BUSIN KSS WATCH

Hussein is no Hitler— he is Goldfinger

Even James Bond’s special-effects wizards never thought to blow up oil wells to obliterate the sun—or fill the sea with crude

Peter C. Newman February 11 1991
BUSIN KSS WATCH

Hussein is no Hitler— he is Goldfinger

Even James Bond’s special-effects wizards never thought to blow up oil wells to obliterate the sun—or fill the sea with crude

Peter C. Newman February 11 1991

Hussein is no Hitler— he is Goldfinger

BUSIN KSS WATCH

PETER C. NEWMAN

As the Gulf War escalates, the U.S.led coalition’s propagandists are finding it increasingly difficult to summon up adjectives vile enough to describe Saddam Hussein. How do you categorize a head of state so disconnected from decent behavior that he would nonchalantly order history’s largest oil spill, now threatening to permanently foul one of the world’s ecologically richest seas?

It’s easy. The Iraqi dictator is no Adolf Hitler, who at least in his very early days showed an occasional glimmer of sanity. No, Saddam Hussein is the first real-life version of a James Bond villain, specifically Goldfinger, the power-hungry maniac, in the third and best James Bond movie of the same name, who wanted to rule the world by cornering the gold market. As exuberantly portrayed by Gert Forbe, Goldfinger stopped at nothing, including torture, nerve gas, an atomic bomb and suffocating a buxom blonde by spraying her with gold lacquer.

Hussein, like Goldfinger, got caught up in what an Israeli commentator has labelled a “trance of obstinacy,” the self-hypnotic desire to rule the world without for a moment considering how crazy such an obsession might be. Hussein, of course, wants to achieve this dubious distinction by controlling the world’s oil, instead of its gold. But the motivation of the two loonies isn’t that different.

George Bush and other Western leaders have stumbled over themselves denying that they launched the war to protect their Middle East oil sources. Bush has repeatedly claimed that the fight is “not about oil,” but rather the need to defend democracy against “naked aggression.” Most oddly, Secretary of State James Baker, when asked why the United States had declared war, succinctly replied: “If you want to sum it up in one word, it’s jobs.” (Does that mean getting work by going on fire raids against Hussein’s Republican Guard should be considered alternate, equal-opportunity employment?)

Even James Bond’s special-effects wizards never thought to blow up oil wells to obliterate the sun—or fill the sea with crude

The fact that the Americans moved into Saudi Arabia to protect oil rather than democracy is very clear, since the only country in the region less democratic than the Iraqi dictatorship is the Kuwaiti monarchy. As Washington commentator Ted Van Dyk, a longtime Democratic party policy adviser, has pointed out, “You can be sure we wouldn’t have a platoon on the Kuwaiti frontier if the resource in the region was guano.”

The Persian Gulf’s huge reservoirs hold 63 per cent of the world’s remaining petroleum, and the U.S. economy cannot survive without it. By capturing Kuwait, Hussein achieved control of one-fifth of the available reserves. His intended offensive against Saudi Arabia would have extended his control to more than half the available oil. If he carries out his pledge to explode Kuwait’s 600 high-pressure wells if he is forced to retreat, they could bum for 20 years, frying as much as 100 billion barrels of crude.

According to many, but not all, environmental experts, that would spread a cloud cover over the globe thick enough to mask the sun’s rays, mining crops around the world. Even James Bond’s special-effects wizards never thought of blowing up oil wells to obliterate the

sun—or filling the sea with crude—and Hussein has already ignited half a dozen Kuwaiti wells and several refineries.

American dependence on the Gulf is multiplied by the continuing inability of the United States to find new oil sources at home. Production of domestic crude fell by five per cent in 1990 and is now running at its lowest level since 1961, at just over seven million barrels a day. Although it ranks, by quite a wide margin, as the world’s largest consumer of oil, the United States imports at least half its crude. According to experts like James Gray, executive vice-president of Calgary’s Canadian Hunter Exploration Ltd., this shortfall will rise to at least 65 per cent by 1995. No wonder Saddam Hussein doesn’t want to make the world safe for Exxon.

In trying to fathom Hussein’s next moves, Westerners judge his strategy all too often by their own values. That’s not a valid comparison, especially when it comes to the worth of human life. Probably the clearest illustration of how little life is valued inside Iraq is the 1988 exchange between a spokesman for the foreign office of the United Kingdom and the Iraqi ambassador to the Court of St. James. The Iraqi had been called in after Saddam’s air force had wiped out the Kurd settlement of Halabje with a lethal mixture of mustard and cyanide poison gases. The British diplomat had expressed official shock at the incident, but the ambassador was clearly baffled and amazed that the action should be questioned, exclaiming: “But they were our people!”

“Other dictators try to hide their crimes,” noted The Spectator of London. “Saddam knows there is a value in committing them openly. His secret service returns the bodies of its victims to their families so that everyone can see precisely how they were tortured in death.”

The great tragedy of the current impasse is that it could have been so easily avoided. For most of a decade, not only Kuwait (which contributed an estimated $12 billion) and Saudi Arabia (which offered to finance virtually all of Iraq’s development needs) but Britain, Germany and the United States poured money and arms into Saddam’s arsenal, hoping that he would defeat Iran’s Islamic revolutionaries. If the West had remained neutral and treated the Iran-Iraq war for what it was—a family quarrel between two Moslem states—the current war would never have been possible or necessary.

Any comparisons between Saddam Hussein and Goldfinger are tenuous at best, but that movie villain was eventually crushed less by the mock heroics of James Bond (Sean Connery) than by the betrayal of his most trusted lieutenant, Pussy Galore (played by Honor Blackman), who deserted his cause and joined up with Bond. Maybe Hussein saw the movie, because he has recently been dealing with potential traitors in his entourage by showing them photographs of Nicolae Ceau§escu and some of his ministers after they were executed by Romanian patriots—reminding his lieutenants of their fate should he be defeated.

We should tell Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf to go home—and bring back Pussy Galore.