18 August 2008

Alan Pogue and Steve Russell : Somalia and Big Oil

Oil exploration in Somalia. Chevron photo.
'The point is that the oil is there and the U.S. energy companies, among others, want it.'

A Ragblogger dialogue with Alan Pogue and Steve Russell.
'What would Obama do? Hillary? It was her husband who sent in the Marines in 1993 on an oil mission covered up as a humanitarian mission.'
By Alan Pogue
/ The Rag Blog / August 18, 2008

I continue to keep informed on Somalia. The BushCo U.S. encouraged North Korea (former axis of evil member) to sell weapons to Ethiopia so Ethiopia can be the proxy army for U.S. oil company interests in Somalia. We are not supposed to know about this. As in Haiti (soon in Sudan) the U.N. is the tool of U.S. foreign policy.

I don't have any "action" ideas. What would Obama do? Hillary? It was her husband who sent in the Marines in 1993 on an oil mission covered up as a humanitarian mission. Bill Clinton and the Marines were embarrassed so rather than go through that again the Ethiopians get to do the dirty work for Chevron and all.

Please read Somalia: Troops killing people 'like goats' by slitting throats / amnesty.org.uk.
Response from Steve Russell:

And pray tell, Alan, how much oil have US companies taken out of Somalia?

How much oil has ANYBODY taken out of Somalia?

China sits on the spigot in Darfur to the extent there is a spigot.

I remember an article we ran in The Rag that attributed the Vietnam War to oil companies. I thought it was a crock, but if somebody said there was oil there....well, I didn't know any better. Now that Vietnam is run by the Vietnamese I don't see oil riches pouring in. Their economy seems pretty similar to other Indochinese nations, based on agriculture surplus (which had been destroyed by the war) plus a work ethic that draws manufacturing jobs.

And while we're at it, how much oil have US companies taken though (not "out of") Afghanistan?

How much oil have US companies taken out of Iraq? Now, that one has some legs since the occupation government redid all the leases. However, it does not appear to have had much impact on bottom lines yet. Not to say it won't and anybody who thinks we invaded Iraq because Saddam was a naughty fellow needs a brain transplant, right after those who think we invaded Afghanistan to improve the conditions of Afghan women.

What would Obama do?

I expect a major push to get off the oil teat for transportation. If we manage that, we can actually meet our oil needs domestically for the first time in a long time. What Obama has not said and I would like to see happen is an end to our obligation to defend Saudi Arabia, which after all had more to do with the atmosphere that produced 9-11 than anything Iraq did. Since that agreement is not exactly public, I'm not sure what getting out of it will entail...but we sure as hell can't get out of it while we depend on Saudi oil. Another thing Bush has bequeathed us is that Saudi Arabia is a big big big buyer of our T-bills that have enabled us to fight a war, increase domestic spending, and cut taxes all at once. This can be looked up, but my recollection is that it goes China, Japan, Saudi Arabia.

I also expect a major push to put together miliary interventions in Africa, although I don't think he will go solo. I'm not sure there's a lot of opportunity for Africa without military interventions to tamp down the ongoing legacies of colonialism. Can this be done without re-colonization? If it can minimize mass murder, who cares? But I think so because the international discourse on colonialism is so negative. Some protectorates are probably necessary. Is that bad? Well, Namibia has revived pretty well. All of the colonies the US stole off Spain in that "splendid little war" have prospered except Cuba and it has great potential if the bureaucracy can handle the post-Fidel transition. The former Portuguese colonies that were a major issue when we were undergraduates are moving right along toward the 20th century -- unfortunately, the calendar reads 21st, but the violence has quieted and they are about the business of feeding themselves for a change.

Zimbabwe is a horrible mess that is suffering from black South Africa's learning curve on how to govern, but, geez, that whole deal could have been so much worse. When South Africa withdraws support from Mugabe, he's gone, and Zimbabwe may again export food instead of importing it. The SA government hestitates to cut the bastard loose because of the close ties during the apartheid years among the liberation movements. Therefore, I lay this one at the door of colonialism, too, albeit

I've always favored engagement economically and socially. Militarily only to save lives in an immediate sense. However....

As I've said before on this list, Bush's inattention to Latin America has been a boon for democracy and economic progress. Latin America has done really well in the last eight years. Yes, there are nasty exceptions of meddling but there is no real focus down there like there was under Reagan. Brazil, Chile, Argentina--wow! Bolivia has great potential, for the first time in my life...no thanks to the US.

So I look at Latin America and wonder if Africa should just be left the hell alone by the developed countries?

The thing that makes that hard is sheer body count. Lots of people died during CIA adventures in Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatamala....but the body counts have been orders of magnitude greater in Africa. Also, Africa has the problem of recurring famine, which also kills more people in Africa than military misadventures have killed in Latin America.

When you see starving children with distended bellies....and you know that your country has plenty of chow...it's really hard not to respond.

While Latin America recently might make a case for hands off in Africa, I think Obama is committed to hands on in Africa but his goals involve admitting black Africans (like his late father) to the human race, being as concerned about them as we are about white folks for a change.

Sure, capitalists will always try to profit from disasters. The bigger the emergency, the greater the chance to get a contract without bidding and the less likely anybody will track the money.

As much as I despise Bill Clinton, I don't think oil had a damn thing to do with our ill-fated enterprise in Somalia. And the biggest capitalist reason for intervention in Somalia right now is not oil--it is suppressing piracy off the Horn of Africa. That capitalist goal, I suggest, dovetails perfectly with the interests of the people on land who are preyed upon by the pirates.

"Law and order" may have been a racist code that elected Richard Nixon, but just try living without it. That's Somalia, and it benefits nobody to turn a blind eye to it.

Steve Russell
The point is that the oil is there and the U.S. energy companies, among others, want it. They have a long view. The oil runs from South Yemen under the Gulf of Aden and then under north Somalia. Below is "The Strategic Question," part of a F.A.I.R. report. It contains a reference to Mark Fineman's story on Somalia's oil. One may Google "Mark Fineman" for the entire article plus a lot more. Unfortunately for us all Mark died of a heart attack in Baghdad. F.A.I.R. had Mark Fineman's story in the L.A. Times as one of the ten most underreported stories of 1993. Google "North Korea Somalia Oil" for many reports on the U.S. backed North Korean arms sales to Ethiopia.

Go to USAID and type in Sudan Oil and you will get a map of the known deposits in Sudan and who controls them. China is big in south Sudan but so is Malaysia and a Swiss consortium. The French (TOTAL) have Chad's oil. Darfur has oil but so far no one has the rights to it. The U.S. is fighting hard for those rights and has top State Department fellows there working on it. I have a file on them as well. Neither the U.S. State Department nor the Sudanese government wants peace , just yet, in Darfur. They have not killed as many of the indigenous political figures as they want to kill (rebels to us, soon to be referred to as "Al Qaeda" you can bet) that vie for the oil resources.

I have a friend whose father was an oil geologist and was looking for oil off the coast of Vietnam. He said they didn't find out there was no oil to be had until 1968. If I can get the report I will.

My interests are not the same as the U.S. State Department's so I do not use the word "we" when talking about U.S. foreign policy. If "we" are going to do anything good anywhere it will have to be along the lines of the Lincoln Brigade because the present military of the U.S. is up to no good. I am happy to say I am not part of the present team. Maybe Obama will call me.

The strategic question

"If the U.S. has not consistently acted in an altruistic manner toward starving people in Africa, why did it dispatch troops to Somalia at this point? There have been frequent media denials that geopolitical considerations might have entered in to the decision. The Washington Post reported (12/6/92) that "unlike previous large-scale operations, there is no U.S. strategic or economic interest in the Somalia deployments."

"But The Nation (12/21/92) referred to Somalia as "one of the most strategically sensitive spots in the world today: astride the Horn of Africa, where oil, Islamic fundamentalism and Israeli, Iranian and Arab ambitions and arms are apt to crash and collide." Given that the U.S. and U.S.S.R. jousted over the Horn of Africa for years, The Nation's assessment may have been more realistic.

"There was also little discussion of the fact that northern Somalia (which has declared itself independent under the name Somaliland--Oakland Tribune, 12/21/92) contains mineral deposits and potential oil reserves. Considered geologically analogous to oil-rich Yemen across the Red Sea, it has been the site of oil exploration by such companies as Amoco, Chevron and Conoco. Not until six weeks into the operation (1/18/93) did a journalist for a major media outlet, Mark Fineman of the L.A. Times, report on the "close relationship between Conoco and the U.S. intervention force," which used Conoco's Mogadishu headquarters as a "de facto U.S. embassy."

In Vietnam there was thought to be oil off the coast but finally in 1968 the various oil companies discovered there was not enough."

Alan Pogue
Well Alan, I take it we could agree on the following:

As long as the US is dependent on oil, the position that "what's good for Exxon Mobil is good for the USA" is arguable.

That position has been dominant in Washington.

Looking at the oil money in the Presidential race, we see the oil companies making "insurance bets" on Obama but the bulk of support going to McCain. I see two reasons for this from the oilman's perspective.

First, McCain has supported the Repug position in Congress tying the reenactment of renewable tax benefits to continued favorable tax treatment for oil exploration. Obama not.

Second, McCain is fully committed to unilateral use of military force whenever our national interests are at stake. Obama is equivocal on the use of force and flat against using it unilaterally. As we move toward or past peak oil (depending on your point of view) dependence on oil will mean willingness to use force to get it.


And one more thing. I'm getting impatient with cant in my old age.

When facing to the right, I'm determined to quit treating the anti-gay position as rational. It's not. It's bigotry, plain and simple.

When facing to the left, I'm not going to parse my language to avoid saying anything that might be construed as pro-American. It may be an old story to say that my personal story could not have happened in most other countries but that does not make it false. Ditto Obama's story. American exceptionalism is way overblown.

However, America is exceptional in a number of ways and not all of them are negative. Leaving aside the truism that you can't aspire to leadership by democratic means in a polity you despise except by lying.

Steve Russell / August 18, 2008
What is good for Exxon/Mobil is death for us all. Utter misery for many right now

The energy companies care only for their own profits and do not care (cannot care, cannot care) at all about the U.S.A. or any other nation state. G.E. is moving to Dubai. They have artificially constructed our dependence on them, their oil. They have successfully crushed mass transportation and any alternative to an oil based economy. Los Angeles is a prime example. The movie "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" was based on fact, on actual history. We may tinker on the edges with wind and solar power. (Today The New York Times has yet another article putting down wind power.) Individuals may make totally electric cars. A few cities may improve their public transportation systems against all odds.

If one thinks I exaggerate then please give this site a look and then get back to me:

McCain being the front man for Big Oil, Bechtel and the rest, will use the military to keep them in power. This is the exact opposite of any rational national, dare I say, human interest. Circular logic at its finest: we are dependent on oil so we must have it to maintain the dependence. Heroin, anyone? (A reality , not an analogy.) The military is nothing but the strong arm enforcers for the multinational pushers. Again, I suggest that you not use the pronouns "our" and "we" when you really mean "them.” Their interests are not our interests. "We,” as in you and I and regular folks, are being forced at gun point into a confrontation with peak oil that was purposefully made to happen by multinational energy companies that do not and cannot care if they destroy the planet in their ultimately narrow view of Profit as God. They really cannot entertain the smallest notion that there is any other good aside from amassing personal gain. Capitalism is a religious (non-rational) faith in itself which may not be questioned. So they want to privatize Social Security. There can be no exception to worshiping the God of Private Profit. They crushed tiny Haiti because there can be no exception to global capital.

They used force to make it happen and they will use force to keep it the way it is until we, the all inclusive "we,” are all dead. One recalls "Pinkerton,” "Rockefellor,” "Standard Oil,” "AT&T v. Allende,” the whole sordid attack on the labor movement both here and everywhere.

If all the oil disappeared tonight then we, all of us, would be in a world of hurt, for sure. But the point is that those who are in power and could make the transition very much less painful have no desire to do that.

Alan Pogue

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