Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Gas Wars

I noticed the other day that Condi Rice chipped in her two cents on the strategy being employed by Barack Obama in Afghanistan. Specifically she said “The last time we left Afghanistan, and we abandoned Pakistan," she said, "that territory became the very territory on which Al Qaeda trained and attacked us on September 11th. So our national security interests are very much tied up in not letting Afghanistan fail again and become a safe haven for terrorists. It's that simple," she declared, "if you want another terrorist attack in the U.S., abandon Afghanistan." Sounds pretty ominous. Stay and continue to fight in Afghanistan or be attacked. Scary stuff.

We were told by W in 2001 that the Afghan invasion purpose was to find Osama Bin Laden, remove the Taliban from power, and bring freedom to the Afghan people. Like many times during the Baby Bush years, we were lied to. Unfortunately though the real reasons for the invasion, and the continued presence of the US in Afghanistan are based more on greed than some noble crusade to free the Afghan people and bring to justice the man who masterminded 9/11. Ask yourself, “ Why is it, long after Bin Laden stopped being hunted, and instead became Bush’s Emmanuel Goldstein, a scary underground enemy, occasionally issuing video taped threats, the Muslim boogeyman extraordinaire, that we continue to spend lives and money fighting in this country that for 2000 years no one has been able to conquer”? The very simple answer is natural gas, and lots of it.

There are vast reserves of natural gas in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, countries north of Afghanistan on the Caspian Sea. Unocal, a huge oil and gas company that later was acquired by Chevron, wanted a way to get these massive reserves to market. The answer was to build a gas pipeline from the Caspian Sea, through Afghanistan, through Pakistan, to the Indian Ocean, and then transport it by tanker to their many gas hungry customers.

Unocal was good friends with the then US backed Taliban and there is speculation that they even helped finance the Taliban in their war with the Soviets. Up until 1999, Unocal were such great friends with the Taliban leaders that they hosted delegations of Taliban leaders to the USA; Texas to be exact (while W was governor), in 1997 and 1999. ( After Taliban guest in Afghanistan Osama Bin Laden attacked two US embassies in 1998, things started to go sour. Negotiations broke down for good as late as 2001, and as Toronto's Globe and Mail columnist Lawrence Martin put it, "Washington was furious, leading to speculation it might take out the Taliban. After 9/11, the Taliban, with good reason, were removed -- and pipeline planning continued with the Karzai government. U.S. forces installed bases near Kandahar, where the pipeline was to run. A key motivation for the pipeline was to block a competing bid involving Iran, a charter member of the 'axis of evil.'"

In April of 2008, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India signed a Gas Pipeline Framework Agreement to build a U.S.-backed $7.6 billion pipeline. It would, of course, bypass Iran and new energy giant Russia, carrying Turkmeni natural gas and oil to Pakistan and India. Construction would, theoretically, begin in 2010. Put the emphasis on "theoretically," because the pipeline is, once again, to run straight through Kandahar and so directly into the heartland of the Taliban insurgency. Queue the renewed interest in the Afghan war. Queue the increase in troop levels, and subsequent increase in troop deaths. Sorry Condi, this war has nothing to do with preventing terror attacks, and you know it. It has everything to do with making a lot of money and being willing to sacrifice lives to do it. It has everything to do with building a fucking pipeline. And Barack Obama is far from innocent; he suggested increased troop levels in Afghanistan before the election, and will in all likelihood continue the escalation he has already begun. Like his predecessor he continues to lie about why we are still in Afghanistan.

Just a couple more facts to note: Condi Rice was a former employee of Chevron, who as you recall, acquired Unocal and are partners in the pipeline deal. She even, inexplicably, had an oil tanker named after her Marinucci, Carla (2001-05-05). "Chevron redubs ship named for Bush aide". San Francisco Chronicle., which soon after she became the Bush Secretary of State, was wisely re-named Altair Voyager. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who was installed by the US as interim president and then “elected” by the Afghan people, is a former consultant for Unocal. The connections here are by no means tenuous.

There has been a flurry of reportage on the revived pipeline plan in Canada, where -- bizarrely enough -- journalists and columnists actually worry about such ephemeral possibilities as Canadian troops spending the next half century protecting Turkmeni energy. If you happen to live in the U.S., though, you would really have no way of knowing about such developments, no less their backstory, unless you were wandering the foreign press online. The BBC, the CBC, and English Al Jezeera are all good places to start.

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