My Turn: America's oil dependency drives the war in Iraq

Posted: Monday, April 11, 2005

Most Alaskans seem willing to trade the Last Frontier for another short term "fix" to feed the American habit. Sen. Ted Stevens fought a hard battle. He is a great enabler but lacks vision as a statesman. Selling off the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a sad day for Alaska and one more needle track on the arm of the U.S. body politic. While I would prefer to preserve the refuge in perpetuity, we might at the least save it as our children's inheritance. Fifty years from today the oil beneath it will be 20 times today's value. Our children's future: sold to the highest bidder.

Many U.S. citizens also seem willing to sell their children's future by sending them to war to ensure that the feeding tube of our addiction keeps flowing. Those familiar with the psychology of addiction know that the junkie lives in denial. In the extreme a mother will sell her offspring for a fix. As a nation, our youth are sold into war. More bizarre, our country sells weaponry to those that may one day use it against those same soldiers. Profits and politics are obscuring common sense.

For 50 years we've been living in an economic bubble of massive growth and consumption induced by artificially cheap oil. The bubble is showing signs of weakness. While acknowledging our oil dependency we deny that our militaristic actions serve that dependency. If Iraq were exporting olive oil would we be there? Being the power bully on the world block no one can stop us from forcing our hand where we choose. World opinion bounces off our collective ego like pebbles off a HumVee. We are mired in a tragic mess of our own making. After two years of horror inflicted upon a nation far away from our borders, we have succeeded only in fomenting outrage at our arrogance. In the process we have recruited thousands of enraged Muslims to the cause of bringing down U.S. imperialism. The war has caused the death of 50,000 to 100,000 Iraqis and more than 1,500 U.S. soldiers, crippling many times more. Pathetically, we worry most about the harm done to our economy. While the economy is important, it should not be the most important.

Why are we blind to what we are doing and where it leads? How did we so quickly forget the lessons of Vietnam and other similar misadventures? Where is our outrage at our leaders? Where is our outrage at the lack of anything but "embedded" media coverage? Why is the Pentagon Press dominating the mainstream media?

A nation of hearts and minds has become divided and polarized over this moral dilemma. If we are willing to violate all the principles of democracy in order to "democratize" a country that posed us no threat and had nothing to do with the attacks on 9/11, then perhaps it's time to reevaluate what deviates our moral compass. More public dialogue around the central motivations of U.S. foreign policy would be a good start. For my part I fail to recognize them as either Christian or freedom spreading.

Those who control the resources, by whatever means, maintain the power. The United States is taking extreme measures contrary to its own values to co-opt foreign resources. We need to address reality and get the country into rehab. Agreeing to disagree may serve our desire to maintain business as usual, but there come times in the life of any species when it is not a viable evolutionary strategy. We must understand at a profound level how violence only begets more violence.

At the end of the fossil fuel era (a brief one as eras go), the most dependent will fall the hardest. Let's not insist on taking the rest of the world down with us.

• Curt Terrall is a member of Juneau People for Peace and Justice.

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