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How an Iranian 'Oil Bourse' Threatens the American Empire

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-- It's been over seven years since the US had real or competent leadership and now a neo-ape man may precipitate our return to the cave! Iran's planned oil bourse threatens not only Bush's simplistic view of the world, it strikes at the the coffers of "big oil". Isolated by mysteriously cut internet cables, Iran --if it is not nuked --will this month begin trading oil in currencies other than the dollar. Bush's cave man response: Nuke Iran! Kill, kill!
On September 16 1985, when the Commerce Department announced that the United States had become a debtor nation, the American Empire was as dead, theoretically, as its predecessor, the British. Our empire was seventy-one years old and had been in ill financial health since 1968. Like most modern empires, ours rested not so much on military prowess as on economic primacy.

--Gore Vidal, Chapter Three of Imperial America (Nation Books, 2005)

Bush's response to Iran's "Oil Bourse", his response to the end of American empire, is pre-stonge age in nature. Indeed, the US empire will collapse when the dollar collapses. Because we have an ape-man and not a real President, the consequences will be tragic. A commenter to this blog used the term "sunset fuel" to describe oil and our dependence upon it. The world grows more dangerous as oil becomes increasingly hard to find, more expensive to produce and refine. We should have expected the world to become a much more dangerous place under those conditions. In its decline, oil becomes disproportionately important, nations more desperate, Bush more belligerent. Monitoring the news today --it is clear that the Middle East cables were deliberately sabotaged and the effect has been to cut Iran off the internet. Isolating a nation by cutting off its systems of communication is a first step preceding a military attack. Bush no longer cares about even the pretense of pre-text! His charge that Iran has weaponized grade fuels is universally and credibly debunked. The real threat is to the poohbahs of US empire --the Military/Industrial complex. Bush doesn't care. Nuke Iran! Kill, kill! Like the US today, Rome had currency problems, one of the reasons for its fall. When Rome attacked Dacia, it was for the gold. Much of the history of Rome is the history of how "empire" became "enterprise", how the Praetorian Guard become the Military/Industrial complex. The first known Roman "money" was a lump of bronze aptly named "aes grave", literally, "a heavy lump of bronze". An "aes grave" weighed about seven pounds. Traded by weight, it required slaves to carry it around. -- A more portable medium --the true coin --would not appear until about 89 BC. It was quickly debased with increasingly thin silver plating as more coins were needed in circulation than could be backed up by the "real" wealth of empire. By one AD, a tiny new bronze aes or "as" was introduced. It had no real intrinsic value but it was easy to carry around. One could gain entry to bath houses or free public performances with it. Even then it was just a token to help "ushers" and/or doormen keep track of the number of folk. By the mid 60s AD, Nero was alloying silver with cheaper metals, a process virtually impossible to detect. Nero thus set the precedent and standard not only for later emperors but politicians of almost every stripe. Briefly, Nero did what almost all politicians do. He swindled the people in order to put more coin into circulation. By the time the Praetorian Guard auctioned off the empire to Didius Julianus, the transaction would be completed in Drachmas (Greek currency) not Roman the sestercius or the ass. The smart money had already dumped Roman coinage. In the late Empire, it was hoped that new coins --the silver "nummus" and the gold "aureus" -- would restore confidence during periods of devastating inflation. Much is made of the "gold standard". In fact, it doesn't matter. If someone like Ron Paul restored the Gold Standard in the US, the economy would melt down for several reasons. First, economies must grow or die. Fixing the currency to a finite standard guarantees that it will be necessary to "debase" to accommodate a growing population, growing demand for money itself. Secondly, given US weakness, encouraging Americans to dump bucks for metals, will only hasten the death cycle of the dollar. Perhaps Paul believes it is already too late --so just kill it off and be done with it. Nevermind, the millions who would literally starve or wind up on the streets. The "Gold Standard" is a myth that is easily demagogued. In fact, a nation's currency is really backed up by its total productive capacity. If the nation is at work and productive, we could use monopoly money! And we have been for years. Who the hell would cares for so long as we stay out of jail and pass "Go"? American prosperity was always behind and had always "backed up" the strong dollar. Paulian thinking that we need only jack around with the currency to restore American prosperity is literally "backward". It doesn't work that way. Productivity needs help. US economic expansion had always been fueled by an abundance of natural resources --land, timber, water, farm land, metals, et al. The nation's history was changed forever when oil was discovered first in Pennsylvania and, when that ran out, Spindletop in Texas. For over a century, US economic expansion was backed up by oil. The US was an oil producing nation. Oil was better than gold or silver in that it had much more intrinsic value than either metal. Oil not only lubricated the engines, it fueled them. In the process of turning it into gasoline, it was discovered that its plastic properties could make an almost unlimited number of doodads, some of which had utilitarian value and some only value as playthings and baubles.
On a personal note, landing at Kansas City International Airport the other day, my vision of America altered by my in-flight reading of Mr. Berman's remarkable work, I saw the landscape through new eyes, a landscape I now understood to have been systematically vandalized by the corporatocracy: big box stores, chain hotels and restaurants, strip malls and gas stations, a landscape everywhere repeated across the United States, a landscape we intend to impose upon the world in order to fulfill our destiny as bringer of freedom as expressed through consumption.

--Reader Review of Dark Ages America

From internet reaction to my previous article on the US v Iran:

If Iran is attacked it will have nothing or next to nothing to do with the oil bourse. It will be because the PNACers have targeted Iran, because, like Iraq, it is not a puppet state, and, in the Neocon "mind" thus presents an "existential threat" to the greater Israel that they imagine.

It has everything to do with Neocons who are most certainly supporters of the Military/Industial Complex or, more accurately, the Military/Oil Exploitation complex. Neocons are all about empire and oil is at the heart of American empire. Israel is, in fact, just a convenient ally as were the various puppet, vassel states of Rome --many of which were in the Middle East.

Certainly, when oil is no longer traded in dollars, it is not only the dollar that will collapse. It means that the US --on the bad end of a huge balance of trade deficit --will no longer be able to afford to import goods or services. For a nation that long ago (Reagan years primarily; See Vidal, cited) gave up its role as a manufacturing nation, this collapse will be monumental, catastrophic. The fact that oil had been traded in dollars was the only thing propping up the dollar. That there was a demand for dollars because there was a demand for oil meant that you could continue to buy imported goods with dollars. Now --imagine a world in which no other country need "purchase" dollars in order to import oil! What if oil producing nations agree to accept other currencies? What if they refuse to accept dollars? Go to Wal-Mart or even your local supermarket. Almost everything on the shelves is imported. Imagine a shop owner refusing to accept as payment for anything in the shop your worthless dollars ! As Gore Vidal pointed out, the US empire ended in the eighties, when the US became a net debtor nation. GOP regimes since have only made the situation worse. Just as empire became the business of Rome, empire had become the "business" of the US which no longer produces enough to employ its population let alone export to the rest of the world. Most US consumer goods are imported from China, sold in Warl-Mart, discarded in America. America's best days are over. We live in the twilight of empire.

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Len Hart is a Houston based film/video producer specializing in shorts and full-length documentaries. He is a former major market and network correspondent; credits include CBS, ABC-TV and UPI. He maintains the progressive blog: The (more...)

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