A few weeks ago, I interviewed Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired United States Army Colonel and former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell.  It was a rare insight into the Bush White House, and more so, the mind of Dick Cheney as seen through the eyes of someone who worked near the seat of power. It was a wide-ranging interview, but one of the most interesting revelations, was how Wilkerson connected Cheney to the BP oil leak.

What becomes clear from the interview is this: the idea that industry ‘self-regulation’ and a unfettered free market leads to higher productivity, now lies exposed five thousand feet below the sea and on the Street where bankers do their business in New York.   

While the BP leak is as dramatic as an environmental disaster can get (live shots of surging oil into the Gulf), our own Tar Sands are perhaps an even greater environmental threat . . . if just not such startling television.  

It also raises the question: can the current political elites be anything but an extension of the parasitical and predatory billionaires who have their direct phone numbers?

Here’s what Wilkerson (a card carrying Republican) had to say: “Cheney’s responsible for the deregulation that leads to, I think, lots more problems down the pipe. In fact, I’m told there is in this same category, I’m told there are platforms out there that are drilling at 7,000 feet. This one, Deep Horizon, was about 5,000 feet. I’m told that the same kinds of procedures are being used on all of them.

Just this morning I heard about the MMS (US Minerals Management Service), again being embroiled in these kickbacks from the industry and so forth. This is all a part of the culture that Cheney created in the eight years that he was vice president. And I don’t want to blame it all on Cheney, because this has been a Republican mantra for a long time.

Whether it’s Mitch McConnell in the Senate or whether it’s someone else in the Republican guard, we-I’m a Republican-we have been spouting this deregulation, spouting this “the market is the best guide”, spouting this business about let private industry do everything and all things will be wonderful, and don’t have any government interference at all. And what we’ve done is stripped government regulation and oversight from so many things across this country; we’re going to be paying for it for years to come. We’re going to be paying dearly for it. There are going to be more oil spills, there are going to be more bridges collapsing, there are going to be more hurricanes that surprise us in their devastation and so forth, because we Republicans have stripped government of its ability, of its capacity to do the kinds of things that it should do that no one else can do, certainly not someone with a profit motive can do.

JAY: So a lot of these things get dressed up as ideological positions like “we believe in the power of the free market”. The war in Iraq is “we believe in democracy”. But a lot of this is just about money-making.”

WILKERSON: It is about money-making. It’s about commercialism. I had a student at George Washington University who wrote a great paper about Colombia. Why have we been putting $750 million, roughly, a year, about $1 billion a year, some $6.8 billion overall, I think, into the Andean region, into Plan Colombia? Why have we been doing it? Has it really been to fight drugs? Has it really been to fight drugs? Is that what we’re really interested in?

Well, if you look at where we’re talking about building our military bases, they’re not near the FARC, the group that is involved in narco-trafficking. They’re not near the coca fields. The bases are near the pipelines, the pipelines in Colombia, the oil pipelines. Where are we laying down our troops in Afghanistan? Near the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India proposed pipeline. It’s all about commercial interest in the long run. And I don’t fault the country for that; I don’t fault our leadership for that. We do have to have a sound economy, and we do have to be competitive in the world. But I do fault them for making this less than transparent to the American people, and even to lying about it at times.

JAY: Well, it’s also a little difficult to get young Americans to go give up their lives to defend somebody’s oil pipeline.

WILKERSON: Absolutely.

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Paul Jay was the founder, CEO and senior editor of The Real News Network, where he oversaw the production of over 7,000 news stories. Previously, he was executive producer of CBC Newsworld's independent flagship debate show CounterSpin for its 10 years on air. He is an award-winning documentary filmmaker with over 20 films under his belt, including Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows; Return to Kandahar; and Never-Endum-Referendum. He was the founding chair of Hot Docs!, the Canadian International Documentary Film Festival and now the largest such festival in North America.