Six years ago on this date, the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to grant President Bush the power to attack Iraq unilaterally, remove Saddam Hussein from power, and abolish that country's nuclear, chemical and biological weaponry. I was interviewed by a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle to explain what the Arab world thought about Bush's motives to invade Iraq, and I explained that they thought the president was driven by oil. The invasion of Iraq proceeded, the WMDs claim was debunked, and the rest is history.
Now, during this U.S. presidential campaign, the subject of Arab oil keeps popping up.
"We have to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't like us very much," Republican candidate John McCain keeps on repeating. Democratic candidate Barack Obama has also jumped on the bandwagon, declaring at a Wisconsin rally that a push for alternative energy "will stop us from sending $700 billion a year to tyrants and dictators for their oil."
First of all, this number is exaggerated! According to the Federal Energy Information Administration, in 2007 the U.S. imported nearly 4.9 billion barrels of oil and refined products, 16 percent of it from the Persian Gulf and 10 percent from Venezuela -- countries that "don't like us very much," according to McCain.
By comparison, the U.S. imported 30 percent of its oil products from Canada and Mexico. According to the Foreign Trade Division of the Census Bureau, the United States' entire oil imports in the first seven months of this year totaled $283.6 billion from January through July. This figure was calculated when oil prices were above $100 a barrel! Therefore, there is no way we will be sending $700 billion dollars to "tyrants and dictators" unless we are talking about the banking industry.
Here is the fun part: McCain has been arguing that he has great plans to make America energy independent "within seven, eight, ten years, if we put our minds to it." But on Wednesday night, during his last debate with Senator Obama, he said, "I think we can, for all intents and purposes, eliminate our dependence on Middle Eastern oil and Venezuelan oil," he added, "Canadian oil is fine."
Let me get that straight. How will importing oil from Canada reduce the United States' addiction to oil? I'm not much of an energy expert and can't project how fast we can wean ourselves from fossil fuel by following the McCain plan of drilling in Alaska and building nuclear plants which would take ten years to become operational, but what I'm gathering from McCain is that there is good oil and there is bad oil. Arab oil is bad!
One last thing, remember when McCain chastised Obama about Pakistan and accused him of talking loudly? McCain then boasted, "In fact, he said he (Obama) wants to announce that he's going to attack Pakistan. Remarkable." McCain went on: "I'm not going to telegraph my punches, which is what Sen. Obama did. And I'm going to act responsibly, as I have acted responsibly throughout my military career and throughout my career in the United States Senate."
Talking about telegraphing punches! If oil is not a strategic thing Senator McCain, I'm curious: what is?
OPEC will be holding an emergency meeting next month. I wonder what its members will be talking about.
Jamal Dajani produces the Mosaic Intelligence Report on Link TV.