Letter to Senators Boxer and Feinstein, June 22, 2005

Dear Senator Boxer/Feinstein:

I am a professor of Cognitive Science at San Diego who has never written a letter to a Congress person, but motivated by my wife's father, a history teacher -- as well as the increasingly dire state of our country and the world -- I decided to give it a try.

I am writing to implore you to do something about the next war the administration is in the process of starting. As Scott Ritter wrote this week, the war on Iran is already on.

A similar thing happened with the Iraq war. Preparations, funding, and actual execution began almost a year before the official start of the war in March 2003. For example, construction on the Al Udeid air base in Qatar began before 9-11. And there were greatly increased bombings in 2002 in an attempt to provoke Saddam (he didn't respond). The machinations behind the pre-planned march to war were apparent to any person with even a moderate understanding of 20th century history and access to the internet. At the key moment in late 2002 where the course of events was perhaps still capable of being deflected, the press and the Congress simultaneously lulled, distracted, and scared the average good American. This was, of course, exactly at the point in time where all the key preparations, troop movements, and military hardware positionings were already taking place.

We are in a very similar position now with respect to Iran. The US is preparing bases in Azerbaijan to stage our next invasion of Iran, which will have to include the securing of the straits of Hormuz so oil shipments are not interrupted. Our special operations forces are helping coordinate terror bombings inside Iran by the Mujahadeen el-Khalq (MEK), who like Saddam was in the past, are our current good terrorists. As with the previous war, these preparations are not secret. The antiwar left and right (e.g., Seymour Hersh and Scott Ritter) have been putting out warnings for 6 months.

I ask you whether you want your position in history to go down as the week-kneed Congress that supinely rubber-stamped an unbelievably disastrous foreign and domestic policy that led the economies of the US and the world to ruin. You must stop playing the victim and do something more forceful. I am confident that history will judge that you made a mistake in voting unanimously for the previous war. Many in the antiwar movement including myself were aware that the weapons of mass destruction story was a complete fabrication, before the war started. See, for example, my speech to 6,000 people at an antiwar demonstration in San Diego on February 15, 2003 (appended below). But there is still time to stop the momentum for this next war, which will have even more disastrous effects for the US and the world.

You and virtually every other Senator voted for the Iraq war under the pretence of getting rid of weapons of mass destruction. You were completely incorrect in that assessment. Before the war, Paula Zahn accused Scott Ritter of drinking Saddam's Kool-Aid. But Scott Ritter turned out to be correct; in fact, all the Democrats in the Senate drank Bush's Kool-Aid. There were no weapons, the case for the war was completely fabricated, and it *was* about oil. Oil prices were about $24/barrel at the time the war started in March 2003. They are now hovering around $60/barrel.

We are currently spending about $100 billion dollars of our tax money on the Iraq war per year (yet another $40 billion was just approved this week). $100 billion dollars a year is triple the amount we spend on all biomedical research per year; and it sits on top of an already incredibly bloated military budget. We have 5% of the worlds population; but we account for 50% of the worlds military spending.

We are also in increasingly dire straits with regard to energy, and especially oil, which is the main power supply for transportation, the lifeblood of industrial economies (my undergraduate degree was in geology). We should obviously be concentrating much more research and development money on alternative energy sources. Currently, wind and solar power currently account for an absolutely trivial 1/1400 (0.07%) of the energy mix in the US! Even if we increased the amount of wind and solar by 100 times (a ten thousand percent increase), it would still only amount to 7% of our daily energy gulp. At the current rate, well be lucky if there is a doubling of renewables in the next five years. That would only mean that we were generating 1 unit of renewable energy for every 700 units of non-renewable and rapidly depleting fossil fuel energy used. Given that industrial civilization is absolutely dependent on oil, gas, and coal, this is absolutely mind-boggling. These days, the clearest talk about energy comes from conservative congressman Roscoe Bartlett from Maryland! Hardly a peep out of the supposedly green California delegation. Imagine if we had invested the $100 billion/year in alternative energy sources instead of trying to encircle the fossil energy wealth of other people by building 14 permanent military bases there (out of a total current military base count in Iraq of 106!).

The US population is starting to turn against the current war. If I can smell this -- with no research staff and poll takers -- I'm sure that you can smell it, too. But the real point of the Downing Street memos is that it is important to think ahead. We can't be distracted by Iraq, as awful as it is, while the next big move is being made.

We are on the Titanic, heading for the iceberg at full speed. You are closer to the captain than most of us. Do something now.

Martin Sereno

Professor Cognitive Science
University of California, San Diego
La Jolla, CA 93093

P.S.: I've prepared a set of slides on the main facts about oil and energy supplies here that a number of people have found useful:

    http://cogsci.ucsd.edu/~sereno/oil05.ppt (PowerPoint)
    http://cogsci.ucsd.edu/~sereno/oil05.pdf (Acrobat PDF)