American Crony Capitalists Go to War

When financial crisis hit Asia in 1997, America's leaders charged Asian governments with practicing crony capitalism. In retrospect, the charge seems like rank hypocrisy. America has shown itself to be second to none in practicing cronyism, first with its rotten corporate scandals of recent years, and now in Iraq. Asian capitalists may have stolen some borrowed loot, but at least they didn't mix finance with war.

Whatever other goals lay behind the Iraq war, the Bush Administration seems keen to line the pockets of its cronies and to capture increased control over Middle East oil and pipeline routes. Only a few pesky obstacles--the UN, and the Iraqi people--stand in their way.

The Iraq war was ostensibly launched because of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, yet each passing day suggests that the threat was exaggerated. Another goal also loomed large: control over 11% (or more) of the world's oil reserves and, in the longer term, control over pipeline routes between the Mediterranean, the Caspian Sea, and the Indian Ocean.

The failure to locate Saddam's WMD's is putting America's grab for Iraqi oil into sharp focus. The Cheney-Rumsfeld team is so arrogant that it acts as if it can flaunt the takeover of Middle East oil while brushing aside questions. In Afghanistan last year, the US installed Hamid Karzai, a former consultant for oil giant Unocal, as interim leader. It also appointed Kalmay Khalilzad, another former Unocal consultant --indeed, Karzai's boss--as special US envoy.