I mean, after killing Jesus, did the Elders of Zion manipulate the government of the United States into invading Babylon as part of a scheme to abet the expansion of greater Israel?
The question was first posed to me in 2004, when I was speaking at a meeting of Mobilization for Peace in San Jose. A member of the audience asked, "Put it together -- who's behind this war? Paul Wolfowitz and Elliott Abrams and the Project for a 'Jew' American Century and, and, why don't you talk about that, huh? And ...."
But the questioner never had the full opportunity to complete his query because, flushed and red, he began to charge the stage. The peace activists attempted to detain the gentleman -- whose confederates then grabbed some chairs to swing. As the Peace Center was taking on a somewhat warlike character, I chose to call in the authorities and slip out the back.
Still, his question intrigued me. As an investigative reporter, "Who's behind this war?" seemed like a reasonable challenge -- and if it were a plot of Christ killers and Illuminati, so be it. I just report the facts, ma'am.
And frankly, at first, it seemed like the gent had a point, twisted though his spin might be. There was Paul Wolfowitz, before Congress in March 2003, offering Americans the bargain of the century: a free Iraq -- not "free" as in "freedom and democracy" but free in the sense of this won't cost us a penny. Wolfowitz testified: "There's a lot of money to pay for this that doesn't have to be U.S. taxpayer money."
A "Free" Iraq
And where would these billions come from? Wolfowitz told us: "It starts with the assets of the Iraqi people.... The oil revenues of that country could bring between $50 billion and $100 billion over the next two or three years."
This was no small matter. The vulpine deputy defense secretary knew that the number one question on the minds of Americans was not, "Does Saddam really have the bomb?" but, "What's this little war going to cost us?"
However, Wolfowitz left something out of his testimony: the truth. I hunted for weeks for the source of the Pentagon's oil revenue projections and found them. They were wildly different from the Wolfowitz testimony. But this was not perjury.
Ever since the conviction of Elliott Abrams for perjury before Congress during the Iran-Contra hearings, neither Wolfowitz nor the other Bush factotums swear an oath before testifying. If you don't raise your hand and promise to tell the truth, "so help me, God," you're off the hook with federal prosecutors.
How the Lord will judge that little ploy, we cannot say.
But Wolfowitz's little numbers game can hardly count as a great Zionist conspiracy. That seemed to come, at first glance, in the form of a confidential 101-page document slipped to our team at BBC's "Newsnight." It detailed the economic "recovery" of Iraq's post-conquest economy. This blueprint for occupation, we learned, was first devised in secret in late 2001.
Notably, this program for Iraq's recovery wasn't written by Iraqis. Rather, it was promoted by the neoconservatives of the Defense Department, home of Abrams, Wolfowitz, Harold Rhode and other desktop Napoleons unafraid of moving toy tanks around the Pentagon war room.
Nose-Twist's Hidden Hand
The neocons' 101-page confidential document, which came to me in a brown envelope in February 2001, just before the tanks rolled, goes boldly where no U.S. invasion plan had gone before: the complete rewrite of the conquered state's "policies, law and regulations." A cap on the income taxes of Iraq's wealthiest was included as a matter of course. And this was undoubtedly history's first military assault plan appended to a program for toughening the target nation's copyright laws. Once the 82nd Airborne liberated Iraq, never again would the Ba'athist dictatorship threaten America with bootleg dubs of Britney Spears' "...Baby One More Time."
It was more like a corporate takeover, except with Abrams tanks instead of junk bonds. It didn't strike me as the work of a kosher cabal for an imperial Israel. In fact, it smelled of pork -- pig heaven for corporate America looking for a slice of Iraq, and I suspected its porcine source. I gave it a big sniff and, sure enough, I smelled Grover Norquist.
Norquist is the capo di capi of right-wing, big-money influence peddlers in Washington. Those jealous of his inside track to the White House call him "Gopher Nose-Twist."
A devout Christian, Norquist channeled $1 million to the Christian Coalition to fight the devil's tool, legalized gambling. He didn't tell the coalition that the loot came from an Indian tribe represented by Norquist's associate, Jack Abramoff. (The tribe didn't want competition for its own casino operations.)
I took a chance and dropped in on Norquist's L Street office, and under a poster of his idol ("NIXON -- NOW MORE THAN EVER"), Norquist took a look at the "recovery" plan for Iraq and practically jumped over my desk to sign it, filled with pride at seeing his baby. Yes, he promoted the privatizations, the tax limit for the rich and the change in copyright law, all concerns close to the hearts and wallets of his clients.
"The Oil" on Page 73
The very un-Jewish Norquist may have framed much of the U.S. occupation grabfest, but there was, without doubt, one notable item in the 101-page plan for Iraq which clearly had the mark of Zion on it. On page 73, the plan called for the "privatization...[of] the oil and supporting industries," the sell-off of every ounce of Iraq's oil fields and reserves. Its mastermind, I learned, was Ariel Cohen of the Heritage Foundation. For the neocons, this was the big one. Behind it, no less a goal than to bring down the lynchpin of Arab power, Saudi Arabia.
It would work like this: The Saudi's power rests on control of OPEC, the oil cartel which, as any good monopoly, withholds oil from the market, kicking up prices. Sell off Iraq's oil fields, and private companies will pump oil in their little Iraqi patches to the max. Iraq, the neocons hoped, would crank out 6 million barrels of oil a day, bust its OPEC quota, flood the world market, demolish OPEC and, as the price of oil fell off a cliff, Saudi Arabia would fall to its knees.
"It's a no-brainer," Cohen told me at his office at Heritage. It was a dim little cubby, in which, in our hour or two together, the phone rang only once. For a guy who was supposed to be the godfather of a globe-spanning Zionist scheme to destroy the Arab oil monopoly, he seemed kind of, well ... pathetic.
And he failed. While the Norquist-promoted sell-offs, flat taxes and copyright laws were dictated into Iraqi law by occupation chief Paul Bremer, the Cohen neocon oil privatization died an unhappy death. What happened, Ari?
"Arab economists," he hissed, "hired by the State Department ... the witches brew of the Saudi royal family and Soviet Ostblock."
Well, the Soviet Ostblock does not exist, but the Arab economists do. I spoke with them in Riyadh, in London, in California, in wry accents mixing desert and Oxford drawls. They speak with confidence, knowing Saudi Arabia's political authority is protected by the royal families -- of Houston petroleum.
After two mad years of hunting, I discovered the real plan for Iraq's oil, the one that keeps our troops in Fallujah. Some 323 pages long and deeply confidential, it was drafted at the James A. Baker III Institute in Houston, Texas, under the strict guidance of big oil's minions.
It was the culmination of a series of planning groups that began in December 2000, with key players from the Baker Institute and Council on Foreign Relations (including one Ken Lay of Enron). This was followed by a State Department invasion-planning session in Walnut Creek, Calif., in February 2001, only weeks after Bush and Dick Cheney took office. Its concepts received official blessing after a March 2001 gathering of oil chiefs (and Lay) with Cheney, where the group reviewed with the vice president the map of Iraq's oil fields.
Once I discovered the big oil plan, several of the players agreed to speak with me (not, to the chagrin of some, realizing that I rarely hold such conversions without secretly recording them). Most forthright was Philip Carroll, former CEO of Shell Oil USA, who was flown into Baghdad on a C-17 to make sure there would be no neocon monkey business in America's newest oil fields.
It had been a very good war for big oil, with tripled oil prices meaning tripled profits. In Houston, I asked Carroll, a commanding, steel-straight chief executive, about Cohen's oil privatization plan, the anti-Saudi "no-brainer."
"I would agree with that statement" Carroll told me, "privatization is a no-brainer. It would only be thought about by someone with no brain."
Bush world is divided in two: neocons on one side and the establishment (which includes the oil companies and the Saudis) on the other. The plan the establishment created, crafted by Houston oil men, called for locking up Iraq's oil with agreements between a new state oil company, under "profit-sharing agreements" with IOCs (international oil companies). The combine could "enhance the [Iraq] government's relationship with OPEC," it read, by holding the line on quotas and thereby upholding high prices.
Wolfowitz Dammerung: Twilight of the Neocon Gods
So there you have it. Wolfowitz and his neocon clique -- bookish, foolish, vainglorious -- had their asses kicked utterly, finally and convincingly by the powers of petroleum, the Houston-Riyadh big oil axis.
Between the neocons and big oil, it wasn't much of a contest. The end-game was crushing, final. The Israelites had lost again in the land of Babylon. And to make certain the arriviste neocons got the point, public punishment was exacted, from exile to demotion to banishment.
In January 2005, neocon point man Douglas Feith resigned from the Defense Department; his assistant, Larry Franklin, later was busted for allegedly passing documents to pro-Israel lobbyists.
The State Department's knuckle-dragging enforcer of neocon orthodoxies, John Bolton, was booted from Washington to New York to the powerless post of U.N. ambassador, and just recently was kicked from there to the curb.
Finally, on March 16, 2005, second anniversary of the invasion, neocon leader of the pack Wolfowitz was cast out of the Pentagon war room and tossed into the World Bank, moving from the testosterone-powered, war-making decision center to the lending office for Bangladeshi chicken farmers. "The realists," crowed the triumphant editor of the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, "have defeated the fantasists!"
So much for the big Zionist conspiracy that supposedly directed this war. A half-dozen confused Jews, wandering in the policy desert a long distance from mainstream Jewish views, armed only with Leo Strauss' silly aphorisms, were no match for Texas oil majors and OPEC potentates with a combined throw weight of half a trillion barrels of oil.
Greg Palast is an investigative reporter and the author of the New York Times bestseller, "Armed Madhouse: Who's Afraid of Osama Wolf?, China Floats, Bush Sinks, The Scheme to Steal '08, No Child's Behind Left, and Other Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War," from which this piece is adapted. Palast can be reached at www.gregpalast.com.