Friday, February 22, 2008

A Debating Myth

Yesterday at UT, Obamarama arrived, and it came with a bang. Face paint, bumper stickers, large cardboard signs with amusing slogans like “Obama has love like a Mama,” and other emblems of enthusiasm could be seen in every direction. The hope was palpable, the change foreseeable. I could hear the chants and cheers from across campus, yet curiously, I couldn’t help but feel morose. What will these happy faces look like four years from now?

With oil closing over $100 a barrel two days prior to the debate, the warning signs of peak oil stagflation could not be clearer. These supply shocks are going to hit, and they are going to hit hard. The idealism, or more commonly the ignorance, that enables people to believe that our empire will forfeit the world’s largest unproven reserves during such turbulent times is laughable. Just three days before the presidential debate, 70 firms registered to bid for Iraq oil contracts. Just three weeks before the debate, President Bush announced that he would bypass provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act that prohibits taxpayer money from being spent on the construction of permanent military bases. According to the Washington Times, eight months into 2007, Iraq had only spent 4.4% of its $10 billion budget for capital projects on rebuilding the country, while 7 of that 10 billion was invested in U.S. treasuries – undoubtedly such statistics represent only the tip of the corruption iceberg.

There is a common misconception amongst liberals that the root of America’s economic woes is the war in Iraq, and that an immediate withdrawal will result in soaring surpluses and a booming economy. Everyone by now knows the saying, “Iraq is bankrupting our economy.” We read it in our newspapers and magazines. We hear it from political pundits, and even from our presidential candidates. This view, however popular it might be, is remarkably simplistic, and ignores the geopolitical interdependence of the world we live in. Unfortunately, the truth is quite the opposite: Iraq is our economy.

That statement is obviously hyperbole, but there is truth in every jest. On the eve of September 11th, while enduring its 3rd consecutive quarter of economic contraction, the U.S. was headed for an economic recession. By the 4th quarter however, the GDP was back on an expansionary track. A war economy built upon an exponential expansion of surveillance technology and mercenary contracting, in conjunction with the conventional growth of the military-industrial-congressional complex, temporarily rescued American economic hegemony. Five years later, the fuel of that economy is running low, and one of the only places to find it in large quantities anymore is right under the feet upon which that economy stands - Iraq. And although the democratic candidates might ignore this fact on the public stage of debate, their true intentions of how to cope with this unsolvable dilemma is still visible - business and usual. By supporting a sustained military presence to protect our 104 acre embassy, among other 'menial tasks' like fighting off Al Qaeda, Senators Clinton and Obama are confirming the continuation of our imperial occupation.

I’m a fan of hope, without it humanity is destitute, and at times I can’t help but say to myself, “Yes, We Can,” but when it comes to Iraq, the only words I can utter are, “No, We Can’t,” or more fittingly, “No, We Won’t.”