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
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?