It’s easy to look at the disaster in Iraq, hang your head, and curse Dick Cheney’s soul. Indeed sometimes, especially at lefty fests like this weekend’s National Conference for Media Reform, it seems like all our troubles can be traced back to Dick and his underling George. Blood and Oil, a documentary based on Michael T. Klare’s 2004 book of the same name, makes a strong case for looking beyond Bush & Co. to the roots of the United States’ geopolitical oil mongering. Along the way, it takes aim at some sacred idols of the left, namely Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter.
In 1945, as Roosevelt saw the United States’ self-sufficiency in oil production slipping away, he set out to meet with Saudi Arabia’s king, striking a deal that has survived all administrations since: U.S. protection of the Saudi royal family for proprietary oil development rights. From there, Klare, the defense correspondent for the Nation, traces the evolution of U.S. oil policy through various presidents, reserving a special place for Jimmy Carter, who he says laid the foundation for the doctrine sanctioning the use of military force to protect America’s strategic oil interests in the Middle East. Reagan beefed up that doctrine, and, producer Scott Morris noted in a question-and-answer session after the film, Cheney “blew the policy out of the water.” But it didn’t come out of nowhere, and that’s a valuable lesson as we prepare to write the obituary of the Bush administration and look toward the policies of the next president.
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