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No, not from the lips of former secretary of state Colin Powell. It appears we shall have to wait until the disgraced general/diplomat draws nearer to meeting his maker before he gets concerned over anything more than the “blot” that Iraq has put on his reputation.
Rather, the uncommon candor comes from a highly respected Republican doyen, economist Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006, whom the president has praised for his “wise policies and prudent judgment.” Sadly for Bush and Cheney, Greenspan decided to put prudence aside in his new book, The Age of Turbulence, and answer the most neuralgic issue of our times—why the United States invaded Iraq.
Everyone knows? Would that it were so. But it’s hardly everyone. Sometimes I think it’s hardly anyone.
There are so many, still, who “can’t handle the truth,” and that is all too understandable. I have found it a wrenching experience to be forced to conclude that the America I love would deliberately launch what the Nuremburg Tribunal called the “supreme international crime”—a war of aggression—largely for oil. For those who are able to overcome the very common, instinctive denial, for those who can handle the truth, it really helps to turn off the Sunday football games early enough to catch up on what’s going on.
On January 11, 2004, viewers of CBS’ 60 Minutes saw another of Bush’s senior economic advisers, former treasury secretary Paul O’Neill discussing The Price of Loyalty, his memoir about his two years inside the Bush administration. O’Neill, a plain speaker, likened the president’s behavior at cabinet meetings to that of “a blind man in a roomful of deaf people.” How does he manage? Cheney and “a praetorian guard that encircled the president” help Bush make decisions off-line, blocking contrary views.
Cheney has a Rumsfeldian knack for aphorisms that don’t parse in the real world— like “deficits don’t matter.” To his credit, O’Neill picked a fight with that and ended up being fired personally by Cheney. In his book, Greenspan heaps scorn on that same Cheneyesque insight.
O’Neill made no bones about his befuddlement over the president’s diffident disengagement from discussions on policy—except, that is, for Bush’s remarks betraying a pep-rally-cheerleader fixation with removing Saddam Hussein and occupying Iraq.
Why Iraq? “Largely Oil”
O’Neill began to understand better after Bush’s inauguration when the discussion among his top advisers abruptly moved to how to divvy up Iraq’s oil wealth. Just days into the job, President Bush created the Cheney energy task force with the stated aim of developing “a national energy policy designed to help the private sector.” Typically, Cheney has been able to keep secret its deliberations and even the names of its members.
But a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit forced the Commerce Department to turn over task force documents, including a map of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries, terminals, and potential areas for exploration; a Pentagon chart “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts;” and another chart detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects—all dated March 2001.
On the 60 Minutes, program on December 15, 2002, Steve Croft asked then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, “What do you say to people who think this [the coming invasion of Iraq] is about oil?” Rumsfeld replied:
“Nonsense. It just isn’t. There—there—there are certain............. things like that, myths that are floating around. I’m glad you asked. I—it has nothing to do with oil, literally nothing to do with oil.”