Press reaction – that Mideast imports are no big deal – is inconsistent with earlier assertions that oil is the reason for Iraq war. Free Market Project
Since the 1973 Arab oil embargo, politicians and pundits have argued that America’s Mideast foreign policy was governed by oil. Such claims were quite common before and after the Iraq invasion in 2003. As recently as January 14, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews asked on “Hardball”: “Why is the President out there saying out of nowhere that it’s wrong to say that this war was about oil or Israel? I can see where the Israel part would be sensitive, but why is he denying that this was about oil? I mean, does anybody really think that we would go into Iraq if it was down in the Congo or if it was in Bolivia?” Despite the oily hype and condemnation that has surrounded the Iraq war, the media have either dismissed or downplayed the president’s proposal to reduce U.S. reliance on Mideast oil.
ABC’s “Good Morning America” asked two different guests if this plan was just a “pipe dream.” Meanwhile, The Washington Post suggested that this could have “come straight from the mouth of Jimmy Carter. The only thing missing was the sweater.”
These same media outlets seemed to forget the “no blood for oil” drumbeat they had championed in the months before the Iraq invasion and largely since. Such reports normally focused on supposed cabals constructed by “neoconservatives” within the administration for the domination of the Mideast and its vast oil reserves, or simply to aid the profits of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former company Halliburton.
The Case Against Mideast Oil
Such disturbing conspiracy theories ran rampant throughout the media the past four years. For example, The Washington Post published an article on Aug. 6, 2002, about a Pentagon advisory board meeting that depicted Saudi Arabia as America’s enemy and outlined a strategy supposedly concocted to take over the entire region: “This view, popular among some neoconservative thinkers, is that once a U.S. invasion has removed Hussein from power, a friendly successor regime would become a major exporter of oil to the West.”
USA Today published an article three days later concerning this same conspiratorial premise stating that “the administration is hearing from critics who support radical changes in U.S. policy, including ‘liberating’ the Saudi province that contains its oil fields.” And The New York Times ran an April 10, 2003, story discussing Vice President Dick Cheney’s position on the war: “He showed little reaction, they said, to protests around the world in which he was portrayed as the instigator of a ‘blood for oil’ war and was accused of using the conflict to benefit his former employer, Halliburton, the oil field services firm.”
That Was Then; This Is Now
All this makes the ironic response to Bush’s Mideast oil reduction platform more surprising. The New York Times devoted three stories on February 1 to the president’s address dealing with this proposal. Elisabeth Bumiller and Adam Nagourney’s article quickly dismissed it with “But even that goal was less ambitious than it might have appeared – the United States gets less than 20 percent of its oil from the Persian Gulf.” They later emphasized this with “Energy analysts also said Mr. Bush's goal to replace 75 percent of America’s Mideast oil imports by 2025 was not as meaningful as it appeared because the bigger suppliers to the United States are Mexico, Canada and Venezuela.”
▪ And where was this three years ago?: The Times and USA Today reported different figures on the subject. As reported by USA Today on February 2, “Middle East countries account for about 22% of total U.S. oil imports, Energy Information Administration data show, or roughly 14% of the oil used in the USA.” If America did reduce Mideast oil imports by 75 percent and didn’t replace them with other sources of oil, this would represent a 16.5-percent decline in total imports. It would also mean a 10.5-percent cut in the nation’s oil usage, both foreign and domestic.
▪ Nothing new under the sun: The Times’ David Sanger dismissed the president’s call to reduce Mideast oil imports by suggesting it was a program whose only novelty was its name: “What was new was his Advanced Energy Initiative, though the increases he proposed in clean-energy research, better batteries for hybrid cars and new ways of making ethanol largely piggyback on programs already under way at General Motors and Ford, Toyota and Honda, rather than charting a new course.”
▪ Yeah, yeah: The Times continued its attack on this proposal with an article entitled “Call to Cut Foreign Oil is a Refrain 35 Years Old.” Matthew L. Wald and Edmund L. Andrews echoed much of the content of the prior two pieces, while suggesting the public not take it too seriously: “President Richard M. Nixon promised in 1971 to make the United States self-sufficient in energy by 1980. President Jimmy Carter promised in 1979 that the nation would ‘never again use more foreign oil than we did in 1977.’”
▪ Pipeline or pipe dream?: ABC’s “Good Morning America” decided to dismiss the seriousness of this proposal. While discussing the content of the address with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on February 1, Charles Gibson asked: “Talking about energy, talking about reducing dependence on Middle Eastern oil by 75 percent in 20 years. Pipe dream? Doable?” Gibson later asked his second guest, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) virtually the same question: “You think the idea of using alternative sources to reduce dependence on Middle Eastern oil, 75 percent, 20 years, pipe dream?”
▪ Is anyone really ‘stable’?: Meanwhile, using a premise similar to that of the Times, The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler downplayed the president’s point about reducing oil demand from countries that were somewhat unstable: “Only three of the 10 biggest suppliers are from the Middle East – Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Algeria.” Needless to say, it seems a bit disingenuous to minimize the significance of Saudi Arabia when talking about oil imports, or Iraq when it comes to instability. In addition, it would be a stretch to classify two of America’s other major oil exporters, Mexico and Venezuela, as “stable.” And, after the events of this past weekend, with riots throughout parts of Europe and Asia over a cartoon, who’s to say what represents stability?
▪ Alternative energy’s identity crisis: USA Today took a different approach to downplay the significance of Bush’s proposal. Bush proposed that a reduction in American oil demand will involve alternative energy – something that has been hyped by the political left for some time. However, in one staff article on February 1, USA Today wrote: “The former Texas oilman ticked off a series of alternative-energy initiatives, but the dirty reality is that most of the new technologies Bush is touting are costly, require taxpayer subsidies and are years if not decades from making any meaningful impact.” When did the mainstream media begin concerning themselves with such issues as cost and taxpayer subsidization? More importantly, nuclear energy, ethanol, wind and solar power are not decades away – most of these technologies have been in existence for many years and are already being employed at both the consumer and commercial levels.