idea that oil is key to understanding the administration's actions in the "war
on terrorism" is an article of faith on the Left. Not the social-democratic Clintonite
left which naturally wouldn't be caught dead in the company of Noam Chomsky,
and Ted Rall but the remnants of the Old Left and
the emerging New-New Left of the Indymedia-crunchy-granola variety. Writing
in a recent issue of The American Prospect, theoretical journal of born-again
Clintonism, Ken Silverstein
disdainfully catalogues the "conspiracy theories" of the "far right and the far
left," whose veracity, he writes, "is obvious that is, it's obvious
if you get your information from the Internet."
Silverstein's piece is on the Internet posted there by TAP one
wonders where he gets off being so huffy. But never mind. If you believe any or
all of the following, says Silverstein, it's time to get fitted for a tinfoil
war in Afghanistan is a sham. The Bush administration had advance knowledge of
the September 11 attacks but took no action, using the assaults on the World Trade
Center and the Pentagon as an excuse to topple the Taliban regime and legitimize
the takeover of Afghanistan. Well-placed government insiders, knowing of the impending
attacks, made fortunes by betting on a huge fall in airline stocks. The war is
not about terrorism but about America's desire to control energy in Central Asia
and promote corporate plans to plunder the region's reserves. The chief U.S. concern
all along has been to help Unocal Corporation build a pipeline across Afghanistan,
which would carry natural gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan."
Silverstein technique is to blend the kooky with the obvious, and thus render
both unpalatable. Obviously the war in Afghanistan was and is a sham when two
high officials in the newly-installed pro-US government are assassinated
in plain sight, including
the Vice President, and "President" Karzai
demands American bodyguards to replace his Afghan (i.e. untrustworthy) guards.
The word "sham" can mean many things, but surely this is one of them.
if we cut through the camouflage about "advance knowledge" and "well-placed insiders,"
we get to the meat of Silverstein's beef: the perfectly rational idea that "the
war is not about terrorism but about America's desire to control energy in Central
Asia and promote corporate plans to plunder the region's reserves."
desire to control Central Asian oil and natural gas reserves is hardly a secret:
the Clinton administration set up a special government agency to promote the "Caspian
Initiative" and appointed Richard Morningstar
to a new position: Special Advisor to the President and Secretary of State, for
Caspian Basin Energy Diplomacy. The Clintonites invested millions in taxpayer
dollars and a lot of their own political capital in agitating for a particular
pipeline route, from Baku, capital of Azerbaijan,
to Ceyhan, a Turkish port on
the Black Sea.
"free market" Bushies
have carried on this corporatist
crusade, and the project, run by a consortium headed up by British Petroleum,
is near realization,
with construction scheduled to begin next March.
While the economic benefits to the US are doubtful almost none of the actual
oil will ever reach American shores Ambassador Morningstar always explained
that the increase in the total amount of oil on the world market would, somehow,
increase our own "energy security," and the Bush administration has generally
followed in this path. Although Colin Powell has downgraded the diplomatic status
of the Special Advisor, the Great Game continues to
be played, with the US insisting on the technically dubious and horrifically
expensive Baku-Ceyhan project, when a pipeline through Iran would be far more
most oil analysts echo the opinion of Iranian diplomats that Iran "with its
hands on the Caspian Sea and its feet in the Persian Gulf" is the most
viable route, the US has been unalterably opposed for a number of reasons. An
would mean that Bechtel
Capital who expect to spend $4 billion on Baku-Ceyhan, much of it in US
tax dollars via "loan
guarantees" and other government subsidies estimated at $200 million
per year wouldn't rake in mega-profits. Perhaps more importantly, Washington
wouldn't achieve its goal of "energy security," i.e. finding a way around the
Saudis, who are still stubbornly negotiating
for better terms before they let Big Oil
back in the country. And, of course, I might have known that there's an Israeli
amid the more spectacular stories coming out of the Middle East death cult
suicide bombers, wanton
Israeli attacks on civilians, the apocalyptic birthing of a red heifer is the news
that the Saudis are about to
decide on whether to go ahead with a multi-billion dollar gas deal with Western
Prince Abdullah, the heir apparent, has been in charge of the day-to-day affairs
of the Kingdom since the elderly and frail King
Fahd took to his bed. Abdullah is a modernizer determined
to liberalize the state-run oil sector by allowing foreign investment for
the first time since 1975. But Big Oil isn't making it easy for him: they want
a bigger piece of the pie than the Crown Prince is willing to serve up, and the
negotiations, ongoing since June 2001, are on the verge of breaking down. The
sources have suggested that the projects will be re-offered for fresh bids if
there is no agreement with the parties now involved."
there are indications that these parties Exxon Mobil and Shell are not about
to give up so easily. If Abdullah is seen as the principal obstacle to their plans,
then he and his coterie must be bypassed or gotten rid of
strategy, it seems, is to go over Abdullah's head, and appeal directly to King
Fahd. Stratfor recently reported:
odd series of visits to Saudi Arabian King Fahd in Geneva could be an indication
of the initial stages of a plan to shift power away from Crown Prince Abdullah."
Seven, an influential faction of Saudi princes who are full brothers to King
Fahd, may be the nucleus of a palace revolution that could topple the Crown Prince
from power and install a pliant pro-American regime, one that would give in to
pressure from Washington and accept the oil companies' terms. Two of Fahd's full
brothers, Prince Salman and Prince
Abdul Rahman, recently traveled to Geneva for consultations with the King:
although the ostensible reason for their trip was Fahd's eye surgery, there may
be more to it than that. The recent visits of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak
and Jordan's King Abdullah to see the ailing King have fueled speculation that,
as Stratfor puts it:
All of the unusual traffic may point to another, more clandestine agenda. Fahd
is still the leader of the Sudairi Seven and his approval would be needed before
any coherent plan could emerge for his full brothers to challenge half-brother
Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah
but why would the Sudairi Seven start acting up now? Naturally, only conspiracy
theorists you know, the kind of person who gets his information over the Internet
-- could possibly believe that Exxon-Mobil and Shell would use their influence
with the US government to pressure the Saudis into capitulating to their demands
for a bigger cut and more access to the oil fields. After all, Ken Silverstein
assures us that US foreign policy really has nothing to do with Big Oil
or with "well-placed government insiders" making fortunes off the misery of others.
heck it doesn't. I agree with Stratfor's analysis, which not only sees the US
turning on its oldest and strongest allies in the Arab world, but also envisions
how it might be done:
for instance, the United States has grown leery of dealing with Crown Prince Abdullah
and is looking for alternate allies among the royal family, Washington could hardly
approach those princes directly. Instead, it would look for emissaries and who
better than two key Arab leaders who are also close Washington allies?"
neoconservative wing of the GOP has long been baying for Saudi blood, pointing
to Riyadh and not Osama's cave as the real nexus of the terrorist
international: Rich Lowry and the National
Review crowd have even been calling for the breakup of the Kingdom and the
outright occupation of their oil fields. If Stratfor is right, then the Bushies
may launch a preemptive strike in the form of a palace revolution and avoid an
written at length about
the American corporate grip on US policy toward the Saudis, and this latest development
confirms my earlier analysis: an increasingly independent Crown Prince, who refuses
to countenance a US invasion of Iraq and resists the demands of American corporate
giants, could well find himself either the victim of a coup or else thoroughly
Saddamized (i.e. made into a hate object) by corporate propagandists. In alliance
with Israel's amen corner which seeks to isolate the US from the entire Arab
world and the dispensationalist Christian nutballs who have taken over
the GOP and the "official" conservative movement, the stage is being set for an
who argue that a war to overthrow Saddam Hussein would threaten chaos in the region
are missing the point: bloody chaos is exactly what the War Party wants, since
a regional conflagration would directly threaten the House of Saud. Osama bin
Laden who he? The real villain, as far as Exxon Republicans and the Weekly
Standard are concerned, is Prince Abdullah, a Saudi patriot whose obduracy
threatens the profit margins of the oil majors and whose peace plan poses a challenge
to Ariel Sharon's annexationist ambitions.
Saudis, like many of their counterparts around the world, find themselves torn
between the need to modernize and liberalize their economy and the political imperative
of asserting their sovereign status as an independent state. The US-Saudi alliance
is at a crossroads, and collusion is giving way to conflict. The Saudi royal family
is hardly a monolith, and the growing rift between the factions
may soon go public: the succession to the throne is not entirely a settled issue,
and this may be the opening the US seeks to exploit.
a lot of the left-wing conspiracy theories that accuse the Bushies of having foreknowledge
of 9/11 link George W. and his family to
the Saudis. Like their right-wing opposite
numbers, the French co-authors of Forbidden
Truth, recently published in the US by The Nation's book imprint,
trace the bin-Ladenite conspiracy back to Riyadh, merely adding in the alleged
collusion of the Bushies almost as an afterthought.
left and right are pushing slightly different versions of a Saudi conspiracy against
America, but the alleged alliance between the Saudi princes and bin Laden is a
canard, right up there with yet another best-selling French conspiracy book, "L'Effroyable
Horrifying Fraud), which advances a "theory"
that the World Trade Center was really destroyed by a missile launched
by right-wing generals. Far from supporting the House of Saud, Osama considers
them traitors, shills for the infidels whose presence defiles the sacred soil
of his homeland. Failure to understand this basic fact exposes a complete if not
willful ignorance of al-Qaeda and the nature of the terrorist threat.
then again, we haven't heard much about bin Laden lately, since the pursuit and
destruction of al-Qaeda is no longer the point of our perpetual "war on terrorism"
if it ever was. This administration has moved on rather quickly to other targets:
not only Iraq, but now also Iran,
and, as we have seen, perhaps even the Saudis. Where, one wonders, will it end
and how did we wander so far from our original war aims?
is indeed a key factor in analyzing the meaning and motives of US actions in the
Middle East, as Silverstein and his fellow Clintonites at The American Prospect
know only too well and not just because of Dubya's buddies in the industry.
Crony capitalism as the chief driving force behind US foreign policy was embodied
by such figures as Roger Tamraz
during the Clinton era. Bush's policy continues this trend.
Silverstein assures us that "the war in Afghanistan is unlikely to bring on a
wave of corporate profiteering by American firms," but the Afghan campaign was
just a warm-up exercise. The "war on terrorism" has expanded far beyond the borders
of Afghanistan. It is fast turning into an Anglo-American war against the entire
Arab world, which does indeed hold out the prospect of corporate profiteering
on a vast scale.
capitalism, however, is not the only factor. Ideology, ethno-religious group interests,
and party politics all play a part: these arrows in the quiver of the War Party
are aimed at different (though often overlapping) domestic constituencies, which
will then be mobilized when the time comes. One of those constituencies will be
the liberals, like Silverstein, and the readers of The American Prospect,
who, as in the Afghan phase of the war, will be asked to give their support in
the name of "progressivism," women's liberation, and "modernity."
Sullivan will not rest until the Saudis are forced to install a gay bar on Mecca's
main street, and the liquor lobby will have a field day opening up a whole new
market. These "war liberals" will be energized by the hope that, in the immortal
words of Christopher
Hitchens he of the Vanity Fair school of socialism the Islamic
enemy will be "bombed out of the Stone Age."
to understand that it is, in large part, all about oil and plunder
softens up Silverstein and his ilk enough to make them susceptible to this
sort of appeal. There was a time when it was hardly necessary for ultra-conservatives,
such as myself, to point out the economic roots of war to ostensible lefties.
But I guess everything has indeed changed since 9/11, and they just don't make
liberals like they used to.
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