homes. In the US, it’s almost impossible finding any of that. Over here we have a highly controlled system of mass communication and in a nation claiming to have a free press. In the words of a former commentator of a bygone era, the press here is free to anyone who owns one.
Greg divides his book into five chapters crammed with facts we need to know that we’ll never see on CNN or hear on National Public Radio which has about as much to do with the public as Pravda did in the former Soviet Union. We’re clever in our use of language here, and sadly too many people are none the wiser about it. But thanks to the efforts of journalists like Greg, that number is declining. I’ll give you a healthy sample of what he reported in Armed Madhouse chapter by chapter.
Chapter One – The Fear – It’s Osama Again
I’d guess more people in the US know who Osama bin Laden is than the mayor of their city, governor of their state or Vice-President of the US. They have to know because he’s been packaged as the world’s most fearsome bogeyman and placed in the spotlight enough times to make the public believe he’s a threat to life on the planet. He’s the face and persona used to justify the so-called “war on terror,” which is the convenient scam scare tactic the Bush administration uses to justify its war on the world and on the US public for good measure. That war without end against new enemies whenever we run out of old ones is to make the world safe for corporate America, and to make sure its extra safe it destroys our civil liberties and essential social services as well.
We’ve blamed Osama for everything from 9/11 to conspiring with Saddam to maybe causing the price of gasoline and gold to skyrocket making them both the world’s two greatest bogeymen. With Saddam in the dock and his show trial now ongoing at the kangaroo court we set up for him, it leaves Osama alone on the loose as boogeyman-in-chief to allow the scare hoax to continue. It’s an old con game used to heighten the level of public fear even more and thus make the scam of the “war of terror” sound real when, if fact, it’s not. Whatever Osama did or didn’t do, Greg explains what he wanted and why he had reason to be upset at the US.
As far as we know, he’s not a particularly nice fellow, but what he wanted was our troops removed from the “Land of Holy Places” called Saudi Arabia. They’d been sent there in preparation for the 1991 Gulf war and remained after it ended. His motive was not out of compassion for the Saudi people. It was because our presence threatened what he called the largest oil reserves in the world. Those reserves certainly are enormous but not nearly the greatest as Greg explains later in his book which I’ll get to below. The US initially recruited him as a CIA asset and financed his jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s which he also found oppressive and wouldn’t tolerate. He had other motives as well which included removing Saddam, overthrowing the House of Saud and creating a new fundamentalist Islamic state from Sudan to Kazakhstan with every nation in it an oil producer which Greg calls a Petroleum Kingdom of God run by Osama and his followers.
While the Bush administration was busy fingering Osama and Saddam as the twin threats we had to remove, although neither one had the weapons to threaten anyone, they went to great pains to ignore the real threat of A.Q. Khan. He happens to be the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb and was eager and willing to share his technology at a price with interested buyers like North Korea, Libya and possibly others we may never know about until they develop their own “bomb” and test one. Selling nuclear secrets apparently is a good way to make a living. It’s easy to get away with it when you do it as a representative of a client state run by a man who came to power the old-fashioned way – he forcibly seized it but claimed it was to benefit his people. Don’t they all say that? But that’s never a problem for the US if that leader or any other is willing to sell out the sovereignty of his nation and turn it over to us. General Pervez Musharraf was very willing to do that, and he’s been well-rewarded for his consideration.
So instead of trying to restrain the threat of nuclear technology proliferation, the Bush administration concentrated instead staking out “Marion the Librarian” so it could violate our civil liberties to learn if anyone was reading books in libraries it didn’t happen to like. I do that all the time, like the one I’m now reviewing, but I don’t get mine from libraries. I wonder if they also stake out Barnes and Noble and Borders. You can bet not if they’re big contributors to Bush or the Republican party.
The Bush enforcers and protectors of our liberty then went after most anyone they decided threatened our security regardless of whether, in fact, they did. Topping the list have been Muslims and their organizations for no other reason than their religion happens to be Islam and their skin color is a little darker than ours – even those from Arab countries who are caucasians but not ones white enough to suit us. That’s enough to make them convenient targets, using the ruse that persecuting and rounding them up makes us all a lot safer. It hardly seems to matter to a gullible public that it does just the opposite.
So using a daily mantra of fear (with added emphasis from color-coded levels flashing across TV screens) as needed, the Bush administration has managed to convince the public it’s a good idea to wage two wars without end and is getting ready to wage one or two more for good measure against Iran and Venezuela. It hardly matters that we don’t have the troop strength, we’re violating international laws we call “quaint” and “obsolete,” we’ve amassed huge and growing budget and trade deficits, we’re illegally spying on our own people, and the world has never been less safe because we, not Osama or Saddam, made it that way by our actions. Is it any wonder why most everyone hates us, and as a result, Greg says: “We will be hit again.” I certainly agree we will but would suggest it may be another inside job just like the first one on 9/11 whoever was on those planes.
Chapter Two – The Flow – War Is Good, Especially If Winning It Means A Big Oil Bonus
We learned right from the start of the first George W. Bush administration there was a secret plan to attack Iraq and seize its oil fields. But most people think there was one plan while Greg reports, in fact, there were two very different ones competing to be the one used.
Plan A was short and sweet to be completed in three days if all went as intended. An insider told Greg it was to be “an invasion disguised as a coup” with a friendly Ba’athist general parachuted in to replace Saddam. Colin Powell and the State Department supported this plan because it avoided occupying the country which he opposed. So much for the nonsense that Powell was against the war. He wanted one like the others in the Bush administration and only disagreed on the tactics. As we know, Powell’s view lost out to the war hawkish neocons including Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and other signers of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) – an imperial plan for US global dominance to extend well into the future to be enforced with unchallengeable military power.
The neocons wanted and got Plan B which was to be anything but quick and easy. It was detailed and designed to conquer and occuply Iraq followed by a total transformation of the nation’s policies, laws and regulations making it into a neoliberal free market capitalists’ dream. It was to be an incubator for all conquests to follow essentially making it heaven for US predatory corporations and the rich and hell for the Iraqi people and US taxpayers who have to pay for it.
The biggest prize of all in the plan, of course, was Iraq’s immense oil reserves which may be much greater than the 115 billion barrels of known reserves. The Bush war hawks even made clear what they wanted by the name they first chose for their adventure: Operation Iraqi Liberation – O.I.L. The plan involved selling off all the country’s oil assets “from the pipes to the pumps to the crude in the ground.” As Greg in his humorous style put it: “even if we didn’t go into Iraq for oil (why else would we have gone), we sure as hell weren’t leaving without it.” How true indeed, and so far it still is despite the living hell we created there for all sides including our own.
Palast then gave a detailed account of events on the ground from when on April 7, 2003 US tanks broke through the walls of Saddam’s palace, ceremonially pulled down his statute in a staged for TV event and sent General Jay Garner to the country to be its first viceroy or proconsul. Garner barely had time to unpack when he was replaced by Paul Bremer III because the general had a few different notions on how Iraq should be governed than did the neocons who sent him there. For them, Bremer filled the bill much better because of a key credential Garner lacked – he had previously served as Managing Director of Kissinger and Associates run by the former Secretary of State who never met a US instigated war he didn’t support or help start or a friendly client dictator he didn’t love.
During his tenure in Baghdad for the empire, Bremer performed admirably. The “Pasha Omnipotent” showed his contempt for democracy and signed into law (the new law because we said it was) an array of orders creating the neoliberal utopia of corporate America’s dreams. Whatever that fraternity wanted, they got, but at the expense of the Iraqi people who lost everything: the right to run their own country, to have a decent job with income enough to support themselves and their families, to organize unions to represent them, to be safe in the streets when they went into them, and just about everything else they had once had but no longer did thanks to the US illegal invasion and occupation. The US aggression actually achieved the impossible. It made Iraqis wish they had Saddam back.
Greg covered much more in this chapter that’s far too detailed to recount here. Let me just explain his account of “the war for OPEC” which is important and readers can get all the rest in the book. Buttoning down control of Iraq’s oil treasure was central to the US imperial mission. Saddam was little more than an inconvenient irritant to be removed so we could get on with why we went there in the first place. The issue was how to do it. It turned out the neocons from right wing think tanks like the notorious Heritage Foundation, which Greg called “the madrassa of neo-con fundamentalism,” had one idea and Big Oil another very different one. The HF notion was to break the back of OPEC by privatizing Iraq’s oil industry, maximizing oil production way above Iraq’s established quota, getting oil prices to tank setting off bickering among its members, and breaking the power of Saudi Arabia.
There was only one problem with this plan – Big Oil wanted no part of it. It was the last thing they wanted, especially if it would break the back of OPEC that’s essential to the oil giants’ strategy to keep prices high and profits growing. That’s because the power of the cartel to control output effectively controls the price as well, and that’s what good business is all about. It’s particularly true if that business is supplying the world with a commodity it can’t do without. So to get right to the point of Greg’s detailed account of a confrontation of strategy that wasn’t so epic, guess who won out. It’s not hard to imagine with an administration in Washington run by former oil men and at least one powerful woman who had an oil tanker named after her. Final score: Big Oil – 1, Heritage Foundation neocon ideologues – 0. Case closed. Iraq’s oil industry remained a state enterprise with its output set by OPEC quotas, we know what the price of gasoline and heating oil are today, and now we should know why.
Greg also tried to fathom a better explanation of why Saddam had to go. It had nothing to do with the “now you see ’em, now you don’t WMDs.” We knew years earlier he had none or at least almost none. Greg posits the notion that Saddam was playing fast and loose with his oil spigot – alternating between raising and cutting production as he chose, which, of course, affects the price of crude. He also chose to sell oil in euros which angered the US, but not enough in Greg’s judgment to be a reason for his removal. Greg and I disagree on this point as I believe in the virus theory.
Even just one large oil producer abandoning the dollar, sacred to how the US wants oil traded, isn’t catastrophic enough to harm the value of the currency. But if enough other nations got the same idea and began doing it too, the effect on the dollar would be enormous as would the reverberations on the US and world economies. The US will never allow that to happen, and will even go to war to prevent it. In my judgment, that was definitely a factor in removing Saddam, but the dominant reason was our unwillingness to tolerate any leader of a developing nation unwilling to sell out his nation’s sovereignty to US interests. Saddam played by our rules in the 1980s when he committed his worst crimes. We ignored and financed them because he was a valued ally. It was only when he became independent that he had to go. Independence is the one unforgivable “sin” that won’t go unpunished.
Chapter Three – The Network – The Dream of A Borderless Interconnected World That’s A Corporate Utopia
Greg is referring to a world ruled by money and the power that goes with it. It a world controlled by the “multi-national dominion of dollars; multi-dollars, electro-dollars and…petro-dollars.” He begins his discussion explaining that the Saudis and other oil producing nations suck out our billions of dollars and then loan them back to us by buying US Treasuries to fund our our budget and trade deficits. They also buy plenty of our expensive weapons. He then goes on to call China the other Saudi Arabia as that country is now the location of so much former US manufacturing that went there for its near chattel-level wage scale. The combination of China and other low wage countries we import from along with petro-dollar outflow has created a huge and growing trade deficit that’s only manageable through the kindness of strangers.
Greg goes on to explain what the folks who brought us an endless war on the world and massive transfer of wealth from most of us to the rich have in mind ahead if they accomplish what they want. It’s a brave new world order with the US increasingly taking on the characteristics of the developing world – low wages and no government provided essential services like Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid if the Republican ideologues get their way. It’s a race to the bottom to enrich giant corporations at the expense of people here and everywhere who are just used as commodities – to be used as production inputs at the lowest possible cost and then discarded when no longer needed. That’s how it is in China, India, the new Russia and “liberated” Eastern Europe and coming soon to a city or town near you so we all can enjoy the fruits of predatory capitalism.
It’s called “the free market” meaning the corporate giants are allowed to operate without restraint – no unwanted regulations or even need to obey the law, tariff-free entry to foreign markets but protectionism at home, little government spending except for corporate welfare, no unions, no worker pensions or other benefits and no government anywhere interfering with their divine right of capitalism. It’s a world ruled by the privileged, mostly sitting in corporate boardrooms, and the halls of dominant governments and one in which they alone benefit and at our expense. It’s a world where no “outliers” are allowed – democrats like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez who’s viewed as having the temerity to dare think he can choose to serve his own people rather than the interests of the US and Global North. It’s a “flat borderless world” where people everywhere are losing out to the interests of power, privilege and profit. It’s a world no one should want or have to live in. And it’s one extolled as being the best of all possible ones by the likes of nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman and his well-paid empire flack namesake Thomas selling his snake oil at the nation’s unofficial ministry of information and propaganda – the New York Times.
Chapter Four – The (Election) Con – Gore and Kerry Really Did Win in 2000 and 2004
Greg was the first investigative journalist to document how the Republicans stole the 2000 presidential election depriving Al Gore of the office he won. Back then, the story was Florida and the recount that never quite happened because five High Court justices decided they alone and not the people had the right to decide who would become President. The rest, as they say, is history, though we may need to rephrase the famous aphorism attributed to Mark Twain that “history doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes.” It repeated closely enough in 2004, except for the change in the crime scenes and some of the methods used. Republican machinations worked so well in 2000 they went for an encore four years later and pulled it off again – this time principally in Ohio and New Mexico where Kerry won the popular vote but Bush got the ones that were counted and Kerry had lots of his deleted.
How was it done? Republicans were just learning their trade in 2000 as a warm-up for what they had in mind henceforth. They cleansed the voter roles in heavily Democrat counties, never counted opposition ballots they said were spoiled (remember the hanging chads), obstructed black voters from getting to the polls and used assorted other dirty tricks. They wanted to be well prepared for a more sophisticated heist in 2004 and did it following the sure-fire wisdom of Joe Stalin who once reportedly said: “It’s not the people who vote that count; it’s the people who count the votes.” Uncle Joe wasn’t so dumb after all. He gained and held on to power for over 30 years and survived the likes of his rivals, Adolph Hitler who wanted his head, and a hostile US that felt the same way. In the end he proved to be a rarity among tyrants – he died in bed.
Greg did a great job investigating the Rebublican high jinks in 2000 and did it again in the 2004 election. From what he learned then and since, he predicts 2008 will be a repeat of the same with maybe some new tricks thrown in but yielding the same result. He begins his account of the heist with a section titled – “Night of the Uncounted: How to Disappear Three Million Votes. The main battleground was Ohio where 153,237 supposedly “spoiled” or unreadable, damaged or invalid ballots were tossed out and never counted. The same tactic was repeated at least in New Mexico and Iowa. In all, over 3 million votes were cast but never counted. Here’s how he broke it all down:
Provisional ballots rejected –
This was a whole new category of ballot that totaled 1,090,729 uncounted votes.
Spoiled Ballots –
These were votes bad machines failed to record: a total of 1,389,231 thrown out.
Absentee Ballots Uncounted –
These ballots were heavily used, especially in certain states. An astonishing 526,420 were rejected mostly in swing states where they counted most.
Voters Barred from Voting
Greg explained this category included a “combination of incompetence and trickery” that included eliminating polling stations in opponents’ districts, creating long lines and purging supposed felons and others whose only crime was wanting to “Vote While Black.” Greg didn’t have a total here but estimated it was in the hundreds of thousands.
Greg then went on to present in great detail the results of his thorough investigation. Its conclusion helps show why half the voters never bother showing up on election day in the first place and those who do and think their vote counts are quite mistaken. The votes from the well-off in white (Republican) neighborhoods or counties surely do, but the game plan is to play fast and loose when it comes to people of color in strongly Democrat areas and use every dirty trick a clever mind can invent to deny them their franchise.
So far it’s working so well Greg believes the plans are set on how the 2008 election will be stolen. Its centerpiece in Greg’s estimation involves disenfranchizing Latino voters because it’s clear to this large and growing segment of the population that the Republicans have no interest in serving them. How right they are. So that being the case, the solution is to keep them from voting for the opposition or simply not let them vote at all. It looks like they have a hat full of dirty tricks in mind to pull it off – some of the old standbys from 00 and 04 plus some new ones that will make it more interesting for journalists like Greg. One “reform” involves requiring a photo ID supposedly to be able to prevent someone from trying to vote illegally using someone else’s name – something that never, if fact, happens. Greg ran the idea of voters doing this by a get-out-the vote organizer in New Mexico who complained how hard it was to get people out to vote once, let alone twice.
But the idea behind this scam is to throw up another obstacle to make it even harder for poor people of color to vote. If they don’t have a driver’s license, it will cost them about $20 for a voter ID card. They may not want to spend the cash for a privilege that won’t count for much anyway, but it they’re willing to they still need an ID to get an ID. The idea is to discourage the wrong voters from voting and if they manage to do it then make it easier to toss out their vote because they didn’t do it right. To sell this idea, Republicans needed Democrats to go along and a key one to endorse it. They found their man in Jimmy Carter (a member of the privileged class in good standing) who served on an Election Reform Commission that recommended a mandatory national voter ID card. We’ll have to wait a couple of years to see how all this plays out. But with the past two elections as backdrop, it’s hard not to imagine more “fun and games” in 2008.
Greg also makes another key point he believes is accurate although I’m not as sure about it as he is – the role of electronic voting machines and their possible or likely manipulation to rig the 2004 vote. Greg called this issue a “head fake” despite the fact that Bush supporters made, programmed and serviced the machines and most of them offered no voter printouts for verification. I was suspicious the first time I heard about them and still am. Any smart programmer can make my vote come out twice for the other candidate, and I have trouble believing it didn’t happen often enough to matter. But Greg feels otherwise and reported this issue was brought up and highlighted enough to divert peoples’ attention away from where the real mischief was happening. He may be right, and if so, it certainly would not have been the first time. The folks who run the empire have had lots of practice doing it and are very clever coming up with whatever tactics they need to complete the job they set out to do.
Chapter Five – The Class War – The Great and Growing Divide between the Rich and the Rest of Us
The divide is great and worsening as wealth is systematically sucked from the poor and middle class and transferred to the rich. It’s the Bush administration’s notion of an “ownership” society where the rich own it and the rest of us pay for it. I’ve documented the downward trajectory of American workers in a major article I wrote called Hostile Takeover. It was about how giant corporations run the world and control our lives, how the rich have benefitted greatly, especially since the Reagan years in the 1980s, and how most people have seen an unprecedented fall in their standard of living over that same time. Adjusted for inflation, the average working person in the US now earns less than 30 years ago despite the fact that economic growth has been strong and worker productivity high. But the gains from it have gone to the top as clearly seen in the following numbers. In 2004, the average CEO earned 431 times the income of the average working person. That was up from 85 times in 1990 and 42 times in 1980.
It’s all because of the shift away from high-paid manufacturing jobs to low-paying service ones with few benefits; the growth of “globalization” and its accompanying worker-unfriendly trade agreements destroying good jobs at home and sending them abroad; the decline of unions; deregulation in key industries like transportation, communications and finance; the growth of high technology with machines displacing people; the effects of racism and sexism as seen in data showing 30% of black workers and 40% of Latinos earning poverty wages with women in both categories most affected; and the result of a 25 year assault on the New Deal and Great Society programs by Republicans and Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) led Democrats that hope to reverse decades of great social advances and replace them with the Bush administration’s notion of an “ownership” society where we all can have anything we want as long as we can pay for it. What Roosevelt, Truman and Lyndon Johnson had giveth, Reagan, Clinton and two Bush generations have been taking back.
George W. Bush has done it with a vengeance to service his corporate allies and fight his illegal wars with no end. His administration killed OSHA workplace ergonomic work rules that were more than 10 years in the making; revoked grants to study workplace safety and health; cut funding for job training; cut enforcement positions in OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration; proposed paying welfare recipients below-minimum wages; denied Homeland Security employees the right to bargain collectively and have protection for being a whistle-blower; blocked release of funds to monitor the health of rescue workers at Ground Zero in New York; cut health care benefits for veterans; proposed privatizing 850,000 federal jobs over a number of years; changed overtime work rules that will deprive millions of overtime pay; made it much harder for low-income workers to get the Earned Income Tax Credit; left every child behind (except those of the rich) in his education plan that helped his corporate allies and allowed public education to become even more degraded than it already was; allowed New Orleans to drown from Katrina and much of its majority black population to be ethnically cleansed so private developers could turn a rebuilt city into a theme park for the rich and tourist trade; allowed his Big Oil friends to manipulate the price of their product by controlling refinery output, resulting in everyone getting gouged by high gasoline and heating oil prices (compared to Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela where gasoline costs the public 12 cents a gallon); managed to get passed huge tax cuts for the rich and big corporations at the expense of the rest of us, and so much more.
And if all that wasn’t bad enough, George Bush got the Democrats to go along with just about all of his programs including two expensive and illegal wars of aggression with one or two more on the drawing board in an endless assault on the world for corporate power and profit and the destruction of our civil liberties at home. And all of it was justified by the scam scare tactic of a “war on terror” against enemies that don’t exist.
For the moment at least, we can take some comfort that the Bush administration failed or perhaps more accurately stalled in its effort to achieve its central domestic economic goal after its successful tax cutting scam to benefit the rich – the privatization of Social Security beginning with just a small portion of it. So far, mass public opposition to the idea of turning over the financial future of millions of Americans to the sharks on Wall Street to skim off big fees from retirees combined with multiple Washington scandals and the President’s plummeting approval rating has at least temporarily derailed the whole idea. However, it’s hard to imagine this Lazarus won’t one day rise up to haunt us again because the payoff for Wall Street is so great – between $400 billion to $1 trillion according to an estimate by one University of Chicago economist. Should this plan ever come to fruition, it would be what another writer calls “the granddaddy of all pension rip-off schemes” and what I have called in another article the grandest of grand thefts. That hardly matters to the Bush administration and the leadership in both parties only concerned with showering favors on their corporate paymasters and doing it at the expense of the public welfare.
One Other Key Issue Palast Raises in His Book
Greg discussed one other issue I just wrote about in another article and found myself embroiled in the middle of a maelstrom from having done it. It’s the issue of “peak oil” and the man who wrote about it 50 years ago – M. King Hubbert. Having already discussed this subject in another article (available on VHeadline.com, many other web sites and my own blog site – sjlendman.blogspot.com) and paid the price for it once, I don’t wish to do it again except to report that Greg discussed it and why it’s important.
Greg got into the so-called notion of “peak oil” which M. King Hubbert (a well-respected geologist of his day) explained in a research paper he published in 1956. Hubbert’s theory has been interpreted, misinterpreted and now reinterpreted as part of the debate especially prominent now on how close the world may be to “peak oil,” the decline in its availability and the effect that will have when there’s not enough of it around to meet the demand for this essential commodity. I don’t think anyone disagrees there’s a finite amount of every commodity. It’s just a question of how much there is and what theory best tells us.
There are many knowledgeable people today claiming we’ve about reached the “peak oil” stage or are close to it, and from then on the available supply will decline and eventually fail to keep up with demand. But there are others with a much different view. Greg is in the latter camp believing in his words “the Peak Oil crowd is crackers.” After some of the responses I got from my last article, I want to emphasize this is what Greg believes and these are his words, not mine. I’ll keep my views to myself so responders this time can praise or scorn Greg and leave me out of it.
Here’s Greg’s case based at least in part on the views of a former CIA oil expert now working in the Department of Energy (DOE). He names him in the book. Greg, that analyst and others believe we’re nowhere near peaking or running out of oil. He and they claim we have enough oil to last many decades into the future. Why? Because there’s oil, and then there’s oil. There’s the easy to find and refine kind called “light sweet” that’s abundant in the Middle East, and there’s also the harder to find, more expensive to refine so-called “heavy crude” and oil available from tar sands and oil shale. When these other categories are added in, the potential amount of total oil available skyrockets to off-the-chart numbers. But when those who believe these alternate sources will provide the oil of the future state their views publicly, the fireworks begin. I’ve learned there are strongly differing views on this controversial subject and both sides think the other one is “crackers.”
Here’s the case for the believers in heavy crude, tar sands and oil shale. When oil is priced at $10 a barrel, the supply is low because only the easy and cheap to extract and refine kind are economically feasible. But at $70 a barrel, it’s a whole new oil market. The heavy stuff and the rest become more economical to extract and refine, and a new far higher finite supply is realized almost magically. In short, it’s just a matter of supply and demand with the price of a commodity depending on how much of it consumers want. Too little demand and the price is low, but when it’s high like now and rising, then so does the price.
Greg also discussed the way this relates to Venezuela and how this increases that country’s available crude reserves to off-the-chart levels. I reported earlier that Venezuela may have reserves of about 350 billion barrels if all their known heavy and light crude are counted. That number is far more than is now officially recognized by OPEC which means the country has greater reserves than the Saudis by that number alone.
But there’s more, a lot more. Greg reports his DOE expert believes Venezuela holds 90% of the world’s super-heavy tar oil reserves which he estimates to be an astonishing total of 1,360,000,000,000 (1.36 trillion) barrels. So with a report like this coming from a source Greg feels is credible (I make no such claim), it’s easy to understand why Venezuela is so strategically important to the US and why it will do whatever it takes to secure control over that supply by any means including an act of aggression to seize it. The US goal isn’t access to the oil. It’s the control of the supply and its price, what companies profit from it, and overall how control of as much of this resource as possible can be used as a strategic weapon. The stakes for the US are enormous, and the battle lines are drawn in the global game of where the supply of oil is located and how an aggressive and predatory US will make every effort to control as much of it as possible even if it takes waging war to do it.
Greg goes into some detail about why Venezuela is so important to the US, and I’ve written a great deal on this subject as well explaining that the US is now planning for the fourth time to oust Hugo Chavez after failing three times to do it. Greg has been to Venezuela where he interviewed Chavez. At least from his visit and that contact he understands and writes of Chavez’s courage to challenge US hegemony, but having done it finds himself vulnerable as a target for forcible removal including the option I’ve written about – trying to kill him.
Greg’s book is an important contribution for readers to gain insight into the machinations of the Bush administration from stealing elections to waging war on Iraq and the world and much more as well. You won’t learn than ever on CNN or National Public Radio which has about as much to do with the public as Pravda did in the former Soviet Union. I highly recommend the book as I did his earlier one The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. I’ve written on that subject myself and know how true it is. Those of us living in the US are governed by a band of out-of-control rogues wanting total world dominance with no “outliers” allowed abroad or dissent at home. The result is a dangerous world for us all and one in which our only defense is good information. Only from that can we understand the problem and know why we need to work for our own self-preservation. Greg’s book gives us lots of help. I recommend it strongly and hope those who read it will use it to resist more and fight back for a better, more secure world we all deserve but won’t ever get unless we’re willing to work for it.