One remark by a minor Israeli cabinet officer hinting at a possible US or Israeli attack on Iran has sent oil prices up by a record $11/barrel to a record $139 per barrel Friday. That should tell us what would happen if the Bush administration were crazy enough to attack Iran, or to let its vassal state of Israel do it.
Most analysts say an actual attack on Iran would send oil almost immediately to past $300 per barrel—a level that would strangle economies worldwide and send the world into an economic collapse not since the Smoot-Hawley Tariffs kicked off the Great Depression.
The repercussions of that would be staggering.
America, which runs on oil, would grind to a halt. Gasoline and home heating oil would double or triple in price, leading to desperation in the coming winter for those living north of the Mason-Dixon line, and to a mass exodus of the elderly from Florida and Arizona, where air-conditioning would no longer be affordable.
In China, an economy almost wholly dependent upon the manufacture of goods for sale to American consumers, hundreds of millions of workers would suddenly find themselves unemployed. With their remittances to their peasant relatives halted, half the country would be kicked back to the pre-capitalist era, only without guaranteed wages, homes, food and healthcare. It is likely that unrest unprecedented since the Cultural Revolution would erupt.
The Middle East would explode.
In Iraq, Shia fighters would rise up in solidarity with their Shia neighbor, Iran, and begin attacking American forces in Iraq in earnest, probably making the Tet Offensive in 1968 Vietnam look like a picnic. Where the US had half a million troops in Vietnam in that offensive, the military is already stretched to the breaking point in Iraq, with supply lines barely defended.
It makes you wonder what is going on in the higher reaches of the US bureaucracy. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has in the past intimated that he’s no fan of war with Iran, just sacked the two top men in the Airforce—the most gung-ho of the service branches in terms of Iran war mongering. The unprecedent surprise firing of Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and the Air Force’s top officer, Gen. T Michael “Buzz” Moseley, was officially blamed on their poor handling of the nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal, in the wake of last year’s unauthorized and improper removal from storage and cross-country aerial transfer of six nuclear-armed cruise missiles in launch position on a B-52 Stratofortress, and the discovery this year of an earlier “inadvertent” shipment of ICBM missile warhead nuclear triggers to Taiwan. While it is possible that those two incidents were the cause of the firings, there remain serious unanswered questions about both incidents, and particularly about the cruise missile flight.
As I reported earlier on this site and in Counterpunch magazine and American Conservative magazine, there were a half dozen unexplained deaths of US airmen, including two suicides, which occurred just before and after that flight last August 30, none of which were investigated at least publicly by the Pentagon or the FBI according to local prosecutors and medical examiners contacted. A number of experts in nuclear weapons handling have said that it would be “impossible” for the six warheads to have been removed from guarded bunkers at Minot AFB in North Dakota, mounted on cruise missiles, loaded onto launch pylons under the wing of a B-52, and flown to Barksdale AFB in Louisiana, all as a “mistake.”
This leads inexorably to the question: What was being planned for those warheads, if they were not being removed from storage by mistake, and if they were being moved without the knowledge of the top brass, including Gates, at the Pentagon? Recall that the only reason anyone learned about the incident was that it was reported outside the military chain of command to a reporter at Military Times newspaper by several Air Force whistle-blowers upset by what they were seeing.
We already witnessed the sudden resignation from the post of CentCom Command of Adm. William Fallon, whose outspoken opposition to the Bush/Cheney administration’s talk of attacking Iran led to his being pushed aside in favor of the more pliant Gen. David Petraeus. Fallon was pushed out by Iran war hawks because of his opposition to an attack. Were the Air Force Secretary and Chief of Staff forced out by Gates because of their pro-attack position?
Plenty to ponder here, but the concerns of oil speculators, who have driven up the price of oil by 8.6 percent (and the stock market down by 3.2 percent) in a single day, in large part on war rumors, should have us all concerned.
It’s not just about the price of gasoline.
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