Does anyone remember the Enron scandal and George Bush's ex-best friend Ken Lay? How about WorldCom-the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history? It is hard to stay focused on corporate crime in America when our nation's leaders put the country on a war path.
But there is a connection between Iraq and Enron that should not be overlooked. It is precisely that the drumbeat for war drowns out the clink of handcuffs locking around American business leaders' wrists. It's the fact that the heady rush of patriotism helps mask the hangover of a bubble economy gone bust.
We're not saying that President Bush's call to attack Iraq is strictly a slight of hand to distract the American public from the plethora of domestic problems plaguing his presidency. But at minimum, the looming war with Iraq presents the opportunity for Bush to duck the corporate scandals and reframe the national debate.
We should be at a political crossroads today, discussing issues that are central to the health and well being of the American people. We should be looking for ways to foster real corporate accountability at home. We should be debating how best to build a more just global economic order. And in the name of national security we should be working aggressively to kick the oil habit, while developing environmentally sound renewable energy.
Instead we seem to be perched at the edge of an abyss from which we risk spiraling into a never-ending cycle of war, terrorism, and the evisceration of our democratic rights. Why is Washington risking a morass that might plague the nation and the world for the foreseeable future?
There are no simple or complete answers. But one thing is patently obvious. It's a three-letter word: OIL.
Invading Iraq and taking over its oil fields is a logical, yet totally insane extension of the Bush administration's foreign policy doctrine. For instance, Bush's unilateralism with regard to attacking Iraq (he has been dragged kicking and screaming to the UN security council) is thoroughly consistent with -- and connected to -- the unilateralism he exhibited when he pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.
By bailing on Kyoto, Bush, at the behest of the oil industry, dropped out of a treaty designed to save us from the mass destruction of climate change by moving the world away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy. And if he invades Iraq, Bush further entrenches the deadly connection between US interests and oil interests.
George Bush and Dick Cheney form an axis of oil that sits at the apex of world power. Indeed, they define national security as access to oil. A "successful" war in Iraq could renew US access to oil reserves nearly as large as Saudi Arabia's; this could break the back of OPEC, while providing a bonanza for Bush and Cheney's American and British oil company friends at Exxon-Mobil, Halliburton, Chevron-Texaco, Shell and BP.
But such "success" in Iraq --in addition to the huge toll in immediate human casualties -- will also seriously undermine national and global security. One of the ways it will do so will be to further lock the world into energy consumption patterns that broad scientific consensus has determined will deepen global warming and all its impacts.
In essence, the Bush administration's definition of national security serves US corporate interests, allowing some to profit and others to hide. Beyond this, it is not at all clear who else, if anyone, might benefit from this axis of oil.
Maria Elena Martinez is the Executive Director of and Joshua Karliner is Senior Adviser to CorpWatch-a San Francisco based organization working to hold corporations accountable.