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America: An 'Extraordinarily Voracious Country'

America's limitless appetite and its selective application of law and principle have led the United States into the present mess in Iraq, and into the abandonment of its birthright, according to this Tunisian op-ed writer.

By Tahar Selmi

July 4-July 10 Issue

Tunis Hebdo - Page (French)    

Since earliest antiquity, natural resources on and under the ground (precious metals, textiles, cereals, spices, and precious wood ...) have aroused the greed of merchants and States. These things represented, in their eyes, fortune, power and luxury. The trade in tin, silk, gold and money has left a profound imprint on history.

Today, our combat shows that little has changed, since raw materials remain at the heart of competition between the great powers, but now it is the energy sector, that strategic essential par excellence, which is the main focus of the fighting. One must understand that what this means is turmoil without end, turmoil which has afflicted the Arab countries of the Middle East like an original curse since the carving up of the Ottoman Empire.

Alone, Saudi Arabia holds a quarter of the planet’s proven oil reserves (262.7 billion barrels), followed by Iraq (112 billion barrels), the United Arab Emirates (97.8 billion barrels), Kuwait (96.5 billion barrels), Iran – a non-Arab Muslim country (93.1 billion barrels). On the whole, nearly two thirds of all known oil reserves are concentrated under the ground in these five countries.

This fabulous wealth makes this area "a zone of strategic priority" for the West, and in particular the United States, which has hardened its hegemonic posture since their intervention against Baghdad in 1990. Iraq is one of a group of countries most coveted by Washington for its considerable energy reserves, especially as American companies have no access to Iran’s oil fields due to a boycott imposed by U.S. authorities.

Also, no one is deceived by George Walker Bush’s explanations, the man who pushed for the invasion of the Mesopotamian country. The argument advanced to justify the war, that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, has been exposed as a fantasy. That was followed-up with these other fairy tales: that Iraq’s security services were behind the September 11attacks; that Iraq was able to launch a chemical attack within 45 minutes; that Saddam had purchased uranium from Niger; and that he supported al-Qaeda, etc.

As they are needed, new reasons come and go, but they don’t convince anyone. As for the argument about the dictatorial abuses of Saddam Hussein, that also rings false: In the Eighties, Washington never had the tiniest scruple about supporting the man in Baghdad, just as it supported other famous dictators: Marcos (The Philippines), Somoza (Nicaragua), Pinochet (Chile), Mobutu (Zaire), Batista (Cuba); and the list is far from exhausted.

For a president with a past in petroleum, and whose closest aides do as well, the stakes are too large to give up. This explains why the Master of the White House told the entire international community to “take a hike” – confounding citizens and civic groups alike – and plunging headlong into the winds and tides of open hostilities. The results, unfortunately for him, came to contradict his predictions.

It is an irony of fate and a supreme paradox: this war had, amongst other things, the goal of reducing oil prices. This was not to be, and in fact, the ensuing flames obliged the tenant of the Oval Office to enact a law, under the terms of which the OPEC countries are liable for sanctions and will from now on be subject to prosecution before an American court. This decision represents a flagrant infringement of the economic liberalism prevalent in the United States itself.

The sacrosanct system of laws imposed on the world by Washington are, one after the other, being invoked and then violated by the Americans themselves, according to the circumstances, to preserve U.S. interests to the detriment of others and in the poorest countries in particular. By arranging "cartels" and other economic tricks, American companies have often managed to maintain world oil prices on a level most appropriate for themselves.

A vast empire with planetary dimensions, the country of George Bush, which holds the destiny of humanity in its hands, is an extraordinarily voracious country. A prolific producer, it is also greedy, gluttonous and avid at consumption. Alone, the United States consumes almost as much as the rest of the world. An American consumes four times more energy than a European, five times more than one Japanese, 160 times more than all those in other countries. Per capita, no people on earth consume more meat, more paper, more wood, more oil, more steel, more uranium, more coffee, or more cocoa than the people of the United States. It is a way of life based on an abundance derived directly from plundering the raw materials of poor countries, consequently condemning to misery and underdevelopment whole peoples, whole nations and whole continents. America controls over half of the raw materials of the planet and fixes their prices at generally moderate levels so that it can sell them back to the countries they came from at exorbitant cost.

By taking note of this, by underlining what we believe to be true, we are in no way showing a "congenital hatred" toward the United States, a country of daring and enterprising men who have shown humanity the most fantastic discoveries in science and medicine. With its legendary dynamism and the self-sacrificing spirit of its valorous children, America embodies an engine, pushing the train of humanity toward progress.

A century ago, the great thinker Herman Melville assigned the U.S. a divine mission: "We Americans,” he wrote, “are the peculiar, chosen people ... We bear the ark of the liberties of the unknown world ... " When one hears and sees what the head of the White House is doing today, there is a yawning gap between reality and that mission ...

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