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Corporate Interest in Iraqi Oil
20 August 2002
I consider myself an aspiring devotee of what Gandhi termed satyagraha (truth-force), which in pop politics is described with ambiguous phrases such as "passive resistance" and "civil disobedience."
Call it what you want. I have no ideas for a better word to describe the "experiment in truth" conducted by Gandhi - a truth Gandhi himself believed was most powerfully present in Jesus, President Bush's favorite political philosopher.
But I'm not a pacifist - an admission that seems to confuse a good number of intelligent people. Gandhi himself said: "Manslaughter may be necessary in certain cases. Suppose a man runs amok and goes furiously about, sword in hand, and killing anyone that comes in his way, and no one dares to capture him alive. Anyone who dispatches this lunatic will earn the gratitude of the community and be regarded as a benevolent man."
It's been said non-violent tactics are hopelessly naive because the adherents will be crushed by their enemies and many innocent people would die. If that were skeptics' true concern, why not apply the same logic to war? In the 20th century - the bloodiest century in human history - anywhere from 80 percent to 90 percent of all war casualties were non-combatants.
Some will say non-violent action works with democracies but not against dictators. Well, they'll have a hard time explaining how in 1944 dictatorships in Nicaragua and Guatemala fell in a matter of days by way of Gandhian methods. So I still hope against hope that "regime change" in Iraq can be brought about through non-violent means.
Of course, it may come down to war. And if it does, we should at least be telling ourselves the truth. Even my 12-year-old daughter can see through the simplistic good-versus-evil analysis. So let's stop beating around the Bush and at least have a candid discussion before we allow privileged men sitting in plush, air-conditioned offices to send other people's sons and daughters off to mortal combat.
Shouldn't we be having a vigorous debate about the oil politics fueling this conflict? After all, the five permanent member of the United Nations Security Council are all scrambling for economic control of Iraq's oil reserves.
Read the industry mags and you'll quickly learn that Iraq possesses the second largest oil reserves on the planet, currently estimated at 112.5 billion barrels, or about 11 percent of the world total. Many experts believe that Iraq has more undiscovered reserves, which could double its total petrol production once vigorous prospecting resumes. That would put Iraq up there with Saudi Arabia as one of the world's most profitable oil sources, according to industry experts. Oil companies are drooling at the prospect. One industry insider called it "a boom waiting to happen."
There's also the fact that five companies dominate the global oil industry. In order of size, the firms are Exxon-Mobil, Royal Dutch-Shell, British Petroleum-Amoco, Chevron-Texaco and TotalElfFina.
A recent report assembled by political scientists and church officials points out: "U.S.-based Exxon-Mobil looms largest among the world's oil companies and, by some yardsticks, measures as the world's biggest company. The United States consequently ranks first in the corporate oil sector, with the United Kingdom second and France trailing as a distant third. Considering that the United States and the United Kingdom act almost alone as (Iraq) sanctions advocates and enforcers, and that they are the headquarters of the world's four largest oil companies, we cannot ignore the possible relationship of (military) policy with this powerful corporate interest."
And let's not forget that U.S. and UK companies had a three-quarter share in Iraq's oil production before the 1972 nationalization of the Iraq Petroleum Co., when the Iraqi government began to make steps to gain greater control of its oil resources.
In a 1998 speech at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, Chevron CEO Kenneth Derr candidly remarked: "Iraq possesses huge reserves of oil and gas - reserves I'd love Chevron to have access to." He then voiced his support for the current sanctions regime.
Condoleezza Rice, perhaps the president's most influential national security adviser, was a board member of Chevron before going to work in the White House. Chevron even named one of its supertankers in her honor.
Now, anyone acquainted with the history of Middle East oil politics knows that U.S. policy-makers' interest in dominating the world oil industry goes back to when Rice was a mere twinkle in her father's eye.
But given all these corporate scandals and the close ties that the Bush administration has with big oil, don't you think we owe it to ourselves, and especially to the young men and women in our armed services, to thoroughly investigate this stuff?
To date, Congress and the "liberal" media have, unfortunately, generated more heat than light on this story behind the story.