Editor's Note: This perspective comes from an Ohio Republican. Michael A. Fox served as a member of the Ohio House of Representatives for 23 years and is currently a County Commissioner in Butler County, Ohio. Conservative on most issues, Fox has come to realize that the war in Iraq is about feeding our oil addiction and it doesn't sit well with him. He raises his voice eloquently against "trading the bodies of our young people for barrels of oil." As more and more Americans from both the right and the left discover that the current energy crisis is not temporary but permanent, the political ground underneath many different issues, from the environment to foreign policy, will shift.
Bodies for Barrels: Betrayal and Energy Dependence
By Michael A. Fox
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
America's energy problems are not, as President Bush recently declared, because Americans have an "addiction to oil." Our energy problems stem from the failed leadership of two political parties - Democrats and Republicans.
For over thirty years presidents and congresses from both parties have had an addiction to playing politics and courting the special interests who fund their next election cycle - all at the expense of our national security.
They have betrayed us. America felt the first shock wave of energy dependence with the oil embargo of 1973. The lessons from that experience were clear - our nation and our economy could be brought to its knees by a handful of hate-filled lunatics in the Middle East; a lesson ignored by both parties. Since then, leaders from each party periodically paid lip service to energy independence, making symbolic moves designed to reassure the public that making America energy independent was important. But neither party ever made it a priority. Neither party has provided continuous and determined leadership to secure our national security by securing our energy independence.
The result? Never in our history has our country been more vulnerable to foreign influence and economic attack from our enemies. The neglect and betrayal by both parties has led us to an unspoken yet horrifically real and hollow energy and foreign policy that reduces us to trading the bodies of our young people for barrels of oil.
Like many Americans I trusted the President. I believe that he is a good and decent man. But like presidents before him, he cannot even seem to envision a policy that leads to energy independence. When he delivered his State of the Union Address a few weeks ago, I cringed when I heard him brag that "Since 2001, we have spent nearly $10 billion to develop cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable alternative energy sources - and we are on the threshold of incredible advances." He announced the creation of an "Advanced Energy Initiative - a 22 percent increase in clean energy research." Big deal, like going to a gun fight with a toy knife.
Suggesting that we can somehow do anything meaningful to achieve energy independence by increasing our five year investment in research by roughly $200 million per year is laughable. To put this investment in energy independence in perspective, consider that since 2001 Americans have spent $200 billion dollars on pet food - 20 times more on buying pet food than the federal government spends on energy research.
Here's the essence of our energy policy. Imagine this: you pull into a gas station and tell the attendant to fill up the gas tank. It comes time to pay and the attendant asks "Which of your children do you want to sacrifice in payment." Which child must die? Ridiculous? How is that different than what we are doing in the Middle East?
The invasion of Iraq, the stationing of our 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean, the posting of our troops at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars annually throughout the Middle East is about protecting the oil fields of Saudi Arabia - our so-called ally who has provided funding for most of the terrorist groups that stir anti-American hatred throughout the world.
America invests hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of young people's lives and mangled bodies each year to make sure each of us can fill up our tank when we need it - bodies for barrels. But what if we had to trade our child (as so many have been called to do) for a full tank of gas?
Wouldn't we demand an alternative solution like a responsible energy policy that is as important to us as the Manhattan Project was during World War II or putting a man on the moon was in the 60s? I believe we would - and we should.
If it is financially sustainable for our nation to spend what some estimate will be a trillion dollars in the Iraqi War before we're finished, then why is it so outlandish to expect that we make an equal investment of national and financial resources to energy independence? If we are willing to ask our young people to sacrifice and die or get maimed so we can top off our tanks, then why are we not equally willing to commit our nation to energy independence?
Our nation's energy vulnerability is an outrageous betrayal by both parties - Democrats and Republicans. In the coming days you will see a frenzy of proposals coming from both Democrats and Republicans in the Congress. These proposals will continue to cascade until the November election and then we'll go back to business as usual.
These gestures are nothing more than symbolic gestures. The public needs more than symbols from our leaders; we deserve solutions. America has the ingenuity, intellectual infrastructure, spirit and knowledge to come through this crisis as we have others in our history.
Across America there are young minds teeming with ideas that deserve research funding so they can help us end our reliance on foreign energy. There are ideas that will enable us to conserve more energy, get more efficiency out of our engines and industrial enterprises and lead to alternative sources heretofore not even considered.
The missing ingredients are and always have been, leadership, vision, and will. Money follows vision. Our political leaders need to articulate a simple vision and actually mean it - energy independence.
Here's a start. As Congress currently debates a measure that will provide increased funding for the Iraq War why not adopt a policy that says: "Not one more dollar should be spent on the Iraq War or securing the oil fields and shipping lanes of the world unless an equal dollar is spent on research to secure our energy independence?" If it is important enough to spend a dollar sending a young man or woman to war then it is important enough as a nation to spend an equal dollar eliminating the threat that causes them to lay down their life.
America needs political leadership that looks beyond the next election and beyond the favor of oil and multinational corporate interests. There is nothing that America cannot achieve if we commit ourselves to a vision and support it with the full will and might of our nation. What happened to the days when our political leaders had the courage to do what is right and had the will to set politics aside to protect our national security?
There is nothing more important to America's future than securing energy independence. Without it, our children and grandchildren are likely to see wars of incomprehensible destruction. President Eisenhower once said that "the only way to win World War III was to prevent it."
We are at the threshold or Armageddon and the fuse that is likely to set it off is energy dependency, nations warring to secure scarce resources. Our ability to avoid the incomprehensible horror of World War III depends on our energy independence. Continued energy dependence will mean continued war. America can do better than an energy policy that trades the bodies of our young people for barrels of oil. In order to do this, each American has to stand ready to make whatever sacrifice is required to become energy independent.
Why not give research a chance? Why not give America's brilliance and innovative spirit a chance? Why not enlist the creativity and intellectual fire-power of our young people's minds and back it with the full might of our nation's wealth?
If we must, in the short run, spend billions of dollars to send our young people into battle to secure the oil our economy needs then let's match those expenditures with equal amounts going into laboratories and university research centers to find the solutions to our energy dependence.
How can our leaders send someone's child to battle knowing that the circumstances that make their sacrifice necessary are driven by the unwillingness of our nation to make the sacrifices that must be made to avoid the war we send them to fight? How can any congressman, senator, or president send someone's child to battle without being able to look them in the eye and tell them with conviction and truth that we will match their sacrifice with the courage, force of will, and resources to become energy independent?
Our leaders are the stewards of freedom and thus far they have betrayed the trust of the American people. On the day President John F. Kennedy was murdered in Dallas, the speech he was to have delivered contained these words: "We in this country - are - by destiny rather than by choice - the watchmen on the walls of world freedom." His words ring true today, and unless our national leaders break the bonds of energy dependence, the walls of freedom will come tumbling down.
Our leaders have been asleep at their posts. It's time that they wake up and rise to the challenge of our time. It's time for them to make some tough choices and break our chain of dependence. It is time for them to muster the courage to do whatever is necessary to make sure that not one American son our daughter is sent to battle to fight for a barrel of oil.
For me the choice is easy. What I don't understand is why our national leaders cannot see it. For the sake of our children, our future, and the security of America, it's time we force them to see the challenge and act.http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/printer_042906Y.shtml
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