Beauty queen, creationist, climate denialist, abstinence advocate, moose slaughterer: in Alexander Pope’s phrase, Sarah Palin has “a cherub’s face, a reptile all the rest”.

For the Murdoch commentariat, of course, it’s precisely the scaly bits that appeal.

“A star is born,” slobbered Greg Sheridan, in the fanboy mode he once reserved for Asian dictators and Donald Rumsfeld.

“Palin is such an electrifying figure in part because she reignites the culture wars in a way that Republicans could well win.”

Janet Albrechtsen shared Sheridan’s awe at a candidate for the second highest office in the world who could — gasp! — successfully read a speech from an autocue.

“Sarah Palin’s address … Republican National Convention marks a return of the blazing politics of polarization,” she said happily.

Interestingly, Sheridan and Albrechtsen’s toe-curling ecstasy has not been in any way dampened by their heroine’s position on Iraq. That is, in a recent Business Week interview, Palin seemed to endorse the “blood for oil” theory about the invasion.

“We are a nation at war,” she explained, “and in many [ways] the reasons for war are fights over energy sources, which is nonsensical when you consider that domestically we have the supplies ready to go.”

Sarah Barracuda is not alone in blurting out inconvenient truths about the Iraq adventure.

Alan Greenspan, a man who knows a little about how the world works, once wrote: “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.”

Jack Straw and even our own hapless Brendan Nelson have all, at one time or another, made similar statements. And Palin’s interview wasn’t actually so different from the statements of John McCain, her mummified co-candidate.

“My friends,” he told a Colorado town meeting, “I will have an energy policy that we will be talking about, which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East that will — that will then prevent us — that will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.”

The US didn’t invade Iraq to carry off its energy reserves like a cat burglar filling a sack. The war was about strategic control rather than simple plunder. Yet, without the region’s vast oil reserves, Iraq wouldn’t have been on the White House radar at all — and, in that sense, the “blood for oil” explanation remains entirely correct.

Of course, if a presidential candidate admitted that the US attacked Iraq over oil and expressed some remorse about the fact, Sheridan and Albrechtsen and the other denizens of Greater Wingnutia would be all over them like so many flying monkeys searching for Dorothy.

But it’s OK for the two Republican candidates to make the “blood for oil” link — after all, they’re not confessing so much as boasting. Ms Barracuda, in fact, thinks that God Himself endorsed the invasion, just as, from His great Halliburton office in the sky, He gave the thumbs-up to $30 billion natural gas pipeline in Alaska.

“God’s will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built,” she told ministry students.

“So pray for that.”

Legalists might object that, whatever God’s opinion on the matter, invading another country in “fights over energy sources” is the textbook definition of a war of aggression, the principle charge on which the Nuremberg defendants were executed. But, then, Goring and von Ribbentrop never encountered the contemporary punditocracy, much more excited about hockey and moose hunting than boring old issues like war crimes.

Jeff Sparrow is the editor of Overland magazine.

Peter Fray

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