April 2003 #6

Of Course Its Not About Oil!

Its almost official now. The war that was not for oil - under any circumstances, is still not a war for oil.

The question remains, how come on news reports around the world we now find that the super efficient, accurate, and deadly US forces (who obviously made a mistake when they fired on and killed Al Jazeera employees in their building in Baghdad and other journalists in the Hotel Palestine) could have missed the Iraq Oil Ministry and Interior Ministry building?

Robert Fisk in yesterdays "New Zealand Herald" asked, "And which particular ministries proved to be so important for the Americans? Why, the Ministry of Interior, of course - with its vast wealth of intelligence information on Iraq - and the Ministry of Oil."

Now, it will probably be argued by the hawks that these buildings are of vital concern in the rebuilding of Iraq. While to them history is an inconvenience better forgotten or locked away in musty rooms, it seems that the discourse has no turned to what is termed in public relations jargon "the discourse of renewal".

This discourse emerges from the "crisis management" school of PR and is bound up in efforts to rebuild "image" in the face of a crisis. In the case of Iraq, the crisis was the "threat of terrorism" and grows out of the events fostered by 911. The efforts of renewal discourse are directed towards the future, history is only important in as much as it serves to support the "core values" espoused by the organisation adopting it. In this case we have the cores values of "justice, liberty and freedom" being offered as the reasons why the "coalition of the willing" embarked on their deadly crusade. So, its not about oil then - OK!

Renewal discourse is dangerous because it fails to acknowledge the material reality in which human beings exist. It's a theoretical construct designed to forget the past in an attempt to avoid any form of self reflection and contemplation of the outcomes of the present course of action. And that is
worrisome. Today's news contained the bulletin that three more American high school students were killed by one or more of their peers. There will be, no doubt acres of newsprint devoted to asking why, hours of airtime examining the minutiae of the victims and perpetrators lives yet, as is becoming more the norm in the media, the fundamental question of what IS the state of the world from the viewpoint of these people will not be addressed. Drugs, porn, the internet, alcohol, sex, globalisation and much more will be dragged out as the "reasons" why young people do what they do - so often with tragic results. Yet the glaring contradictions of the systems of government and economy we are forced to live under will be pushed back out of the discussion. There will never be the links made between what is said to be OK for the "state" (for example pre-emptive strikes) and what occurs at the individual level (you can't hit anyone ... without a good reason.)

Our so-called leaders will dress their rhetoric up as "protecting" the core values of "what we all believe". Yet at the same time they expect us blindly
follow them into conflicts fought by the many for the benefit of the few. In attempting to understand the renewal discourse we find there is distinct lack of reference to the moral and spiritual values that are supposed to be the foundations of our "Christian" heritage. Of course all that is being done is being done in the "name" of god, or so we're told. But ultimately it is humans who will suffer.

Perhaps one of the reasons the US was so keen to protect the Ministry of the Interior was that inside that building there will be more proof that the
"weapons of mass destruction" that were supposed to be hidden didn't ever exist except in the minds of the hard liners. After all, they wouldn't want that kind of information falling into the hands of anyone would they? 

Also apparent, as discussed in my last letter, are the cries that we "peaceniks" got it wrong. Again, the discourse of renewal is effective in cutting off the historical memory as it attempts to focus on the victor. I don't think those of us who said that the lives of innocents would be taken in this war were wrong? I don't think we were wrong in stating the obvious - that this war not about everything else but oil and I don't think we ARE wrong in continuing to raise these issues and in remaining vigilant and vocal.

While the history of this war is re-written over the next few months and heroes are created and myths fashioned, the ones who choose to forget history or who allow it to be plundered will keep telling us that all is OK. As Donald Rumsfeld said the other day, free people are free to choose to do bad things. Now that he and his friends have "liberated" the Iraqi people, I wonder how much wrong they will be allowed to do before more guns come out the help them understand the "core values" of US/UK/AUS style democracy.

Finally, you've got to love him, George the Lesser that is. He said on last nights news that it would take some time for chaos to be restored in Iraq. Sure he corrected himself and "we all understood what he meant", but did we? Did he? Who knows, but it is kind of worrying that the so called leader of the free world is such a chump. After all, he does want us to believe he commands the most sophisticated, efficient and lethal army in the world. Trouble is I wouldn't want to see him with a gun in his hand. But then again, he doesn't need to do the killing, he pays others to do that. Of course, never for oil though.