The Financial Times margin story lead frames President Bush’s anniversary remarks around the September 2001 attack and its aftermath. The United States president is still suggesting that “after 9/11, Saddam Hussein posed a risk that the world could not afford to take.” Now what, exactly, was that risk?
It was not a link to Osama bin Laden. It was not weapons of mass destruction. It was not nuclear development and delivery against Israel or the US. It was not an invasion of “Kuwait” (yeah, it’s in quotes, dammit – look it up). It could not have been that he treated his own citizens so poorly. The US foreign policy has never countenanced such action. After all, the US has close ties to China and Saudi Arabia. They used to have close ties to apartheid South Africa. They used to have close ties to fascist Germany and Italy. It’s even been revealed that the US has a hand in the current carnage in East Africa. So, the “freedom” aspect of this is little more than a red herring. Moreover, it isn’t even worth discussing unless someone can demonstrate how the citizenry of a sovereign state gained greater control over the material wealth of their homeland – post US intervention. This pattern is not in evidence in Central America, South America, Asia or Africa.
So, what was this threat posed by Saddam Hussein that the world could not afford to take?
I’ve suggested that Hussein proposed a move that threatened US dollar hegemony. He proposed selling Iraqi oil on global markets in euros, thereby eliminating the need for foreign central banks to retain large dollar holdings. Japan, China and other net importers of energy hold large dollar reserves in order to purchase oil from Saudi Arabia and other nations in which oil is only traded in dollars. Since it costs the US government nothing (relatively speaking) to print dollars – and since those dollars are not backed by a material reserve (gold), other governments are effectively taxed by the United States. By switching to euros, Saddam Hussein threatened to challenge the US’ capacity to tax other nation states. One of the first actions taken by the US following the removal of Hussein from office was to scrub all actions relating to trading Iraqi in euros. That option is off the table. Nations purchasing Iraqi oil must do so using US dollars.
It is unlikely that W will get around to revealing this as a possible cause of the conflict. After all, national surveys continue to reveal that Americans have woefully inadequate knowledge of economics and geography. How can you begin to understand your world without a grasp of these two areas of study? The populace is not entirely to blame. While Americans embrace the notion of free will, democracy and choice, many are unaware of the extent to which school curricula has been constructed and reconstructed to dumb down the electorate. Subjects like economics and history are not taught in American public schools. Social studies is neither history nor economics nor politics. It is a watered-down hodge podge of decontextualized factoids. The result, unfortunately, has been a decreasing capacity to make connections that would seem obvious to others around the world.
Questions of geography, ethnicity, resources and such remain unasked by the students and the teachers. The context has been shifted from one of rights and resources for sovereign people to implied threats from boogie men. We live in a time where men like Bush and his cabal will escape persecution for engaging in an illegal war based on willfully falsified “evidence.” Their evasion is only made possible by the absence of clarity among US citizens. The world has already voted.