SUVs Help the Terrorists

Andrew Sullivan has a series of posts arguing that America’s enjoyment of gas guzzling cars such as sport utility vehicles is helping the terrorists.

Fareed Zakaria makes an excellent point today in a column about rising oil prices, and how they are helping to finance the terror masters in Tehran, Saudi Arabi and elsewhere. Some kind of move toward greater energy efficiency is essential in the war on terror. But what I didn’t realize is how the curse of the SUV is so damaging. Fareed writes that 54 percent of today’s U.S. fleet of cars are made up by these ugly, behemoth tanks that guzzle gas, and make life miserable for everyone not in them.


We are in a war. As far as I’m concerned, those people driving SUVs are aiding and abetting the enemy, and helping to finance the terrorists that want to kill us all. I’m well aware that the notion that the Bush administration has any interest in energy independence or taxing gas or deterring SUVs is about as likely as their demanding subsidies for sex-changes, but I might as well vent. We can always stigmatize these SUV-terror-enablers. How about bumper-stickers for non-SUVs that simply say: my car doesn’t subsidize Saudi terror. Would that help?

Among the bumper stickers his readers suggest is “How many soldiers-per-gallon does your SUV get?”

My word, this is silly. For one thing, Sullivan knows better than the idea that the Iraq War has anything to do with oil. Goodness, we had sanctions on Iraq for well over a decade prohibiting him from selling oil and thus artificially tightening the supply. And how much oil does Afghanistan produce every year? Indeed, al Qaeda is funded much more by drug money than by oil money.

Aside from that, driving more fuel efficient cars would only affect Middle East relations at the margins. We’d still be dependent on OPEC for a great deal of petroleum, which is used in all manner of products as well as to convey said products across this vast continent of ours.

via Michael Demmons

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Middle East, Terrorism, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    How much money did Al Qaeda get from its fundraisers in Saudi Arabia? You want to deny connections with oil money there as Saudi doesn’t produce anything BUT oil.

  2. rd cunningham says:

    My new SUV gets better mileage than my old compact car. Go figure it.

  3. Kenny says:

    considering we get 15% of our oil from the ME, and China/Japan get 60% from the ME, maybe it’s those asian countries that are supporting terrorism……thats if oil consumption is a guide for support for terrorism

    grow up people

  4. maddmatt says:

    No, the oil industry never crossed this administrations mind when making decisions.
    Hmmm Energy bill full of tax giveaways while they make record profits
    privitization of Iraqi oil
    war affects supply driving price up
    The oil companies have been pulling georges strings since he was a failure as a businessman

  5. Dan D says:

    How about Venezuela too… Our own religious fundamentalist, Pat Robertson, is calling for assassination of a foreign president there…because he has oil! I suppose you’ll claim that our gripe with them is really about their non-existent terrorist training camps or their WMD’s…..Perhaps a silly story about how he and Castro are really planning a terrorist strike on Florida.

    Action in Iraq was simply a means of ensuring that we had another possible oil supply should Saudi Arabia turn against us. Face reality… That’s all this is about. President chicken-hawk made it abundantly clear on invasion day when he warned the Iraqis over and over “don’t destroy the oil wells…” Check the transcripts….

  6. McGehee says:

    Our own religious fundamentalist, Pat Robertson, is calling for assassination of a foreign president there…because he has oil! I suppose you’ll claim that our gripe with them

    Hold the phone.

    Who you mean by “our”?

    Pat Robertson doesn’t speak for me any more than Cindy Sheehan does. And if you’re going to argue that his comments about Hugo Chavez express national policy, I’m going to argue that you’re batsh!t crazy.

  7. tubino says:

    Dan D beat me to it. Look at what Robertson said — his actual words — , and it boils down to this: Chavez is the democratically-elected leader of a country that supplies us with oil. If he decides not to sell it to us, we will have to kill him.

    And McGehee, if don’t think the founder of the Christian Coalition is not about as tied to the current administration as the radical clerics are to the Iranian leaders… you’re just not paying attention.

    Look at how Bush and Frist cozy up to the Intelligent Design nonsense. The American Taliban is likely to get its way with Supreme Court nominees, for crying out loud. How obvious do you need it to be that the Pat Robertsons are perceived as a crucial part of the Republican base?

  8. vaildog says:

    Madmatt, Dan D, tubino,

    Maybe someone should murder you.

  9. Necie V says:

    Wow. You’re pretty much unable to follow an argument, aren’t you?

    The “war” Sullivan alludes to is not Iraq. It’s GWOT. Or GSAVE. Whatever. Here. I’ll do the math for you.

    1. The Bad Guys are pretty much exclusively Muslims from Oil-Producing countries.

    2. When America buys lots and lots of oil from those countries, it goes right into the hands of the Bad Guys.

    3. The Bad Guys then use formerly American money to fund their activities.


    Now, did you see ANYTHING about Iraq being “blood for oil” there?

    The Enemy could take this whole country down without firing a single shot. All it would take would be an OPEC embargo of the U.S.

    That is Not A Good Thing.

    Much as I despise many of Sullivan’s positions, the man is simply pointing out that we’re way too dependent on a teat that’s halfway around the world, and maybe, just maybe, we ought to be working really hard to grow the hell up ourselves and start eating something else.

  10. M1EK says:

    Transportation is by far the largest consumer of oil in this country, so pointing to other uses doesn’t make your case; and the decline in fleet mileage caused by the LOOPHOLES which allow SUVs to get such poor fuel economy do indeed result in more money to Saudi Arabia.

    And the idea that alQaeda gets more money from drugs than from oil is misleading. They might NOW, but without the initial infusion of millions of dollars in Osama’s bank account, they’d have gotten nowhere near New York on 9/11, and his bankroll came from OIL.

    Finally, the fact that we’ve dug ourselves into such a deep hole on fuel economy serves as a disincentive to confront Saudi Arabia on their direct (AQ) and indirect (madrassas; export of Wahabbism) funding of anti-West terrorism. In other words, we’re too afraid of REALLY expensive oil to risk rocking the boat. If we were in the situation the Europeans are, we wouldn’t bother at all with the Middle East militarily, or we could afford to smack the Saudis. Either one would be a far better choice than what we actually did.

  11. Dave Schuler says:

    Er, most U. S. oil imports are not from the Gulf. What does Sullivan have against Nigeria, Canada, and Mexico?

  12. M1EK says:

    Dave S,

    Since oil is fungible, and since only the Saudis have any ‘spare capacity’ to bring online (and they might, in fact, not really have any anymore), your argument is foolish – the Saudis get the same money whether we buy from them or from Canada.

  13. Dave Schuler says:

    Your argument that my argument is foolish is foolish. So there! Let’s stop the name-calling. I’m not the one arguing that SUV’s make us import more Middle Eastern oil. Or that if we consumed less oil we would consume less Gulf oil.

  14. DC Loser says:

    And don’t forget that with the run up of crude prices they’re getting a helluva a lot more money now than when oil was $20 a barrel. And where do you suppose some of that cash is going to end up?

  15. tubino says:

    I’ll make it simpler: when one of the most powerful, most politically connected Christian leaders indicates that assassination of a leader should be considered if the oil supply might be squeezed…

    …then it should be clear that US dependence on oil pushes the US toward a terrorist stance.

    Gas inefficiency DOES fuel the terrorists internationally — and the terrorist mentality domestically.

  16. esmense says:

    Of course the Iraq war has to do with oil. Not in the simple-minded sense of wanting to confiscate Iraq’s oil supply, but in the larger sense of maintaining stability, access, and some measure of control, in the world’s most important oil-producing region.

  17. anjin-san says:

    Does anyone doubt that if we had made a serious move toward energy efficiency & independence after the oil shocks of the 70’s that America would be a stronger nation today?

    As it is our economy remains terribly exposed to price spikes and supply interruptions of middle eastern oil. Our economy is literally built upon a foundation of sand. The president’s plan? To make sure gas guzzlers get exemptions & tax breaks.

    As a sidebar, I can’t drum up too much sympathy for owners of huge, gas sucking SUV’s who purchased them with no thought of the environmental cost. Getting squeezed at the pump seems like a bit of a just dessert…

  18. jim says:

    To argue that the Iraq war has nothing to do with oil, is to be out of step with basic facts. I could go along with there being other factors; but nothing?

    Where do you think Al Qaeda gets the money to buy bombs with? Selling instructional self-help videos?

  19. circlethewagons says:


    The Osama workout video (Killing to the Oldies) is quite popular these days.

  20. tommo says:

    Not about oil? Had your kool-aid today? Read this.

    Over a year ago, orders were put in place by L. Paul Bremer III, then the U.S. administrator of Iraq, that were designed to “transition [Iraq] from a … centrally planned economy to a market economy” virtually overnight and by U.S. fiat. Those orders were also incorporated into the transitional administrative law – Iraq’s interim constitution – and the economic restructuring they mandate is well underway.

    Laws governing banking, investment, patents, copyrights, business ownership, taxes, the media and trade have all been changed according to U.S. goals, with little real participation from the Iraqi people. (The TAL can be changed, but only with a two-thirds majority vote in the National Assembly, and with the approval of the prime minister, the president and both vice presidents.) The constitutional drafting committee has, in turn, left each of these laws in place.

    A central component of the Bush economic agenda is foreign corporate access to, and privatization of, Iraq’s once state-run economy. Thus, an early Bremer order allowed foreign investment in and the privatization of all 192 government-owned industries (excluding oil extraction).

    After the election of the transitional government, the Ministry of Industry and Minerals fell right in line, announcing plans to partially privatize most of its 46 state-owned companies and open them to foreign investment as part of a plan to establish a “liberal, free-market economy.”

    Oil is, of course, at the heart of the agenda. In 2004, U.S.-appointed interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi submitted guidelines to Iraq’s Supreme Council for Oil Policy suggesting that the “Iraqi government disengage from running the oil sector … and that the [Iraq National Oil Company] be partly privatized in the future” and opened to international foreign investment, according to International Oil Daily. (U.S oil imports from Iraq increased by more than 86% between 2003 and 2004 alone.)

    Plans for a new Iraqi oil law were made public last December at a news conference in Washington hosted by the U.S. government. The U.S.-appointed interim Finance Minister Adel Abdul Mehdi explained that the new law would be “very promising to the American investors and to American enterprise, certainly to oil companies.”

    A few weeks later, Mehdi became one of Iraq’s two vice presidents and Allawi was elected to the National Assembly. Iraq’s new oil law is on track for implementation in 2006.

    Finally, consider Iraq’s reconstruction, which also remains firmly under U.S. control. One of Bremer’s orders denied the Iraqi government the ability to give preference to Iraqis in the reconstruction effort. Instead, more than 150 U.S. companies were awarded contracts totaling more than $50 billion, more than twice the GDP of Iraq. Halliburton has the largest, worth more than $11 billion, while 13 other U.S. companies are earning more than $1.5 billion each.

    These contractors answer to the U.S. government not the Iraqi people, several thousand of whom in the last few days have protested the failure of U.S. companies to provide accessible water, sanitation and electricity at pre-war levels. Iraqis argue that they have the knowledge, skill and experience to conduct the reconstruction themselves; what they need is the money and decision-making control that they are being denied.

    By all accounts, the draft constitution has failed to provide Iraqis with the means to control their economic future. As Iraq prepares for the October 15 referendum on the constitution these crucial issues must be added to the debate, and the influence of the Bush administration countered, so that Iraqis can truly determine their own economic and political fate.

    Just as discussions are finally emerging for ending the U.S. military occupation of Iraq, so too must the economic invasion be brought to an end.

  21. Steve Verdon says:

    My what a lot of bickering. Does anybody have any idea of the dollar amounts we are talking about in regards to SUV’s and gasoline prices? Anybody? Hello….

  22. LeftwingConservative says:

    Of course “Operation Iraq Nation Building” has nothing to do with oil. It’s all about spreading FREEDOM! LOL.

  23. T. Edward says:

    The war has EVERYTHING to do with oil Don’t you remember how the initially called it Operation Iraqi Liberation (or, OIL)? It’s true. (Check out the White House transcript if you don’t believe it:

    Cheney and his cronies in the oil business met LONG before the war started to plan how to divvy up the oil and now people are dying for it. (And we thought they were meeting about Energy Policy-hah! That’s why Dick won’t let us see anything about these meetings!!)

    Why do you think Bush doesn’t want to leave Iraq yet? Because we haven’t taken control of all the oil yet.


    So, we can’t even steal the Iraqis oil properly, let alone find wmd. Instead, we’re creating an Islamist theocracy that will be just as bad or worse than Saddam, because now Iraq and Iran will have even more in common.

  24. Green says:

    Aside from that, driving more fuel efficient cars would only affect Middle East relations at the margins. We’d still be dependent on OPEC for a great deal of petroleum, which is used in all manner of products as well as to convey said products across this vast continent of ours.

    You’re absolutely right. So there’s no reason to increase fuel efficiency of our autos. Let’s just keep doing what we’re doing, and everything will be fine. There’s really no connection between how much oil the United States uses and middle east despots. Keep on moving folks, nothing to see here.

  25. Steve Verdon says:

    I see nobody has any clue about the numbers involved here. Well by using 2001 numbers I figure at best if everybody moved from an SUV to a passanger car the savings would be about $1.34 billion dollars. When you have a $10+ trillion economy and spend over a $250 billion on gasoline $1.34 billion really is a drop in the bucket.

    Have any of the righteously indignant in this thread even heard of the Bureau of Transportation Statistics? No? Why am I not surprised in the least.

  26. Beth says:

    Well, I’m no tree-hugging eco-fascist, that’s for sure…and I certainly think Sully’s full of crap most of the time I hear about what he says (he’s not on my reading list). That said…

    The Enemy could take this whole country down without firing a single shot. All it would take would be an OPEC embargo of the U.S.

    That is Not A Good Thing.

    And That Is The Truth. $1.34 billion may be a drop in the bucket of “10+ trillion,” but it’s 1.34 billion less for terror-supporting nations such as Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, etc. and corrupt nations like Mexico (what have they done for us lately?).

    I won’t demonize SUV-owners, but I gotta wonder why it is SUV-owners don’t get it, and are SO defensive. It’s almost defiance against leftists, but it’s self-defeating.

    And I don’t want to hear about them being safer; there are plenty of regular cars that are VERY safe, and cost less overall than an SUV. I’m a mother of a young daughter, and I wouldn’t even think about driving a car with less than excellent safety ratings.

    Why do some of you lefties insist on making this issue about Iraq? It has nothing to do with it; it’s about pumping money into Saudi Arabia’s (and others’) economies. Duh! If you want to win the argument, and have people on the right on your side, quit barking like moonbats. It’s the (terrorists’) economy, stupid. Speak our language and you might win this one.

  27. Beth says:

    Where do you think Al Qaeda gets the money to buy bombs with? Selling instructional self-help videos?


  28. barryology says:

    If our unprovoked invasion of Iraq was truly about WMDs, then…why Iraq and not North Korea. If it was about stemming terrorism, then how come we didn’t go in before the invasion and get Zarqawi when we knew where he was as an anti-Saddam member of an extremist Kurd group. If it was about stemming terrorism, really, how could it have turned out to become such a focal point for mid-East terrorism when no terrorism existed there before. If it was about turning out a murderous dictator, why Iraq, where the dictator’s worse was done over a decade ago, and not the Sudan, where genocide is ongoing?
    Let’s be honest: the world has a serious jones for oil, and we’ll kill to keep it pumping. Period.