September 1990 (vol. 6, #6)
1601 N. Tucson Blvd. Suite 9, Tucson AZ 85716
c 1990 J Orient
One reason why 100,000 US troops are now in Saudi Arabia, despite the celebrated end of the cold war, was suggested in the lead story in the Baltimore Sun of Sept. 14, 1990: ``Critical point in oil supply called near: officials say reserves may have to be used.'' The global shortfall of oil was expected to be 3.5 million barrels/day in September.
US domestic oil production could be increased within months by about 607,500 barrels a day, according to the US Department of Energy, largely by removing government regulations. For example, offshore wells near Santa Barbara could pump 100,000 barrels a day, starting immediately.
Using other sources of petroleum may require more than opening a few valves. Although oil seeps out of the ground in some places on the Arctic National Wildlife Range, development has been stymied in the courts and Congress by activists worried about the Alaskan caribou. The area is ``a sacred place,'' according to Rep. Morris Udall (D-AZ) (Human Events 9/15/90).
Technology that effectively substitutes for fossil fuels has been aborted, thanks to antinuclear activists. There have been no new orders for nuclear power plants in the US since 1978. Some even propose shutting down the existing nuclear facilities that now generate 19% of US electricity (thereby saving 4 billion barrels of oil since 1973). Another environmentalist triumph, the Clean Air Bill, would also limit our ability to use coal to substitute for oil. This bill could increase operating costs at some coal-fired plants by 50%. Oil consumption by utilities, which had been declining for years, has already increased by 32% since 1987, and will probably increase further (Wall St J 8/23/90).
Saddam Hussein's power is founded on the world's dependence on cheap oil from the Middle East. Revenues from that oil finance the impressive military force that he commands: 1 million men under arms; 5,500 tanks (the fourth largest force in the world); 775 combat aircraft (including Soviet fighters and bombers); 170 fighting helicopters; and 70 surface-to-air missile batteries (Wash Times 8/9/90).
Iraq is capable of producing over 700 tons of mustard and 50 tons each of tabun and sarin per year and of actually using such weapons, even against its own population. Hussein is said to be acquiring biological weapons, including anthrax, typhoid, cholera, and West Nile fever virus (the last obtained from the US Center for Disease Control). Although his nuclear weapons program received a major setback when Israel bombed the Osirak reactor nine years ago, the facilities that can separate weapons-grade plutonium from spent reactor fuel remain untouched. (This ``waste'' material is in plentiful supply.) Sale of a metallurgical furnace destined for the nuclear weapons program was stopped only at the last minute, over the strenuous objections of the US Commerce Dept. (which had approved and still favored the deal).
Clearly, Hussein's capabilities did not surge from an acorn overnight as he marched into Kuwait. Nevertheless, Iraq was classified as a member of the ``Western bloc,'' qualified to purchase chemical warfare protection equipment (see p. 2) from Switzerland, with the consent and encouragement of the US government. Baghdad purchased weapons (and chemicals) from numerous Western and Communist nations, including Britain, France, and West Germany.
The first task confronting US forces attempting to destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction would be to disable the anti-aircraft defenses set up with the aid of Soviet advisors, of whom 2,000 to 4,000 remain in Iraq, ``completing their contractual obligations.'' For such missions, the US boasts sophisticated electronic wizardry but the weapons have not been tested in battle.
US forces are surging to equip the troops with protection against chemical weapons. American airmen complain that they have no gas masks (Ariz Republic 9/22/90). (Even Soviet schoolchildren have gas masks, as reported by a member of the Tucson Boys Chorus, who got to try one on in Kiev.) The Defense Logistics Agency has ordered 450,000 chemical-warfare suits from private clothing manufacturers, which may be able to make about 25,000 per month. The $77 outfits are lined with activated charcoal. The Defense Dept. declined to comment on the inference that it needs four uniforms per soldier. An industry vice president stated that a soldier would have to change clothing every four hours because the charcoal would become saturated and ineffective (Wall St J 8/27/90).
Meanwhile, back in Congress, the SDI budget was slashed, even as Israel is testing the Arrow air-defense missile for protection against increasingly capable Iraqi ballistic missiles. One day after the invasion of Kuwait, President Bush announced that the target date for decreasing US troop strength by 25% was moved from 1997 to 1995. Available US Army and Marine forces currently number about one-third the strength of the Iraqi army (Human Events 9/15/90).
The present strategy on both sides seems to involve starving the hostages about 1,000 Americans, 2 million Kuwaitis, and 17 million Iraqis.
The Tucson Peace, Ecology, and Social Justice Calendar offers suggestions on how to stop population growth, convert military facilities to peacetime use, make friends in the Middle East, save the environment, and spend the peace dividend.
But the Peace Center forgets that the dividends derived from neglected defense may eventually be repaid in blood.