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Pipeline Politics Taint US War
18 March 2002
An ongoing source of frustration and anger for many Americans is the lack of support the war on terrorism has received abroad. Other nations are considerably less enthusiastic about our use of "daisy cutter" and "thermobaric"bombs than we think they should be. Why is that?
One reason is their media. Stories alleging imperial and commercial motives for the war on terrorism are rife.
Outside this country, there is a widespread belief that U.S. military deployments in Central Asia mostly are about oil.
An article in the Guardian of London headlined, "A pro-western regime in Kabul should give the U.S. an Afghan route for Caspian oil," foreshadowed the kind of skeptical coverage the U.S. war now receives in many countries.
"The invasion of Afghanistan is certainly a campaign against terrorism," wrote author George Monbiot in the Oct. 22, 2001, piece, "but it may also be a late colonial adventure."
He wrote that the U.S. oil company Unocal Corp. had been negotiating with the Taliban since 1995 to build "oil and gas pipelines from Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan and into Pakistani ports on the Arabian sea." He cited Ahmed Rashid's authoritative book "Taliban, Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia" as a source for this information.
Rashid, who has reported on Afghan wars for more than 20 years as a correspondent for the Eastern Economic Review and the Daily Telegraph, carefully documents in his book how the U.S. and Pakistan helped install the Taliban in hopes of bringing stability to the war-ravaged region and making it safer for the pipeline project. Unocal pulled out of the deal after the 1998 terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were linked to terrorists based in Afghanistan.
"The war against terrorism is a fraud," exclaimed John Pilger in an Oct. 29 commentary in the British-based Mirror. Pilger, the publication's former chief foreign correspondent, wrote, "Bush's concealed agenda is to exploit the oil and gas reserves in the Caspian basin, the greatest source of untapped fossil fuel on earth."
These harsh assessments are not just those of embittered ideologues. They are common fare. "Just as the Gulf War in 1991 was about oil, the new conflict in South and Central Asia is no less about access to the region's abundant petroleum resources," writes Ranjit Devraj in the Hong Kong-based Asia Times, a business-oriented publication.
A popular French book titled "Bin Laden, the Forbidden Truth," which alleges that the Bush administration blocked investigations of Osama bin Laden while it bargained for him with the Taliban in exchange for political recognition and economic aid, is guiding much of the recent European coverage.
Written by Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie, the book adds another plank to the argument that America's major objective was to gain access to the region's oil and gas reserves.
According to the book, the Bush administration began to negotiate with the Taliban immediately after coming into power. The parties talked for many months before reaching an impasse in August 2001.
The terrorist acts of Sept. 11, though tragic, provided the Bush administration a legitimate reason to invade Afghanistan, oust the recalcitrant Taliban and, coincidentally, smooth the way for the pipeline.
To make things even smoother, the U.S. engineered the rise to power of two former Unocal employees: Hamid Karzai, the new interim president of Afghanistan, and Zalmay Khalizad, the Bush administration's Afghanistan envoy.
"Osama bin Laden did not comprehend that his actions serve American interests," writes Uri Averny, in a Feb. 14 column in the daily Ma'ariv in Israel. Averny, a former member of the Israeli Knesset and a noted peace activist, added, "If I were a believer in conspiracy theory, I would think that bin Laden is an American agent. Not being one I can only wonder at the coincidence."
Averny argues that the war on terrorism provides a perfect pretext for America's imperial interests. "If one looks at the map of the big American bases created for the war, one is struck by the fact that they are completely identical to the route of the projected oil pipeline to the Indian Ocean."
The Asia Times reported in January that the U.S. is developing "a network of multiple Caspian pipelines," and that people close to the Bush administration stand to benefit.
For example, the proposed Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, linking Azerbaijan through Georgia to Turkey, is represented by the law firm Baker & Botts. The principal attorney is James Baker, former secretary of state and chief spokesman for the Bush campaign in the Florida vote controversy.
In 1997, the now disgraced Enron Corp. conducted the feasibility study for the $2.5 billion Trans-Caspian pipeline being built under a joint venture between Turkmenistan, Bechtel Corp. and General Electric, the article noted.
There are many other connections, too numerous to recount here. No wonder the rest of the world is a bit skeptical about our war on evildoers.