Merchants of Death
IT has finally happened. US imperialism has begun its unilateral war against Afghanistan. Ominously, it has formally notified the UN Security Council that the military operations would expand beyond Afghanistan. Other countries would be targetted. It is a greater tragedy that this "war against terrorism" will consume innocent lives in gruesome proportions. Is all this really being done to exterminate terrorism?
Before we answer this question, it is necessary to reiterate that the perpetrators of the horrendous attacks in New York and Washington on September 11 must be brought to book. This, however, must be done, as many countries in the world have voiced, on the basis of unquestionable evidence in accordance with international laws, and under the auspices of the United Nations. The USA and its President, Bush, by unilaterally launching attacks on Afghanistan, have dismissed with imperialist arrogance and contempt, this widely-held international opinion.
For appearances sake, "evidence" was shared with trusted US allies -- Britain and Pakistan. Tony Blair made a mockery of sharing this "evidence" with the British Parliament by stating that this was not to be judged on a strictly legal basis. In a much publicised live press conference, Musharraf echoed Blair in stating that it is immaterial whether the "evidence" would stand legal scrutiny. The issue, according to him, is that "evidence" points towards Osama bin Laden.
Once the initial shock and hysteria gave way to reason , it became clear that the USA was, in a diabolic way, using this human tragedy to both further its imperialist hegemony world-wide, and to invoke a more draconian domestic rule by curtailing democratic rights and freedom in the name of combating terrorism. The crucial element in this strategy of zeroing in on Osama bin Laden, however, goes largely unnoticed.
THE BASIC ISSUE
Afghanistan occupies the central position in the US strategy for the economic control of the oil and gas resources in the entire Middle East.
The United States currently imports 51 per cent of its crude oil -- 19.5 million barrels daily. The Energy Information Administration estimates that by 2020, the United States will need to import 64 per cent of its crude -- 25.8 million barrels per day. It appears that the Caspian region oil reserves might well turn out to be the third largest reserves in the world (following Western Siberia and the Persian Gulf) and, within the next 15 to 20 years, may be large enough to offset Persian Gulf oil.
Caspian Sea oil and gas are not the only hydrocarbon deposits in the region. Turkmenistan's Karakum Desert holds the world's third largest gas reserves -- three trillion cubic meters -- and has six billion barrels of estimated oil reserves. Current estimates indicate that, in addition to huge gas deposits, the Caspian basin may hold as much as 200 billion barrels of oil -- 33 times the estimated holdings of Alaska's North Slope and a current value of $4 trillion - enough to meet the United States' energy needs for 30 years or more. The presence of these oil reserves and the possibility of their export raises new strategic concerns for the United States and other Western industrial powers. As oil companies build oil pipelines from the Caucasus and Central Asia to supply Japan and the West, these strategic concerns then naturally gain military implications.
Before proceeding further, let us remind ourselves that both President Bush and Vice President Cheney were earlier intimately connected with the US oil industry, serving as senior executives in many related companies.
THE CAT IS COMING OUT OF THE BAG
Jon Flanders, in an article on "The World Trade Center attack &. Caspian Oil and Gas and the Afghanistan Pipeline Connection" quotes Michael Klare, author of the book "Resource Wars", which has a major focus on the oil resources in the Caspian region. In a recent interview to "Radio Free Europe" he said: "We (the US) view oil as a security consideration and we have to protect it by any means necessary, regardless of other considerations, other values."
The US Government Energy Information fact-sheet on Afghanistan dated December 2000, says that:
"Afghanistan's significance from an energy standpoint stems from its geographic position as a potential transit route for oil and natural gas exports from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea. This potential includes proposed multi-billion dollar oil and gas export pipelines through Afghanistan."
The Caspian Sea region has an estimated oil and gas resources worth $4 trillion, according to the US News and World Report. Dick Cheney, as the CEO of Halliburton, a major player in the oil industry, a Fortune 200 company, told oil industry executives in 1998, "I cannot think of a time when we have had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian."
The oil and gas from this region currently moves northward towards European markets. According to Mr. Bob Todor, executive vice president of Unocal0, the company that is leading an international consortium to construct the central Asian pipeline through Afghanistan, "Western Europe is a tough market. It is characterized by high prices for oil products, an ageing population, and increasing competition from natural gas. Furthermore, the region is fiercely competitive."
Among the many advantages of the Afghanistan route, according to Mr. Todor, is that it would terminate in the Arabian Sea, which is much closer than the Persian Gulf or northern China to key Asian markets. The pipeline becomes crucial for US oil giants because it would allow them to sell their oil in an expanding and highly prospective Asian markets. The profits here are viewed to be substantially higher than in the European market. But, the construction of this promising route can only begin if and when an internationally recognized government is formed in Afghanistan.
This is the crux of the matter.
Though the oil companies have the agreement of all warring groups in Afghanistan for the proposed pipeline, the situation is far from being comfortable. The bombing of US embassies in North Africa in 1998 allegedly by bin Laden's terrorists, the US retaliatory response and the consequent bombing of Afghanistan, have created predictable complications. Even if the US were to succeed in separating bin Laden from the Taliban leadership and government, problems still continue with the uncertainty concerning the attitude of the Northern Alliance. The pipeline would have been an easy target to blow up by either side. Even threats can be used as instruments of blackmail by Afghan groups.
Hence, it becomes clear that to advance the interests of US oil majors and to establish effective control over the oil resources in the region, US imperialism must have a pliant government in an unified Afghanistan. The proposal to bring back the ousted monarch, Zaheer Shah, and the open patronage being provided by the USA to the Northern Alliance, reflects this need. President Bush's candid admission that he had given the Taliban two weeks to hand over Osama bin Laden was also an effort to once again, separate the two, and to do business with the Taliban. Having failed in this, the effort now is on to install a pliant government at the expense of destroying what remains of Afghanistan. The possibility that thousands of innocent people may be killed, is, as ever, irrelevant as far as imperialism is concerned.
It is chilling to realise that it is such cold-blooded pursuit of economic interests and profits that defines US manoeuvres in the region, and its attacks on Afghanistan. That all this should happen in the name of grieving the death of nearly 7000 innocent American lives is a cynically cruel hypocrisy.
The world today is being asked to side with the USA in a fight against global terrorism. This is far from the truth. And is only a cover. In reality, the world is being asked today, to side with the USA as it seeks to strengthen its economic hegemony.
This is neither acceptable nor must be allowed.
We must forge a world-wide unity to forcibly state that we are neither with the terrorists nor with the USA.