[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]
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.