This is to say that I hope everyone will tune in to Rachel Maddow's special tomorrow night, Thursday, March 6, 2014: Why we did it. I'm not her biggest fan, but I've been watching her cover the Christie Crisis and so I've seen the ads for this too.
Personally I have been speaking out about these things from as far back as a "Town Hall Meeting" in NH in the Spring of 2001, and actually had noticed the economy was taking a nosedive by the end of 2000, after which President Bush proposed to stop it through "military Keynesianism.".
I am moved to write a diary about this today because I want people to take a walk down their own memory lanes before the show. What do you remember from those days? I have to go to work and will not be back to see what people say until tonight, but for anyone who is still interested in more of how it was back in the day, under the fold is the full text of a set of three letters to the editor that I wrote in 2003.
The only other thing I want to say is that during that time it was very lonely trying to be heard over the drumbeats for war. But one article, by Ron Callari, published on Alternet, changed the way I looked at everything and it is some very important context about what went on in the 1990s, before 2000 and beyond:
The Enron Cheney Taliban Connection
It’s nice to know that this really isn’t a war over the southern Iraqi oilfields. It’s a good thing we can trust the people in charge to keep us informed. It was such a relief to hear the United States’ Secretary of Defense spell out our position so unequivocally.That Town Hall Meeting was interesting in other ways, too. Rep. Bass had a packet of charts and graphs and info and an easel and big pad to write on as he explained about what we now call the Bush tax cuts and and talked (in 2001) about how it would be in 2011. I always look for things like the margin of error in a poll, etc., so I raised my hand an asked him why it was all being figured out ten years forward based on 1996 dollars according to the charts. He just folded it all up and put it away.
“The United States is not interested in the oil in that region from Iraq. That's just utter nonsense.” That is what Donald Rumsfeld said February 25, in an interview with Al Jazeera TV. (http://www.defenselink.mil/...) Later in the same discussion, he went on to clarify what he meant about this:
“You know, I've been around economics long enough to know that if somebody owns oil they're going to want to sell it. If they want to sell it, it's going to end up in the market. And it doesn't matter if they sell it to Country A or Country B. If they sell it, it's going to be in the market and that's going to affect the world price. Money is fungible and oil is fungible. This is not about oil, and anyone who thinks it is, is badly misunderstanding the situation.”
Al Jazeera: “But it depends on who controls the oil.”
Rumsfeld: “Anyone who controls it wants to sell it. It doesn't matter. That is not a problem. If you own -- If a bad person owns the oil and a good person owns the oil -- different oil -- and the bad person doesn't want to sell it to you but the good person is willing to, it doesn't matter because then the good person sells it to you. You're not going to be buying this person's oil but this person's going to be selling it to somebody else. And the world price will be the same. Everyone will have the oil they need. They aren't going to horde it, they're not going to keep it in the ground. They need the money from the oil. So it's not a problem.”
Those are the exact words of a man who, as a former Enron stockholder, knows oil. Again, what a relief. It’s not a problem. Still -I wonder- what was that he said about “different oil”? Was that just a convoluted rhetorical answer, or is there, in fact, “different oil” out there? For the answer to that question, I think we must turn to another trusted party in the administration, our Vice President.
“Dick Cheney was then CEO of Halliburton Corporation, a pipeline services vendor based in Texas. Gushed Cheney in 1998, ‘I can't think of a time when we've had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian. ’” (Turnipseed 1/10/02)
Now that’s not fair, that quote was from years ago and is completely out of context here, right? Well, maybe not. Please allow me to explain. In March/April of 2001, CNN News repeatedly showed the president and his advisors using the phrase "to protect our interests over there." They were referring to a proposal to drill for oil, off the coast of Turkmenistan, in the Caspian Sea. Due to policy changes in the Ukraine, the deals had fallen through. Unfortunately, this story was being eclipsed by the heated controversy over drilling at ANWAR, and back then I couldn't find anyone who could explain to me how the USA had oil interests in what used to be Russia. They kept referring to a possible plan to run a pipeline across “Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.” A net search at that time, of that phrase plus “pipeline,” brought up only a single site, Dresser-Rand, an oil industry equipment and services company, doing business through a solicitor’s office in London.
Now according to United Nations records quoted by the Washington Post, between 1997 and 2000, Dresser-Rand was selling material to Baghdad by way of French affiliates, but whatever the address, it was still a subsidiary of Halliburton that was trading with Iraq. It wasn’t actually illegal for a United States firm to do it this way, under the oil-for-food program, but it really leaves me wondering why Saddam Hussein was alright as a business partner back then when he’s such a “bad person” now.
Oil (and natural gas) is an issue which is not being covered fully in the regular American media. Sure we hear all about SUV’s and the daily fluctuations in gasoline prices, but those are details- not any kind of real or comprehensive story. Where is the two hour special documentary explaining that, after the Middle East, the Caspian Sea Basin is next in line with the most oil and natural gas resources in the world, and that they have not been harnessed, but the struggle for control in this Central Asian region is at the real heart of the matter? Who will supply the needs of Europe, and also China and even Japan in the next decades?
If we carefully follow the money, and look at the map through the filter of the Russian oil pipeline industry, like a kaleidoscope all the pieces shake down differently, into a pattern that shows an otherwise hidden reason that the UK has spoken up so ferociously on our side, while France, Germany, Russia and China are lining up against us. Control of pipeline routes in Central Asia is being referred to as a return of the “Great Game.” The pattern of the pipelines even helps explain why Chechnya is too important for Russia to let go quietly. Without authority over Chechnya, all the pipeline proposals must include an ox-bow around that country or else pay them to play through.
The recent story of division within the UN over whether or not it’s time to admit the possibility of war and enforce NATO agreements to protect Turkey makes more sense in this light too. Turkey is not just a neighbor of Iraq, its Gulf of Iskenderun port is an important end-point distribution destination on the way to Europe for the same oil pipeline system. When Boris Yeltzin resigned, “The Putin administration offered German banks stakes in Lukoil and Gazprom, Russia’s main energy companies,” and “Central Asian governments began to forestall or renege on their deals with U.S. companies.” (Williams) Once again, from our regular sources, we were told briefly ‘what,’ but not truly ‘why.’ Now that the Caspian contracts have gone against us, the U.S. has nothing to lose and a lot to gain by enforcing declarations we previously found expedient to ignore, and Europe can’t afford Turkish destruction.
Speaking of Gazprom, according to NHPR, May 31, 2001, Gazprom is so big that it is really a “state within a state.” It consists of 25% of Russia’s economy across all types of business besides oil and gas, and the Ukrainian government owns a 38% stake in it. Remember when a Russian television station was ‘taken over’? That was the apparent issue, back when CNN News was mentioning “our interests over there.” To Americans, that sounds vaguely like a first amendment problem- the government grabbing control of their news media. Actually it was Gazprom doing some more shady business. So why should Americans care about this? Because “American pension funds and other public, private and family money” (check out the Hermitage Fund) are invested in Gazprom -a firm that has been accused of being “Russia’s Enron.” Gazprom wasn’t involved with Arthur Andersen, though. No, their accounting firm was another troubled financial services business- PriceWaterhouseCooper.
Now, speaking of Enron, there’s a lot there that we are no longer talking about, either- at least not since the Bush administration won the right to silence due to “executive privilege.” It’s not just the money, it’s all about oil- “different oil,” Caspian oil -in places most Americans might not even suspect- like India, for example. With all the trouble in Afghanistan, “the U.S. looked for other options, and the Trade and Development Agency commissioned a feasibility study for an improbable east- to- west route that would cross the Caspian Mountains and end at a Mediterranean seaport in Turkey. The company hired for that study was Enron. If that pipeline were to be constructed, Turkmenistan signed an agreement that it would be built by Bechtel and GE Capital Services – the same American companies that were Enron's business partners in the Dabhol [India] power plant.” (Callari) “No matter which direction the Central Asia natural gas would eventually flow, Enron would profit,” but “the only practical route for the Caspian Sea gas was through Afghanistan and Pakistan to the border of India. All that was lacking was the political will to make it happen.”
During the last presidential election, Sam Donaldson asked Dick Cheney point-blank, if his firm had any dealings with Iraq. While admitting to working with Iran and Libya, Cheney answered that any business in Iraq, “even arrangements that were supposedly legal,” would be “wrong.” No one called his bluff, because many politicians on both sides of the aisle had a stake in business as usual. The Washington Post, and independent journalists like Ron Callari, have been trying to bring this all to light. What about the rest of the media?
How can America have free, valid elections, when we can’t even trust ABC to bring us the whole truth about the candidates? And how can we push for war by accusing France of supplying Iraq, while ignoring Halliburton, General Electric, Bechtel, and so many other American companies that have or soon will profit from all this?
Oil profiteering has been going on for so long unchallenged, that it seems to me- judging by the tip sticking out- what George Bush is hiding from the General Accounting Office is an iceberg bigger than the Pentagon Papers.
Over and over in the news we hear the phrase “Weapons of Mass Destruction.” In fact isn’t that what we are fighting to destroy? At least those weapons belonging to our “enemy.” Remember back in December , when Saddam Hussein finally turned over “the documents” pertaining to his “program” and it turned out to be close to 12,000 pages, not including the additional CD’s? At that time, no journalists were allowed to actually see any contents, so the world saw only pictures of them spread out on the tables. Then, before anyone outside the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the United States, Russia, France, China and Britain) could examine them, the United States took them, and removed the parts pertaining to which companies, in which countries, had spent the last several decades supplying chemicals, rocketry, logistics, biologicals, and weapons- atomic and conventional- to Iraq. “Secretary General of the UN Kofi Annan accepted that it was 'unfortunate' that his organization had allowed the US to take the only complete dossier and edit it.” The stated reason for censorship before it was presented to the world at large was the agreement among those five permanent members that the “contents were 'risky' in terms of security on weapons proliferation.”
Well that certainly sounds sensible- we wouldn’t want to jeopardize security, right? But think about it for a minute. Iraq was producing these documents so the world could see what they supposedly had and where they got it. Now, why would the permanent members of the Security Council want to cover that up? Unless, a country like France were on the list. Would that explain why they don’t want war? Recently we’ve heard that France supplied parts to the Iraqi air force, and America has gone on a frenzy of France-bashing. But if that were the only problem (and remember, we’re not even talking about oil production contracts or the after-war reconstruction here, only about who’s been making money arming Saddam all these years) then wouldn’t America want the world to know? American sources said it was Iraq that thought disclosure would “jeopardize” the situation, but it was Iraq that leaked the news to a German newspaper.
France did have a long list of corporations that have supplied many things to Iraq. Eight French companies were named. The problem here is that France is not first on the list. Eighty German corporations also supplied most types of weaponry to Iraq. And so did Great Britain, Russia, Belgium, The Netherlands, Japan, China, Spain, and Sweden, pretty much in that order. All of these countries are home to corporations that supplied Iraq with atomic and conventional weapons and the rocketry and logistics necessary to use them. Most but not all of these countries (Russia, Japan, and Sweden did not) have also provided chemical weaponry. The biggest problem- the “risk to security” that the US did not want made public- is that with eight corporations, France is not number two, or even number three on the list, either. At seventeen companies, Great Britain comes in third. But the country that hosts twenty-four corporations, and a variety of government ministries and laboratories that have supplied all of the above to Iraq, is the United States. Not only that, the only place that Iraq acquired biologicals (anthrax, the plague, and others) was American Type Culture Collection, in Maryland, USA.
This information is all out there on the internet, for anyone who wants a little Freedom of Information with their fries.
As the meeting was breaking up, he confided to me that he didn't know why they were planning like that anyway- "we can't even plan now for September." That was late March or early April of 2001, and I didn't know if that was some sort of fiscal-year accounting joke that I just didn't get or what the heck that meant. It was somewhere between a lame joke and a non-sequitur when he said it. I asked around and no one had any insight, but the phrase stuck with me. Later on, another phrase, from the White House Chief of Staff really grabbed me too.
"From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August."