Oil. Let's get clear on the question of oil. The United States now imports more oil than it is able to produce domestically--11.9 million barrels per day (MMBPD) vs. 9.0 million. Our biggest source of oil imports is Canada, which provides 15% of the imports; then comes Saudi Arabia with about 10%. But Iraq is our sixth largest imported oil supplier, with 6.7%.
Also on the list of oil-exporting countries are Venezuela and Nigeria, both of whom have proved politically unstable in recent months, putting the reliability of their oil supply in doubt.
Moreover, U.S. domestic oil production has peaked. In the lower 48 states, it reached its maximum of 9.4 MMBPD in 1970 and has been declining. Alaskan oil production reached its peak in 1988, and has declined by a half to the current 1 MMBPD.
Iraq is said to hold the Arab peninsula's second largest oil reserves, next only to Saudi Arabia. Control of those reserves by the U.S. would allow them to be developed further, and insure us of a significant source for our domestic needs.
So--regardless of what we say about Iraqi oil being used "for the benefit of the Iraqi people" after the war--a victorious U.S. would very likely increase purchases of Iraqi oil, possibly even control the price, and use our control of the oil tap as a means of rewarding those who were "with us" and punishing those who were "against us."
Oil is most definitely part of the picture.
Israel. Another reason for war that must weigh heavily on President Bush's mind is Israel. Iraq under Saddam Hussein's regime constitutes the greatest threat to Israel in the Middle East. Taking out Saddam Hussein would put Israel in an even stronger (and more lopsided) military position vis-a-vis its Arab neighbors in the region than it is now. And because it supported the winning side politically and morally (although most likely not militarily), would give it an even freer hand in Palestine.
When the White House started pounding its war drums, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published a report about an Israeli strategic analysis, which had found that Israel would be the greatest beneficiary of a U.S. led attack on Iraq. It advised the Israeli government to stay out of any coming war, even if Iraq were to attack it in revenge (as it ded during the first Gulf War). The U.S. would take care of Saddam Hussein without Israel's involvement.
It is clear that the Pentagon "war party" is made up of strong Israel-supporters. That includes the Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, who's referred to the West Bank and Gaza as the Palestine "entity." In the media, the war-party is egged on by neo-conservative magazines like the Weekly Standard, liberal-on-domestic-issues but pro-right-wing-Israel magazines like the New Republic, the hawkish columnists of the Washington Post, and the Fred Barnes-Morton Kondracke types who populate now the various TV political analysis shows. Even news anchors like Fox TV's Sheppard Smith clearly put a pro-war slant on the news and commentators they bring up.
"Super-hawk" Richard Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board--Rumsfeld's famous (and infamous) Pentagon war-cabal--and other members of the Board, has strong ties to Israel. He and like members are now in a position to influence U.S. policy and realize their ideas about Middle East strategy. Perle was former director of the Israeli right-wing newspaper Jerusalem Post, which supports Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's brutal occupation policies in the West Bank and Gaza, and a board member of the JINSA (Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs). (Note that the "national security" JINSA means is more Israel's than America's.) Other members of the Defense Policy Board have similar links to Israel.
When the members of the war-party were out of government during the Clinton administration, they kept up a barrage of white papers urging the U.S. government to support an aggressive Israeli policy in Palestine. Perle, Douglas Feith and David Wurmser--all now in various influential positions in the Bush government--authored a strategic white paper for the Israeli right-wing government advising it on how to "massage American public opinion and U.S. policy makers" into removing Saddam Hussein--a goal which the white paper termed an ". . . important Israeli strategic objective in its own right." (See letter of Robert Norberg, "Dual Loyalties and the National Interest," Washington Post, Feb. 26.)
Removing and enemy of Israel is a feat which certainly wouldn't be lost on Jewish-American voters in the coming presidential elections of 2004. Ninety percent of the Jewish vote now goes to Democratic candidates, but that could change, were the Republicans to be perceived as more supportive of Israel. American Jews strongly support Israel, and almost 100% of their opinion-leaders and political pressure groups support the coming war in Iraq. (Even the writers of letters to the editor of metropolitan newspapers break out this lopsided way.) Opposition to Israeli occupation policies and its war aims usually opens a floodgate of of public criticism, including characterization as treading "dangerously close" to anti-Semitism--a death knell to most American public people.
The loss of the popular vote in the year 2000 presidential elections hasn't been forgotten by Bush or his handlers. Especially not the close-run-thing of the ballot count in Florida, a state with large numbers of Jewish voters. And neither has the circus surrounding those famous, confusing "butterfly" ballots in Palm Beach County (which were claimed to have caused many of that area's Jewish voters to cast their votes for Buchanan instead of Al Gore). The Jewish vote in West Palm Beach, had it gone the other way, could have easily thrown the Florida vote, and thus the Electoral College majority, clearly to Bush.
Now that the economy in the tank, and there seem to be no signs of a speedy recovery, Bush must be very sensitive to the portents of the vote and the always-heavy political contributions of Jewish-Americans. President Bush the Younger surely remembers how Clinton's slogan, "It's the economy, stupid!" helped him defeat President Bush the Elder--even after the victorious first Gulf War. Israel has got to figure in Bush's neural circuits (or at least in those of his political guru, Karl Rove's) as he prays and contemplates--in solitude, we're told--the most auspicious date for an attack.