Bush oil & war

Michael Pollak mpollak at panix.com
Thu Aug 3 13:35:49 PDT 2000

[Who says there's no choice? With bush you get Exxon and war in the Caspian, and with Gore you get Occidental and war in Colombia]

George Szamuely

The Bunker

W's Oil Warriors

The selection of Dick Cheney as George W.'s runningmate should have

come as no surprise. Almost everyone around Dubya is dedicated to the

worthy cause of fattening America's corporations. What is particularly

interesting about Cheney is that if he does indeed become vice

president, there is a real prospect of the United States blundering

its way into war. Bush's Vulcans are as demented as Madeleine Albright

when it comes to bullying the rest of the world. Unlike the Hideous

Harridan, however, they are mostly interested in money.

Take Dick Cheney. In 1995, without any kind of a background in the oil

industry, he was appointed chairman and CEO of Halliburton, the

world's largest oil-field services company. As company president David

J. Lesar explained: "Dick gives us a level of access that I doubt

anyone else in the oil sector can duplicate." He sure did. In no time

at all, he joined the chorus of Bush administration alumni

rhapsodizing about the oil treasures of the Caspian Sea and singing

the praises of Azerbaijan's obnoxious President Heydar Aliyev. Aliyev

is the one who doles out the licenses to the oil companies.

Former Bush National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft collected

$130,000 as a consultant to Pennzoil. Former Secretary of State James

Baker's law firm represents the Azerbaijan International Operating

Company (AIOC)-an $8 billion oil consortium consisting of the world's

leading oil companies, including Pennzoil, Exxon and BP Amoco. Former

White House Chief of Staff John Sununu's management consulting firm,

JHS Associates, does business with the Azerbaijan government.

As I have written before, the supposed wealth underneath the Caspian

is just the most recent fool's gold of American capitalism. Allegedly,

there are up to 200 billion barrels of oil lying there-a $4 trillion

bonanza for the petroleum industry. The Caspian, however, is

landlocked. Building a 1000-mile pipeline from the Azerbaijani capital

of Baku to the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean, which the

Clinton administration has been urging for years, is an expensive

undertaking-estimated to cost something like $4 billion.

As is usually the way with America's entrepreneurs, the last thing

they want to do is take risks. Losses are for taxpayers, not

shareholders. What the companies are after are U.S. government-backed

loans and financial assistance. Unfortunately, Article 907 of the 1992

Freedom Support Act bars the U.S. government from offering economic

assistance to Azerbaijan as long as it maintains its embargo against

the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

This is where Cheney and the other Bushies come in. They have

tirelessly pleaded with Congress to repeal this provision. In the

meantime, the "neoconservative" faction among Dubya's advisers has

also gone oil-crazy. A few months ago, Paul Wolfowitz, the likely

national security adviser in a Bush administration, seemed unable to

control his enthusiasm as he introduced Heydar Aliyev to an audience.

Wolfowitz is a man who has never come across a U.S. bombing that he

thought was intense enough. Here was this super-Cold Warrior drooling

that Aliyev "became a member of the Soviet Politburo in 1978, and was

promoted to full membership in 1982 during the Andropov era. He was

the only Azerbaijani leader ever to hold such a high position." Gosh!

What a man! It turns out that this sinister Soviet apparatchik "is a

good friend to America and a good friend to NATO. Section 970 [sic] of

the Strategic Act prevents American aid to Azerbaijan. It will be a

great test of diplomacy for our next president to remove that section

from law." So we know what the first priority of a Bush administration

will be: make sure that the oil industry is well looked after.

Many of George W.'s advisers-Dick Cheney, Richard Armitage, Richard

Perle-are members of the U.S.-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce, whose

business is to encourage U.S. investment there. And for good measure,

another adviser, Dov Zakheim, is a board member of the U.S.-Azerbaijan

Council. Perle is a fervent advocate of American military involvement

on behalf of the oil industry in the Caspian. According to Perle, the

United States must win the support of the Muslims of the region by

taking a hard line with the Russians on Chechnya.

Dick Cheney's Halliburton has interests besides oil. Its subsidiary,

Brown & Root Services, provides housing, food, transport and mail

delivery to U.S. troops in the Balkans to the tune of $180 million per

year. Former Secretary of State George Shultz is also advising Bush.

Shultz's Bechtel is one of the largest international construction

companies in the world. Currently, it is building a motorway

connecting northwestern inland Croatia with its coastal southern

regions. The road is to be a part of the Adriatic or southern highway

running from Turkey through Greece, Albania, Montenegro to Croatia and

Italy. Clearly somebody profited from the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Recently, PSG International, jointly owned by Bechtel and GE Capital

Structured Finance Group, signed an agreement with the government of

Turkmenistan to build a $2.5 billion trans-Caspian pipeline that would

extend from Turkmenistan to Turkey via the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan and


Now, all this business of bombing countries so that Bechtel can then

help reconstruct them, or sending in troops so that Brown & Root can

make a few bucks equipping them, or expanding NATO so that

Boeing-under challenge from Europe's Airbus-can maintain its profit

margins, or pushing Russians out of their backyard so that BP Amoco

and Pennzoil can collect handsome dividends, is likely to antagonize

other countries, most notably Russia. A George W. administration, an

unashamed front for the corporations, will give us the war Perle and

Wolfowitz have been pining for.

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