Bubbling crude plans by the Bush team aimed at Venezuela's Chávez
by James Ridgeway
November 29th, 2005 11:26 AM
With Iraqi oil firmly under his control, the president can now turn to Venezuela and Hugo Chávez, who the Bush administration says is out to make himself into a new Simón Bolívar. A recent report called "Crude Designs," by a British group, says Western oil companies are poised to take control of Iraqi oil after next month's election. The Iraqis will be left with 17 out of some 80 oil fields.
Controlling Iraqi oil will help the U.S. in dominating—at least for a little while longer—world oil. But our overall goal is to become less dependent on the Middle East and other faraway sources and develop petroleum resources nearer to home. Venezuela is a prime target since it not only has a lot of oil, but over the years has placidly allowed us to take what we want.
George W. Bush's dislike of Chávez is no secret, and the Venezuelan leader's recent move to provide American poor in New York and Boston with cheap oil comes as a slap in the face for both Bush and the international industry. The Iraq war was meant to not only give the U.S. access to Iraqi oil, but also to insert direct U.S. involvement in the dealings of OPEC. Now Venezuela, a leading OPEC member, is mounting a counterattack in U.S. markets. More than that, Chávez is widening the scope of his influence, making a pipeline deal with Argentina, proffering oil to Cuba, discussing ventures in Nicaragua (where Daniel Ortega is looking to regain power), and discussing joint deals with the Chinese. Some are beginning to think of him as a new Bolívar, the hero who liberated much of Latin America from Spain.
Congress has already beaten back one attempt by the Chinese to buy Unocal and enter the U.S. market. The U.S. is warily watching Chinese moves to gain control over Canada's oil sands, a future source of oil. China, now the second-largest oil consumer in the world (the U.S. is first), is expanding its fuel purchases as its economy grows. It is not inconceivable that China will end up threatening U.S. oil hegemony in Latin America. China is becoming a significant factor in American politics; it already owns substantial chunks of the ballooning U.S. debt. And while we have been fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Chinese have been grabbing more Caspian Sea oil and laying plans for a gas pipeline to run from Turkmenistan, which has the biggest pool of natural gas anywhere in the world, to Shanghai.
With all this going on, Bush must be tempted to end his second term in a blaze of glory by defending the Monroe Doctrine and taking out Chávez in the name of national security—especially because he could tell Americans who are angry at higher and higher fuel prices that getting rid of Chávez is in the national interest.