He Said, She Said, And Perception

Alan Greenspan must have a yen for causing an uproar now that he’s quit government.  In his published memoirs, available for purchase today, Greenspan has stirred up the hornet’s nest by asserting not only that Bush was terrible in regards to fiscal discipline, but also that the “Iraq war is largely about oil.”  Such a statement obviously could only seek to energize members of the anti-war bloc in this country, many of whom have had their suspicions from the onset.

It also prompted the White House to go on the offensive before the general public even has the chance to purchase the book and read up to that particular passage.  Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who admits not being part of the decision making process, says he doesn’t believe it’s true whilst White House spokesman Tony Fratto had to restrain himself:

That did not go down very well at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue where spokesman Tony Fratto told ABC News he would try to restrain himself. But he still took a pretty good shot at Greenspan: “That sounds like Georgetown cocktail party analysis. The reasons we went to Iraq are well understood and had to do with wmd (weapons of mass destruction), enforcing UN sanctions. To the extent that oil has anything to do with our engagement in Iraq today, it is the danger that al Qaeda could obtain control of oil assets and use them to threaten our interests.”

(snip)

Nor was the White House pleased with Greenspan’s assertion that his “biggest frustration remained the president’s unwillingness to wield his veto against out of control spending.” Greenspan, who headed the Fed for almost two decades, said the Bush White House showed little interest in fiscal discipline.

To that, spokesman Fratto retorted “We had veto threats, which were used to good effect to keep spending within the President’s numbers. Because Congress worked with us, vetoes weren’t necessary.” As for the spending itself, Fratto said “We’re not going to apologize for increased spending to protect our national security. That isn’t just ‘increased spending,’ it’s an investment in the safety and security of the nation.”

Unfortunately for the White House, it lacks credibility on both accounts.  In regards to the Iraq War, both before and after the invasion, there had been numerous justifications to go to war in Iraq, and not in a stack-able, each one makes the case for the other kinda way.  Depending on what the American people would believe, our rationale for entering Iraq had shifted from Saddam having a hand in 911, Weapons of Mass Destruction, regime change, and to free the Iraqi people were just some of the bigger hits.  Oil was not offered by the administration as a major causal factor.

As for the fiscal responsibility, that’s pretty clear as well.  Simply put, Republicans saved us from “Tax and Spend” Democrats to the “Spend and Spend” GOP.  You see, it’s that simple.  Spend just as much, just stop taxing people because people don’t like taxes; a great way to get elected, a terrible way to balance the check book.

But going back to Iraq, despite the bickering, what it seems all sides of this little maelstrom seem to forget is that all too often, perception is reality.  Even if you are telling the truth that oil has nothing to do with the US agenda in Iraq, if it looks like it does, then people are going to assume that’s the case, and boy have we sucked on the perception front.

In the run up to the war, costs for invading Iraq were advertised as almost non-existent.  Why?  Because Iraq had so much oil that the endeavor would pay for itself of course.  And immediately following the invasion, instead of establishing the kind of security measures that would have stopped mass looting, and protecting vital infrastructure organizations and historical locations, we left them to fend for their own whilst we protected the oil ministry.

That doesn’t send a very good signal that we’re not there for their oil.  I’ve heard arguments that there are significant reasons to want to protect the oil that are contrary to the US simply wanting to control it, and they’re not half bad.  Given the significance of oil to the global economy, allowing existing oil fields to be destroyed or come under control of hostile agents could prove disastrous, but this all harkens back to one of the most fundamental flaws in the administrations preparation and execution of the Iraq invasion. That is the lack of appreciation for the complexity of the situation that was put before us, and therefore not preparing for the public relations battles that had to be fought.  In truth, the only place where Bush and company really applied public relations tactics was here at home, and to a lesser extent, to the UN.

And then we have the Iraqi Oil law.  The administration continuously portrays it as something vital to the reconciliation of the Iraq people, but in a stunning echo of the disastrous de-ba’athification and disbanding of the Iraq Army, the Oil Law also fails utterly to take into account what would actually be good for the Iraqi people, and help Iraq on its way to peace and stability.

The law, created by the Bush State Department, would open up two thirds of Iraqi oil fields to foreign investments, providing a vehicle through which most of Iraqi oil could be owned by foreign investors (aka. us) for at least thirty years.  This alone has resulted in severe dispute over whether to pass it among Iraqi politicians, and just recently we’ve learned that it is about to fail yet again.

The ultimate problem I wrote about back in July:

It’s hard to think that US presence in Iraq is completely altruistic when we are licking our chops at their oil fields. But think about it a different way. You are chosen to moderate an argument between two neighbors. One of your neighbors has a lawn mower that you use pretty frequently, while the other neighbor doesn’t even have a lawn mower due to the fact that he has a rock garden instead of traditional grass. You may be objective, you may be impartial, but even on the part of the two disagreeing parties, how fair do they think you’re going to be? The neighbor with the lawn mower is going to think you owe him a favor, while the other neighbor is going to not have faith in the whole process because he too thinks you owe the other neighbor a favor.

The point is, guys, Whether Alan’s right or the White House is right is merely an academic endeavor at this point.  What really matters is the perception, and right now the perception is that we’re in it for the oil as well as whatever other neoconservative agenda has us essentially trying to muck up the entire Middle East.  True or not, as long as that perception exists, we will always fail abysmally in that region, no doubt about it.

3 Responses to “He Said, She Said, And Perception”

  1. mick says:

    Well, it’s not as if Greenie’s credibility is any better than Bush’s. Krugman pointed out in his column that Greenie’s book is full of demonstrably self-serving lies, the biggest of which is his so-called “disappointment” with Bush’s lack of fiscal discipline.

    [I]n 2004 he expressed support for making the Bush tax cuts permanent – remember, these are the tax cuts he now says he didn’t endorse – and argued that the budget should be balanced with cuts in entitlement spending, including Social Security benefits, instead. Of course, back in 2001 he specifically assured Congress that cutting taxes would not threaten Social Security.

    What we have here is a bunch of liars arguing over whose lies are going to be accepted as truth.

    And BTW, when was “enforcing UN sanctions” ever on the shifting list of Bush war rationales?

    PS Did you mean “muckup” rather than “muchup”? Or is that an internetism I’m not familiar with?

  2. No, that was a typo, which iritates me because I actually almost proofread that one.

    As for enforcing UN resolutions, I think maybe it was used on February 2nd 2003, and then maybe again in the summer…

    Give it another six months, and it’ll happen again…

    I’m joking of course.

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