Archive for the ‘Energy’ Category

Dumb as We Wanna Be

April 30, 2008

Dumb as We Wanna Be

It is great to see that we finally have some national unity on energy policy. Unfortunately, the unifying idea is so ridiculous, so unworthy of the people aspiring to lead our nation, it takes your breath away. Hillary Clinton has decided to line up with John McCain in pushing to suspend the federal excise tax on gasoline, 18.4 cents a gallon, for this summer’s travel season. This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build our country.

When the summer is over, we will have increased our debt to China, increased our transfer of wealth to Saudi Arabia and increased our contribution to global warming for our kids to inherit.

No, no, no, we’ll just get the money by taxing Big Oil, says Mrs. Clinton. Even if you could do that, what a terrible way to spend precious tax dollars — burning it up on the way to the beach rather than on innovation?

The McCain-Clinton gas holiday proposal is a perfect example of what energy expert Peter Schwartz of Global Business Network describes as the true American energy policy today: “Maximize demand, minimize supply and buy the rest from the people who hate us the most.”

Good for Barack Obama for resisting this shameful pandering.

But here’s what’s scary: our problem is so much worse than you think. We have no energy strategy. If you are going to use tax policy to shape energy strategy then you want to raise taxes on the things you want to discourage — gasoline consumption and gas-guzzling cars — and you want to lower taxes on the things you want to encourage — new, renewable energy technologies. We are doing just the opposite.

Are you sitting down?

Few Americans know it, but for almost a year now, Congress has been bickering over whether and how to renew the investment tax credit to stimulate investment in solar energy and the production tax credit to encourage investment in wind energy. The bickering has been so poisonous that when Congress passed the 2007 energy bill last December, it failed to extend any stimulus for wind and solar energy production. Oil and gas kept all their credits, but those for wind and solar have been left to expire this December. I am not making this up. At a time when we should be throwing everything into clean power innovation, we are squabbling over pennies.

These credits are critical because they ensure that if oil prices slip back down again — which often happens — investments in wind and solar would still be profitable. That’s how you launch a new energy technology and help it achieve scale, so it can compete without subsidies.

The Democrats wanted the wind and solar credits to be paid for by taking away tax credits from the oil industry. President Bush said he would veto that. Neither side would back down, and Mr. Bush — showing not one iota of leadership — refused to get all the adults together in a room and work out a compromise. Stalemate. Meanwhile, Germany has a 20-year solar incentive program; Japan 12 years. Ours, at best, run two years.

“It’s a disaster,” says Michael Polsky, founder of Invenergy, one of the biggest wind-power developers in America. “Wind is a very capital-intensive industry, and financial institutions are not ready to take ‘Congressional risk.’ They say if you don’t get the [production tax credit] we will not lend you the money to buy more turbines and build projects.”

It is also alarming, says Rhone Resch, the president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, that the U.S. has reached a point “where the priorities of Congress could become so distorted by politics” that it would turn its back on the next great global industry — clean power — “but that’s exactly what is happening.” If the wind and solar credits expire, said Resch, the impact in just 2009 would be more than 100,000 jobs either lost or not created in these industries, and $20 billion worth of investments that won’t be made.

While all the presidential candidates were railing about lost manufacturing jobs in Ohio, no one noticed that America’s premier solar company, First Solar, from Toledo, Ohio, was opening its newest factory in the former East Germany — 540 high-paying engineering jobs — because Germany has created a booming solar market and America has not.

In 1997, said Resch, America was the leader in solar energy technology, with 40 percent of global solar production. “Last year, we were less than 8 percent, and even most of that was manufacturing for overseas markets.”

The McCain-Clinton proposal is a reminder to me that the biggest energy crisis we have in our country today is the energy to be serious — the energy to do big things in a sustained, focused and intelligent way. We are in the midst of a national political brownout.

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Exxon suxx. McCain duxx. By Greg Palast

February 28, 2008

Exxon suxx. McCain duxx. By Greg Palast

Dandelion Salad

By Greg Palast
27 February 2008

Nineteen goddamn years is enough. I’m sorry if you don’t like my language, but when I think about what they did to Paul Kompkoff, I’m in no mood to nicey-nice words.

Next month marks 19 years since the Exxon Valdez dumped its load of crude oil across the Prince William Sound, Alaska. A big gooey load of this crude spilled over the lands of the Chenega Natives. Paul Kompkoff was a seal-hunter for the village. That is, until Exxon’s ship killed the seal and poisoned the rest of Chenega’s food supply.

While cameras rolled, Exxon executives promised they’d compensate everyone. Today, before the US Supreme Court, the big oil company’s lawyers argued that they shouldn’t have to pay Paul or other fishermen the damages ordered by the courts.

They can’t pay Paul anyway. He’s dead.

That was part of Exxon’s plan. They told me that. In 1990 and 1991, I worked for the Chenega and Chugach Natives of Alaska on trying to get Exxon to pay up to save the remote villages of the Sound. Exxon’s response was, “We can hold out in court until you’re all dead.”

Nice guys. But, hell, they were right, weren’t they?

But Exxon didn’t do it alone. They had enablers. One was a failed oil driller named “Dubya.” Exxon was the largest contributor to George W. Bush’s political career after Enron. They were a team, Exxon and Enron. The Chairman of Enron, Ken Lay, prior to his felony convictions, funded a group called Texans for Law Suit Reform. The idea was to prevent Natives, consumers and defrauded stockholders from suing felonious corporations and their chiefs.

When George went to Washington, Enron and Exxon got their golden pass in the appointment of Chief Justice John Roberts. Today, as the court heard Exxon’s latest stall, Roberts said, in defense of Exxon’s behavior in Alaska, “What more can a corporation do?”

The answer, Your Honor, is plenty.

For starters, Mr. Roberts, Exxon could have turned on the radar. What? On the night the Exxon Valdez smacked into Bligh Reef, the Raycas radar system was turned off. Exxon shipping honchos decided it was too expensive to maintain it and train their navigators to use it. So, the inexperienced third mate at the wheel was driving the supertanker by eyeball, Christopher Columbus style. I kid you not.

Here’s what else this poor ‘widdle corporation could do: stop lying.

On the night of March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez was not even supposed to leave harbor.

If a tanker busts open, that doesn’t have to mean a thousand miles of shoreline gets slimed – so long as oil-slick containment equipment is in place.

On the night of March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez was not supposed have left port. No tanker can unless a spill containment barge is operating nearby. That night, the barge was in dry-dock, locked under ice. Exxon kept that fact hidden, concealing the truth even after the tanker grounded. An Exxon official radioed the emergency crew, “Barge is on its way.”

Paul’s gone – buried with Exxon’s promises. But the oil’s still there. Go out to Chenega lands today. At Sleepy Bay, kick over some gravel and it will smell like a gas station.

What the heck does this have to do with John McCain? The Senator is what I’d call a ‘Tort Tart.’ Ken Lay’s “Law Suit Reform” posse was one of the fronts used by a gaggle of corporate lobbyists waging war on your day in court. Their rallying cry is ‘Tort Reform,’ by which they mean they want to take away the God-given right of any American, rich or poor, to sue the bastards who crush your child’s skull through product negligence, make your heart explode with a faulty medical device, siphon off your pension funds, or poison your food supply with spilled oil.

Now, all of the Democratic candidates have seen through this ‘tort reform’ con – and so did a Senator named McCain who, in 2001, for example, voted for the Patients Bill of Rights allowing claims against butchers with scalpels. Then something happened to Senator McCain: the guy who stuck his neck out for litigants got his head chopped off when he ran for President in the Republican Party in 2000 for what one lobbyists’ website called McCain’s, “his go-it-alone moralism.”

So the Senator did what I call, The McCain Hunch. Again and again he grabbed his ankles and apologized to the K Street lobbyists, reversing his positions on, well, you name it. For example, in 2001, he said of Bush’s tax cuts, “I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us at the expense of middle-class Americans.” Now, in bad conscience, the Senator vows to make these tax cuts permanent.

On “Tort Reform,” the about-face was dizzying. McCain voted to undermine his own 2001 Patients Bill of Rights with votes in 2005 to limit suits to enforce it. He then added his name to a bill that would have thrown sealhunter Kompkoff’s suit out of federal court.

In 2003, McCain voted against Bush’s Energy Plan, an industry oil-gasm. But this week, following Exxon’s report that it sucked in $40.6 billion in earnings last year, the largest profit haul in planetary history, McCain failed to join Clinton, Obama, most Democrats and some Republicans on a bill to require a teeny sliver of industry profit go to alternative energy sources. On oil independence, McCain is AWOL, missing in action.

Well, Paul, at least you were spared this.

I remember when I was on the investigation in Alaska, fishermen, bankrupted, utterly ruined – Kompkoff’s co-plaintiffs in the suit before the court – floated their soon-to-be repossessed boats into the tanker lanes with banners reading, “EXXON SUXX.” To which they could now add, about a one-time stand-up Senator: “McCain duxx.”

Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestsellers Armed Madhouse and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. Subscribe to his investigative reports at http://www.GregPalast.com

Slouching Towards Petroeurostan By Pepe Escobar

February 20, 2008

Slouching Towards Petroeurostan By Pepe Escobar

Dandelion Salad

By Pepe Escobar
19/02/08 “ICH

It was a discreet, almost hush hush affair, but after almost three years of stalling and endless delays, it finally happened. Now more than ever, it may also signal a true geoeconomic earthquake – way beyond a potentially shattering blow to US dollar hegemony.

This Sunday, the Iranian Oil Bourse – the first-ever oil, gas and petrochemical exchange in the Islamic Republic, and the first within OPEC – was launched by Iran’s Oil Minister Gholam-Hossein Nozari, flanked by Minister of Economy and Financial Affairs Davoud Danesh Ja’fari, the man who will head the bourse.

The bourse’s official name is Iranian International Petroleum Exchange (IIPE), widely known in Iran and the Persian Gulf as the Kish bourse. Kish island is a free zone (declared by the Shah) in an ideal laissez faire setting: lots of condos and duty-free malls, no Khomeini mega-portraits and hordes of young honeymooners shopping for made-in-Europe home appliances.

There was frantic speculation all over the world that the bourse would start trading in euros. But according to Nozari transactions at this early stage will be in Iran’s currency, the rial. Anyway the Iranian ambassador to Moscow Gholam-Reza Ansari has already advanced that “in the future, we’ll be able to use the ruble, Russia’s national currency, in our operations”. He added that “Russia and Iran, two major producers of the world’s energy, should encourage oil and gas transactions in various non-dollar currencies, releasing the world from being a slave of dollar”. Russia’s first deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said last week that “the ruble will de facto become one of the regional reserve currencies.”

Slowly but surely

This is just what the Iranians are calling the first phase. Ultimately, the bourse is to directly compete against London’s International Petroleum Exchange (IPE) as well as the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), both owned by US corporations (since 2001 NYMEX is owned by a consortium which includes BP, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley). What Iran plans to do in the long run is quite daring: to directly challenge Anglo-American energy/corporate banking domination of the international oil trade.

There’s a lot hanging on the balance to assure the success of the bourse already in this first phase. Other OPEC members, and especially Iran’s neighbors, the Persian Gulf petro-monarchies, must be supportive, or at least “catch the drift”.

It makes total sense for OPEC member countries to support an alternative to both NYMEX and the IPE, which exercise a de facto, unhealthy monopoly of the oil and gas market, are always very comfortable to exploit volatility for profit, and are always able to wreak havoc against the interests of producer countries. An avalanche of contracts related to Iranian or Saudi oil, for instance, are still indexed to the price of the UK’s North Sea Brent oil, whose production is terminally declining.

In the summer of 2005, at the Petroleum Ministry in central Tehran, this correspondent interviewed Mohammad Javed Asemipour, then the executive in charge of establishing the Kish bourse. Asemipour stressed the road map, which remains unchanged: the bourse would start dealing with petrochemical products, and then with what everybody really craves – light-sulfur Caspian Sea crude. This was not going to be an Iranian-style exchange, but “an international exchange, fully integrated in the world economy”. The ultimate goal is very ambitious: the creation of a new Persian Gulf benchmark oil price.

Today, Minister Nozari admits Iran’s share of global oil trade is still very low. Enter the bourse, which is the solution to eliminate the middlemen. Everyone in the oil business knows that high oil prices are not really due to OPEC – which supplies 40% of the world’s crude – or “al Qaeda threats”. The main profiteers are middlemen – “traders” to put it nicely, “speculators” to put it bluntly.

The Petroleum Ministry’s immediate priorities remain the same: to attract much needed foreign investment in the energy sector in Iran, and to expand its address book of oil buyers. Iran – like so many developing countries – does not want to depend on Western oil trading firms such as Philip Brothers (owned by Citicorp), Cargill or Taurus. Enron – until its debacle – used to be one of the most profitable. Some powerful oil companies – such as Total and Exxon – trade under their own names.

The empire will strike back

At the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, mega-speculator George Soros was adamant, stressing we are at the end of the dollar era and a “systemic failure” may be upon us.

On February 8 in Dubai OPEC Secretary-General Abdullah al-Badri told the London-based Middle East Economic Digest that OPEC may inevitably switch to the euro within a decade.
 Iran and Venezuela – supported by Ecuador – are actively campaigning inside OPEC for oil to be priced at least in a basket of currencies.
According to OPEC’s current president, Chakib Khelil, OPEC Finance ministers will soon meet to discuss the possibility in depth. According to Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani, a committee will “submit to OPEC its recommendation on a basket of currencies that OPEC members will deal with.”

There’s no evidence – yet – that ultra-cautious iron clad US ally Saudi Arabia would incur Washington’s wrath by supporting such a move. As for Iran, it is OPEC’s second largest exporter. According to minister Nozari Iran’s oil revenue will reach $63 billion by the end of the current Iranian year, which ends on March 20. Crude oil production is at 4,1million barrels a day, the highest level since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran does not trade a single barrel of oil in dollars anymore. Since December 2007 it converted all its oil export payments to other currencies. Iran now sells oil to Japan in yen. That makes sense: Japan is the top importer of Iranian oil, and Iran is Japan’s third-largest supplier. Worryingly for the dollar, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani has already announced that the tiny oil-rich emirate would abandon the dollar for the Qatari riyal before summer. There’s a strong possibility the United Arab Emirates (UAE) may also switch to their own currency.

As the Kish bourse picks up momentum, more and more oil and gas trading will happen in a basket of currencies – and more and more the US dollar will lose its paramount status. Quite a few Middle East analysts expect the Persian Gulf petro-monarchies to end their dollar peg sooner rather than later – some say as early as next summer, as their black gold will increasingly not be traded in dollars. Iranian economist Hamid Varzi stresses that the “psychological effect” of Iran’s move away from the US dollar is “encouraging others to follow suit.

Iranian officials have always maintained Washington has threatened to disrupt the oil bourse – via an online virus, attempting regime change or even the dreaded, unilateral pre-emptive nuclear strike. On the other hand, the possible success of the bourse may be crucial to signal the US’s waning power in a world evolving towards multi-polarity. The Saudis and the Persian Gulf petro-monarchies have already decided to reduce their US dollar holdings. It’s not far-fetched to imagine Washington, sooner or later, having to pay for its oil and gas imports in euros.

No wonder Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is so demonized by Washington as he keeps repeating that the empire of the dollar is falling. But even ultra-cautious Prince Saudi al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, has admitted during the latest OPEC summit in Riyadh that the dollar would collapse if OPEC decided to switch to euros or a basket of currencies. During a crucial closed meeting – with the microphones on, by mistake – Prince Saudi said “My feeling is that the mere mention that OPEC countries are studying the issue of the dollar is itself going to have an impact that endangers the interests of the countries. There will be journalists who will seize on this point and we don’t want the dollar to collapse instead of doing something good for OPEC.”

The trillion-dollar question is if, and when, most European and Asian oil importers may stampede towards the Iranian oil bourse. OPEC members as well as oil producers from the Caspian may be inevitably seduced by the advantages of selling at Kish – with no dreaded middlemen. If they can buy oil with euros, yen or even yuan, Europeans, Chinese and Japanese won’t need US dollars – and the same applies for their central banks.

It would take only a few major oil exporters to switch from the dollar to the euro – or the yen – to fatally bomb the petrodollar mothership. Venezuela, Norway and Russia are all ready to say goodbye to the petrodollar. France officially supports a stronger role for the euro in international oil trade.

It may be a long way away, but ultimately the emergence of a new oil marker in euros in Kish will lead the way to the petroeuro global oil trade. It makes total sense. The European Union imports much more oil from OPEC than the US, and 45% of Middle East imports also come from the E.U.

The symbolism of the Iranian oil bourse is stark; it shows that the flight from the US dollar is irreversible – and so would, sooner rather than later, the capacity of Washington to launch wars on credit. But at this early stage in the game, only one thing is certain: the Empire will strike back.

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Bush and ExxonMobil v. Chavez by Stephen Lendman

February 18, 2008

Bush and ExxonMobil v. Chavez by Stephen Lendman

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, February 18, 2008

Since the Bush administration took office in January 2001, it has targeted Hugo Chavez relentlessly. From the aborted two-day April 2002 coup attempt to the 2002-03 oil management lockout to the failed 2004 recall referendum to stoking opposition rallies against the constitutional reform referendum to constant pillorying in the media to funding opposition candidates in elections to the present when headlines like the Reuters February 7 one announced: “Courts freeze $12 billion Venezuela assets in Exxon row.” Call it the latest salvo in Bush v. Chavez with ExxonMobil (EM) its lead aggressor and the long arm of the CIA and Pentagon always in the wings.

EM temporarily won a series of court orders in Britain, New York, the Netherlands and Netherlands Antilles to freeze up to $12 billion of state-owned PDVSA assets around the world. Hugo Chavez called it Bush administration “economic war” against his government. Energy Minister and PDVSA president, Rafael Ramirez, said it was “judicial terrorism” and that “PDVSA has paralyzed oil sales to Exxon (and) suspend(ed) commercial relations” in response to actions it “consider(s) an outrage….intimidating and hostile.”

PDVSA’s web site went further. It explained that the company will “fully honor existing contractual commitments relating to investments in common with ExxonMobil on the outside, reserving the right to terminate those contracts” under terms that permit. This likely refers to a Chalmette, Louisiana joint venture between the two companies that refines 185,000 barrels of oil daily into gasoline. It also reflects a commitment to supply 90,000 barrels of oil daily to Exxon that continues unaltered.

EM sought the injunctions ahead of an expected International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) arbitration ruling. It’s over a compensation claim owed Exxon after Venezuela nationalized its last privately-owned oil fields last May in the Orinoco River region. PDVSA now has a majority interest, Big Oil investors have minority stakes, but the government offered fair compensation for the buyouts. Chevron, UK’s BP PLC, France’s Total SA and Norway’s Statoil ASA agreed to terms and will continue operating in the country.

ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips balked, and it led to the current action. In Exxon’s case, it refused a generous settlement offer for its 41.7% stake, but that’s the typical way this bully operates. The company is the world’s largest, had 2007 sales topping $404 billion, it’s more than double Venezuela’s GDP, and it places EM 25th among world nations based on World Bank GDP figures.

It’s too early to predict what’s ahead, but one thing is sure. As long as George Bush is president, he’ll go after Chavez every way possible with one aim in mind – to destabilize the country and remove the Venezuelan leader from office. Once again, battle lines are drawn as the latest confrontation plays out judicially, economically and geopolitically. The stakes are huge – the most successful democracy in the Americas and the “threat” of its good example v. the world’s most powerful nation and biggest bully.

The next judicial hearing is on February 22, but it’s unclear where things now stand with Exxon and the Chavez government having different views. The oil giant claims PDVSA’s assets are frozen, but on February 9 Minister Ramirez denied it saying: “They don’t have any asset frozen. They only have frozen $300 million” in cash through a New York court. On February 13, it heard the case, and to no one’s surprise affirmed the freeze until a final arbitration settlement is reached. PDVSA has no “assets in that jurisdiction (or in Britain) that even come close to those” billions that are about 16 times the value of Exxon’s Venezuelan $750 million investment.

Ramirez also added that EM’s action is a “transitory measure” while PDVSA pressed its case in New York and will do it again in London. The current status has no “affect on our cash flow (or) operational situation at all.” Exxon wants to undermine the government and “create a situation of anxiety in the country, a situation of nervousness.”

Ramirez expressed confidence that his government will prevail. It’s arbitrating fairly, offered just compensation, and that in the end may defeat the latest Bush administration assault against the right of a sovereign state to its own resources. He also explained that Exxon violated ICSID arbitration proceedings by seeking separate court orders, and that PDVSA is considering a response. It may sue the oil giant for damages that caused Venezuela’s dollar-denominated bonds to record their biggest drop in six months on the prospect of a long legal battle.

On February 8, PDVSA declared its position on its web site to put the facts in context, clarify the situation, and dispel how the dominant media portrays it ExxonMobil’s way. Below is a summary.

The company states it’s been “in arduous level agreements and negotiations with” its joint venture partners – “Total, Statoil, (Italy’s) ENI, ConocoPhillips, Petrocanada, (China’s) CNPC, Petrochina, (Venezuela’s) Ineparia, British Petroleum (and) Exxon Mobil.” The US giant is the “only case in which we have a clear situation of conflict” so it was “envisioned that these strategic issues….could be settled in international (arbitration) tribunals.” It appears that agreement has been reached or “in the process of agreeing” with every company (including ConocoPhillips) except ExxonMobil, and the situation with them is this: “this company has not complied with the terms of arbitration….and introduced an arbitration against the Republic (in) the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).”

PDVSA awaits its ruling “which, we are confident, will promote the interests of the Republic.” In addition, Exxon sued PDVSA. As a result, “we see a clear position (of this company) to go against the sovereign interest of an oil-producing country such as Venezuela,” deny its legal right to its own resources, and get overt US backing for it from State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack saying: “We fully support the efforts of ExxonMobil to get a just and fair compensation package for their assets according to the standards of international law” that Washington defiantly trashes.

PDVSA’s statement explained that the national media have “such ignorance of the situation (by reporting that) our company has (assets of) 12 billion dollars (frozen and) that is completely untrue….we do not have any court decision that is final with respect to all of our assets. We have an interim measure in a court in New York, we have the right – and so we are going to….respond. This is a transitional measure while (PDVSA) presents its case; defend(s) ourselves….defend(s) the interests of the Republic and we are confident we will remove this measure.”

Exxon also got injunctions in London and the Netherlands. “I must report we have no assets in those jurisdictions….”The same status is true for the Netherlands Antilles” where another injunction was gotten.

“We are no longer surprised (about) the attitude of ExxonMobil, as it is the typical American transnational company which….historically has tried to attack the oil-producing countries and impose their views on the management of (their) national resources….On behalf of workers and our oil industry, we are not going to (be) frightened, intimidated, or retreat in the sovereign aspirations of our people to manage their natural resources.”

We must “warn our country because they could continue this type of action….the position of our people and our Government is firm in defence of our decisions.” We will defend our interests. We won’t “yield to this (action), we will defeat them (on the) ground(s) that (are) raised….”

In a February 12 interview, Ramirez repeated Hugo Chavez’s message two days earlier on his weekly Sunday television program, Alo, Presidente: “If you end up freezing (our assets) and it harms us, we’re going to harm you. Do you know how? We aren’t going to send oil to the United States. Take note, Mr. Bush, Mr. Danger….I speak to the US empire, because that’s the master: continue and you will see that we won’t send one drop of oil to the empire of the United States….The outlaws of ExxonMobil will never again rob us….If the economic war continues against Venezuela, the price of oil is going to reach $200 (a barrel) and Venezuela will join the economic war….And more than one country is willing to accompany us in the economic war.”

PDVSA spokesperson, Eleazar Diaz Rangel, then said on Latest News on February 12 that “we are ready” to stop supplying oil to the US if their hostile actions continue. He explained that Washington is waging economic war, and Venezuela is seeking to develop new customers like China. He added that the cash flow of the company is sound because it’s based on daily crude oil sales.

On February 12, Venezuela’s deputy oil minister, Bernard Mommer, said on state-owned Venezolana de Television that Exxon knows it will lose in arbitration and its “maneuver represents a way to intimidate” other countries against standing up to its will. It’s trying to “create panic and anxiety with the banking and the oil sector.”

Venezuela is America’s third or fourth largest oil supplier after Canada, Saudi Arabia and at times Mexico. It accounts for between 10 to 12% of US imports and averages around 1.2 million barrels a day, sometimes as much as 1.5 million. PDVSA’s assets total around $109 billion, according to its web site. It calls itself “the most creditworthy company in Latin America” which is likely considering its enormous oil reserves and at their current elevated prices.

Views from the US Media

It’s no surprise how the US media portray Chavez and the Exxon dispute. Bloomberg.com called it his way to use the “Exxon Battle to Stoke Anti-US Sentiment” as though he’s the aggressor and poor USA and giant Exxon his victims.

Then, there’s the Washington Post’s editorial view on February 15. It’s astonished that “Mr. Chavez himself threatened to cut off exports of crude oil to America” over Exxon’s having “moved to freeze” its assets. It lamentes how “regrettable” the US “voracious consumption of oil” is because it “underwrites Venezuela’s Chavez regime….If the Bush administration were really as committed to overthrowing Mr. Chavez as Mr. Chavez claims (it ought to boycott) Venezuelan oil (to) devastate” its economy. “Two cheers for ExxonMobil. In standing up to Mr. Chavez through ‘peaceful, legal means,’ it has once again exposed the hollowness of the anti-imperialism with which he justifies his rule.”

The Chicago Tribune was just as hostile by asking “Where is the king of Spain when we need him?” Chavez “says the ‘bandits’ at Exxon are trying to rob Venezuela. From where we sit, it looks like the other way around.”

Then there’s the Houston Chronicle in Exxon’s home city. It blasted Chavez for “making a fool of himself on the floor of the UN General Assembly last year,” called him a “clown,” and said “his buffoonery is neither amusing nor benign.” Ignoring Exxon’s shenanigans in cahoots with Washington, it stated that Chavez “was in full bluster (and that he) and his henchmen (were launch(ing) a war of words in response (that is) little more than political theater, sound bites for the loyalists back home, and You Tube fodder abroad.”

This type bluster gets supplemented with outrageous comments about how Chavez “seized power,” shuts down his opposition, control’s Venezuela’s media, took over American oil fields, is a “destructive menace” to the region, and even worse a communist and a dictator with a terrible human rights record. Is it any wonder that Americans know almost nothing about Venezuelan democracy and the man who shaped it for the past nine years. Under his leadership, it’s the real thing, is impressive and improving. Compare it to America where “The People” have no say, democracy is nowhere in sight, and under the Bush administration it’s pretense, lawless, and corrupted.

What’s Going On and What’s At Stake

Throughout most of the last century, and especially post-WW II, America’s international relations have been appalling and destructive. It’s the world’s leading bully, it practices state terrorism, disdains democracy, defiles the rule of law, tramples on human and civil rights, demands unquestioned obedience, and rules by what Noam Chomsky calls “the Fifth Freedom” that shreds the other four: to “rob, to exploit and to dominate society, to undertake any course of action to insure that existing privilege is protected and advanced.” Outliers aren’t tolerated, national sovereignty is sinful, independence is a crime, and dare disobey the imperial master guarantees certain punishment.

William Blum documented the history in three editions of his book, “Rogue State.” He wrote: “Between 1945 and 2005 the United States has attempted to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, and to crush more than 30 populist-nationalist movements struggling against intolerable regimes. In the process, the US has caused….several million (deaths), and condemned many millions more to a life of agony and despair.” Washington won’t tolerate nations that won’t:

– “lie down and happily become an American client,”

– accept free market capitalism and today’s steroid-enhanced neoliberal version that’s even more predatory,

– sacrifice its peoples’ welfare for ours,

– “produce primarily for export,”

– allow dangerous environmental dumping on its soil,

– surrender to IMF, World Bank, WTO and international banking rules; accept exploitive structural adjustments and debt slavery as a way of life;

– relinquish control of its natural resources, especially if they’re large oil and gas deposits,

– surrender all freedoms and call it democracy,

– permit US military bases on its soil, and

– agree unquestionably to all other imperial demands.

Countries unwilling to oblige are called “bad examples (and) reduced to basket cases.” In addition, their leaders are replaced by “friendlier” ones. It’s an ugly story of the rich against the poor, the monied interests against all humanity, and if outliers are tolerated, they’ll be “bad examples” for others to follow.

Chavez became one of them after his 1998 election. Ever since, he’s been a thorn in America’s craw and its greatest threat – a “good example” that’s a model for other nations. He also inspires social movements throughout the Americas, even though none so far are dominant or even even close, and he shows signs of wavering on some of his earlier commitments. More on that below.

Imperialism is safe in the Americas, and James Petras explained it in his new article: “Movements in Flux and Center-Left Governments in Power.” He states: “The singular fact about Latin America is that, despite a number of massive popular upheavals, several regime changes and (some ascendant) mass social movements, the continuity of property relations remains intact.” In fact, they’re more concentrated, “giant agro-mineral export enterprises” are prospering, and “class structure (and) socio-economic inequalities” persist, even though Hugo Chavez stands out, in part, as an exception. Petras calls him “pragmatic.”

He “reversed (some of) the corrupt privatizations of previous rightest neo-liberal regimes,” but still supports business. Nonetheless, Washington sees him as a threat because he embraces participatory democracy, practices redistributive social policies, and envisions a “new socialism of the 21st century….based in solidarity, fraternity, love, justice, liberty and equality.” Those ideas and his expressive language are anathema to America and its hard line neoliberal model.

As a result, he tops George Bush’s target list outside the Middle East, and that status won’t change under a new administration in 2009, especially if a Republican heads it. But even Democrats are hostile. When candidates discuss Latin America, Chavez is Topic One and their comments aren’t friendly.

Earlier (but no longer), John McCain’s web site was outrageous. It featured a petition to “stop the dictators of Latin America” and supported ousting Chavez “in the name of democracy and freedom throughout the hemisphere.” He lashed out at a news conference in Miami’s Little Havana stating that “everyone should understand the connections” between (Bolivia’s) Evo Morales, Castro and Chavez. “They inspire each other. They assist each other. They get ideas from each other. It’s very disturbing.” He also calls Chavez a “wacko” and a “two-bit dictator.”

These comments aren’t surprising from a man who headed the hard right International Republican Institute (IRI). Along with the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and USAID, these organizations front for imperialism, support rightest dictators, and plot the overthrow of independent democrats like Chavez who dare confront America.

Think hard about this man from what his fellow Republicans say about him. Some call him psychologically unhinged and unqualified to be president. Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran said: “The thought of (McCain) being president sends a cold chill down my spine.” Others from the far right, like Alabama’s Dick Shelby, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, and Oklahoma’s Jim Inhofe, mention times McCain screamed four-letter obscenities at them in the Senate cloak room. Another senator said: “He is frighteningly unfit to be Commander-in-Chief.”

Along with these unsettling comments, there are disturbing allegations about McCain’s POW years and reported special treatment he got after his father, Admiral JS McCain, became CINCPAC Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Command over all Vietnam theater forces. An organization called “Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain” is actively addressing his record on things people have a right to know about public officials, if they’re true, and McCain has an obligation to explain them.

Democrats aren’t much better, and consider their views about Chavez. They’re hardly friendly with Hillary Clinton saying “we have witnessed the rollback of democratic development and economic openness in parts of Latin America” with no confusion about who she means. Barack Obama is also suspect despite saying if elected he’ll meet with Iranian, Cuban, Syrian and Venezuelan leaders. It sounds good until he qualifies it and spoils everything. He labels these countries “rogue states,” reveals his real feelings, and signals his hostility and unwillingness to establish good relations with them.

Forget Obama’s friendly smile, comforting demeanor and reassuring rhetoric. Bottom line – he’s no different from the rest. There’s not a dime’s worth of difference among them that matters. Next January, they’ll be a new face in charge with the same agenda: wars without end; subservience to the monied interests; disdain for the common good; and deference to the dominant media view that Chavez is: an authoritarian, a strongman, a dictator and what Wall Street Journal columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady calls him: anti-democratic, dictatorial, vengeful, bullying, crude, unpopular, and having “an insatiable thirst for power that should give Venezuelans reason to be fearful.”

Forget that under Chavez, Venezuelan business is booming or how gracious he was in defeat last December after voters rejected his constitutional reforms. Petras assessed what followed. Centrist and other influential Chavez advisors jumped on the setback and “pressed their advantage to secure programmatic, tactical-strategic and organizational changes.” They got him to replace over a dozen cabinet ministers and others in government with new faces sharing their views. They also, to a degree, shifted Chavez to the center, influenced him to “slow down….the move to socialisma, (establish) economic ties with the big bourgeoisie, (halt) immediate moves to nationalize strategic economic enterprises, and (move slowly) in reforming land tenure.”

In addition, they got him to ally “with the middle class center-right parties, and (won) them over (by eliminating) price controls to let “basic food prices…. soar, while salaries remain stagnant.” The result: a fundamental contradiction in trying to advance socialism by “liberalizing economic policy.” Petras is worried that Chavez’s base (the urban poor) “will lose interest, abstain or resist the centrists and withdraw their loyalties.” Indignation is surfacing, loyal Chavez support may be jeopardized, and it “raises fundamental questions about the long-term future of state-class movement relations under” his leadership.

In addition, rightest forces see an opening, are pressing their advantage, Exxon’s move is a warning shot, and so are reports about Colombian paramilitaries entering the country in greater numbers. More destabilization will follow, and continued efforts will be made to weaken Chavez, then try to oust him. More than ever, he needs strong support at a time it’s jeopardized, and that’s a worrisome situation to consider. Venezuela’s Bolivarianism is glorious provided it flourishes, grows and achieves its long-term goals. It’s been extraordinary so far, still has miles to go, and it’s unthinkable to waiver now and pull back.

Petras alarmingly notes that when “social movements (adopt common) electoral strategies, (work) within the framework of institutional politics, and (ally) with center-left regimes….few positive reforms and numerous regressive” ones result. Will this be Venezuelans’ fate? The prospect is frightening because if not Chavez, who’ll lead their struggle for social equity and justice – for the nation, the region and beyond. Bolivarianism is glorious and vibrant. But to flourish, grow and prosper, it needs care and nurturing from a resolute leader backed by mass popular support.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.  

Also visit his blog site at www.sjlendman.blogspot.com  and listen to The Global Research News Hour Mondays on www.RepublicBroadcasting.org from 11AM – 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions of world and national issues with distinguished guests.

White House, Press Spinning Iran’s Centrifuges By Ray McGovern

December 11, 2007

White House, Press Spinning Iran’s Centrifuges By Ray McGovern

By Ray McGovern
12/09/07 “
ICH

Those who know about the centrifuges used to refine uranium tell me they must spin at an almost unrivaled velocity—almost unrivaled, because Bush administration statements are being spun at equivalent speed by White House and corporate media spiders. Without Spinmeister Karl Rove and former spokesman Tony Snow, it is amateur hour at the White House. And the theater would be as funny as The Daily Show, were the subject not so serious.

Judging from President George W. Bush’s words and body language he is far from giving up on ways to “justify” attacking Iran’s nuclear program—weapons-related or not. He appears convinced he must honor the pledge he has made to Israel’s current leaders to eliminate what they have called an “existential threat” to Israel. This came through in a particularly pointed way on October 17, when an agitated president ad-libbed about the possibility of World War III, complaining loudly, “We’ve got a leader in Iran who has announced he wants to destroy Israel.”

Not at all helpful to the president was the judgment of U.S. intelligence that the Iranians halted their nuclear weapons-related program in 2003, a judgment the administration made public this week. The White House knew only too well that that this bombshell could not be kept secret very long—the more so since Congress’ intelligence committees, Pentagon brass, and senior CIA officials reportedly made it quite clear they would go public if the White House did not publish a sanitized version of the key judgments of the latest National Intelligence Estimate.

On Oct. 26, National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell launched a trial balloon, declaring he would no longer declassify and release summaries of National Intelligence Estimates, but that balloon was quickly shot down.

So what can Cheney and Bush do now to “justify” striking Iran? Several months ago, about the time new intelligence established there was no active nuclear weapons program in Iran, there were signs in the rhetoric coming from the president and Gen. David Petraeus that the argument was going to hinge on claims that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards were supplying the wherewithal to kill our troops in Iraq. Petraeus was clearly ready to play that game, but his superior, Admiral “we’re-not-going-to-do-Iran-on-my-watch” William Fallon would not play along. And neither would the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is now back from a brief visit to Iraq and his caution so far on this issue suggests he is paying more heed to Fallon than to Petraeus. In other words, there is no sign that Gates wants to abet using Iranian meddling in Iraq as a pretext for a military strike on Iran. Gates’ well-deserved chameleon-like reputation counsels caution here, since a word from Cheney or Bush could conceivably make Gates a fervent champion of this pretext for war. But people do mature; Gates is smart; and I doubt he would want to be so closely associated with starting a regional war, if not WW III.

Spinning Enrichment

So where does that leave the beleaguered president? This week’s spinning by the White House and subservient media suggests the administration still thinks it can make a case for war, by obfuscating the nuclear program in Iran. This has become clearer as administration mouthpieces blur the distinction between uranium enrichment for a civilian energy use (permitted to signatories of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty) and the much more demanding requirements of a nuclear weapons program.

The spinners have resurrected the discredited argument that Iran’s nuclear program must be for weapons, because Iran’s oil and gas should suffice to meet all its energy requirements. Thus, the administration’s Pravda, also known as the editorial page of the Washington Post, on Dec. 5: “Iran’s massive overt investment in uranium enrichment meanwhile proceeds…even though Tehran has no legitimate use for enriched uranium.”

And thus another major administration mouthpiece, also known as the New York Times, on Dec. 6, in an op-ed, “In Iran We Trust?” by Valerie Lincy and Gary Milhollin: “Why, by the way, does Iran even want a nuclear energy program, when it is sitting on an enormous pool of oil that is now skyrocketing in value.”

This is a familiar canard; i.e., that Iran’s claim that its nuclear program is for electricity production is given the lie by its own large oil and natural gas reserves, so uranium enrichment must be for nuclear weapons development. Condoleezza Rice took that line over a year and a half ago (shades of those (in)famous aluminum tubes that she said could “only” be used in a nuclear application but turned out to be for conventional artillery). At about the same time Dick Cheney complained that since the Iranians are “already sitting on an awful lot of oil and gas. Nobody can figure why they need nuclear as well to generate energy.”

It all makes me think of Harry Truman’s complaint: “They must think we were born yesterday!” Rice and Cheney have selective memories—or take us for fools. Back in 1976—with Gerald Ford president, Dick Cheney his chief of staff, Donald Rumsfeld secretary of defense—the Ford administration bought the Shah’s argument that Iran needed a nuclear program to meet its future energy requirements. That argument, of course, is even more valid today, with the price that can be obtained for oil and the specter of Peak Oil.

Cheney and Rumsfeld persuaded a hesitant President Ford to offer Iran a deal that would have meant at least $6.4 billion for U.S. corporations like Westinghouse and General Electric, had not the Shah been unceremoniously dumped three years later. The offer included a reprocessing facility for a complete nuclear fuels cycle—essentially the same capability that the U.S. and Israel now insist Iran cannot be allowed to acquire.

A pity that our domesticated media seem unable to catch the disingenuousness.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, D.C. During his 27-year career as a CIA analyst, he chaired some National Intelligence Estimates and produced/briefed the President’s Daily Brief.

This article appeared first on Consortiumnews.com

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OPEC’s tough call: Raise or hold oil supply

December 3, 2007

International Herald Tribune

OPEC’s tough call: Raise or hold oil supply

Monday, December 3, 2007

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After a year of dizzying gains for energy markets, a rapid fall in oil prices lately is posing a dilemma for OPEC, the oil-producing cartel.

Should OPEC make industrialized countries happy by increasing the oil supply, a move that would probably send prices down further? Or should it keep production at a steady level at a time of economic turbulence, when demand could easily taper off?

As they prepare to meet in Abu Dhabi this week to set output levels for the winter, officials from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries are mindful of the many uncertainties that complicate their task. Oil prices flirted with $100 a barrel just two weeks ago, but fears of slowing economic growth have since pushed them down by more than 10 percent. Oil futures settled at $88.71 a barrel, down $2.30, on Friday, after their steepest weekly decline in more than two years.

This year, as the oil markets have grown more volatile and unpredictable, OPEC officials and energy analysts have noted an increasing disconnection between the price and supply of oil. They attribute the large price swings more to financial speculation than to market fundamentals, and say that the price surge in recent months seemed increasingly at odds with the outlook for the United States economy.

“There is absolutely ample supply,” Ali al-Naimi, Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, said Friday at an energy conference in Singapore. “The price movement has nothing to do with the fundamentals of the market.”

Saudi Arabia, the cartel’s de facto leader, is wary of increasing supplies this winter. At the conference, Naimi repeated his view that there was a “mismatch” between today’s high prices and oil supplies. “Anyone that tells you otherwise is wrong,” he said.

OPEC members are worried that today’s sky-high prices have the potential to reduce consumption. But the members are also unsure whether they need to raise their output, since doing so at a time when the economy slows might hasten a sharp price drop, which is what producers fear most.

“The economic situation has finally dawned on the energy markets,” said John Kilduff, an energy analyst at MF Global, a brokerage of exchange-traded futures and options. “OPEC is right to be concerned about falling into a production trap if they respond too aggressively.”

One option that will be discussed at Wednesday’s meeting is a possible increase of 500,000 barrels a day in the group’s overall output, which now stands at about 30.6 million barrels a day. Some OPEC members, including Nigeria, have voiced support for such a move, but Saudi Arabia would probably not back it.

“It’s a very fine line they are trying to tread,” said David Kirsch, an analyst at PFC Energy, a consulting firm in Washington. “They really have to be concerned about the downside risks to the market. The big fall in prices really took a big production increase off the table. It confirmed that the fundamentals do not support high prices.”

Yet OPEC could still be forced to act, particularly if oil prices rebounded sharply in the days ahead of the meeting. Among the wild cards are renewed tensions in Northern Iraq between Turkey and Kurdish separatists, and Iran’s tough stance on its nuclear program.

As a group, OPEC’s 13 members account for 40 percent of the world’s daily oil exports, making them the only producers capable of raising their output in a meaningful manner. Together, they now have about 2.5 million barrels a day of spare capacity, according to analyst estimates, mostly in Saudi Arabia. This gives the Saudi kingdom, the world’s top oil exporter, the most clout to set the tone within OPEC.

Some OPEC insiders are particularly concerned about the risks associated with slowing demand next year, especially following the credit and housing market crisis in the United States, which consumes roughly a quarter of the world’s oil. Globally, oil demand is expected to grow between 1.5 million and 2 million barrels a day next year.

At the same time, new supplies are slowly making their way on the market. New oil and natural-gas liquid production from OPEC nations could reach 2 million barrels a day next year, and another 1.1 million barrels a day are expected to come from non-OPEC sources, like Russia or Norway, according to estimates by Deutsche Bank. Some OPEC specialists say these factors could substantially alter the balance between supply and demand after years of market tightness.

At a recent meeting in Riyadh, OPEC leaders cited a variety of reasons for the spike in oil prices. Those included a weak dollar, refining shortfalls in the United States, runaway demand in Asia and speculative investments in commodities.

Abdalla Salem el-Badri, OPEC’s secretary general, said that oil producers were not happy with current prices because they might lead to lower demand in the long term.

“We know what high oil prices mean for us,” Badri said in a recent interview. “We really have no interest in high oil prices. And we really have no interest in low oil prices. We want stable prices.”

But he indicated that OPEC was not in a rush to increase supplies until bottlenecks in the refining industry, especially in the United States, were resolved.

“We will add more oil if we know oil will go to the refineries, but we won’t add if they go to commercial stocks,” Badri said, referring to longer-term inventories of oil.

The meeting last month in Riyadh among OPEC’s heads of states also highlighted new signs of tension within the organization. Some countries, led by traditional price hawks like Iran and Venezuela, said they considered current price levels as fair. They criticized the dollar’s weakness and suggested that OPEC should uncouple the price of oil from the United States dollar.

The weakening value of the dollar, which erodes the purchasing power of oil producers, means that OPEC has fewer incentives to seek lower oil prices. On Friday, the euro was at $1.4677 after touching $1.4967 recently, the unified European currency’s strongest level since its debut in 1999.

“A weaker dollar means that OPEC is likely to be more aggressive in its pursuit of higher rather than lower prices,” Frédéric Lasserre, the head of commodity research at Société Générale in Paris, said in a recent report.

Industrialized nations would like to see OPEC increase its output. Nobuo Tanaka, the executive director of the International Energy Agency, which represents 26 oil-consuming nations, said, “The current price level is sending a message to producers: We would wish for some additional barrels sooner rather than later.”

Since 2000, OPEC’s policy has been to fine-tune its supplies to align closely with oil demand but without allowing oil companies and refiners to build too many oil inventories. That policy of careful management has helped the cartel raise prices following the oil collapse of the late 1990s.

But the policy isn’t foolproof. The last time OPEC tried to act to push prices down, it had little impact. After its last meeting, in September, OPEC members agreed to increase production by 500,000 barrels a day. That measure failed to curb prices.

“The high level of disagreement and potential tension shown at the previous output discussions in September suggests that there is absolutely nothing cut-and-dried about the forthcoming negotiations,” Barclays Capital said in a research note last week.

The “Great Game”: Eurasia and the History of War by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

December 3, 2007

The “Great Game”: Eurasia and the History of War by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

Dandelion Salad

by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
Global Research, December 3, 2007

The History of War

History is often self-repeating. Those who are oblivious to the lessons of history are, by virtue of ignorance, doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Samuel P. Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations,” is an outright camouflage, an ideological instrument used to reach geo-political objectives.  This “conflict notion” is part of a broad strategy which has been used throughout history to divide, conquer, and rule.

By Huntington’s definitions, nine diverse civilizations co-inhabit Eurasia; establishing conflict between them is a means towards controlling them and eventually absorbing them in the Spencerian sense of war and the social evolution of nation-states and societies, as defined by British sociologist Herbert Spencer.

Is humanity witness once again to a gradual march towards a large-scale international war like the Second World War, as Vladimir Putin has warned the Russian people? Or is fear being used to push forward otherwise unacceptable global economic policies?

If the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the dual-thrones of Austria and Hungary (the Austro-Hungarian Empire), on June 28, 1914 was the cause of the First World War why then was there talk of a major war throughout Europe in 1905?

It was on the eve of the First World War that radical changes were made to the banking system in the U.S. and on the eve of the Second World War that otherwise unpopular economic reforms were implemented in Britain. War allows otherwise unpopular measures to be accepted by domestic populations or gives them stealthy means for execution.

Mackinder’s Warnings: Divide the Continentals (Eurasians)

Mackinder warned British strategists about preventing Eurasian unification:

“What if the Great Continent, the whole World-Island [Africa and Eurasia] or a large part of it [e.g., Russia, China, Iran, and India] were at some future time to become a single and united base of sea-power? Would not the other insular bases [e.g., Britain, the U.S., and Japan] be outbuilt [sic] as regards [to] ships and outmanned as regards [to] seamen?” [1]

Mackinder also went on to instruct Britain to prevent this unification from ever happening: a policy of balkanization was adopted by London, with a strategic aim of preventing Eurasian unification.

In addition, Mackinder also warned about the large populations of Eurasia. Mackinder argued that lasting empires were based on manpower:

“[The] vast Saracen [Arab] design of a northward and southward Dominion of Camel-men crossed by a westward and eastward Dominion of Shipmen was vitiated by one fatal defect; it lacked in its Arabian base the necessary man-power to make it good. But no student of the realities about which must turn the strategical thought of any government aspiring to world-power can afford to lose sight of the warning thus given by History.” [2]

Mackinder also makes the same observation about the short-lived empires of the peoples’ of the Eurasian steppes, such as the Mongols:

“When the Russian Cossacks first policed the steppes at the close of the Middle Ages, a great revolution was effected, for the Tartars, like the Arabs, had lacked the necessary man-power upon which to found a lasting Empire, but behind the Cossacks were the Russian ploughman, who have to-day [1905] grown to be a people of a hundred millions on the fertile plains of the Black and Baltic Seas.” [3]

Population is clearly an important geo-strategic issue. Under this scheme Russia, China, and India are viewed as threats. This is also why the U.S. will never give up its nuclear weapons. Aside from military superiority and nuclear weapons, how can the generally less populated NATO states keep a balance of power with such heavily populated states? It should also be noted that one of the reasons for European conquests and colonial expansion was also the fact that, at the time, European countries had (in relative terms) large populations.

Dividing, balkanizing, and finlandizing Eurasia, from Eastern Europe and the former U.S.S.R. to the Middle East and India, is consistent with these historical objectives outlined by Britain prior to the First World War. This is one of the reasons why Britain, France, and America gave refuge prior to World War I to various separatist movements from within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and Czarist Russia. Today, the U.S. and Britain are harbouring similar political groups against Iran, Sudan, Turkey, Russia, Serbia, China, and India. Nothing has changed. Only today Zbigniew Brzezinski makes these warnings and not Halford Mackinder.

Learning from History: The Prevention of the German Ostbewegung

In 1848, at St. Paul’s Church in Frankfurt there was an attempt to create a single and large Central-Eastern European, German-dominated nation. This project did not move forward until half a century later, because of the opposition of the Habsburg Dynasty and the rivalry between Prussia and Austria.

Britain feared the German Drang nach Osten, the “drive to the East,” or the Ostbewegung or “eastward movement.”

For the most part this eastward movement, which started in 1200 with the extension of long distance trade, was not part of any German imperial ambitions. [4] The fear in British circles was that some form of unification between the two dominant powers in the Eurasian Heartland, namely Germany and Russia would occur. The fear in the Twenty-First Century is the unification of Russia, China, India, and Iran.

Before the First World War, British strategists believed that Germany was making important inroads towards becoming a global superpower. All that was required to elevate Germany was industrial control over Russia and the Ottoman Empire, which was well underway. Germany was already taking over British markets and threatening the U.S. and Britain economically.

Historically, Eastern Europe has been sandwiched between two great nations, Germany and Russia. After the Napoleonic era and up until the First World War, Eastern Europe was dominated by the Russians and then the Germans. Historically, British strategy was aimed at weakening Czarist Russia until Germany replaced Russia as the dominant power in Eastern Europe. This is one of the reasons why Britain and France supported the Ottoman Turks in their wars against the Russians.

German influence in Eastern Europe was secured under a partnership between the Hungarians (Magyars) and Austrians. German influence had also been growing economically, politically, and industrially under the Ottoman Turks in the Middle East. In Czarist Russia, before the First World War, German influence was politically and economically significant. The Russian capital, St. Petersburg, was in a Germanized area of the Russian Czardom and many Russian aristocrats and nobles were Germanized and German speaking.

German industrial colonies or settlements were also established in the Ukraine and the Caucasus within the territory of Czarist Russia. Similarly German settlements were established in the Levant, within the territory of the Ottoman Turks. The Ostbewegung was more about economics and a united and strong Eurasian industrial base under the control of Germany than it was about the myth of German colonization of all Eurasia.

However, Germany’s means of economic expansion did change about half a century later with the rise of Adolph Hitler in Berlin, who tried to force a German-driven form of globalization in Eurasia by military means. Is this being repeated by those who hold power in Washington, D.C. and London?

A Lesson from History: Playing the Russians and the Germans in War

Economics and industrial competition was the real key behind the tensions that resulted in the First World War. Mackinder also states this. In reality the truth of the matter was that the Germans were from an economic standpoint expanding eastwards. The German demographic push to the East was also over exaggerated. Historically, in many cases Germans were invited as merchants and craftsmen by Eastern European states, such as Bohemia and Hungary, before the unification of Germany under Prince Otto von Bismarck the Prime Minister of Prussia.

Mackinder and others in Britain saw this all as part of a gradual trend that would unify the Eurasian Heartland under a single and powerful player.

The key to stopping the emergence of a single powerful player in the Heartland was to play the Germans against the Russians:

“In East Europe there are also two principle elements, the Teutonic [German] and the Slavonic, but no equilibrium has been established between them as between the Romance [Latin-based speaking] and Teutonic elements of West Europe. The key to the whole situation in East Europe — and it is a fact which cannot be laid to heart at the present moment — is the German claim to dominance over the Slavs. Vienna and Berlin, just beyond the boundary of West Europe, stand already within territory that was Slav in the earlier Middle Ages; they represent the first step of the German out of his native country as a conqueror eastward.” [5]

In the eyes of Britain, playing the Russians and the Germans against one another was vital to keeping the Continentals from uniting.

The Roots of an Anglo-American Compact

The British and the U.S. were clearly trying to weaken both Germany and Czarist Russia. This is evident from British and American support for the Japanese “when it [meaning Britain] kept the [naval] ring round the Russo-Japanese War,” in 1904 to 1905. [6]

By the time  of the Russo-Japanese War the Anglo-American alliance had already formed between the U.S. and Britain as Mackinder notes:

“Those events began some twenty years ago [in 1898] with three great victories won by the British fleet without the firing of a gun. The first was at Manila [in the Philippines], in the Pacific Ocean, when a German squadron threatened to intervene to protect a Spanish squadron [in the Spanish-American War], which was defeated by an American squadron, and a British squadron stood by the Americans.”[7]

In Mackinder’s words “So was the first step taken towards the reconciliation of British and American hearts.” [8] This was also the point in history where the U.S. became a major imperialist power.

It should also be noted that the Spanish-American War is believed by some historians to have been started under a false pretext. The U.S. government started the war, blaming the Spanish for the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine in Cuba, from whence comes the quote that was used to build American public support against the Spanish: “Remember the Maine!

The Second World War: Playing the Soviets against the Germans

The strategy of playing the main players in Eurasia against one another continued into the Second World War. Germany, France, and the Soviet Union were played against one another just as Germany, Czarist Russia, and the Ottoman Empire were before the First World War.

This is evident from the fact that Britain and France only declared war on Germany when both Germany and the U.S.S.R. invaded Poland in 1939. The Locarno Pacts and Hoare-Laval Plan were used by the British government to push the Germans eastward to confront the Soviets by neutralizing France and allowing Germany to militarize, while appeasement under Neville Chamberlain was a calculated move aimed at liquidating any states between Germany and the Soviet Union and establishing a common German-Soviet border. [9]

Both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were aware of Anglo-American policy. Both countries signed a non-aggression pact prior to the Second World War, largely in response to the Anglo-American stance. In the end it was because of Soviet and German distrust for one another that the Soviet-German alliance collapsed. Presently, the U.S. government is using the same strategies in regards to Russia, China, Iran, India, and other Eurasian players.

The Roots of Strategic Balkanization: Preventing the Unification of Eurasia 

Mackinder stipulated that the Eurasian Heartland started in Eastern Europe and on the frontiers of Germany. It was from Eastern Europe that a foothold could be established for entrance into the Eurasian interior.

London’s greatest fear, until the division of Austria-Hungary and a creation of a buffer zone between the Germans and the Russians with the emergence of several new states after 1918, was the unification of the Germans and the Slavs as a single Eurasian entity.

British balkanization policy was a synergy of colonial policy, power politics, economics, and historical observation.

Strategic balkanization probably came to maturity when Italy and Germany became unified nation-states and the British realized the dangers that centralized and strong states in Europe could pose. Once again, economics was a driving force. Before this period balkanization was used for colonial means. After the formation, or rather unification, of Germany and Italy balkanization also became a means to neutralize potential British rivals.

František Palacký, the famous Czech historian, is quoted as stating: “If Austria [meaning the Habsburg or Austro-Hungarian Empire] did not exist, it would be necessary to create her, in the interests of humanity itself.”

This is a noteworthy statement because Palacký was a Slav, who defended the Austro-Hungarian Empire due to its multi-ethnic characteristics.

The Habsburg Empire was a regional synthesis between the Germans, the Hungarians (Magyar), and the Slavs. The Austro-Hungarian Empire, like the former Yugoslavia that would spring from its ashes, was also religiously diverse. Christians, Jews, and Muslims lived within its borders and in 1912 Islam became a state religion, alongside the Roman Catholic denomination of Christianity. The British feared that this model under the leadership of German industrial might could be extended to Germany, Austria-Hungary and Czarist Russia, thereby creating a powerful German-Slavic political entity in the Eurasian Heartland. [10] The synthesis was already underway, with the inclusion of the Ottoman Empire, until the First World War stopped it. As already stated this process was part of a historical fusion. Austria-Hungary had to be dismantled in the eyes of London, with a view to obstructing any unification process between the Continentals.

For these reasons separatist nationalist movements were utilized and manipulated. Czechoslovak leaders, such as Milan Rastislav Štefánik, fought for the French and British during the First World War. It should also be noted that in September 1918, the U.S. government recognized Czechoslovakia before it was even created and that the Pittsburgh Agreement, which paved the way for breaking up the Austro-Hungarian Empire and creating Czechoslovakia, was signed in Pennsylvania with the support of the British and U.S. governments. Three “Czecho-Slovak” legions were also formed to fight Germany and the Austro-Hungarians by Britain and France in the First World War.

Redrawing Eastern Europe and the Middle East: The Template for Iraq

Since the First World War instability has been continuously fueled from Kosovo in the Balkans to the province of Xinjiang, which constitutes China’s Western frontier. This is an important fact that manifests itself from events such as the division of India to the division of Yugoslavia.

The rationale for establishing new states in Eastern Europe is also explained by Mackinder:

“Securely independent the Polish and Bohemian [the Czech and Slovak] nations cannot be unless as the apex of a broad wedge of independence, extending from the Adriatic and Black Seas to the Baltic; but seven independent States, with a total of more than sixty million people, traversed by railways linking them securely with one another, and having access through the Adriatic, Black, and Baltic Seas with the [Atlantic] Ocean, will together effectively balance the Germans of Prussia [meaning Germany] and Austria, and nothing less will suffice for that purpose.” [11]

Although Bohemia is properly a reference to the Czechs, in this case Mackinder is using it to mean both the Czechs and the Slovaks or Czechoslovakia.

By 1914, the Germans had already secured significant inroads into the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire had to be dismantled too. However, in the eyes of British strategists, Russia and Germany were the two main long-term opponents. To undermine the process of unification between the Germans and Russians, a shatter-belt region had to be created in Eastern Europe between Germany and Russia.

After the First World War, Anglo-American planners projected the replacement of Germany by the Soviet Union, the player that emerged from the ashes of Czarist Russia, as the most powerful player in Eurasia. Creating a shatter-belt zone around the western portion of the Soviet Union from the Baltic to the Balkans and the Persian Gulf became a strategic objective for the British. This is one of the reasons why so many new nations were created in Eastern Europe and the Middle East after the First World War and again in Eastern Europe and Central Asia after the Cold War.

As Anglo-American strategists started looking at global strategy in a holistic view they adopted the concept of trans-continental encirclement.

The Rimland is the concept of a geographic area adjacent or circling the Eurasian “Heartland.” Western Europe, Central Europe, the Middle East, the Indian sub-continent, Southeast Asia, and the Far East comprise this area from Western Eurasia to Eastern Eurasia. Nicholas Spykman’s Rimland helps give an objective and historical context to the present zones of conflict encircling Russia, China, and Iran that start from the Balkans, the Kurdish areas of the Middle East, Iraq, Caucasia, and go through NATO-garrisoned Afghanistan, Kashmir, Indo-China, and finish in the Korean Peninsula. The geographic locations of these areas say much as to which countries or players are disturbed.

Iraq is being redrawn in a step by step fashion, but firstly though its political landscape and a system of soft federalism. This holistic concept is also getting stronger and the existence of European and Asiatic missile shield projects are connected to this approach as is the brinkmanship to create an American-dominated global military alliance.

The Pirenne Thesis

In his book, Mohammed and Charlemagne, Belgian historian Henri Pirenne, states that Charlemagne and the Frankish Empire would never have existed if it were not for the period of Arab expansion in the Mediterranean region. Henri Pirenne became known for his thesis that the Germanic barbarians, such as the Franks and Goths, that were traditionally credited by historians for the fall of the Western Roman Empire in reality merged themselves with the Western Roman Empire and that the economic and institutional templates of Western Rome continued and stayed intact. Pirenne challenged the traditional historic narrative that the Germanic barbarians were the reason for the decline of Western Rome.

Pirenne seems correct in the basis of his theory. In most cases Western Roman ways were maintained by the Germanic kingdoms. The facts that the Franks, a Germanic people, adopted Latin (which eventually evolved into French over time) as their language or that the Roman Church stayed intact as an important societal institution supports his observations and thesis.

The decline of Rome is more probably based on an end to an economy based on imperial expansion, slavery, over-militarization, and political corruption as its main factors. The decline of the Western European economy was not because the Arabs were unwilling to continue trade with Western Europe, but because of militarism and the de-centralization that went with it, hand-in-hand; the end result being European feudalism. Is this process repeating itself today?

To Pirenne, it was clear that the economic framework of the Roman Empire, Western and Eastern (Byzantine), was fixed around the economy and trade of the Mediterranean Sea. Western Rome only transformed from a politically centralized entity to a network of politically separate kingdoms and states, but with the same economic framework, fixed on the Mediterranean, intact.

Pirenne theorized that the real decline in the Western Roman entity was brought about by the rapid expansion of the Arabs. The Levant, Egypt, various Mediterranean islands, portions of Anatolia (Asia Minor), Spain, Portugal, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, which were all Mediterranean regions, were all incorporated within the vast cosmopolitan realm of the Arabs. According to Pirenne, the reason that this decline was brought about was the cut in ties between the integrated economies of most of the Mediterranean and Western Europe that was brought about by the Arabs. Western Europe effectively degenerated into a marginalized economic hinterland.

Another factor that should be added to Pirenne’s theory about the economic decline of Western Europe after the fall of Rome was that Eastern Rome (Byzantium) also diverted its trade, or reduced its level, from Western Europe due to economic realities brought about by the Arab expansion in the Mediterranean. Also in part the dissolved economic links between Western Europe and the Byzantines was because of the differences and rivalry between the Western Christian Church and the Eastern Christian Church that developed with time. Animosity also existed between the authorities in Constantinople and Western Europe and further effected economic ties. These tensions were also in many cases economic in origin.

The Pirenne Thesis states that Western Europe was transformed into a series of farm-based economies, which slowly gave rise to European feudalism, due to Arab expansion. Raw resources were being exported outwards with little imports to Western Europe, whereas before items and resources such as valuable metals and Egyptian papyrus would enter Western Europe. This was because the economy of Western Europe was cut off from the rest of the globe. The European voyages of discovery that occur later can also be traced to this period as a means to reverse this process.

The Eurasians Strike Back: The New Silk Road

Today, across Eurasia there is a renewed drive at economic and socio-political cooperation and integration. The Silk Road is being revived. Iran, Russia, and China are the most important forces in this project. Kazakhstan is also playing a very important role. Railway networks, transport corridors, electric grids, and various forms of infrastructure are being developed, linked, and built in an effort to integrate Eurasia.

Central Asia is set to become the mid-axis and the heartland of a series of north-south and west-east corridors. A strategic triangle between Russia, Iran, and China will set the border for a Eurasian trade zone that can eventually bring Africa and chunks of Europe into its orbit. Latin America has already anticipated this shift and is preparing to redirect part of its trade from the U.S. and E.U. towards this area.

China is a global centre of labour while Russia, Iran, and Central Asia hold 15% or more of global oil reserves and 50% of the world’s reserves of natural gas. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) also holds half the planet’s estimated population. Together these areas also have vast and important markets.

Eurasia is coming together in a wave of regional integration and cross-border trade. Russia and Kazakhstan have also made proposals for the eventual formation of a Eurasian Union. The customs union established between Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan is a step towards this Eurasian Union. Iran has also made proposals for the formation of a so-called Islamic Union between nations with Muslim populations.

This is all effectively a re-introduction of the Pirenne Thesis in a modern context. In this second round of the Pirennian cycle it is the trade-dependent economies of Western Europe and the U.S., the players of the Eurasian periphery and the maritime realms, that are under threat of being marginalized like the former areas of Western Rome were during the Arab expansion in the Mediterranean. The Eurasians are striking back; they realize that it is not them who needs the U.S. or E.U., but the other way around.

A Mediterranean Union and an Islamic Union: The West versus the Eurasian Heartland

Reflecting on the Pirenne Thesis, it is also not historically ironic that the E.U. is pushing for the establishment of a Mediterranean Union, which would economically merge the nations of the Mediterranean and E.U. together with both Israel and Turkey playing key roles. This is a Western answer to the growing strength and cohesion in the Eurasian Heartland between Russia, Iran, and China.

To counter this drive Russia, China, and Iran have been courting the nations of the Mediterranean. In fact after Nicholas Sarkozy’s trip to Algeria, as part of a tour to promote the creation of a Mediterranean Union, an Iranian delegation led by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived with a counter-proposal for the creation of an alternative bloc; this was what the Iranians called an Islamic Union.

The Islamic Union is essentially a rival economic project to the Mediterranean Union in the Mediterranean lands of North Africa and the Middle East, rather than the institutionalization of Islam within any of these states. Undoubtedly, the Iranian proposal must have had some backdoor support from Moscow. It is more than likely that the Islamic Union will be linked in some form to the Eurasian Union proposed by Russia and Kazakhstan. These regional blocs can be overlapping and countries like Iran can hypothetically belong to the Eurasian Union and the Islamic Union, just as how France and Italy could belong to the E.U. and the proposed Mediterranean Union. This is also part of the brinkmanship of turning several regions into supranational entities and ultimately into super-national entities that would merge with like entities.

The Arab-Israeli Conflict and the so-called Mid-East Peace Process, essentially including the Arab Peace Initiative proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002, are tied to the joint American-E.U. economic project that is the Mediterranean Union, which will see the integration of the economies of the Arab World with that of Israel in a network of regionalized economic relations that will ultimately merge the economies of Europe, Israel, Turkey, and the Arab World. The Mediterranean Union is a project that was drafted years before the end of the Cold War and the disintegration of the former Soviet Union. The deep ties between Turkey and Israel have been a preparatory step towards eventually establishing this Mediterranean Union with the participation and full involvement of Israel as one of its pillars.

The Bloc Concept and Regionalization: Orwellian Showdown between Oceania and Eurasia?

The players of the Eurasian Heartland realize what is happening. Moreover, France and Germany, like India, are being courted by the players of the Eurasian Heartland to encourage them to de-link themselves from the Anglo-American axis.  This is probably why the euro is not being targeted on international currency markets by Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and China in the same way as the U.S. dollar. Or is this because America is the immediate threat to these countries?

The Eurasians are slowly prying the hold of Western financial centres on global transactions. The establishment of a petro-ruble system in Russia and the republics of the former U.S.S.R., as well as the establishment of an international Iranian energy bourse on Kish Island are part of this trend.

However, it seems too late to end the concord between the Franco-German and Anglo-American sides. Franco-German interests appear to have become entrenched with Anglo-American interests. A deal has been reached to eventually merge, with regard to trading systems, the economies of the E.U. and North America that will guarantee the interests of Britain, the U.S., France, and Germany.[12] This deal will also allow the four major powers within the so-called Western World to challenge the Eurasian Heartland as it merges into a single powerful bloc or player.

Whenever a dominate player has started to emerge in the Eurasian Heartland there have historically been wars fought — even the fear of the emergence of one has been the cause of conflict — to prevent the ascendancy of such a power or player. These different stages of regionalism and regionalized mergers mean several things, but what this can mean in Orwellian terms is that Oceania and Eurasia are preparing to challenge one another. [13]

NOTES

This article is a continuation of The Sino-Russian Alliance: Challenging America’ Ambitions in Eurasia (Nazemroaya, 26.08.2007) and lightly touches on the concept of the Mediterranean Union, which is covered in an article yet to be released.


[1] Halford John Mackinder, Chap. 3 (The Seaman’s Point of View), in Democratic Ideals and Reality (London, U.K.: Constables and Company Ltd., 1919), p.91.

[2] Ibid., Chap. 4 (The Landman’s Point of View), p.121.

Note: This chapter in Democratic Ideals and Reality is based on an essay, Man-power as a Measure of National and Imperial Strength, that Mackinder wrote for the National Review (U.K.) in 1905. It should also be noted that Mackinder and various circles in London viewed the large populations of Germany, Austro-Hungary, and the Czardom of Russia as threats that should be addressed. If one reads the full works of Mackinder they will come to realize that he advocated for some form of Social Darwinism amongst nations, and saw democratic idealism as a subject that should be put aside to preserve the British imperial order. Mackinder even states that the commerce that the British enjoyed was due to the use of British guns and force (Chap. 5, pp.187-188).

[3] Ibid., p.142.

[4] Lonnie R. Johnson, Central Europe: Enemies, Neighbors, Friends, 2nd ed. (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 37-42.

[5] Mackinder, Democratic Ideals, Op. cit., Chap. 5 (The Rivalry of Empires), pp.160-161.

[6] Ibid., Chap. 3, p.78.

[7] Ibid., pp.77-78.

[8] Ibid., p.78.

[9] Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment: From Rhodes to Cliveden (San Pedro, California: GSG & Associates Publishers, 1981), pp. 233-235, 237-248, 253, 264-281, 285-302.

“…from 1920 to 1938 [the aims were] the same: to maintain the balance of power in Europe by building up Germany against France and [the Soviet Union]; to increase Britain’s weight in that balance by aligning with her the Dominions [e.g., Australia and Canada] and the United States; to refuse any commitments (especially any commitments through the League of Nations, and above all any commitments to aid France) beyond those existing in 1919; to keep British freedom of action; to drive Germany eastward against [the Soviet Union] if either or both of these two powers became a threat to the peace [probably meaning economic strength] of Western Europe (p.240).”

“…the Locarno agreements guaranteed the frontier of Germany with France and Belgium with the powers of these three states plus Britain and Italy. In reality the agreements gave France nothing, while they gave Britain a veto over French fulfillment of her alliances with Poland and the Little Entente. The French accepted these deceptive documents for reason of internal politics (…) This trap [the Locarno agreements] consisted of several interlocking factors. In the first place, the agreements did not guarantee the German frontier and the demilitarized condition of the Rhineland against German actions, but against the actions of either Germany or France. This, at one stroke, gave Britain the right to oppose any French action against Germany in support of her allies to the east of Germany. This meant that if Germany moved east against Czechoslovakia, Poland, and eventually [the Soviet Union], and if France attacked Germany’s western frontier in support of Czechoslovakia or Poland, as her alliances bound her to do, Great Britain, Belgium, and Italy might be bound by the Locarno Pacts to come to the aid of Germany (p.264).”

“This event of March 1936, by which Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland, was the most crucial event in the whole history of appeasement. So long as the territory west of the Rhine and a strip fifty kilometers wide on the east bank of the river were demilitarized, as provided in the Treaty of Versailles and the Locarno Pacts, Hitler would never have dared to move against Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. He would not have dared because, with western Germany unfortified and denuded of German soldiers, France could have easily driven into the Ruhr industrial area and crippled Germany so that it would be impossible to go eastward. And by this date [1936], certain members of the Milner Group and of the British Conservative government had reached the fantastic idea that they could kill two birds with one stone by setting Germany and [the Soviet Union] against one another in Eastern Europe. In this way they felt that two enemies would stalemate one another, or that Germany would become satisfied with the oil of Rumania and the wheat of the Ukraine. It never occurred to anyone in a responsible position that Germany and [the Soviet Union] might make common cause, even temporarily, against the West. Even less did it occur to them that [the Soviet Union] might beat Germany and thus open all Central Europe to Bolshevism (p.265).”

“In order to carry out this plan of allowing Germany to drive eastward against [the Soviet Union], it was necessary to do three things: (1) to liquidate all the countries standing between Germany and Russia; (2) to prevent France from honoring her alliances with these countries [i.e., Czechoslovakia and Poland]; and (3) to hoodwink the [British] people into accepeting this as a necessary, indeed, the only solution to the international problem. The Chamberlain group were so successful in all three of these things that they came within an ace of succeeding, and failed only because of the obstinacy of the Poles, the unseemly haste of Hitler, and the fact that at the eleventh hour the Milner Group realized the [geo-strategic] implications of their policy and tried to reverse it (p.266).”

“Four days later, Hitler announced Germany’s rearmament, and ten days after that, Britain condoned the act by sending Sir John Simon on a state visit to Berlin. When France tried to counterbalance Germany’s rearmament by bringing the Soviet Union into her eastern alliance system in May 1935, the British counteracted this by making the Anglo-German Naval Agreement of 18 June 1935. This agreement, concluded by Simon, allowed Germany to build up to 35 percent of the size of the British Navy (and up to 100 percent in submarines). This was a deadly stab in the back of France, for it gave Germany a navy considerably larger than the French in the important categories of ships (capital ships and aircraft carriers), because France was bound by treaty to only 33 percent of Britain’s; and France in addition, had a worldwide empire to protect and the unfriendly Italian Navy off her Mediterranean coast. This agreement put the French Atlantic coast so completely at the mercy of the German Navy that France became completely dependent on the British fleet for protection in this area (pp.269-270).”

“The liquidation of the countries between Germany and [the Soviet Union] could proceed as soon as the Rhineland was fortified, without fear on Germany’s part that France would be able to attack her in the west while she was occupied in the east (p.272).”

“The countries marked for liquidation included Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland, but did not include Greece and Turkey, since the [Milner] Group had no intention of allowing Germany to get down onto the Mediterranean ‘lifeline.’ Indeed, the purpose of the Hoare-Laval Plan of 1935, which wrecked the collective-security system by seeking to give most Ethiopia to Italy, was intended to bring an appeased Italy in position alongside [Britain], in order to block any movement of Germany southward rather than eastward [towards the Soviet Union] (p.273).”

[10] Mackinder, Democratic Ideals, Op. cit., Chap. 5, pp.160-168.

[11] Ibid., Chap. 6 (The Freedom of Nations), pp. 214-215.

[12] US and EU agree ’single market,’ British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), April 30, 2007.

[13] Critical thinking should be applied to this last statement and the level of cooperation between both sides should be carefully examined.

Global Research Articles by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
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War Paint and Lawyers

November 28, 2007

War Paint and Lawyers:
Rainforest Indians versus Big Oil

Published <!– by Greg Palast –> November 26th, 2007 in Articles

Greg Palast investigates for BBC Newsnight
Chevron: “Nobody has proved that crude causes cancer.”

Tuesday, November 27, 10:30pm GMT [5:30pm New York Time] – live on BBC2 TV or on the net at www.BBC.co.uk/Newsnight.
Greg getting in Canoe

BBC Television Newsnight has been able to get close-in film of a new Cofan Indian ritual deep in the heart of the Amazonian rainforest. Known as “The Filing of the Law Suit,” natives of Ecuador’s jungle, decked in feathers and war paint and heavily armed with lawyers, are filmed presenting a new complaint in their litigation seeking $12 billion from Chevron Inc., the international oil goliath.

It would all be a poignant joke – except that the indigenous tribe is suddenly the odds-on favorite to defeat the oil company known for naming its largest tanker, “Condoleezza,” after former Chevron director, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Cofan Leader CriolloRice.

For Newsnight, reporter Greg Palast, steps (somewhat inelegantly) into a dug-out log canoe to seek out the Cofan in their rainforest village to investigate their allegations. Palast discovers stinking pits of old oil drilling residue leaking into drinking water – and meets farmers whose limbs are covered in pustules.

The Cofan’s leader, Emergildo Criollo, tells Palast that when Texaco Oil, now part of Chevron, came to the village in 1972, it obtained permission to drill by offering the Indians candy and cheese. The indigenous folk threw the funny-selling cheese into the jungle.

Criollo says his three-year son died from oil contamination after, “He went swimming, then began vomiting blood.”

Flying out of the rainforest, past the Andes volcanoes, Palast gets the other side of the story in Ecuador’s capitol, Quito. “It’s the largest fraud in history!” asserts Chevron lawyer Jaime Varela reacting to the Cofan law suits against his company. Chevron-Texaco, Varela insists, cleaned up all its contaminated oil pits when it abandoned the country nearly 15 years ago – except those pits it left in the hands of Ecuador’s own state oil company.

What about the Indian kids dying of cancer? Texaco lawyer Rodrigo Perez asks, “And it’s the only case of cancer in the world? How many cases of children with cancer do you have in the States, in Europe, in Quito? If there is somebody with cancer there, [the Cofan parents] must prove [the deaths were] caused by crude or by petroleum industry. And, second, they have to prove that it is OUR crude – which is absolutely impossible.” The Texaco man stated, “Scientifically, nobody has proved that crude causes cancer.”

Even if the Indians can prove their case and win billions to clean up the jungle, collecting the cash is another matter. Chevron has removed all its assets from Ecuador.Sludge in Ecuador

But, this week, the political planet tilts toward the natives as Alberto Acosta takes office as President of Ecuador’s new Constitutional Assembly. Newsnight catches up with Acosta – who gives Chevron a tongue-lashing. “Chevron is responsible for environmental and social destruction in the Amazon. And that’s why they’re on trial.”

“He LOVES Chavez”
Little Ecuador does not seem like much of a match against big Chevron – whose revenue exceeds the entire GDP of the Andean nation. However, behind Little Ecuador is Huge Venezuela – and its larger-than-life leader, Hugo Chavez. “Acosta,” complains one local pundit to the BBC, “loves – LOVES – Chavez.”

And apparently, the feeling is mutual. That is, Chavez sees in Ecuador’s new government, which won election campaigning to the tune of the Twisted Sister hit, We’re Not Gonna Take it Anymore, a new ally in his fight with George Bush over control of Latin hearts and minds – and energy.

Chevron LawyersChevron-Texaco’s largest new oil reserves are in Venezuela; Venezuela stands with Ecuador; and Ecuador now stands with its “affectados,” the Indians and farmers claiming the poisons in their bodies trace right back to the Texaco star.

Suddenly, the David-versus-Goliath story of Little Indians versus Big Oil is becoming part of the larger conflict between Uncle Sam and Uncle Hugo. The outcome is now a cliff-hanger. Indeed, Newsnight has learned that this month, Chevron will face a new legal challenge by Cofan attorneys before US securities regulators to investigate whether the company has fully disclosed to shareholders the massive potential legal liability from the equatorial Rumble in the Jungle.

Watch the story live on BBC2 or, in the US, on the net at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/default.stm after broadcast – or via a link from www.GregPalast.com. WARNING: The day’s news events may require Newsnight to delay broadcast to another evening.

Opec urged to end use of dollar

November 19, 2007

Both Ahmadinejad, left, and Chavez have proposed trading oil in a basket of currencies [AFP]
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The fall in the value of the dollar has weakened the purchasing power of Opec members and helped push oil prices to nearly $100 a barrel.

 

Ahmadinejad is to meet Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, later on Monday to discuss the issue.

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Chavez echoed Ahmadinejad’s sentiment, saying “the empire of the dollar has to end”.

 

Opec’s summit in Riyadh ended on Sunday with leaders divided over whether to dump the dollar as a currency to price and sell oil.

 

Both Iran and Venezuela have proposed trading oil in a basket of currencies to replace the falling dollar, but a final statement from Opec after the meeting did not include any reference to the weakening dollar.

 

Instead Opec vowed to keep providing Western consumers with an “adequate” supply of oil.

 

Saudi Arabia, a staunch ally of the US, had opposed the move to include concerns over the falling dollar included in the summit’s closing statement and tried to direct the focus of the summit towards studying the effect of the oil industry on the environment.

 

Falling dollar

 

But both Iran and Venezuela made it clear that they would press for action on the dollar, which could include pricing oil in a basket of currencies.

 

“There was a proposal from Iran and Venezuela to have a basket of currencies for the pricing of OPEC oil,” Bayan Jabor, the Iraqi finance minister, said.

 

“But a consensus could not be reached,” he said, adding that backed by Ecuador, the two had won agreement that finance ministers would discuss the issue before a scheduled oil ministers meeting in Abu Dhabi on December 5.

 

“Because the final communique was already drafted, there was an agreement that Opec finance ministers hold a meeting before the oil meeting in the UAE in December to discuss economic issues including the dollar’s exchange rate.”

 

The Venezuelan leader had opened the summit urging Opec, which accounts for 40 per cent of world oil supplies, to be a “geopolitical agent”.

 

Chavez lauded Opec’s ability to ensure high oil prices for developing producer nations, saying Opec “must stand up and act as a vanguard against poverty in the world”.

 

He threatened that if Washington follows through on military threats against Iran, oil could double to $200 a barrel.

 

The summit, only the third in the group’s history, also acknowledged the oil industry’s role in global warming, with pledges of cash for research into climate change.

 
 
Source: Agencies

Australia ‘world’s worst polluter’

November 16, 2007

Coal-fired power stations are among the biggest contributors to global warming [GALLO/GETTY]
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According to the report, Australia came seventh overall on a list of the top 50 countries by carbon dioxide-emitting power sectors, with 226 million tonnes.

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But it came in ahead of many countries with larger populations and “on a per capita basis, Australians are some of the largest CO2 emitters in the world, producing more than 11 tonnes of power sector CO2 emissions per person per year”, the report said.

The US, the world’s largest overall CO2 emitter, emits nine tonnes per person each year, it said.

 

Global warming has become a key issue in Australia’s upcoming election and Kevin Rudd, the opposition leader tipped to become the next prime minister, has promised to ratify the Kyoto treaty on climate change.

 

On Thursday, just hours after the report was published, Greenpeace protesters stormed a power plant north of Sydney and chained themselves to machinery to draw attention to the issue.

 

“We demonstrated what this country needs to do – close those coal-fired power stations and use cleaner energy,” organiser Stephen Campbell, a protest organiser, said.

 

Fifteen protesters were arrested and charges of trespass and malicious damage were expected to be laid against them.

 

The power plant’s operators said generating operations were not affected by the protest.

 
 
Source: Agencies