Pipeline politics taint U.S. war
March 18, 2002 | By Salim Muwakkil. Salim Muwakkil is a senior editor at In These Times.
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
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
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
"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
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.