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2004 The Beast

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The third anniversary of 9/11 last week brought on a predictable onslaught of recaps and memorials, reminding us all of the tragedy of that day. We've been doing a lot of bombing and invading since then, ostensibly to defend against further attacks. Most of us felt pretty good about invading Afghanistan and removing the Taliban regime, but a lot of people are having second thoughts about Iraq. Our reasoning for the Iraqi invasion has changed as quickly as evidence of WMDs and a Saddam-Osama link has been discredited. What's the connection? But there is a connection between Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as every conflict our nation is involved in today: oil. At every turn, pipelines and proven reserves seem more of a motivation to our foreign policy than Homeland Security.

The Caspian Sea is home to the world's largest untapped fossil fuel reserves. The United States, China, Iran, and the Russian Federation are all competing for various pipelines which would direct the oil and natural gas to their countries or spheres of influence. The U.S. is pursuing two separate pipelines: One in the East would run from Baku, Azerbaijan, through Georgia terminating at the Turkish port of Ceyhan, thereby circumventing Russia. The plans for the Western pipeline are more circuitous: It would run from Kazakhstan to Turkmenistan (or Uzbekistan), then through Afghanistan, and terminate in either Karachi or Gwadar (both Pakistani ports), thereby circumventing both China and Iran. The United States and several transnational oil companies (most notably Unocal) have been salivating over plans for these pipelines since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Plans for the Eastern pipeline were completed in 1999 when the Clinton administration signed a $3 billion pipeline deal with Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey. That pipeline is currently under construction and should be completed in a few years. The biggest snag as far as the Eastern pipeline is concerned has been Georgia, which is rife with corruption, lawlessness, and armed bandits. The countries and consortium involved all breathed a sigh of relief when in May 2002 Georgia received $64 million and 500 U.S. Special Forces troops to help train the Georgian military. The private consortium helping to fund the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline is represented by James Baker III's Texas law firm, Baker Botts. Baker was Secretary of State under George H.W. Bush and was famously instrumental in stopping the Florida recount for candidate George W. Bush in 2000.

The Western pipeline - through all those "-stan" countries - posed a more difficult problem for U.S. energy policy. Turkmenistan signed a pipeline deal with Unocal in 1995, which Henry Kissinger himself helped Unocal to broker. In 1997 Unocal invited a Taliban delegation to Houston in order to discuss a pipeline through Afghanistan. Representing Unocal at those ultimately unsuccessful negotiations was Hamed Karzai. Karzai is now the President of Afghanistan. The deal fell through because no one wanted to invest millions in a country racked by years of civil war. In 1998, then-CEO of Haliburton Dick Cheney was heard to remark, "I cannot think of a time when we have had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian."

During the summer of 1999, Green Berets went into Uzbekistan to train their army, which is now the largest in the region. Portions of Vice President Cheney's super-secret Energy Report were released in May 2001, recommending that "the President make energy security a priority of our trade and foreign policy," and advocating "commercial dialog with Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and other Caspian states to provide a strong, transparent, stable business climate for energy and related infrastructure projects." The U.S. Department of Energy released a report on September 8, 2001 which read in part, "Afghanistan's significance from an energy standpoint stems from its geographical position as a potential transit route for oil and gas exports from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea."

Less than a year later, more than 10,000 U.S. Troops were stationed in Uzbekistan, Georgia, Krgystan, and most significantly in Afghanistan. Aid to Uzbekistan climbed to $220 million (plus $100 million in base rental) in 2002. U.S. aid to Pakistan was $5 million in 2001; by 2002 that number was $701 million. A few months after the war in Afghanistan ended, Karzai, Musharraf, and Turkmenbashi (the dictator of Turkmenistan) signed a $3.2 billion deal for a gas pipeline through their three countries.

A former Unocal employee, as I said, heads the government of Afghanistan. Djuma Mohammaddi, Bush's special envoy to Afghanistan and current member of the National Security Council, Zalmay Khalizad, is also a former Unocal employee. Afghanistan's Minister of Industry worked in the United States for the IMF. The new regime will doubtless pose no obstacle to the forces of capitalism and globalization.

There is still a large U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan. Ostensibly, they are there to capture Osama bin Laden, who is believed to be hiding along the mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and Armenia, "The ISI [Pakistan's CIA] know every inch of the border region, so I am sure they know each and every one of Osama's movements." If the government of Pakistan knows where bin Laden is, then shouldn't we have him in custody? Not necessarily, says Amin Farhang, Afghanistan's Minister for Reconstruction. "Politics is a business. The U.S. won't ever give up their bases in Afghanistan. From here they will control the entire region."

Mr. Farhang is not alone in his cynical estimation of recent U.S. foreign policy. Alexander Maryasov, Russia's ambassador to Iran, believes "the U.S. military has used terrorists as a pretext to penetrate Central Asia. For the Americans, this is about economic interests, especially the Caspian oil." This is the way in which people all over the world from China to Kazakhstan to Afghanistan view George Bush's "War on Terror." All of this is happening while across the Caspian Sea the U.S. has its hand on the spigot in Iraq. Clearly this administration has taken Cheney's suggestion to heart and "[made] energy security a priority of our trade and foreign policy."

This administration is not directly responsible for 9/11, but they are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths and nefarious acts all over the globe; and they've used the events of September 11th as a tool to cow the American people into submission. These people used 9/11 as a cudgel in 2002, wielding it to effect a Republican legislative takeover. They bludgeoned us with our tragedy at their convention; recently Cheney tried to blackmail the public into voting for him in November, threatening more attacks if Kerry is elected. Most despicably, Bush purposely drew false connections between al Qaeda and Iraq in order to hoodwink the public into supporting a blatantly political war in one of the most oil-rich nations in the world.

In all of the places where America sees cause to bring its enormous clout to bear, there is one unifying characteristic: oil. There is oil in Iraq. There is oil in the Caspian region, and we need Afghanistan to host a pipeline to it. There is oil in Columbia and Venezuela and Iran, which media buildup indicates to be our next target. It's too consistent a factor to be considered coincidence. Our government and media are, to some extent at least, tools of the industry. And the Terror War is their best PR campaign yet. It has given the White House, currently populated by oil industry executives, carte blanche to forcibly "open new markets" wherever they are closed. If you're not already on board, like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, we'll manage to find or fabricate some intelligence to justify bombing you into submission.

Why wouldn't this administration hold off on capturing bin Laden until a pipeline route was secure? Why wouldn't they overstate the need for troop deployment in the Caspian Sea region? What evidence is there that this administration wouldn't use 9/11 to pursue their stated goal of making energy security a priority of foreign policy, regardless of the cost in human lives?

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