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September 24, 2007
It's gone almost completely unnoticed that when Alan Greenspan appeared on the Charlie Rose Show last week, he announced that Saddam Hussein was "far more important to get out than bin Laden." (Video here, transcript below.) Nice to learn how the people at the pinnacle of US power are actually thinking as they make our decisions for us.
There's lots of other good stuff too:
• Greenspan spends several minutes shucking and jiving about what he said in his book about Iraq and oil. As you read the Charlie Rose transcript below this, keep in mind while Greenspan bloviates about how this is just MY opinion on what the motivation SHOULD have been, and the Bush administration itself was completely sincere, and people now are getting a caricature of my views! what precisely it is he wrote:
Whatever their publicised angst over Saddam Hussain's "weapons of mass destruction," American and British authorities were also concerned about violence in the area that harbours a resource indispensable for the functioning of the world economy. I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.
Note also what he said in a Guardian interview conducted before the book was published: "I thought the issue of weapons of mass destruction as the excuse was utterly beside the point."
• When Rose suggests Saddam being an "evil tyrant" as a possible rationale for war, Greenspan doesn't even bother to give it a nod. Completely irrelevant. I suspect that, in private, exactly the same deep moral fervor is felt by the Bush administration.
• Greenspan explains how, if Saddam had remained in power, this that and the other thing might have happened, eventually, that would have had "catastrophic effects in the industrial world." It would be an enjoyable experience to witness him wander the streets of Baghdad making this case for war. "Oh no!," I imagine Iraqis saying, "Not a highly speculative, unknown possibility of economic damage at some future date to the world's richest countries! Thank god you got here in time!"
• Greenspan tell us this is "a fascinating problem about the issue of the morality and the whole concept of preventive wars." I understand that's the way Iraqis see this too—as a "fascinating problem."
Greenspan also explains he's "conflicted by this issue. I don't know how I would come out. I can see the arguments on both sides." Here it's useful to again look back at the pre-publication Guardian interview, where he said, "From a rational point of view, I cannot understand why we don't name what is evident and indeed a wholly defensible pre-emptive position." Wow, he's really on the fence on this one.
Alan Greenspan: Celebrating 81 Years of Mumbly Hackdom.
CHARLIE ROSE: You said in respect to the Iraqi war, it was about oil.
ALAN GREENSPAN: In my judgment.
CHARLIE ROSE: In your judgment.
ALAN GREENSPAN: Yes.
CHARLIE ROSE: Tell us exactly what you meant it was about oil. Because when you said that, every liberal, progressive, left blogger in the world said a-ha!, Alan Greenspan has finally told the truth. The war was about oil. He's our guy.
ALAN GREENSPAN: Let`s put it this way. It is about -- it is about...
CHARLIE ROSE: MoveOn.org has found a new hero. It's Alan Greenspan.
ALAN GREENSPAN: They weren`t listening closely. No, more exactly, in the passage I put that in, I go by it a little too fast. I erroneously thought it was relatively self-evident, and it wasn't.
I was not saying that the administration did not believe that there were weapons of mass destruction, and that was the motive for going to war. I have every reason to believe that that is, in fact, the case. They were wrong, obviously, but that was the motive.
I was raising a different issue. To me, I always thought it was very important that Saddam Hussein be deposed.
CHARLIE ROSE: But not because he was an evil tyrant, but because of what he could do with the oil weapon.
ALAN GREENSPAN: Absolutely. The problem basically was that if you looked at his history, he was clearly gravitating towards gaining control of all Middle East oil, specifically by finding a way to bottle up the Straits of Hormuz.
CHARLIE ROSE: But he had already been defeated in that effort. That is what the '91 war was about. He goes into Kuwait, and he talks about or he thinks or it was projected on him that he wanted to go to Saudi Arabia. In that case, you know, game over.
ALAN GREENSPAN: And he kept coming back and coming back and coming back. I mean, remember that there was no evidence, as far as I could see, that having been defeated in the first Gulf War...
CHARLIE ROSE: That he gave up ambition.
ALAN GREENSPAN: ... that he gave up ambition. And the critical issue was I always suspected or thought fairly inevitable that he would be able to get one of the Soviet nuclear weapons, which I had said it's inconceivable to me that during the chaos of the immediate fall of the Berlin Wall that they could protect all of those weapons.
CHARLIE ROSE: We believe they have.
ALAN GREENSPAN: Absolutely -- it looks to me as though they have, because if they hadn't, somebody would have detonated one of those things - - some terrorist...
CHARLIE ROSE: Somebody would have sold it to somebody for a lot of money.
ALAN GREENSPAN: Yes. So that it always -- it was always my impression that he had, obviously a huge amount of cash. And that he would get a nuclear weapon, threaten all of his neighbors, blockade or control the Straits of Hormuz, and essentially blackmail the industrialized world.
People do not realize in this country, for example, how tenuous our ties to international energy are. That is, we on a daily basis require continuous flow. If that flow is shut off, it causes catastrophic effects in the industrial world. And it's that which made him far more important to get out than bin Laden. And whether we did it by any non-military or non...
CHARLIE ROSE: What people would now question in terms of your judgment about that is whether he was that threat, in fact, at the time, and whether he could have been contained. And whether we lost when we had so much a reserve of goodwill, we would have been better off focusing on bin Laden.
ALAN GREENSPAN: Well, I grant that it`s a disputable issue. And I am not convinced I`m right on this. And I don't think the evidence is fully on my side.
But knowing how tenuous the problem is, it is very important for the national security of this country and the economic security, as well as all of our major trading partners, that the international oil system remain secure.
CHARLIE ROSE: Either that or find an alternative.
ALAN GREENSPAN: Or -- exactly. And I'm arguing in the book that we better start finding alternatives. Because we are not going to be able to maintain this.
CHARLIE ROSE: But you have been at the highest level of government for a long time.
ALAN GREENSPAN: Yes.
CHARLIE ROSE: In various -- in and out of the White House, economic adviser, chairman of the Federal Reserve. I mean, you have had -- you have been a voice that people wanted to at least -- even if it weren`t in your jurisdiction, they respected your judgment. And you seem to be saying that if this country doesn`t understand that its economic security depends on having an access to fossil fuel and to oil, we`re going to be in huge trouble. Unless we do that. And therefore at every turn, every president of the United States has to think about do I have a guaranteed source of oil.
ALAN GREENSPAN: You are never going to get a guaranteed source. But you have got to have a source which is sufficiently reliable or several sufficiently reliable sources so that if one goes out, you can continue to maintain the system.
CHARLIE ROSE: And if I have to knock off some dictator to get that source, that's OK.
ALAN GREENSPAN: Well, that raises a fascinating problem about the issue of the morality and the whole concept of preventive wars.
CHARLIE ROSE: And you say?
ALAN GREENSPAN: And I say I am conflicted by this issue. I don't know how I would come out. I can see the arguments on both sides.