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Pipeline Politics

From: By Don Monkerud
Date: 17 Feb 2003


Attempting to understand the Middle East in terms of internecine warfare, religious differences or the war on terrorism, only leads one astray. To understand the region, one needs to grasp the bigger picture, which becomes clear only through a historical perspective.

"Oil is what the Middle East is all about," says Charlotte Dennett, co-author of Thy Will Be Done, The Conquest of the Amazon: Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil. "I don't think there has ever been a time when the oil connection to a sitting president has been so transparent. The Bush administration flaunts it."

Normally authors promote their books after they are written, but Dennett claims that the research for her new book, The Kingdom and the Power: Saudi Oil, The Holocaust, and AmericanIntelligence at the Dawn of the Middle East Crisis, is too important to hold until publication. Besides, her previous book took 18 years of research. Dennett spoke Sunday night at the Resource Center for Nonviolence in Santa Cruz.

Dennett and co-author Gerard Colby are tracing the current Middle East conflict back to the breakup of the Ottoman Empire. The British Empire was switching from coal to oil and needed to secure the Suez Canal, which saw its first oil tanker in the closing days of the nineteenth century. A major British objective in WW I was to gain control of the region to protect oil concessions in the Middle East and oil transport to the British Colonies, which ranged along the Arabian peninsula to India.

The Balfour Declaration, which promised the Jews a homeland in Palestine, was a practical necessity for protecting British interest. What could be better than a European colony in the region? At the same time, Lawrence of Arabia promised the Arabs of the region independence in return for defeating Turkey.

"This is indeed 'the Promised Land,'" says Dennett. "The problem is that the Britain promised it to two different people. We are living with broken promises. Britain manipulated and victimized both Jews and Arabs."

The conflict was further exacerbated when Britain and its allies, including the U.S., refused to rescue Jewish refugees of the holocaust because they were worried that the refugees would flee to Palestine and the British didn't want to provoke the oil rich Arabs. This failure to rescue the Jews created an enormous bitterness and led to the Jewish mentality of "we will do what we have to do to survive."

During WWII, Britain fought to keep Germany from controlling the oil fields of the Middle East. Dennett quotes diplomats who maintain that oil is a weapon and control of oil will determine the outcome of the war. After WWII, the United States moved in to compete with Britain and grew in importance as the British Empire waned. Britain, the U.S. and Russia became deadly competitors for control of oil in the Middle East. Both World Wars can be seen as stages in the conquest of oil. Today we are in the third stage.

"The war on terrorism is about getting the spoils of the Russian Empire," says Dennett. "Caspian oil and natural gas is up for grabs and everyone is looking out for their own interests. Bush is sending troops to all the countries surrounding the oil supplies. Even if he doesn't go to war, we will have troops there."

In her research, Dennett discovers the reemerging theme of protecting oil pipeline routes. It's not enough to control oil wells; it also has to be transported, and reliable allies are necessary to protect the transport routes. Afghanistan is a primary example. The U.S. supported the Taliban to corral the Afghan warlords and ensure a safe route for bringing oil out of Central Asia. Human rights abuses were secondary to oil-just as they are in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the occupied territories. Only after the Taliban refused to cooperate with the U.S. by not turning over Osama bin Laden did human rights become an issue in Afghanistan.

So if the war is about oil and we all use oil, indeed the whole country runs on oil, why shouldn't we support a war for oil?

"What is the price for getting oil?" asks Dennett. "Is the price destabilization of the entire Middle East? Is the price to further enflame the masses of Islamic peoples against the U.S.? Is the price massive bloodshed on all sides, including our side? That's why 'no blood for oil' is a very powerful message. That's what it's all about." The End

Copyright 2003 Used with permission.

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