Investigate Big Dick
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If the US Senate really wants to earn our respect, I have a suggestion for them: Hold bipartisan hearings into Dick Cheney's 2001 Energy Task Force.
If not now, when?
Low-wage working Americans can't afford to drive to their jobs? Already some folks have been forced to pawn personal items just to fill their tank for another week. How bad does it have to get before you guys up there start asking the questions you should have asked years ago -- and this time, demanding real answers.
So, Bill Frist, Harry Reid, pull together a bipartisan panel made up of your toughest, most skeptical prosecutional-minded members, hire a couple of junkyard dog lawyers to act as GOP and Dem counsels, and let the long overdue hearings begin.
Subpoena everyone who had anything to do with those meetings, including secretaries who transcribed the original minutes. Oh, and when you call oil industry execs back, put them under oath this time. Because they lied last time when they said they had no idea...
(Washington Post, May 2005) A White House document shows that executives from big oil companies met with Vice President Cheney's energy task force in 2001 -- something long suspected by environmentalists but denied as recently as last week by industry officials testifying before Congress ...The document, obtained this week by The Washington Post, shows that officials from Exxon Mobil Corp., Conoco (before its merger with Phillips), Shell Oil Co. and BP America Inc. met in the White House complex with the Cheney aides who were developing a national energy policy, parts of which became law and parts of which are still being debated.
I mean really guys -- if not now, when?
Almost everyone else except Congress has tried to get this information out of the administration. The non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) filed suit in April 2002 seeking access to the records of Cheney's energy task force. But one of those "liberal activist federal judges" dismissed the suit. The Sierra Club carried its fight for those records all the way to the US Supreme Court, which in 2004 voted 7-2 to uphold "a paramount necessity of protecting the executive branch from vexatious litigation."
But just to make sure no one got lucky in court, the administration built a wide moat around all things it feels are none of our damn business; including whatever deals Cheney made in 2001 with energy company CEOs.
"WASHINGTON - As the Bush administration has dramatically accelerated the classification of information as 'top secret' or 'confidential,' one office is refusing to report on its annual activity in classifying documents: the office of Vice President Dick Cheney ... A standing executive order, strengthened by President Bush in 2003, requires all agencies and 'any other entity within the executive branch' to provide an annual accounting of their classification of documents. More than 80 agencies have collectively reported to the National Archives that they made 15.6 million decisions in 2004 to classify information, nearly double the number in 2001, but Cheney continues to insist he is exempt. (Full Story)
It's not as though we don't have good reason to suspect skullduggery was afoot at those meeting -- skullduggery that has now been allowed to manifest itself in the form of war, economic hardship for average Americans and record profits for the Big Energy folk who attended the meetings. Over the past four years we have learned little about what happened at those meetings, but what little we have learned startles even those of us who thought we had seen it all:
"Documents turned over in the summer of 2003 by the Commerce Department as a result of the Sierra Club's and Judicial Watch's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, concerning the activities of the Cheney Energy Task Force, contain a map of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries and terminals, as well as two charts detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects, and 'Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts.' The documents, dated March 2001, also feature maps of Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates oilfields, pipelines, refineries and tanker terminals. There are supporting charts with details of the major oil and gas development projects in each country that provide information on the project's costs, capacity, oil company and status or completion date." (Full Text)
So, did Cheney and oil company executives lick their chops over Iraqi oil less than two years before we attacked over non-existent WMD? When the administration brushed off questions about Cheney's meetings by telling us they concerned "securing America's energy future," was this the plan they cooked up? To overthrow Saddam, set up a puppet government and pump, pump, pump? If so, that plan has gone terribly wrong.
So, shouldn't Congress find out? If not now, when?
Well, let me correct myself. Not everything went wrong for everyone; just 2,800 American kids who died and tens of thousands of Iraqis who died. Now American motorists are getting the shaft. But look who came out smelling like a rose. By disrupting oil supplies from Iraq, the world's third largest producer, and destabilizing the entire oil producing region, and now by threatening Iran, oil companies with oil assets in the Gulf, Alaska and other regions, have seen the price of their oil skyrocket. Clearly a seat at those energy task force meetings was a seat worth having -- worth billions.
"Last week, Exxon Mobil (the majority owner of Imperial Oil (AKA 'Esso') announced its first-quarter profits had risen 14 per cent to $8.4 billion over the same period last year. That followed similar announcements by Conoco/Phillips and Chevron, the next two largest U.S. integrated oil companies. Chevron's profits jumped 50 per cent to $4 billion while Conoco/Phillips saw its profits climb 13 per cent to $3.3 billion."
A citizen would think that such obscene profits, at the very time real wages of working Americans are falling, the cost of heating and cooling their homes rises every month and transportation costs soar, would provide Congress with some backbone.
Senators, this is where the proverbial rubber hits the road. Investigate. Not just Big Oil, but Big Dick as well. Inquiring minds want to know. We are waiting and we are watching. If not now, when?Â
Stephen Pizzo is the author of numerous books, including "Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans," which was nominated for a Pulitzer.