Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Pro-War, Anti-Environment, Israel as Spearhead Matrix

Christian Fundamentalists & Big Oil

If Kevin Phillips, author of American Theocracy, is to be believed, the West has been prosecuting an oil war against the Middle East since World War I. “…the hundred year duration is clear enough, the subject matter was indeed oil, and English speakers…were invariably among the arms bearers,” says Phillips, as he demolishes the succession of Anglo-American public relations arguments for action that preceded each outbreak of hot war in the area.

Phillips says the two most recent US-Iraq wars
“were lubricated by deceits—in the first instance the Iraqi armored threat to Saudi Arabia and the fabrication that Iraqi invaders had ripped three hundred premature Kuwaiti babies from hospital incubators; in the second involving the unsustainable charges that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Former CIA desk officer [Stephen] Pelletiere minces few words on this, saying that the behavior of the Americans and British in the run-ups to both wars bore a disturbing similarity to ‘the Big Lie’ used by the Germans in launching World War II.”

Of course, for this argument to be credible, Phillips must make the case that the hunger for control over oil globally has been a dominant feature of US policy for most of the last century. Indeed, he pursues this point with great vigor and effectiveness, beginning with John D. Rockefeller and the establishment of the domestic US oil industry in the 19th century, through the Middle Eastern oil concessions obtained by Gulf, Texaco and Standard Oil of California during the first third of the 20th century, the overthrow of Iran’s nationalist government in 1953 and the installation of the Shah of Iran as the head of a regime subservient to US interests, the development of a comprehensive global strategy outlined by Henry Kissinger and others, and ending with the presidencies of Bush I and Bush II, the scions of a four-generation oil family.

I remember, with some chagrin, arguing that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was not about oil. It was, I believed at the time, both a residual effect of the Cold War against the old Soviet Union, and the natural logic of a militarized US economy that would inevitably launch large-scale attacks and fire off hundreds of millions of dollars worth of missiles simply to maintain economic momentum and employment (notwithstanding the existence of plenty of studies showing the long-term negative impact of military spending on both economic growth and employment).

In making that argument, I seemed to be suffering from a bad case of not seeing the forest while cleverly focusing on a few quite obvious trees. The simple truth is that the Cold War was very much about the development of the Soviet Union as a superpower rival for control of resources, and the profit enjoyed by the military-industrial complex fit nicely into a larger goal of using force or the threat of force to ensure US access to Third World resources, oil, in particular.

In fact, a 1991 report from the Worldwatch Institute asserts that the US military is the country’s single largest oil consumer. And in 2007, Michael Klare (at this website) estimated that Pentagon operations consumed upwards of 14 million gallons of oil each day. Obviously, this creates a lot of momentum for a warmaking machine to fight wars over oil.

Phillips’ book also carefully explores the way Christian fundamentalists and oil interests built the electoral coalition that dominated US politics over the last 25 years. He is particularly persuasive in tracing the way electoral college results that made presidents out of Ronald Reagan and both Bushes overlap significantly with concentrations of fundamentalist voters in the country’s largest oil-producing states, which are also home to the corporate headquarters of the once-dominant, and still influential, oil companies.

Out of all of this, grow three issues of major concern to me:

1. Though the unholy alliance of Christian fundamentalism and oil has suffered severe setbacks, it remains the most powerful promoter of military intervention by the United States.
2. In his 2005 book, Phillips observed that “the evidence that natural resources issues are taking on theological as well as political overtones is mounting…close to a majority of those who voted for Bush believe the bible to be literally true.” Here again, the unholy alliance remains the single strongest voice deriding the science behind climate change activism. Republicans in Congress remain the single most significant obstacle to effective action to address climate change.
3. Israel, I believe, was founded with the approval of the US and other world powers who saw the Jewish state as an outpost in the struggle for control over oil resources. The existence of Israel as a Jewish theocratic state is one of the most important provocateurs of Islamic terrorism, but the unholy alliance is indifferent to that consequence because the country maintains its utility as an outpost and because Christian end-timers believe that conflict in the Middle East is compatible with the approach of apocalypse and the rapture.

I will examine all three of these issues in subsequent posts.


  1. I also enjoyed Phillips book and the under-discussed aspects of the American Theocracy. I bear a healthy disdain for "W's" manipulation of the largely ignorant blind-faith Christian right in the US to further the thinly-veiled war for oil dominance.
    The lesser known tie-in that has gotten under my skin since exposed to the idea several years ago, is how far back Bush-family political control extends. It seems that Prescott Bush funded Richard Nixon's initial run at the US Congress in 1946. California's relatively large oil supply at the time was in need of political leverage. Rumors even implicate Bush flunkies as taking out a Nixon who had forgotten where his allegiance was due.
    At any rate, thanks for discussing American Theocracy, definitely a book I wish more would read. Add James Howard Kunstler's "The Long Emergency" to that list as well.

  2. Hey, KP, good to hear from you. I've sent you a couple of e-mails over the last few months, but they keep bouncing back. Could you e-mail me at jeffepton07@comcast.net to confirm your e-mail address?

    The Phillips' portrait of the Bush family is striking: "More than any other U.S. political family, the Bushes exemplify the interaction of oil interests, the financial sector, the military-industrial complex, and the intelligence community...arguably, they have also helped bring together...the constituencies that the Republican national coalition of the early 2000s has come to serve."

    When you throw in the fact that W. is also a genuinely fundamentalist Christian believer, you get the perfect leader for an extreme right-wing theocratic party--a party that continues to represent a genuine threat to global security and progressive action on social issues including climate change.

    With Bush out of office, the party is seeking a new leader to mobilize the fervent 20% of voters who believe it is the Christian duty of politicians to obstruct liberal governance, argue with basic science and protect true believers as Armageddon approaches. There seems little doubt that W. wholeheartedly accepted these responsibilities. So will the next undisputed leader of the party.

    In the meantime, I will add Kunstler's book to my reading list.