Arabia & the West: Painful Lessons from Media History

In the solid “The Arab Spring and the West: Seven Lessons from History,” The Guardian‘s Seamus Milne reaches into the British Pathe News Video Archive to recall the oil-dependent fundamentals of West-Middle East Relations.

1) The West never gives up its drive to control the Middle East, whatever the setbacks.

2) Imperial powers can usually be relied on to delude themselves about what Arabs actually think.

3) The Big Powers are old hands at prettifying client regimes to keep the oil flowing.

4) People in the Middle East don’t forget their history – even when the US and Europe (conveniently) does.

5) The West has always presented Arabs who insist on running their own affairs as fanatics.

6) Foreign military intervention in the Middle East brings death, destruction, and divide and rule.

7) Western sponsorship of Palestine’s colonisation is a permanent block on normal relations with the Arab world.

defense industry in the Middle East

Modified from:

Sidestepping Sanctions
While the Bush administration looks the other way, U.S. companies are dodging laws that bar them from doing business with nations accused of sponsoring terrorism.
By Michael Scherer
July/August 2003 Issue
Mother Jones
http://www.motherjones.com/news/outfront/2003/07/ma_452_01.html

In April 2003, as American tanks approached the outskirts of Baghdad, Pentagon officials suggested that only U.S. companies would be allowed to take part in the postwar reconstruction of Iraq’s oil fields. In strategic leaks to the press, the Defense Department offered a rationale for an American-only policy: European firms, they declared, should be excluded because they do business with Iran and other countries that sponsor terrorist organizations and harbor weapons of mass destruction.

What defense officials failed to note, however, is that many U.S. companies routinely find ways to bypass economic sanctions and export regulations that bar American citizens and companies from trading with Iran, North Korea, Libya, and Sudan. Taking advantage of legal loopholes, these corporations simply conduct their business through offshore subsidiaries that employ only foreign citizens. With no Americans on the payroll, the subsidiaries are free to ignore U.S. sanctions against the “axis of evil” and other countries identified by the Bush administration as the primary sponsors of terrorism. Other U.S. firms — including Hewlett-Packard, Kodak, and Procter & Gamble — ship their products to Dubai, where third parties are known to “re-export” goods to Iran.

Says Michael Beck, an expert on sanctions at the University of Georgia, “American companies bypass U.S. export controls by using entities based in other countries.”

In Iran — “the most active state sponsor of terrorism,” according to the State Department — General Electric is providing four hydroelectric generators to expand a dam on the Kurun River through a Canadian subsidiary called GE Hydro and is also supplying pipeline compressors and gas turbines for Iran’s burgeoning oil sector through an Italian unit called Nuovo Pignone. Not far from the Iraqi border, a subsidiary of Halliburton is helping to build a $228 million fertilizer plant, one of the world’s largest. Another Halliburton division based in Sweden is providing the Iranian National Oil Co. with a $226 million semi-submersible drilling rig, while other subsidiaries operate in Libya. A British subsidiary of ConocoPhillips helped Iran survey its Azadegan oil field, and ExxonMobil only recently sold its Sudanese gas subsidiary based in Khartoum.

U.S. companies acknowledge that they routinely use overseas subsidiaries to trade with sanctioned countries in the Middle East and elsewhere. “We have used foreign subsidiaries to sell oil equipment in those regions,” says Scott Amann, a vice president at the oil-service firm Cooper Cameron. “We’re not allowed to have an American company or American operation.”

But while President Bush has drawn a line in the sand with foreign governments, warning them “you are with us or you’re with the terrorists,” he has done little to crack down on U.S. corporations that skirt trade embargoes designed to undercut terrorist organizations.

Previous administrations have been less friendly to sanction dodgers. The Reagan administration pressured subsidiaries of Conoco and Marathon to leave Libya in the 1980s, and in 1995 the Clinton administration persuaded Conoco to abandon an Iranian oil contract arranged through a Dutch subsidiary. “If a government is strongly committed to stopping these kinds of transactions, it can do so,” says Kenneth Rodman, a sanctions expert at Colby College. “There is power that the U.S. is choosing not to use for some reason.”

Instead, the Bush administration has used its power behind the scenes to make it easier for American companies to do business with the very countries it has targeted in the war on terrorism. As CEO of Halliburton, Dick Cheney lobbied to lift U.S. sanctions against Iran and Libya, saying they hurt business and failed to stop terrorism. As vice president, Cheney has initiated a “comprehensive review of sanctions” as part of the National Energy Review, suggesting that sanctions against oil-producing nations should be relaxed to improve “energy security.” Last year the administration supported a bill that would have weakened trade restrictions on high-speed computers and other technology that can be used to develop nuclear weapons, and the Securities and Exchange Commission has delayed issuing rules that would require foreign companies to disclose their business deals in sanctioned countries.

Political capitalists and their lobbyists, such as William Reinsch of the National Foreign Trade Council, which spent $280,000 lobbying against sanctions in 2001, have been lobbying fiercely to further loosen trade barriers. While they obviously would like to make profits off of businesses in the sanctioned countries, their rhetoric is (1) that sanctions against Iran, Libya, Sudan, and other countries limit cultural and economic exchanges that could promote reform; and (2) they say sanctions give unfair advantage to foreign companies not beholden to U.S. law.

Critics ask why major corporations are being allowed to sidestep the law. Sanctions enjoy broad, bipartisan support — the most recent version of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act passed Congress by a vote of 409-6 — and conservative Republicans have been among the most vocal champions of cutting off trade to countries that sponsor terrorist organizations. “By doing business in these countries, you are basically selling the rope that will be used to harm U.S. citizens,” says Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.). “It’s fundamentally immoral to me.”

In April, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) called on the Pentagon to investigate Halliburton’s business dealings with Iran and Libya, noting that the company also provides support for American military operations. “I think many people will be surprised to learn that a company receiving millions of taxpayer dollars to support the war on terrorism has had business deals with some of the leading state sponsors of terrorism,” Waxman says. “Congress should determine whether companies are complying with the spirit and the letter of U.S. law.”

At the state level, lawmakers and investors have decided to take action themselves. In January, a bill requiring public pension funds to disclose their dealings with sanctioned countries was introduced in Arizona. A month later, officials who manage pensions for public employees in New York City urged shareholders of General Electric, Halliburton, and ConocoPhillips to pass resolutions requiring the companies to disclose their contracts with Iran and Syria, another “state sponsor of terrorism,” saying such trade deals “violate the spirit of the law.”

US oil capital to colonize European science

Adam, David. 2005. Oil industry targets EU climate policy. The Guardian, December 8.

Lobbyists funded by the US oil industry have launched a campaign in Europe aimed at derailing efforts to tackle greenhouse gas pollution and climate change.Documents obtained by Greenpeace and seen by the Guardian reveal a systematic plan to persuade European business, politicians and the media that the EU should abandon its commitments under the Kyoto protocol, the international agreement that aims to reduce emissions that lead to global warming.

The disclosure comes as United Nations climate change talks in Montreal on the future of Kyoto, the first phase of which expires in 2012, enter a critical phase. The documents, an email and a PowerPoint presentation, describe efforts to establish a European coalition to “challenge the course of the EU’s post-2012 agenda”. They were written by Chris Horner, a Washington DC lawyer and senior fellow at the rightwing thinktank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which has received more than $1.3m (£750,000) funding from the US oil giant Exxon Mobil. Mr Horner also acts for the Cooler Heads Coalition, a group set up “to dispel the myth of global warming”.

The PowerPoint document sets out plans to establish a group called the European Sound Climate Policy Coalition. It says: “In the US an informal coalition has helped successfully to avert adoption of a Kyoto-style program. This model should be emulated, as appropriate, to guide similar efforts in Europe.”

During the 1990s US oil companies and other corporations funded a group called the Global Climate Coalition, which emphasised uncertainties in climate science and disputed the need to take action. It was disbanded when President Bush pulled the US out of the Kyoto process. Its website now says: “The industry voice on climate change has served its purpose by contributing to a new national approach to global warming.”

In January Sir Robert May, the former government chief scientist who stepped down as president of the Royal Society last week, warned in the Guardian that US lobby groups with links to the oil industry were turning their attention to the other side of the Atlantic. He wrote that a “lobby of professional sceptics who opposed action to tackle climate change” were targeting Britain because of its high profile in the debate.

Countries signed up to the Kyoto process have legal commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Oil and energy companies would be affected by these cuts because burning their products produce most emissions.

The PowerPoint document written by Mr Horner appears to be aimed at getting RWE, the German utility company, to join a European coalition of companies to act against Kyoto.

The document says: “The current political realities in Brussels open a window of opportunity to challenge the course of the EU’s post-2012 agenda.” It adds: “Brussels must openly acknowledge and address them willingly or through third party pressure.”

It says industry associations are the “wrong way to do this” but suggests that a cross-industry coalition, of up to six companies each paying €10,000 (£6,700), could “counter the commission’s Kyoto agenda”. Such a coalition could help steer debate, it says, by targeting journalists and bloggers, as well as attending environmental group events to “share information on opposing viewpoints and tactics”.

RWE says it met Mr Horner earlier this year but that they have not taken the idea forward.

In the email, dated January 28 this year, Mr Horner describes Europe as an “opportunity”. He says it “would be like Neil Armstrong, it’s a developing untapped frontier”. He adds: “US companies need someone they can trust, and it’s just a den of thieves over there.”

finding God

In kleptocratic, corruption-capital Nigeria, oil state governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha is suspected of siphoning millions of dollars in cash and buying an oil refinery in Ecuador along with several houses in London, California and South Africa.

Mr. Alamieyeseigha (pronounced al-uh-mess-EE-ya) was arrested in London on Sept. 15 and charged by British authorities with three counts of money laundering. He was released on bail but was forced to surrender his passport.

His next court date was scheduled for Dec. 8, but on Nov. 20 he mysteriously materialized in Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa state, telling a crowd of supporters who assembled outside the governor’s mansion here on Nov. 22: “I cannot tell you how I was brought here. It is a mystery. All the glory goes to God.”

Asked for further clarification, his spokesman, a former environmental activist and human rights lawyer named Oronto Douglas, repeated the governor’s assertion.

“He told me God brought him home,” Mr. Douglas said, sounding a little dazed. Asked if he believed the governor’s story, Mr. Douglas said, “As a Christian I believe in miracles.”

God manifested Himself when Mr. Alamieyeseigha fled money-laundering charges in Britain by donning a dress and a wig to match forged travel documents.

From Polgreen, Lydia. 2005. “As Nigeria tries to fight graft, a new sordid tale.” New York Times, November 29.

Chavez ousts US missionary

Because of their alleged connections to the CIA, US Christian evangelical missionary group New Tribes Mission has recently been ousted from Venezuela. “They will leave,” Chavez announced. “No more colonialism!”

While Mr. Chavez’s oppositions to Washington manoeuvers are generally portrayed by American elites in politics and the media as aggressive and instrumentally designed to appeal to what is depicted as the Latin American mob, the Venezuelan President appears not to have cornered the market on either aggression or demogoguery.

The CIA was complicit in a failed coup against Mr Chavez in 2002. An investigation by The Observer that year indicated that Washington had sanctioned the attempted overthrow. Sparring between Caracas and Washington intensified this year when Republican US spokesman Pat Robertson advocated that Mr Chavez be assassinated. Last month Chavez told ABC News’ Ted Koppel that he had seen evidence of US plans to invade Venezuela.

Also last month, a ruling by a US immigration judge in Texas to block the deportation of Luis Posada Carriles prompted fierce condemnation from Mr Chavez. Posada had been a lifelong right wing operative, often employed by the CIA. He is wanted in Venezuela for trial, as he had been a terrorist in a Cuban airliner bombing that killed 73 people in 1976. The Texan judge, William Abbott, explained his decision to protect the right wing terrorist, claiming that Posada faced the threat of “torture” in Venezuela. Chavez responded by drawing attention to verified, actually-existing US human rights violations and torture at Guantanamo Bay.

At the UN summit in New York recently, Mr Chavez delivered an unflinchingly critical speech against Bush’s imperial administration.

Reported with an imperial Anglo-American slant as “Chavez bans missionary group” in The Guardian News Blog, Friday, October 17, 2005.

Chavez staying true to pledge for U.S. poor

Edited from the article by Estanislao Oziewicz:

When Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on the weekend that he was going to open the taps on subsidized heating oil for poor folks in the United States, many assumed it was a drive-by comment aimed at raising the ire of his frequent critics in Washington.
But, as it turns out, Mr. Chavez is a man of his word.
Officials at Citgo Petroleum Corp. — the Houston-based company that is wholly owned by Venezuela’s state-owned energy company — say they are scrambling to put the fine points on Mr. Chavez’s promise to supply some of the poorest neighbourhoods in the United States with cheap heating oil this winter.
“The idea is to work with communities in need, with schools, and we’ll have to work through not-for-profit organizations that will serve as intermediaries,” public affairs manager Fernando Garay said.
The Venezuelan leader’s program is scheduled to begin next month in the Mexican-American community in Chicago, followed by the South Bronx, and then Boston.
Bradford University scholar Julia Buxton said Mr. Chavez’s action is “quite unprecedented but consistent with the influence the oil has in the world economy.”
“When Mr. Chavez first came to power nearly seven years ago, oil was at $9 a barrel and it’s now above $60. That’s given him huge fiscal leverage.”
That is clearly not lost on Mr. Chavez’s foes in the U.S. administration. Only days before Mr. Chavez took his message directly to Americans after speaking at the United Nations, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice complained — hypocritically, in the eyes of many Venezuelans — that oil was “warping” international politics. “It gives certain power and leverage to certain countries and not to others,” she said in a meeting with The New York Times editorial board. “We’re experiencing it with Venezuela, for instance, where the oil profits are being put to use across the region to, you know, push forward Chavez’s particular view of the world.”
One thing that sticks sharply in Washington’s craw is Mr. Chavez’s close collaboration with Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Under Chavez, Venezuela has been moving toward social democracy.
Venezuela is the fifth-largest oil exporter in the world and the fourth-largest supplier of oil to the United States after Canada, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. Last year, PDVSA accounted for nearly 12 per cent of U.S. imports. Citgo has eight petroleum refineries in the United States as well as nearly 14,000 gas stations.
Ms. Buxton said that Mr. Chavez’s U.S. foray was borne of pragmatism and ideology. “He’s been deeply, deeply frustrated by coverage in the U.S. media and the attitude of the U.S. government, and he’s trying to counter a very Republican-directed vendetta,” she said, a vendetta that included a call by U.S. evangelist Pat Robertson for his assassination.
“He clearly needed to build constructive alliances with more liberal sections of American society and open a way to insulate himself against Washington enemies.”
On the weekend, Mr. Chavez, of mixed African and native Indian ancestry, toured the heavily black and Latino-populated Bronx and was treated like a rock star.
Ms. Buxton said Mr. Chavez’s pledge to help poor Americans may have been ad hoc but follows a recent pattern to provide subsidized oil to 13 Caribbean countries — including Cuba, in exchange for the long-term loan of about 20,000 Cuban health workers.
“He does have an interest in providing oil to the poorest in the Americas, including North America,” she said.

This article was reproduced in the rad-green news listserve. The original article can be found at:

EZ23/International/Idx
Globe and Mail Friday, September 23, 2005 Page A22

south

First off, let me say that I don’t blame the South for anything in the U.S. The U.S. as far as I’m concerned is the South, with scattered, small, hopeless pockets of resistance.

I would say that the biggest mistake anybody made was struggling to force the South into the Union at that golden historical opportunity where the South could’ve just cleaved off; however, I know the point for northern capital was to keep the political economy of the whole imperial racial dictatorship together. The slave South was not an exception to American political economy, it just needed some tailoring. I’m just sorry that northern workers felt invested enough in that Manifest Destiny ideology to hurl themselves upon the bayonettes.

The North won the battle. Racial dictatorship transformed into…racial dictatorship. A very unobservant person might say that the North won the Civil War, but if you’ve checked out American society over the course of the last 100 years, you will probably notice that the slave society just got diffused and secularized, just as Weber claims the Protestant Ethic did. The South won. It won the hearts and minds of America, and we are an anti-democratic, authoritarian, patronage-based, theocratic patriarchy, complete with a Southern oil-based political-military dynasty.

There are resources here, but they’re sequstered behind metal and tanks. That’s what worshipping private property was all about all along. There is no hope here, except the frantic, desperate hope of a battered wife.

Other countries’ citizens might feel that they are not the assholes that Americans generally are, and that’s often true. But it’s only sad. Reflect on the rapacious legacy of Anglo capitalism, and consider: Who in the world encountered the relentless, venal, class-warfare onslaught of organized, belligerent capital as did U.S. workers, Native Americans, blacks, women? Had you been forced into fragments, and had your capital been as implacable as ours, you would be the same fat, ignorant, insensate jackasses we are, howling and clawing at each other in ressentiment, slaving away to douse the bright dreams of the Enlightenment and to build others’ personal stockpiles of accumulation, which deforms us as it crushes you. We’re monstrous and we’re pathetic. The U.S. is a slave society. We always have been, and we always will be.