October 01, 2009

Oil and the Israel Lobby

Reknowned economist M. Shahid Alam offers this excellent critique of Noam Chomsky’s defective analysis of the relative influence of Oil versus the Israel lobby over US foreign policy:

In the slow evolution of US relations with Israel since 1948, as the latter mutated from a strategic liability to a strategic asset, Israel and its Jewish allies in the United States have always occupied the driver’s seat.

President Truman had shepherded the creation of Israel in 1947 not because the American establishment saw it as a strategic asset; this much is clear. “No one,” writes Cheryl Rubenberg, “not even the Israelis themselves, argues that the United States supported the creation of the Jewish state for reasons of security or national interest.”(1) Domestic politics, in an election year, was the primary force behind President Truman’s decision to support the creation of Israel. In addition, the damage to US interests due to the creation of Israel – although massive – was not immediate. This was expected to unfold slowly: and its first blows would be borne by the British who were still the paramount power in the region.

Nevertheless, soon after he had helped to create Israel, President Truman moved decisively to appear to distance the United States from the new state. Instead of committing American troops to protect Israel, when it fought against five Arab armies, he imposed an even-handed arms embargo on both sides in the conflict. Had Israel been dismantled [at birth], President Truman would have urged steps to protect the Jewish colonists in Palestine, but he would have accepted a premature end to the Zionist state as fait accompli. Zionist pressures failed to persuade President Truman to lift the arms embargo. Ironically, military deliveries from Czechoslovakia may have saved the day for Israel.

Once Israel had defeated the armies of Arab proto-states and expelled the Palestinians to emerge as an exclusively Jewish colonial-settler state in 1949, these brute facts would work in its favor. Led by the United States, the Western powers would recognize Israel, aware that they would have to defend this liability. At the same time, the humiliation of defeat had given an impetus to Arab nationalists across the region, who directed their anger against Israel and its Western sponsors.

This placed Israel in a strong position to accelerate its transformation into a strategic asset. In tandem with the Jewish lobby in the United States, Israel sought to maximize the assistance it could receive from the West through policies that stoked Arab nationalism; and as Israel’s military superiority grew this emboldened it to increase its aggressive posture towards the Arabs. Israel had the power to set in motion a vicious circle that would soon create the Arab threat against which it would defend the West. As a result, at various points during the 1950s, France, the United States, and Britain began to regard Israel as a strategic asset.

America’s embrace of Israel did not begin in 1967. Israel’s victory in the June War only accelerated a process that had been underway since its creation – even before its creation. Indeed, the Zionists had decided in 1939 to pursue the United States as their new mother country; they knew that they could use the very large and influential population of American Jews to win official US backing for their goals.

This paid off handsomely in 1948; but thereafter, the United States sought to contain the damage that would flow from the creation of Israel. However, these efforts would be self-defeating; the die had been cast. Israel – not the United States – was in the driver’s seat; and Israel would seek to maximize the negative fallout from its creation. As Israel succeeded in augmenting – within limits – the Arab threat to itself and the United States, the Jewish lobby would regain confidence; it would re-organize to reinforce Israel’s claim that it was now a strategic asset.

We have here another vicious circle – virtuous, for Israel. The Jewish lobby would gain strength as the Arab-cum-Soviet threat to the Middle East grew. When Israel scaled back the Arab threat in 1967, the Jewish lobby would step in to spend the political capital the Jewish state had garnered in the United States. The Israeli capture of Jerusalem in 1967 also energized the Christian Zionists, who, with encouragement from Jewish Zionists, would organize, enter into Republican politics, and soon become a major ally of the Jewish lobby. The sky was now the limit for Israel and the Zionists in the United States. The special relationship would become more special under every new presidency.

Several writers on the American left have pooh-poohed the charge that the Jewish lobby has been a leading force shaping America’s Middle East policy. They argue that the United States has supported Israel because of the con-vergence of their interests in the region. (2) Oil, primarily Saudi Arabian oil, they maintain correctly, is “a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history.”(3) Incorrectly, however, they insist that this is what has driven US policy towards the Middle East.

A priori, this is an odd position to maintain, since Britain – up until 1948 – had managed quite well to maintain complete control over Middle Eastern oil, a dominance the United States could not sustain ‘despite’ the ‘strategic support’ of Israel. Successively, they argue, Western control over oil came under threat from Arab nationalism and militant Islamism. Israel has demonstrated its strategic value by holding in check and, later, defeating, the Arab nationalist challenge. Since then, Israel has fought the Islamist challenge to US hegemony over the region.

It may be useful to examine Noam Chomsky’s analysis of this relationship, since he enjoys iconic status amongst both liberal and leftists in the United States. Chomsky frames his analysis of ‘causal factors’ behind the special relationship as essentially a choice between “domestic pressure groups” and “US strategic interests.” He finds two limitations in the argument that the “American Jewish community” is the chief protagonist of the special relationship between Israel and the United States.

First, “it underestimates the scope of the “support for Israel,” and second, it overestimates the role of political pressure groups in decision-making.” Chomsky points out that the Israel lobby is “far broader” than the American Jewish community; it embraces liberal opinion, labor leaders, Christian fundamentalists, conservative hawks, and “fervent cold warriors of all stripes.”(4) While this broader definition of the Israel lobby is appropriate, and this is what most users of the term have in mind, Chomsky thinks that the presence of this “far broader” support for Israel diminishes the role that American Jews play in this lobby.

Two hidden assumptions underpin Chomsky’s claim that a broader Israel lobby shifts the locus of lobbying to non-Jewish groups. First, he fails to account for the strong overlap – barring the Christian fundamentalists – between the American Jewish community and the other domestic pressure groups he enumerates. In the United States, this overlap has existed since the early decades of the twentieth century, and increased considerably in the post-War period. It is scarcely to be doubted that Jews hold – and deservedly so – a disproportionate share of the leadership positions in corporations, the labor movement, and those professions that shape public discourse. Starting in the 1980s, the ascendancy of Jewish neoconservatives – together with their think tanks - gave American Jews an equally influential voice in conservative circles. Certainly, the weight of Jewish neoconservative opinion during the early years of President Bush – both inside and outside his administration – has been second to that of none. The substantial Jewish presence in the leadership circles of the other pressure groups undermines Chomsky’s contention that the pro-Israeli group is “far broader” than the American Jewish community.

There is a second problem with Chomsky’s argument. Implicitly, he assumes that the different pro-Israeli groups have existed, acted and evolved independently of each other; alternatively, the impact of the lobbying efforts of these groups is merely additive. This ignores the galvanizing role that Jewish organizations have played in mobilizing Gentile opinion behind the Zionist project. The activism of the American Jews – as individuals and groups - has operated at several levels. Certainly, the leaders of the Zionist movement have directed a large part of their energies to lobbying at the highest levels of official decision-making. At the same time, they have created, and they orchestrate, a layered network of Zionist organizations who have worked very hard to create support for their aims in the broader American civil society.

American Jews have worked through several channels to influence civil society. As growing numbers of American Jews embraced Zionist goals during the 1940s, as their commitment to Zionism deepened, this forced the largest Jewish organizations to embrace Zionist goals. In addition, since their earliest days, the Zionists have created the organizations, allies, networks and ideas that would translate into media, congressional and presidential support for the Zionist project. In addition, since Jewish Americans made up a growing fraction of the activists and leaders in various branches of civil society – the labor, civil rights and feminist movements – it was natural that the major organs of civil society came to embrace Zionist aims. It makes little sense, then, to maintain that the pro-Israeli positions of mainstream American organizations had emerged independently of the activism of the American Jewish community.

Does our contention fail in the case of the Christian Evangelicals because of the absence of Jews in their ranks? In this case, the movement has received the strongest impetus from the ingathering of Jews that has proceeded in Israel since the late nineteenth century. The dispensationalist stream within Protestant Christians in the United States – who believe that the ingathering of Jews in Israel will precede the Second Coming – has been energized by every Zionist success on the ground. They have viewed these successes - the launching of Zionism, the Balfour Declaration, the creation of Israel, the capture of Jerusalem, ‘Judea’ and ‘Samaria’ in 1967 – as so many confirmations of their dispensationalist eschatology. The movement expanded with every Zionist victory. At the same time, it would be utterly naïve to rule out direct relations between the Zionists and the leaders of the evangelical movement. The Zionists have rarely shrunk from accepting support even when it has come from groups with unedifying beliefs.

Noam Chomsky raises a second objection against the ability of the Jewish lobby to influence policy on its own steam. “No pressure group,” he maintains, “will dominate access to public opinion or maintain consistent influence over policy-making unless its aims are close to those of elite elements with real power (emphases added).”(5) One problem with this argument is easily stated. It pits the Jewish lobby as one “pressure group” – amongst many – arrayed against all the others that hold the real power. This equation of the Jewish lobby with a narrowly defined “pressure group” is misleading. We have argued – a position that is well supported by the evidence – that Jewish protagonists of Zionism have worked through many different channels to influence public opinion, the composition of political classes, and political decisions. They work through the organs that shape public opinion to determine what Americans know about Israel, how they think about Israel, and what they can say about it. This is no little Cuban lobby, Polish lobby or Korean lobby. Once we recognize the scale of financial resources the Jewish lobby commands, the array of political forces it can mobilize, and the tools it commands to direct public opinion on the Middle East, we would shrink from calling it a lobby.

Chomsky quickly proceeds to undermine his own argument about “elite elements with real power.” He explains that the “[elite] elements are not uniform in interests or (in the case of shared interests) in tactical judgments; and on some issues, such as this one [policy towards Israel], they have often been divided.”(6) Yet, despite the differences in their interests, their tactics, and their divisions, Chomsky maintains that these “elite elements” have “real power.” Oddly, these “divided” elites – whoever they are – exercise the power of veto over the multi-faceted Jewish lobby with its deep pockets, hierarchical organizations, and influence over key organs of civil society, campaign contributions, popular votes, etc.

Chomsky’s argument shifts again – a second time in the same paragraph – away from “elite elements” to “America’s changing conceptions of its political-strategic interests” in the Middle East.(6) This suggests a new theory of the chief determinant of US policy towards Israel. At the heart of these “political-strategic interests” is the oil wealth of the Middle East – and the twin threats to American control over this oil wealth from Arab nationalists and the Soviets. Presumably, Israel protects these “political-strategic interests” by holding the Arabs and the Soviets at bay. Chomsky conveniently forgets that the Arab nationalist threat to US interests in the Middle East was – in large part – the product of Israel’s insertion into the region, its ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, and its aggressive posture towards Arabs since its creation. It is unnecessary to account for the Soviet threat, since they entered the region on the back of Arab nationalist discontent. Indeed, had Israel never been created, it is more than likely that all the states in the Middle East – just like Turkey and Pakistan – would have remained firmly within the Western sphere of influence.

In another attempt to convince his readers that oil has driven US policy towards the Middle East, Chomsky claims that the United States was “committed to win and keep this prize [Saudi oil].” Presumably, the United States could not keep this “prize” without help from Israel.

This argument fails because it ignores history. Starting in 1933, American oil corporations – who later merged to form Aramco – gained exclusive rights to explore, produce and market Saudi oil. Saudi Arabia first acquired a 25 percent ownership stake in Aramco in 1973. Had there emerged an Arab nationalist threat to US control over Saudi oil in the 1950s – in the absence of Israel – the United States could have handled it by establishing one or more military bases in Saudi Arabia or, preferably, in one of the Emirates, since American military presence in Saudi Arabia might inflame Islamic sentiments. Far from helping entrench American control of Saudi oil, Israel, by radicalizing Arab nationalism, gave Saudi Arabia the excuse to first gain a 25 percent stake in Aramco and then nationalize it in 1988.

Chomsky claims that the United States was committed to winning and keeping the “stupendous” oil prize. This claim is not supported by the results that America’s Middle Eastern policy has produced on the ground over the years. If the United States was indeed committed to this goal, it would have pursued a Middle East policy that could be expected to maximize – with the lowest risks of failure – the access of US oil corporations to exploration, production and distribution rights over oil in this region. This is not the case.

In creating, aiding and arming Israel, the United States has followed a policy that could easily have been foreseen to produce, as it did produce, exactly the opposite effects. It gave a boost to Arab nationalism, radicalized it, and led within a few years to the Arab nationalist takeover of three of the four key states in the Arab world. In turn, this contributed to the nationalization of oil wealth even in those Arab countries that remained clients of the United States, not to speak of countries that were taken over by Arab nationalists , who excluded the US oil corporations from this industry altogether. In addition, America’s Middle Eastern policy converted the Middle East into a leading arena of wars. It also became a source of deep tensions between the US and the Soviets, since US partisanship of Israel forced the Arab nationalist regimes to ally themselves with the Soviet Union. In the October War of 1973, the United States provoked the Arab nations – because of its decision to re-supply the Israeli army during the war – to impose a costly oil embargo against the United States. In opposition to the pleadings of its oil corporations, the United States has also prevented them from doing business with three oil-producing nations in the Middle East – Iran, Iraq and Libya.(8)

If oil had been driving America’s Middle East policy, we should have seen the fingerprints of the oil lobby all over this policy. In recent decades, according to Mearsheimer and Walt, the oil lobby has directed its efforts “almost entirely on their commercial interests rather than on broader aspects of foreign policy.” They focus most of their lobbying efforts on getting the best deals on tax policies, government regulations, drilling rights, etc. Even the AIPAC bears witness to this. In the early 1980s, Morris J. Amitay, former executive director of AIPAC, noted, “We rarely see them [oil corporations] lobbying on foreign policy issues…In a sense, we have the field to ourselves.”(9)

Why does it matter whether it is oil or the Jewish lobby that determines US policy towards Israel and the Middle East?

The answer to this question has important consequences. It will determine who is in charge, and, therefore, who should be targeted by people who oppose Israel’s war mongering and its destruction of Palestinian society. If US policy is driven by America’s strategic interests – and Israel is a strategic US asset – opposing this policy will not be easy. If Israel keeps the oil flowing, keeps it cheap, and keeps down the Arabs and Islamists – all this for a few billion dollars a year – that is a bargain. In this case, opponents of this policy face an uphill task. Sure, they can document the immoral consequences of this policy – as Noam Chomsky and others do. Such moral arguments, however, will not cut much ice. What are the chances that Americans can be persuaded to sacrifice their “stupendous prize” because it kills a few tens of thousands of Arabs?

On the other hand, if the Jewish lobby drives US policy towards the Middle East, there is some room for optimism. Most importantly, the opponents of this policy have to dethrone the reigning paradigm, which claims that Israel is a strategic asset. In addition, it is necessary to focus attention on each element of the real costs - economic, political and moral – that Israel imposes on the United States. Winning these intellectual arguments will be half the battle won; this will persuade growing numbers of Americans to oppose a policy because it hurts them. Simultaneously, those who seek justice for the Palestinians must organize to oppose the power of the Israel lobby and take actions that force Israel to bear the moral, economic and political consequences of its destructive policies in the Middle East.

M. Shahid Alam is professor of economics at Northeastern University. He is author of Challenging the New Orientalism (2007). Send comments to alqalam02760@yahoo.com. Visit the author’s website at http://aslama.org/ .


  1. “Virtually every professional in the for-eign affairs bureaucracy, including the secretaries of state and war (later, defense) and the joint chiefs of staff, opposed the creation of Israel from the standpoint of US national interests (Rubenberg: 1986, 9-10).”

  2. For criticisms of Chomsky, see James Petras, The Power of Israel in the United States (Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2006): 168-81; and Jeff Blankfort, Damage control: Noam Chomsky and the Israeli-Palestine conflict.

  3. This assessment comes from a 1945 re-port of the State Department (Chomsky: 1999, 17).

  4. Noam Chomsky, Fateful triangle: 13.

  5. Noam Chomsky, Fateful triangle: 17.

  6. Noam Chomsky, Fateful triangle:: 17.Noam Chomsky, Fateful triangle:: 17.

  7. Mearsheimer and Walt, The Israel lobby and US foreign policy (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006): 143.

  8. Mearsheimer and Walt, The Israel lobby: 145.


Militant Zionism and the Invasion of Iraq

Stop Trying To 'Save' Africa

By Uzodinma Iweala
July 15, 2007

Last fall, shortly after I returned from Nigeria, I was accosted by a perky blond college student whose blue eyes seemed to match the "African" beads around her wrists.

"Save Darfur!" she shouted from behind a table covered with pamphlets urging students to TAKE ACTION NOW! STOP GENOCIDE IN DARFUR!

My aversion to college kids jumping onto fashionable social causes nearly caused me to walk on, but her next shout stopped me.

"Don't you want to help us save Africa?" she yelled.

It seems that these days, wracked by guilt at the humanitarian crisis it has created in the Middle East, the West has turned to Africa for redemption. Idealistic college students, celebrities such as Bob Geldof and politicians such as Tony Blair have all made bringing light to the dark continent their mission. They fly in for internships and fact-finding missions or to pick out children to adopt in much the same way my friends and I in New York take the subway to the pound to adopt stray dogs.

This is the West's new image of itself: a sexy, politically active generation whose preferred means of spreading the word are magazine spreads with celebrities pictured in the foreground, forlorn Africans in the back. Never mind that the stars sent to bring succor to the natives often are, willingly, as emaciated as those they want to help.

Perhaps most interesting is the language used to describe the Africa being saved. For example, the Keep a Child Alive/" I am African" ad campaign features portraits of primarily white, Western celebrities with painted "tribal markings" on their faces above "I AM AFRICAN" in bold letters. Below, smaller print says, "help us stop the dying."

Such campaigns, however well intentioned, promote the stereotype of Africa as a black hole of disease and death. News reports constantly focus on the continent's corrupt leaders, warlords, "tribal" conflicts, child laborers, and women disfigured by abuse and genital mutilation. These descriptions run under headlines like "Can Bono Save Africa?" or "Will Brangelina Save Africa?" The relationship between the West and Africa is no longer based on openly racist beliefs, but such articles are reminiscent of reports from the heyday of European colonialism, when missionaries were sent to Africa to introduce us to education, Jesus Christ and "civilization."

There is no African, myself included, who does not appreciate the help of the wider world, but we do question whether aid is genuine or given in the spirit of affirming one's cultural superiority. My mood is dampened every time I attend a benefit whose host runs through a litany of African disasters before presenting a (usually) wealthy, white person, who often proceeds to list the things he or she has done for the poor, starving Africans. Every time a well-meaning college student speaks of villagers dancing because they were so grateful for her help, I cringe. Every time a Hollywood director shoots a film about Africa that features a Western protagonist, I shake my head -- because Africans, real people though we may be, are used as props in the West's fantasy of itself. And not only do such depictions tend to ignore the West's prominent role in creating many of the unfortunate situations on the continent, they also ignore the incredible work Africans have done and continue to do to fix those problems.

Why do the media frequently refer to African countries as having been "granted independence from their colonial masters," as opposed to having fought and shed blood for their freedom? Why do Angelina Jolie and Bono receive overwhelming attention for their work in Africa while Nwankwo Kanu or Dikembe Mutombo, Africans both, are hardly ever mentioned? How is it that a former mid-level U.S. diplomat receives more attention for his cowboy antics in Sudan than do the numerous African Union countries that have sent food and troops and spent countless hours trying to negotiate a settlement among all parties in that crisis?

Two years ago I worked in a camp for internally displaced people in Nigeria, survivors of an uprising that killed about 1,000 people and displaced 200,000. True to form, the Western media reported on the violence but not on the humanitarian work the state and local governments -- without much international help -- did for the survivors. Social workers spent their time and in many cases their own salaries to care for their compatriots. These are the people saving Africa, and others like them across the continent get no credit for their work.

Last month the Group of Eight industrialized nations and a host of celebrities met in Germany to discuss, among other things, how to save Africa. Before the next such summit, I hope people will realize Africa doesn't want to be saved. Africa wants the world to acknowledge that through fair partnerships with other members of the global community, we ourselves are capable of unprecedented growth.

Uzodinma Iweala is the author of "Beasts of No Nation," a novel about child soldiers.

Dr. Chu's Energy Bait and Switch

They're short on renewables but they have a new generation of 'improved' and safer nuclear power plants and the costs can be charged

Atheo News - June 13, 2009

The goal claimed by both Obama, during his campaign, and promoters of climate change legislation, was that 25% of America's electricity come from renewable sources by 2025. An alternate rationale given for this goal has been "energy independence".

While competing bills currently before Congress appear to call for 15 to 20 percent of energy to be produced for renewable energy sources, they actually don't require utilities to achieve anything near these figures. The legislation is filled with exemptions and allowances which reduce as much as 40 percent of the requirement if 'efficiency improvements' are adopted. For example, both bills scale back mandates for renewable sources if utilities build new nuclear plants or increase power generation at an existing nuclear plant.

The congressional mandates "are very weak and really will not require any additional renewables beyond what states already are doing," says Mark Sinclair of Clean Energy States Alliance. "It will be meaningless. It's just a gesture."

Marchant Wentworth of the Union of Concerned Scientists came to a similar conclusion, seeing that absolute requirements for renewables, after allowances, would be as low as 8 percent of total electric power generation for each utility. This is hardly a challenge for most utilities in a nation that in 2006 generated almost 10 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, including hydro power.

In other words, the proposed renewable sources requirements amount to little more than shallow symbolism. The current public subsidies and underwriting for nuclear power already make the nuclear choice more economically viable for utilities to maximise return on utility investment. The legislation is, in fact, a thinly vieled mandate for building new nuclear power plants, or to increase output from existing ones. Republicans are offering a different plan that simply calls for building 100 new nuclear plants within the next twenty years.

These plans mirror similar policies across the Atlantic where the government in Britain is rushing a new generation of nuclear power plants, with a goal to begin construction within four years. Both 'energy independence' and climate change were cited as rationales by policy makers there as well.

Obama's Secretary of Energy, Dr. Steven Chu, from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is a staunch advocate of nuclear power, citing it as "essential" due to global warming while at the same time ignoring the carbon emissions of the "nuclear cycle" that are produced from the mining, milling, enrichment, fuel fabrication and disposal of spent fuel. The new appointee described nuclear power as "carbon free" at his confirmation in January.

Professor Karl Grossman views Chu as a product of a "military-industrial-scientific complex". Incidentally, the Lawrence Berkeley National Labortary from which Chu hails was the original laboratory of the Manhattan Project. After WWII, the Manhattan project was turned into the Atomic Energy Commission which was tasked to promote both military and civilian applications of nuclear technology. David E. Lilienthal, the first chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, wrote a book in 1963 titled "Change, Hope, and the Bomb", which pushed for food irradiation, nuclear powered airplanes, atomic excavation and other potential commercial uses for nuclear technology under the rubric of "the peaceful atom", an imperative being that there have always been symbiotic connections between military and civilian sectors of the nuclear industry.

Chu is of the notion that nuclear energy is far less dangerous to our health than coal, stating that "The fear of radiation shouldn't even enter into this..." This idyllic notion contradicts several studies which indicate otherwise.

The Radiation and Public Health Project recently published the results of a study which show:

"a uniform pattern of increase in childhood leukemia [standard mortality ratio] from the earlier period to the most recent 20 years for the plants that remain in operation...

...the study, which uses data collected between 1985 and 2004, found a 13.9 percent increase in leukemia death rates of children living near nuclear plants that were built between 1957 and 1970 and a 9.4 percent increase in death rates of children living near nuclear plants built after 1970, compared to the national childhood leukemia death rate..."

The promoters of nuclear energy often assert with authority that nuclear energy has caused fewer deaths than other fuels.

The reality, however, is far less certain because we do not know if we are getting the full story in regards to incidents such as Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. The World Health Organization (WHO) has subordinated its role in protecting health in an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA). The WHO and the IAEA agreed to "inform" and "to consult with each other on the most efficient use of information, resources, and technical personnel in the field of statistics and in regard to all statistical projects dealing with matters of common interest". The IAEA's mission is to "accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world".

Professor Chris Busby, Science Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR) states:
"The subordination of the WHO to IAEA is a key part of the systematic falsification of nuclear risk which has been under way ever since Hiroshima, the agreement creates an unacceptable conflict of interest in which the UN organisation concerned with promoting our health has been made subservient to those whose main interest is the expansion of nuclear power. Dissolving the WHO-IAEA agreement is a necessary first step to restoring the WHO's independence to research the true health impacts of ionising radiation and publish its findings."
Others claim that newer technology is safer, but Chernobyl was state of the art at one time as was Three Mile Island which was only three months old when it melted. Harvey Wasserman writes that:

As news of the accident poured into the global media, the public was assured there were no radiation releases. That quickly proved to be false.

The public was then told the releases were controlled and done purposely to alleviate pressure on the core.

Both those assertions were false.The public was told the releases were "insignificant." But stack monitors were saturated and unusable, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission later told Congress it did not know--- and STILL does not know---how much radiation was released at Three Mile Island, or where it went...

Mr. Wasserman goes on to detail that while the public was assured by the government that there would be follow up stories and health care provided to victims if needed, in reality, the state of Pennsylvania deleted the incidence of radiation induced cancers from the public record, abolished the states tumor registry, and misrepresented information it could not hide altogether, such as a tripling of the infant death rate in nearby locales. The federal government, meanwhile, did nothing to track the health histories of the residents. Independent surveys, in the meantime, showed substantial rises in the rates of cancers, birth defects, rashes, hair loss, and more. However, these studies are not allowed much play in the media, and even worse, class action lawsuits on the behalf of citizens are denied access to the federal court systems with the claim that there was not enough radiation to do such harm. On the side, Three Mile Island owners settled with some residents under-the- table, with the caveat being that there could be no more public claims made asserting the dangers and the results of the failed nuclear power plant.

All of this occurs while the Obama administration "is starting the process of finding a new strategy for nuclear waste" according to Stephanie Mueller, press agent for the U.S. Department of Energy. After more than half a century seeking a waste disposal solution, and having abandoned Yucca Mountain as a waste repository, the government does not even have an operational plan for the mounting nuclear waste that is being generated, an output that will only increase as more plants are put into production.

Amid continuing reports of the safety risks of nuclear power plants and without any fixed plan for managing waste, Chu and the Obama administration still continue to promote the nuclear option as a safe alternative fuel. Their lack of interest in renewable energy is made clear by their recent slashing of the already miniscule funding for wave and tidal energy research. While they claim on one hand to be working to turn the energy industry into one that relies on safe, renewable sources such as wind and solar power, they are in reality using this as a foil to push the nuclear agenda of the military industrial complex.

Atheo News

Obama rhetoric on Sudan counterproductive for peace

Atheo News - July 16, 2009

President Obama has mimicked the Bush regime's characterization of the Darfur conflict as "genocide" following criticism from the American Jewish World Service (an organization which seems to have Sudan as an almost singular focus).

"When there’s a genocide in Darfur or terrorists in Somalia, these are not simply African problems — they are global security challenges, and they demand a global response" Obama said in his recent speech at the Ghanaian parliament.

Such labeling which is not mirrored by the U.N. will likely impede current peacemaking efforts between rival factions and reduces the influence that the U.S. has over Sudan outside of military means.

In an email response to pro-war activists Obama pledged to ensure tough sanctions:

"As President, I will build on America’s efforts that I previously championed in the Senate. I led in calling for the joint African Union/United Nations peacekeeping force now on the ground, and insisted on comprehensive sanctions against the Khartoum government. Going forward, my Administration will continue this work with unstinting resolve to end the genocide."

"In my discussions with other nations, I will work to ensure that tough sanctions on the Khartoum government continue as a part of a growing global effort involving our allies, interested countries, and other multilateral institutions."
Alex Meixner, director of policy and government relations for the Save Darfur Coalition expects a new policy on Sudan to be announced by the White House soon. The Obama Cabinet includes Susan Rice who germinated the U.S. military Africa Command (Africom) during the Clinton Administration. Rice is considered a Sudan "hawk" and has established a position at the very extreme end of the interventionist spectrum by describing the situation as "ongoing genocide".

The relatively dovish former Bush regime Sudan envoy and USAID chief Andrew Natsios is critical of the position that seems to be unfolding under the new regime:
"Some policymakers continue to call Darfur an ongoing “genocide,” but in fact, the conflict has descended into anarchy. “Darfur today is a conflict of all against all,” Rodolphe Adada, the joint African Union-United Nations special representative, told the U.N. Security Council in April. Between Jan. 1, 2008, and March 31, 2009, he found some 2,000 fatalities from violence, one third of them civilian. The death of some 700 innocent civilians over a 15-month period, while morally repugnant, is not genocide. It is a low-level insurgency. More civilians died in southern Sudan during the past six months than in Darfur over the past 15 months. Despite such facts and extensive U.N. Security Office reports showing that genocide is not an accurate description, President Obama continues to use that weighted term."
A U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) review of genocide claims found the estimates of high numbers of deaths related to the conflict to have methodology problems, relying on "too few data points extrapolated to an excessive degree". The three studies which generated the highest numbers of victims were determined to lack objectivity:
"Most experts rated the level of objectivity of the three estimates as low, particularly those by Drs. Coebergh and Reeves. The experts thought that the estimates were more characteristic of advocacy or journalistic material than objective analysis."
Explaining his estimates of victims to the GAO panel Coebergh described his study as a "political statement". Yet these are the figures which are routinely cited as fact by both intervention advocates and Western media reports.

The Recurring Myth of Peak Oil

In case you missed it

October 1, 2008

The Peak Oil theory maintains that world production of conventional oil will soon reach a maximum, or peak, and decline thereafter, with grave socio-economic consequences. Some proponents of the theory argue that world oil production has already peaked, and is now in a terminal decline [1].

Although, on the face of it, this sounds like a fairly reasonable proposition, it has been challenged on both theoretical and empirical grounds. While some critics have called it a myth, others have branded it as a money-making scam promoted by the business interests that are vested in the fossil fuel industry, in the business of war and militarism, and in the Wall Street financial giants that are engaged in manipulative oil speculation.

Regardless of its validity (or lack thereof), the fact is that Peak Oil has had significant policy and political implications. It has also generated considerable reactions among various interest groups and political activists.

While environmental and similar activists have used Peak Oil to promote more vigorous conservation and more energetic pursuit of alternative fuels, the oil industry and its representatives in and out of the government have taken advantage of Peak Oil to argue in support of unrestrained extraction of oil and expanded drilling in the offshore or wildlife regions.

Because of its simple logic and facile appeal, Peak Oil has also led many ordinary citizens, burdened by high fuel bills during periods of energy crisis, to support unrestrained or expanded drilling. According to a recent Rasmussen poll, 57 percent of Americans favor more offshore drilling. Misled and misplaced popular perceptions, in turn, play into the hands of the oil industry and their representatives to lobby for the lifting of the Federal ban on oil production in hitherto restricted regions.

Citing voter anger over soaring energy prices, Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican presidential nominee, recently argued that opening vast stretches of the country’s coastline to oil exploration would help America eliminate the dependence on foreign oil. "We have untapped oil reserves of at least 21 billion barrels in the United States. But a broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production," he said. "It is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions" [2].

Perhaps the financial giants of New York and London have benefited the most from the misleading implications of Peak Oil: “As much as 60% of today’s crude oil price is pure speculation driven by large trader banks and hedge funds. It has nothing to do with the convenient myths of Peak Oil. It has to do with control of oil and its price. . . . Since the advent of oil futures trading and the two major London and New York oil futures contracts, control of oil prices has left OPEC and gone to Wall Street. It is a classic case of the tail that wags the dog,” points out William Engdahl, a top expert on energy and financial markets [3].

Just as Peak Oil plays into the hands of manipulative speculators and beneficiaries of fossil fuel, so too can it be used by the champions of unilateral wars and military adventures, as it implies that war power and military strength are key to access or control of the “shrinking” or “soon-to-be-shrinking” oil. It thus provides fodder for the cannons of war profiteering militarists who are constantly on the look out to invent new enemies and find new pretexts for continued war and escalation of military spending—that is, for the looting of the national treasury, or public money.

By the same token that Peak Oil can serve as a pretext for war and military adventures, it can also serve as a disarming or pacifying factor for many citizens who accept the Peak Oil thesis and, therefore, internalize responsibility for U.S. foreign policy every time they fill their gas tank. In a vicarious way, they may feel that they own the war!

Thus, Peak Oil serves as a powerful trap and a clever manipulation that lets the real forces of war and militarism (the military-industrial complex and the pro-Israel lobby), and the main culprits behind the soaring energy prices (the Wall Street financial giants engaged in manipulative commodity speculation) off the hook; it is a fabulous distraction. All evils are blamed on a commodity upon which we are all utterly dependent.

Not only millions of lay-citizens, but also many scholars and academics have taken the bait and fallen right into this trap by arguing that recent U.S. wars of choice are driven primarily by oil and other “scarce” resources. More broadly, they argue that most wars of the future, like the recent and/or present ones, will be driven by conflicts over natural resources, especially energy and water—hence, for example, the title of Michael T. Klare’s popular book, Resource Wars [4].

As a number of critics have pointed out, this is reminiscent of Thomas R. Malthus’s theory of “scarcity” and “overpopulation.” Malthus (1766-1834), a self-styled British economist, argued that the woes and vagaries of capitalism such as poverty, inequality and unemployment are largely to be blamed on the poor and the unemployed, since they produce too many mouths to be fed, or too many hands to be employed.

In a similar fashion, Peak Oil implies that the current crisis in energy (and other commodities) markets is to be blamed, in part, on less-developed or relatively poorer nations such as India and China for growing “too fast” and creating “too much” demand on “scarce” resources. (Similarities between the Peak Oil theory and the Malthusian theory of scarcity are further discussed below.)

Peak Oil Thesis Is Not New: Geology vs. Geopolitics

Peak Oil theory is not altogether new. M. King Hubbert, a well-known geologist, provided a dramatic discussion of the theory in 1956. A year later, Admiral Rickover discussed the end of the fossil fuel era even more emphatically—at the time, he gave oil about fifty more years to run out. Thirty years ago, the Club of Rome predicted an end of oil long before the present day.

Indeed, there is evidence that projections of oil peaking, then declining and running out, have been floated around ever since oil was discovered in the second half of 19th century. For example, the chief geologist of Pennsylvania predicted in 1874 that we would run out of oil in four years—just using it for kerosene [5].

While Peak Oil theory has been around for a long time, it has usually been dormant during “normal” economic times, or “reasonable” oil prices, but has gained heightened currency during periods of energy crisis and high oil prices. For example, Peak Oil became quite popular during (and immediately after) all of the three recent oil crises: the early 1970s crisis, the late 1970s and early 1980s crisis, and the early 1990s crisis.

The obvious reason for the rise in the Peak Oil popularity in the context of those periods of energy crisis was the perception that oil shortage must have played a major role in the respective oil price hikes. It is not surprising, then, that as recent geopolitical convulsions in the Middle East have triggered a new round of oil price hikes, Peak Oil theory has once again become fashionable.

It turns out, however, that oil price shocks of all the previous periods of energy crisis were precipitated not by oil shortages, or any real prospects of oil “peaking and running out,” but by international political convulsions, revolutions and wars: the Arab-Israeli war of 1973, the 1979 Revolution in Iran, and the 1990-91 invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein’s armed forces. Each time, as the turbulent period of war or revolutionary atmosphere ended, higher oil prices of the respective crisis situation subsided accordingly [6].

The current oil price hike too is precipitated not by an oil shortage, as popularly perceived, but by manipulative speculation in energy futures markets—which are, in turn, prompted largely by the unstable atmosphere of war and geopolitical turbulence in the Middle East.

Evidence is therefore unambiguous that, so far, almost all oil price shocks can be explained not by geology, or the so-called Peak Oil, but by geopolitics.

The Paradoxical Reasonableness of Peak Oil: Return of Thomas Malthus

Peak Oil has a prima facie reasonableness that makes it readily acceptable to most people: since oil is a finite natural resource, it is subject to depletion.

But while the rationale behind Peak Oil seems reasonable, it is also seriously flawed and misleading.

One of the major defects of Peak Oil is its facile extrapolation or transition from micro to macro level, that is, an unwarranted generalization or extention of what is true in the case of an existing oil well or oil field to the entire world oil production. It is true that every operating or producing oil well or field increases in production rate until it reaches a maximum or peak flow rate, after which the rate of production enters a terminal decline. It does not follow, however, that global world oil production as a whole must soon reach a maximum and begin to run out afterward—some Peak Oil champions claim that this has already taken place.

Proponents of Peak Oil are quick to point to oil wells or fields that have actually peaked and declined, such as those correctly predicted by geologist M. King Hubbert. They fail, however, to point out the ever newer discoveries of new oil fields and/or other sources of energy that tend to more than offset the depleted ones.

The Peak Oil debate boils down, essentially, to natural versus social limits, or naturally-determined versus socially-determined limits. A similar debate erupted more than 200 hundred years ago over the limits of population growth, on the one hand, and the growth of food supplies, on the other. The debate was prompted largely by a 1778 essay written by the British economist Thomas R. Malthus, titled “An Essay on the Principle of Population.”

Malthus projected an alarming specter of food shortages, hardship, and even starvation “because of faster population growth than food supply.” According to his theory, poverty and distress are unavoidable because, if unchecked, population increases at a geometrical rate (i.e. 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, etc.), whereas the means of subsistence grow at an arithmetical rate (i.e. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.), thereby leading to inevitable shortages of foodstuff.

As Malthus thus blamed misery and poverty on the poor and the miserable (for giving birth to too many mouths to be fed), he also concluded (logically) that poverty alleviation depended on selective restriction of population growth, that is, curbing the number of the poor and working people.

As checks on population growth, Malthus accepted war, famine, and disease. He also recommended “moral restraint” (marrying late or not at all, coupled with sexual abstinence prior to, and outside of, marriage) as additional checks on the growth of population. His hostility toward the poor was expressed most vividly when he openly argued in favor of dismantling social safety net programs, called “poverty laws”: “We cannot, in the nature of things, assist the poor, in any way, without enabling them to rear up to manhood a greater number of their children.”

By blaming social ills and economic calamities on the poor and working people, Malthus’s views tended, willy-nilly, to exonerate the underlying socio-economic structure, and to prove the inevitability of privation and misery under any social system.

What Malthus failed to see is the fact that growth rates of population and food supplies are not determined purely by nature as fixed, innate, or immutable rates. Instead, they are dynamic categories that can change drastically, depending on the level of economic development, social structure of production, and the state of technology.

Although not identical, the Peak Oil theory is similar to the Malthusian theory in that it too is based on natural, innate, or fixed and immutable limits. There are, of course, limits to everything—energy, food, water, population. But those limits are not absolute or pre-determined, as implied by the Peak Oil thesis. They are perhaps more social than natural limits.

This is why although the Peak Oil theory is not false in saying that there are limits to oil production, it does not explain much. In a real sense, it is a truism. It explains neither the current energy crisis nor any of the past ones. Nor can, therefore, its dire predictions about future global oil production be trustworthy.

More Oil Found than Used Up

Peak Oil misconceptions have many times led to alarmist predictions and dire warnings of an end of global oil production before the current day. Time and again, those forecasts turned out wrong because oil reserves, including proven or cost-efficient reserves, have continued to grow, and more oil wells or fields have been brought under utilization than those peaked and declined. The following is a partial list, as collected by Jason Schwarz, Options Strategist for Lone Peak Asset Management, Westlake Village, CA:

1. An offshore find by Brazilian state oil company Petrobras (PBR) in partnership with BG Group (BRGYY.PK) and Repsol-YPF may be the world's biggest discovery in 30 years, the head of the National Petroleum Agency said. A deep-water exploration area could contain as much as 33 billion barrels of oil, an amount that would nearly triple Brazil's reserves and make the offshore bloc the world's third-largest known oil reserve. "This would lay to rest some of the peak oil pronouncements that we were out of oil, that we weren't going to find any more and that we have to change our way of life," said Roger Read, an energy analyst and managing director at New York-based investment bank Natixis Bleichroeder Inc.

2. A trio of oil companies led by Chevron Corp. (CVX) has tapped a petroleum pool deep beneath the Gulf of Mexico that could boost U.S. reserves by more than 50 percent. A test well indicates it could be the biggest new domestic oil discovery since Alaska's Prudhoe Bay a generation ago. Chevron estimated the 300-square-mile region where its test well sits could hold up to 15 billion barrels of oil and natural gas.

3. Kosmos Energy says its oil field at West Cape Three Points is the largest discovery in deep water West Africa and potentially the largest single field discovery in the region.

4. A new oil discovery has been made by Statoil (STO) in the Ragnarrock prospect near the Sleipner area in the North Sea. "It is encouraging that Statoil has made an oil discovery in a little-explored exploration model that is close to our North Sea infrastructure," says Frode Fasteland, acting exploration manager for the North Sea.

5. Shell (RDS.A) is currently analyzing and evaluating the well data of their own find in the Gulf of Mexico to determine next steps. This find is rumored to be capable of producing 100 billion barrels. Operating in ultra-deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the Perdido spar will float on the surface in nearly 8,000 ft of water and is capable of producing as much as 130,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

6. In Iraq, excavators have struck three oil fields with reserves estimated at about 2 billion barrels, Kurdish region's Oil Minister Ashti Horami said.

7. Iran has discovered an oil field within its southwest Jofeir oilfield that is expected to boost Jofeir's oil output to 33,000 barrels per day. Iran's new discovery is estimated to have reserves of 750 million barrels, according to Iran's Oil Minister, Gholamhossein Nozari.

8. The United States holds significant oil shale resources underlying a total area of 16,000 square miles. This represents the largest known concentration of oil shale in the world and holds an estimated 1.5 trillion barrels of oil with 800 billion recoverable barrels—enough to meet U.S. demand for oil at current levels for 110 years. More than 70 percent of American oil shale is on Federal land, primarily in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.

9. In western North Dakota there is a formation known as the Bakken Shale. The formation extends into Montana and Canada. Geologists have estimated the area holds hundreds of billions of barrels of oil. In an interview provided by USGS, scientist Brenda Pierce put the North Dakota oil in context: "Of the current USGS estimates, this is the largest oil accumulation in the lower 48. . . . It is also the largest continuous type of oil accumulation that we have ever assessed." The USGS study says with today’s technology, about 4 billion barrels of oil can be pumped from the Bakken formation [7].

In the face of such overwhelming evidence, which seriously undermines the Peak Oil theory, proponents of the theory argue that their thesis is based on “proven,” not all, reserves. Proven reserves are reserves that, given a certain level of technology and a certain amount of investment, are proven or estimated to be economical, or cost efficient. Let us briefly examine this “proven vs. total reserves” argument of the Peak Oil champions.

Proven Reserves Are not a Measure of Future Oil Production: Short-Term Market Imperatives vs. Long-Term Public Policy/Interests

That oil companies would want to invest only in the narrow category of proven, or cost efficient, reserves is understandable; it is a simple business principle. But to base future oil supplies on the currently proven reserves, as Peak Oil theory does, is problematic. It represents a short-term, static view of future oil supplies that implicitly ignores the critical role of new investments and technological innovations that can make profitable, or cost efficient, what is currently considered unprofitable, or cost inefficient.

M.A. Adelman points out that “in 1944 a special expert mission estimated Persian Gulf reserves at 16 billion proved and 5 billion probable. By 1975, those same fields had produced 42 billion barrels and had 74 billion remaining. In 1984, geologists estimated a five percent probability of another 199 billion barrels remaining to be added in the Gulf region. In five years those reserves had already been added” [8].

Market imperatives and short-term profitability measures, thus severely limit oil reserve estimates because they effectively exclude not only huge reserves of unconventional oil, but also vast reservoirs of conventional oil that are not currently profitable. This is obviously a major flaw of the Peak Oil theory, as it judges future supplies of oil by the narrowest definition of oil production: currently proven reserves.

However, just as proven reserves determine the current level of oil production, and therefore of investment, the amount of current investment also plays a crucial role in the determination of the amount of proven reserves in the future. Peak Oil views this mutual relationship as a one-way street, or causality—going from the amount of currently proven reserves to the level of the necessary (or cost efficient) investment, and the global production of oil.

Furthermore, reserves that may be considered unprofitable from the viewpoint of private oil companies may well be economical from the viewpoint of state- or publicly-owned companies. For example, while a private oil company, may find an estimated profit rate of below x or y percent cost inefficient, a publicly-owned oil company might invest in reserves as long as estimated profit rate is not negative.

Indeed, as the experiences of state-owned oil companies in Russia, China, Venezuela, and many other countries show, publicly-owned oil companies often take large short-term losses in pursuit of long-term returns or rewards. Free from short-term market imperative, Russia, for example, has invested heavily in long-term oil projects, with fantastic results that have more than offset the enormous short-term costs of those projects. Here is how Joe Vialls, an expert with first-hand experience in “ultra-deep drilling,” explains:

“In 1970, the Russians started drilling Kola SG-3, an exploration well which finally reached a staggering world record depth of 40,230 feet. Since then, Russian oil majors including Yukos have quietly drilled more than 310 successful super-deep oil wells, and put them into production. Last Year Russia overtook Saudi Arabia as the world's biggest single oil producer, and is now set to completely dominate global oil production and sales for the next century. . . . With no shareholders holding out their grubby little hands for a wad of pocket money every month, the Russian oil industry managed to surge ahead, under-reaming thousands of its older existing onshore wells in less than ten years” [9].

The Role of Technology: a Dynamic, not Static, Process

A major flaw of Peak Oil, as already pointed out, is that it discounts the fact that energy-saving technologies have drastically improved (and will continue to further improve) not only the efficiency of oil production but also of oil consumption. Evidence shows that, for example, “over a period of five years (1994-99), U.S. GDP expanded over 20 percent while oil usage rose by only nine percent. Before the 1973 oil shock, the ratio was about one to one” [10].

Cars, airplanes and other means of transportation have become more fuel-efficient than ever before—though not as much as they could, or should. Both businesses and consumers are also doing a better job of trimming their energy costs. Obviously, this means that our demand for energy does not grow as fast as the growth of our economy. For example, According to the Energy Information Administration, in 1981 the United States devoted nearly 14 percent of its overall gross domestic product to energy; by 2006 that number had fallen to about 9 percent.

One of the results of the more efficient means of research and development has been a far higher success rate in finding new oil fields. The success rate has risen in twenty years from less than 70 percent to over 80 percent. Computers have helped to reduce the number of dry holes. Horizontal drilling has boosted extraction. Another important development has been deep-water offshore drilling, which the new technologies now permit. Good examples are the North Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and more recently, the promising offshore oil fields of West Africa [11].

The following are some of the recent technological advances that (as described by Red Cavaney, a top oil expert) have dramatically increased the ability not only to find and extract new oil, but perhaps more importantly, to recover more or additional oil from existing reserves that were formerly considered “peaked and dried” under old technologies.

  • Directional Drilling. It used to be that wellbores were basically vertical holes. This made it necessary to drill virtually on top of a potential oil deposit. However, the advent of miniaturized computers and advanced sensors that can be attached to the drill bit now allows companies to drill directional holes with great accuracy because they can get real-time information on the subsurface location throughout the drilling process.
  • Horizontal Drilling. Horizontal drilling is similar to directional drilling, but the well is designed to cut horizontally through the middle of the oil or natural gas deposit. Early horizontal wells penetrated only 500 to 800 feet of reservoir laterally, but technology advances recently allowed a North Slope operator to penetrate 8,000 feet of reservoir horizontally. Moreover, horizontal wells can operate up to 10 times more productively than conventional wells.
  • 3-D Seismic Technology. Substantial enhancements in computing power during the past two decades have allowed the industry to gain a much clearer picture of what lies beneath the surface. The ability to process huge amounts of data to produce three-dimensional seismic images has significantly improved the drilling success rate of the industry [12].

“Primarily due to these advances,” Cavaney further points out, “the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in its 2000 World Petroleum Assessment, increased by 20 percent its estimate of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil. USGS noted that, since oil became a major energy source about 100 years ago, 539 billion barrels of oil have been produced outside the United States. USGS estimates there are 649 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil outside the United States. But, importantly, USGS also estimates that there will be an additional 612 billion barrels from reserve growth—nearly equaling the undiscovered resources. Reserve growth results from a variety of sources, including technological advancement in exploration and production, increases over initially conservative estimates of reserves, and economic changes” [13].

Thanks to new technologies, additional oil can now be recovered from the apparently exhausted reserves. Specifically, the peaking and declining of oil from an existing well is not the same as the peaking and declining of oil from the respective oil field or reservoir. While oil production from an existing well is bound to peak and then slow down, “offset wells” can be drilled later into the same field or reservoir to produce more oil. Here is how Vialls explains:

“Now we come to the completely false [or deliberately misleading] claim by Peak Oil shills that production from existing oil wells is ‘slowing down,’ thereby proving that the oil fields are ‘running dry.’ This is so wrong that it is almost breathtaking. Think of this slowing down process in the same way you might think of the engine oil in your automobile. The longer you run the engine, the higher the level of contaminates that get into the oil. The higher the level of contaminates, the higher the level of friction. Sooner or later you have something closely akin to glue coating your piston rings, and the performance of your engine declines accordingly. This is an inevitable mechanical process well known to all automobile owners.

“Henry Ford and others managed to slow down the rate of contamination in engine oils by inventing the oil filter, through which the oil has to circulate each time it passes around inside the engine. A high percentage of the contaminates stick to the filter element, thereby allowing extra miles between oil changes, though heaven help the careless motorist who thinks he can get away without ever changing his clogged oil filter when recommended.

“When oil is extracted from a producing formation underground, it flows out through pores in the reservoir rock, and then into the open borehole, from where it is transported to surface by the production tubing string. So by the very nature of the beast, the bottom section of the well is ‘open hole’ which allows the oil to flow out in the first place, but because it is comprised of exposed and sometimes unstable rock, this open hole section is also continually subject to all manner of turbulence and various contaminates. For example, tiny quantities of super fine silt may exit through the pores but not continue to the surface with the oil, tumbling around in the turbulence instead, until the silt very slowly starts to block off the oil-producing pore throats. Yes, of course there are a variety of liners that can be used to slow down the contamination, but there is no such thing as a Henry Ford oil filter 10,000 feet underground.

“The inevitable result of this is that over time, the initial production rate of the well will slowly decline, a hard fact known to every exploration oilman in the business. However, this is certainly not an indication that the oil field itself is becoming depleted, proved thousands of times by ‘offset wells’ drilled later into the same reservoir. Any new well comes on stream at the original production rate of its older cousins, because it has not yet had time to build up a thin layer of contaminates across the open hole. Though as we shall see it is possible to ‘do an oil change’ on a producing well and bring it back to full production, this is extremely expensive, and rarely used in the west” [14].

Substitutes or Alternative Sources of Energy

Peak Oil is also subject to criticism because it pays insufficient attention to substitutes or alternative sources of energy, both actual and potential. These include solar, wind, non-food bio-fuel, and nuclear energies. They also include natural gas. Natural gas is now about 25 percent of energy demand worldwide. It is estimated that by 2050 it will be the main source of energy in the world. A number of American, European, and Japanese firms have and are investing heavily in developing fuel cells for cars and other vehicles that would significantly reduce gasoline consumption [15].

Peak Oil also pays short shrift to what is sometimes called “unconventional” oil. These include Tar Sands, Heavy Oils, and Oil Shale.

Tar Sands can be recovered via surface mining or in-situ collection techniques. Canada's Athabasca Tar Sands is the best known example of this kind of unconventional reserve—estimated at 1.8 trillion barrels. Although this was originally considered cost inefficient, experts working in this area now claim that they have brought down the cost from over $20 a barrel to $8 per barrel.

Heavy Oils can be pumped and refined just like conventional petroleum except that they are thicker and have more sulfur and heavy metal contamination, necessitating more extensive refining. Venezuela's Orinoco heavy oil belt is the best known example of this kind of unconventional reserve—estimated at 1.2 trillion barrels.

Oil Shale requires extensive processing and consumes large amounts of water. Still, reserves far exceed supplies of conventional oil, and costs are bound to decline as newer and more efficient processing techniques become available [16].

A rarely mentioned but potentially very important substitute for conventional oil “is an even bigger hydrocarbon resource that can be developed to provide nearly endless amounts of energy: methane hydrates (methane frozen in ice crystals). The deposits of methane hydrates are so vast that when we develop the technology to bring them to market, we will have clean-burning energy for 2,000 years. It's just one of the exciting scenarios we may see in the far-off future” [17].

Except for natural gas and nuclear energy, most of these alternative sources of energy are still highly costly, and are therefore used in only insignificant quantities. But, considering the ever evolving newer and more efficient technologies, they are bound to rise in significance. This means that the prospects of reaching a day in our search for energy sources when conventional oil is no longer the world’s dominant source of energy are quite realistic. Humans did not invent motor vehicles because they ran out of horses or horse-driven carriages; nor did they invent electricity because they ran out of candles.

Concluding Remarks

Predictions of global oil production peaking, and then running out, have been around almost as long as oil was discovered in the second half of the 19th century. Time and again, such dire predictions turned out to be false, largely because of the Peak Oil’s apparently sound but actually deceitful logic: while it is true that, as Peak Oil maintains, oil is a finite natural resource that is bound to run out some day, it does not follow, again as Peak Oil argues, that therefore oil is or must be running out soon.

A major flaw of Peak Oil is that it is based on a static, or technology-neutral, assumption: it implicitly assumes that limits to oil are set as natural, innate, and immutable. Yet, limits to oil, like those to most other resources, are determined as much (if not more) socially as they are naturally. Research, development, and technological advances have made (and will continue to make) both the amounts of oil reserves and of oil production much more fluid or elastic than perceived by the champions of Peak Oil.

Viewed in conjunction with the vast pool of substitutes, both actual and potential, oil limits loom less vitally than when they are considered in isolation from such energy alternatives. The constantly evolving newer and more efficient technologies are bound to further expand those limits far beyond the narrow, “natural” limits set by the Peak Oil theory.


[1] Robert L. Hirsch, Roger Bezdek, and Robert Wendling, “Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, and Risk Management,” Testimony on Peak Oil before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Industry (7 December 2005), http://www.netl.doe.gov/publications/others/pdf/Oil_Peaking_NETL.pdf

[2] Matthew Mosk, “Industry Gushed Money After Reversal on Drilling,” Washington Post (27 July 2008), http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/26/AR2008072601891.html

[3] F. William Engdahl, “Perhaps 60% of Today’s Oil Price Is Pure Speculation,” financialsense.com (2 May 2008), http://www.financialsense.com/editorials/engdahl/2008/0502.html

[4] Michael T. Klare, Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict (Holt Paperbacks, 2002).

[5] Red Cavaney, “Global Oil Production about to Peak? A Recurring Myth,” World Watch (01 January 2006), http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0199-5142950/Global-oil-production-about-to.html

[6] Eliyahu Kanovsky, “Oil: Who's Really Over a Barrel?” Middle East Quarterly (Spring 2003), http://www.meforum.org/article/527

[7] Jason Schwarz, The Peak Oil Myth: New Oil is Plentiful,” Seeking Alpha (22 June 2008), http://seekingalpha.com/article/82236-the-peak-oil-myth-new-oil-is-plentiful

[8] M.A. Adelman, The Genie out of the Bottle: World Oil since 1970, (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995); cited in Bill Kovarik, “The Oil Reserve Fallacy: Proven reserves are not a measure of future supply,” http://www.radford.edu/~wkovarik/oil/

[9] Joe Vialls, “Russia Proves ‘Peak Oil’ Is A Misleading Zionist Scam,” rense.com (25 August 2004), http://www.rense.com/general75/zoil.htm

[10] Eliyahu Kanovsky, “Oil: Who's Really Over a Barrel?” Middle East Quarterly (Spring 2003), http://www.meforum.org/article/527

[11] Ibid.

[12] Red Cavaney, “Global Oil Production about to Peak? A Recurring Myth,” World Watch (01 January 2006), http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0199-5142950/Global-oil-production-about-to.html

[13] Ibid.

[14] Joe Vialls, “Russia Proves ‘Peak Oil’ Is A Misleading Zionist Scam,” rense.com (25 August 2004), http://www.rense.com/general75/zoil.htm

[15] The Wall Street Journal (10 March 1998); cited in Eliyahu Kantovsky, “Oil: Who's Really Over a Barrel?” Middle East Quarterly (Spring 2003), http://www.meforum.org/article/527

[16] For an informative discussion of unconventional oil reserves, and a scathing critique of Peak Oil see Bill Kovarik, “The Oil Reserve Fallacy: Proven reserves are not a measure of future supply,” http://www.radford.edu/~wkovarik/oil/

[17] Red Cavaney, “Global Oil Production about to Peak? A Recurring Myth,” World Watch (01 January 2006), http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0199-5142950/Global-oil-production-about-to.html

Ismael Hossein-zadeh, author of the recently published The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave-Macmillan 2007), teaches economics at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.

Taking stock of 'Peak Oil'

July 26, 2009 - research published in the advanced online issue of Nature Geoscience.:

"Now for the first time, scientists have found that ethane and heavier hydrocarbons can be synthesized under the pressure-temperature conditions of the upper mantle - the layer of Earth under the crust and on top of the core."

Professor Kutcherov, a coauthor, put the finding into context: "The notion that hydrocarbons generated in the mantle migrate into the Earth's crust and contribute to oil-and-gas reservoirs was promoted in Russia and Ukraine many years ago. The synthesis and stability of the compounds studied here as well as heavier hydrocarbons over the full range of conditions within the Earth's mantle now need to be explored. In addition, the extent to which this 'reduced' carbon survives migration into the crust needs to be established (e.g., without being oxidized to CO2). These and related questions demonstrate the need for a new experimental and theoretical program to study the fate of carbon in the deep Earth."


How Michael Ruppert's 'Peak Oil' Pile is Gaining Tonnage

Dave McGowan
March 5, 2005

It appears that, unbeknownst to Westerners, there have actually been, for quite some time now, two competing theories concerning the origins of petroleum. One theory claims that oil is an organic 'fossil fuel' deposited in finite quantities near the planet's surface. The other theory claims that oil is continuously generated by natural processes in the Earth's magma. One theory is backed by a massive body of research representing fifty years of intense scientific inquiry. The other theory is an unproven relic of the eighteenth century. One theory anticipates deep oil reserves, refillable oil fields, migratory oil systems, deep sources of generation, and the spontaneous venting of gas and oil. The other theory has a difficult time explaining any such documented phenomena.

So which theory have we in the West, in our infinite wisdom, chosen to embrace? Why, the fundamentally absurd 'Fossil Fuel' theory, of course -- the same theory that the 'Peak Oil' doomsday warnings are based on.

I am sorry to report here, by the way, that in doing my homework, I never did come across any of that "hard science" documenting 'Peak Oil' that Mr. Strahl referred to. All the 'Peak Oil' literature that I found, on Ruppert's site and elsewhere, took for granted that petroleum is a non-renewable 'fossil fuel.' That theory is never questioned, nor is any effort made to validate it. It is simply taken to be an established scientific fact, which it quite obviously is not.

So what do Ruppert and his resident experts have to say about all of this? Dale Allen Pfeiffer, identified as the "FTW Contributing Editor for Energy," has written: "There is some speculation that oil is abiotic in origin -- generally asserting that oil is formed from magma instead of an organic origin. These ideas are really groundless." (http://www.fromthewilderness.com/free/ww3/04_04_02_oil_recession.html)

Here is a question that I have for both Mr. Ruppert and Mr. Pfeiffer: Do you consider it honest, responsible journalism to dismiss a fifty year body of multi-disciplinary scientific research, conducted by hundreds of the world's most gifted scientists, as "some speculation"?

Another of FTW's prognosticators, Colin Campbell, is described by Ruppert as "perhaps the world's foremost expert on oil." He was asked by Ruppert, in an interview, "what would you say to the people who insist that oil is created from magma ...?" Before we get to Campbell's answer, we should first take note of the tone of Ruppert's question. It is not really meant as a question at all, but rather as a statement, as in "there is really nothing you can say that will satisfy these nutcases who insist on bringing up these loony theories."

Campbell's response to the question was an interesting one: "No one in the industry gives the slightest credence to these theories." Why, one wonders, did Mr. Campbell choose to answer the question on behalf of the petroleum industry? And does it come as a surprise to anyone that the petroleum industry doesn't want to acknowledge abiotic theories of petroleum origins? Should we have instead expected something along these lines?:

"Hey, everybody ... uhhh ... you know how we always talked about oil being a fossil fuel? And ... uhmm ... you know how the entire profit structure of our little industry here is built upon the presumption that oil is a non-renewable, and therefore very valuable, resource?

And remember all those times we talked about shortages so that we could gouge you at the pumps? Well ... guess what, America? You've been Punk'd!"

For the sake of accuracy, I think we need to modify Mr. Campbell's response, because it should probably read: no one in the petroleum industry will publicly admit giving any credence to abiotic theories. But is there really any doubt that those who own and control the oil industry are well aware of the true origins of oil? How could they not be?

Surely there must be a reason why there appears to be so little interest in understanding the nature and origins of such a valuable, and allegedly vanishing, resource. And that reason can only be that the answers are already known. The objective, of course, is to ensure that the rest of us don't find those answers. Why else would we be encouraged, for decades, to cling tenaciously to a scientific theory that can't begin to explain the available scientific evidence? And why else would a half-century of research never see the light of day in Western scientific and academic circles?

Maintaining the myth of scarcity, you see, is all important. Without it, the house of cards comes tumbling down. And yet, even while striving to preserve that myth, the petroleum industry will continue to provide the oil and gas needed to maintain a modern industrial infrastructure, long past the time when we should have run out of oil. And needless to say, the petroleum industry will also continue to reap the enormous profits that come with the myth of scarcity.

How will that difficult balancing act be performed? That is where, it appears, the 'limited hangout' concerning abiotic oil will come into play.

Perhaps the most telling quote to emerge from all of this came from Roger Sassen, identified as the deputy director of Resource Geosciences, a research group out of Texas A&M University:
"The potential that inorganic hydrocarbons, especially methane and a few other gasses, might exist at enormous depth in the crust is an idea that could use a little more discussion. However, not from people who take theories to the point of absurdity. This is an idea that needs to be looked into at some point as we start running out of energy. But no one who is objective discusses the issue at this time."
The key point there (aside from Sassen's malicious characterization of Kenney) is his assertion that no one is discussing abiotic oil at this time. And why is that? Because, you see, we first have to go through the charade of pretending that the world has just about run out of 'conventional' oil reserves, thus justifying massive price hikes, which will further pad the already obscenely high profits of the oil industry. Only then will it be fully acknowledged that there is, you know, that 'other' oil.

"We seem to have plum run out of that fossil fuel that y'all liked so much, but if you want us to, we could probably find you some mighty fine inorganic stuff. You probably won't even notice the difference. The only reason that we didn't mention it before is that - and may God strike me dead if I'm lying - it is a lot more work for us to get to it. So after we charged you up the wazoo for the 'last' of the 'conventional' oil, we're now gonna have to charge you even more for this really 'special' oil. And with any luck at all, none of you will catch on that it's really the same oil."

And that, dear readers, is how I see this little game playing out. Will you be playing along?

Several readers have written to me, incidentally, with a variation of the following question: "How can you say that Peak Oil is being promoted to sell war when all of the websites promoting the notion of Peak Oil are stridently anti-war?"

But of course they are. That, you see, is precisely the point. What I was trying to say is that the notion of 'Peak Oil' is being specifically marketed to the anti-war crowd -- because, as we all know, the pro-war crowd doesn't need to be fed any additional justifications for going to war; any of the old lies will do just fine. And I never said that the necessity of war was being overtly sold. What I said, if I remember correctly, is that it is being sold with a wink and a nudge.

The point that I was trying to make is that it would be difficult to imagine a better way to implicitly sell the necessity of war, even while appearing to stake out a position against war, than through the promotion of the concept of 'Peak Oil.' After September 11, 2001, someone famously said that if Osama bin Laden didn't exist, the US would have had to invent him. I think the same could be said for 'Peak Oil.'

I also need to mention here that those who are selling 'Peak Oil' hysteria aren't offering much in the way of alternatives, or solutions. Ruppert, for example, has stated flatly that "there is no effective replacement for what hydrocarbon energy provides today." )

The message is quite clear: "we're running out of oil soon; there is no alternative; we're all screwed." And this isn't, mind you, just an energy problem; as Ruppert has correctly noted, "Almost every current human endeavor from transportation, to manufacturing, to plastics, and especially food production is inextricably intertwined with oil and natural gas supplies." )

If we run out of oil, in other words, our entire way of life will come crashing down. One of Ruppert's "unimpeachable sources," Colin Campbell, describes an apocalyptic future, just around the corner, that will be characterized by "war, starvation, economic recession, possibly even the extinction of homo sapiens."

My question is: if Ruppert is not selling the necessity of war, then exactly what is the message that he is sending to readers with such doomsday forecasts? At the end of a recent posting, Ruppert quotes dialogue from the 1975 Sidney Pollack film, Three Days of the Condor:

Higgins: ...It's simple economics. Today it's oil, right? In 10 or 15 years - food, Plutonium. And maybe even sooner. Now what do you think the people are gonna want us to do then?

Turner: Ask them.

Higgins: Not now - then. Ask them when they're running out. Ask them when there's no heat in their homes and they're cold. Ask them when their engines stop. Ask them when people who've never known hunger start going hungry. Do you want to know something? They won't want us to ask them. They'll just want us to get it for them.

The message there seems pretty clear: once the people understand what is at stake, they will support whatever is deemed necessary to secure the world's oil supplies. And what is it that Ruppert is accomplishing with his persistent 'Peak Oil' postings? He is helping his readers to understand what is allegedly at stake.

Elsewhere on his site, Ruppert warns that "Different regions of the world peak in oil production at different times ... the OPEC nations of the Middle East peak last. Within a few years, they -- or whoever controls them -- will be in effective control of the world economy, and, in essence, of human civilization as a whole."

Within a few years, the Middle East will be in control of all of human civilization?! Try as I might, I can't imagine any claim that would more effectively rally support for a U.S. takeover of the Middle East. The effect of such outlandish claims is to cast the present war as a war of necessity. Indeed, a BBC report posted on Ruppert's site explicitly endorses that notion: "It's not greed that's driving big oil companies - it's survival."

A few final comments are in order here about 'Peak Oil' and the attacks of September 11, 2001, which Ruppert has repeatedly claimed are closely linked. In a recent posting, he bemoaned the fact that activists are willing to "Do anything but accept the obvious reality that for the US government to have facilitated and orchestrated the attacks of 9/11, something really, really bad must be going on." That something really, really bad, of course, is 'Peak Oil.'

To demonstrate the dubious nature of that statement, all one need do is make a couple of quick substitutions, so that it reads: "for the German government to have facilitated and orchestrated the attack on the Reichstag, something really, really bad must have been going on." Or, if you are the type that bristles at comparisons of Bush to Hitler, try this one: "for the US government to have facilitated and orchestrated the attack on the USS Maine, something really, really bad must have been going on."

Easier to find oil

KTH Royal Institute of Technology
September 7, 2009

Researchers at KTH have been able to prove that the fossils of animals and plants are not necessary to generate raw oil and natural gas. This result is extremely radical as it means that it will be much easier to find these energy sources and that they may be located all over the world.

“With the help of our research we even know where oil could be found in Sweden!” says Vladimir Kutcherov, Professor at the KTH Department of Energy Technology in Stockholm.

Together with two research colleagues, Professor Kutcherov has simulated the process of pressure and heat that occurs naturally in the inner strata of the earth’s crust. This process generates hydrocarbons, the primary elements of oil and natural gas.

According to Vladimir Kutcherov, these results are a clear indication that oil supplies are not drying up, which has long been feared by researchers and experts in the field.

He adds that there is no chance that fossil oils, with the help of gravity or other forces, would have been able to seep down to a depth of 10.5 kilometres in, for example the US state of Texas, which is rich in oil deposits. This is, according to Vladimir Kutcherov, in addition to his own research results, further evidence that this energy sources can occur other than via fossils - something which will cause a lively discussion among researchers for a considerable period of time.

“There is no doubt that our research has shown that raw oil and natural gas occur without the inclusion of fossils. All types of rock formations can act as hosts for oil deposits,” asserts Vladimir and adds that this applies to areas of land that have previously remained unexplored as possible sources of this type of energy.

This discovery has several positive aspects. Rate of success as concerns finding oil increases dramatically – from 20 till 70 percent. As drilling for oil and natural gas is an extremely expensive process, costs levels will be radically changed for the petroleum companies and eventually also for the end user.

“This means savings of many billions of kronor,” says Vladimir.

In order to identify where it is worth drilling for natural gas and oil, Professor Kutcherov has, via his research, developed a new method. The world is divided into a fine-meshed grid. This grid is the equivalent of cracks, known as migration channels, through strata underlying the earth’s crust. Good places to drill are where these cracks meet.

According to Professor Kutcherov, these research results are extremely important not least as 61 percent of the world’s energy consumption is currently based on raw oil and natural gas.

The next stage in this research is more experiments, especially to refine the method that makes it easier to locate drilling points for oil and natural gas.

The research results produced by Vladimir Kutcherov, Anton Kolesnikov and Alexander Goncharov were recently published in the scientific journal Nature Geoscience, Volume 2, August.

For more information, please contact Vladimir Kutcherov at vladimir.kutcherov@indek.KTH.se or on +46 8790 85 07.


Was the Iranian Election 'Rigged'?

By Robert Parry
September 21, 2009

It is conventional wisdom in the U.S. press corps that Iran’s June 12 presidential election was rigged, with the word “fraud” now sometimes appearing without the qualifier “alleged.” But a new poll of Iranians uncovered a different opinion, an overwhelming judgment that the election was legitimate.

WorldPublicOpinion.org used native Farsi speakers calling from outside Iran to interview 1,003 Iranians across the country between Aug. 27 and Sept. 10 and discovered that 81 percent said they considered Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be the legitimate president of Iran. Only 10 percent called him illegitimate, with eight percent offering no opinion.

Sixty-two percent said they had strong confidence in the election results, which showed Ahmadinejad winning by about a 2-to-1 margin, and another 21 percent said they had some confidence in the official vote count, for a total of 83 percent expressing favorable views on the election. By comparison, only 13 percent said they had little or no confidence in the results.

These 8-to-1 margins among Iranians, judging that the official election results correctly recorded Ahmadinejad’s victory, stand in marked contrast to the opinions of U.S. journalists who showed strong sympathy for the opposition street demonstrations that turned violent after the voting.

In recent weeks, some top American journalists even have started treating the allegations of voting fraud as a simple matter of fact, not of contention.

The Washington Post’s David Ignatius wrote in a Sept. 10 op-ed that “some analysts … argue that Ahmadinejad and the Guard were continuing an internal coup that began with the fraudulent manipulation of the June 12 election and the subsequent crackdown against Iranian protesters.”

Yet, the evidence of substantial election fraud has always been thin and many of the allegations that dominated the U.S. news coverage after the June 12 vote failed to stand up to serious scrutiny.

For instance, a prevalent complaint that Ahmadinejad’s claim of victory came too fast ignored the fact that rival candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi was out with a declaration of victory before any votes were counted. The partial results showing Ahmadinejad in the lead followed hours later.

Another claim was that Mousavi would have surely won his home Azeri district handily, rather than lose it outright to Ahmadinejad, but that argument collided with a pre-election poll sponsored by the New America Foundation which had shown Ahmadinejad with a 2-to-1 lead in that area.

Even if the election tightened in the final weeks – as some Mousavi supporters contend – Ahmadinejad’s lopsided lead in Mousavi’s home territory in May undercut the notion that Azeris would automatically back their favorite son. Some Iranian analysts have noted that Ahmadinejad poured government resources into that region, explaining his apparent popularity there.

The pre-election poll’s findings – described in a Washington Post op-ed by two of its administrators, Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty – also discovered that, contrary to widespread Western impressions, Iranian youth overwhelmingly favored Ahmadinejad, that the “18-to-24-year-olds comprised the strongest voting bloc for Ahmadinejad of all age groups.”

‘Death to the Potatoes!’

Generally speaking, Mousavi’s support was concentrated among the urban middle class and the well-educated while Ahmadinejad was more the candidate of the poor – of which there are many in Iran. They have benefited from government largesse in food and other programs, and they tend to listen to the conservative clerics in the mosques.

Mousavi seemed to acknowledge this point when he released his supposed proof of the rigged election, accusing Ahmadinejad of buying votes by providing food and higher wages for the poor. At some Mousavi rallies, his supporters reportedly would chant “death to the potatoes!” in a joking reference to Ahmadinejad’s food distributions.

Yet, while passing out food and raising pay levels may be a sign of “machine politics,” such tactics are not normally associated with election fraud.

The last real hope for definitive evidence proving Ahmadinejad’s victory was fraudulent may have passed when Mousavi rejected the possibility of a recount, either random or nationwide. Instead Mousavi insisted on an entirely new election.

Mousavi’s objection to a recount drew support from the New York Times’ top brass. “Even a full recount would be suspect,” the Times wrote in an editorial. “How could anyone be sure that the ballots were valid?”

But a key purpose of a recount is that it may unearth evidence of fraud, especially if ballot-box stuffing was done chaotically, amid panic over the incumbent falling short, or if the tallies were simply fabricated without ballots to support them, as some Western observers have speculated regarding Iran.

By spurning a partial or complete recount, Mousavi suggested that his real fear may have been that he genuinely lost the election and that his only hope for a better outcome was a new election, especially if some of Iran’s powerful clerics could be persuaded to tilt their allegiance toward him.

That interpretation is supported by other findings in the new WPO poll of Iranian attitudes. Of the 87 percent who said they voted, 55 percent said they voted for Ahmadinejad and only 14 percent said they voted for Mousavi.

Asked how they would vote if a new election were called, the breakdown was 49 percent for Ahmadinejad and 8 percent for Mousavi. Twenty-six percent declined to answer, causing WPO’s director Steven Kull to say that he thus discounted “these findings on voting preference [as] not a solid basis for estimating the actual vote.”

Nevertheless, the overall results from the WPO poll suggest that Ahmadinejad remains relatively popular compared to Mousavi.

US Media Disdain

In its press release on the new poll of Iranian attitudes, WPO also didn’t play up the findings about the disputed election, focusing more on Iran’s opinions regarding U.S. President Barack Obama and the prospects for improved relations with the United States.

The findings on Ahmadinejad’s legitimacy were at the end of the press release, possibly reflecting a concern that any data favorable to the Iranian president would draw the wrath of the major U.S. news media.

Indeed, for the past several months, the U.S. news media has shown little of its professed objectivity in its coverage of Iran’s election, an echo of the mainstream U.S. media’s failure to be evenhanded in its pre-invasion reporting on Iraq and its dictator Saddam Hussein.

Shortly after Iran's election in June, a “news analysis” coauthored by New York Times executive editor Bill Keller opened up with an old joke about Ahmadinejad looking into a mirror and saying “male lice to the right, female lice to the left,” a derogatory reference to his rise from the street and his conservative Islamic religious views.

The Times continued its pattern of taking sides on Saturday with a front-page article that three times referred to Ahmadinejad supposedly calling the World War II Holocaust that the Nazis inflicted on European Jews a “lie,” but never giving any context to the partial quote or noting that its meaning was somewhat ambiguous. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “What Did Ahmadinejad Really Say?”]

While any insistence on journalistic professionalism in dealing with Ahmadinejad and Hussein are sure to prompt criticism about showing undeserved sympathy for such unsavory characters, the point is that journalists are supposed to set aside their personal feelings and let the American people make their own judgments based on balanced reporting, not slanted coverage.

A similar collapse of journalistic standards occurred in 2002 and 2003 with lopsided and inaccurate reporting about Iraq’s supposed WMD stockpiles. As the Washington Post’s editorial page editor Fred Hiatt later admitted, his editorials treated the existence of those stockpiles as fact, rather than a point in dispute.

“If you look at the editorials we write running up [to the war], we state as flat fact that he [Hussein] has weapons of mass destruction,” Hiatt said in an interview with the Columbia Journalism Review. “If that’s not true, it would have been better not to say it.” [CJR, March/April 2004]

You don’t say!

Yes, it is a general principle of journalism that if something’s not true, it’s better not to say that it is, especially when your false statements contributed to an aggressive war that has killed more than 4,300 American soldiers and estimates of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. (Hiatt received no punishment for publishing his Iraq falsehoods and remains in that same job today.)

Now, Iran is in the sights of America’s top editors and a similar bias is in play.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com.