Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

March 27, 2018

Not about oil?

Filed under: imperialism/globalization,oil — louisproyect @ 7:10 pm

(A guest post by Brian A. Mitchell)

Not About Oil? They Must Be Joking – Just One of the World’s Many Resources that the History of Interventions, Occupations, and Wars Are Always About.

What many of the world’s wars and interventions are all about. One of the world’s most valuable resources controlled by a wealthy few; from British control of Middle East oil before the Second World War to US control of global oil resources after the war.

“We must become the owners, or at any rate the controllers at the source, of at least a proportion of the oil which we require.”

(British Royal Commission, agreeing with Winston Churchill’s policy towards Iraq, 1913.)

“He who owns oil will own the world… who has oil has empire.”

(Henry Berenger, Commissioner General for Oil Products, France, during WWI.)

“In oil Baku is incomparable… Baku is greater than any other oil city in the world. If oil is king, Baku is its throne.”

(British journal The Near East, on Britain’s invasion of the Soviet Union along with 14 other countries in the Wars of Intervention after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917.)

“These International bankers and Rockefeller-Standard Oil interests control the majority of newspapers and use the columns of these papers to club into submission or drive out of public office officials who refuse to do the bidding of the powerful corrupt cliques which compose the invisible government”

(US President Theodore Roosevelt, New York Times, March 27 1918.)

“if we appear to be reactionary in Mesopotamia, there is always the risk that Faisal will encourage the Americans to take over both, and it should be borne in mind that the Standard Oil company is very anxious to take over Iraq.”

(Sir Arthur Hirtzel, Head of the British government’s India Office Political Department, 1919.)

“The pioneering spirit should now lead American capital and American engineering to seek new sources of petroleum supplies in foreign fields for the benefit of the America of tomorrow. Nor can this be done without popular support inspired by general appreciation of oil as our servant, a servant that works 24 hours a day and 7 days a week”.

(National Geographic magazine February 1920.)

“The real menace of our republic is this invisible government which like a giant octopus sprawls its slimy length over city, state and nation. Like the octopus of real life, it operates under cover of a self created screen… At the head of this octopus are the Rockefeller Standard Oil interests and a small group of powerful banking houses generally referred to as international bankers. The little coterie of powerful international bankers virtually run the United States government for their own selfish purposes. They practically control both political parties.”

(New York City Mayor John Hylan, 1922.)

“I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. … In China in 1927 I helped see to it that the Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

(Testimony of General Smedley Butler, US Marine Corps, to the McCormack Dickstein Committee. 1935.)

“Hitler’s deputy Hess’s mission to Britain was to suggest:”a profitable agreement in the form of an alliance against Russia as a result of which Germany was to receive the Ukraine and the Caucasus oil regions… .”

(The Times Oct 5 1942.)

“The oil of Saudi Arabia constitutes one of the world’s greatest prizes.”

(US Secretary of State Cordell Hull, 1943.)

“The oil in this region is the greatest single prize in all history.”

(US oil geologist and director of the American Petroleum Institute Everette Degolyer, 1944.)

“Our petroleum policy toward the United Kingdom is predicated upon a mutual recognition of a very extensive joint interest and upon a control, at least for the moment, of the great bulk of the free petroleum resources of the world … it is the view of the United States government that US-UK agreement upon a broad, forward looking pattern for the development and utilisation of petroleum resources under the control of nationals of the two countries is of the highest strategic and commercial importance.”

(US government memo of June 1945.)

“[Middle East oil is] a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history.”

(US State Department, 1945.)

“We need to promote internal political stability and in particular to influence individuals so that public opinion does not become so hostile to our oil companies that their commercial operation becomes impossible.”

(British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, in a note to a government cabinet, October 1945.)

“As the largest producer, the largest source of capital, and the biggest contributor to the global mechanism, we must set the pace and assume the responsibility of the majority stockholder in this corporation known as the world… Nor is this for a given term of office. This is a permanent obligation.”

(Secretary-Treasurer of US Standard Oil Company, Leo Welch, 1946.)

“Behind the conflict in the Near East is OIL. Britain owns rich wells in Iraq … Socialists … [must] … condemn the Oil Imperialism of Britain and America and demand the pooling of all the oil resources of the world according to the needs of the peoples.”

(British Lord Fenner Brockway, 1947.)

“Our strategic and security interests throughout the world will be best safeguarded by the establishment in suitable spots of ‘Police Stations’, fully equipped to deal with emergencies within a large radius. Kuwait is one such spot from which Iraq, South Persia, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf could be controlled. It will be worthwhile to go to considerable trouble and expense to establish and man a ‘Police Station’ there.”

(British Foreign Office memo, 1947.)

“Now the Pacific has become an Anglo-Saxon lake, and our line of defence runs through the chain of islands fringing the coast of Asia.”

(US General MacArthur, Daily Mail March 2 1949. [Areas which have massive oil resources.])

“Persian [Iran] oil is of vital importance to our economy. … We regard it as essential to do everything possible to prevent the Persians from getting away with a breach of their contractual obligations. [To give the British massive advantages in their oil supplies.]”

(British Foreign Secretary Herbert Morrison, 1950s.)

“The most significant example in practice of what I mean was the Iranian experiment with which, as you will remember, I was directly concerned. By the use of economic aid we succeeded in getting access to Iranian oil and we are now well established in the economy of that country. The strengthening of our economic position in Iran has enabled us to acquire control over her foreign policy and in particular to make her join the Bagdad Pact. At the present time the Shah would not dare even to make any changes in his cabinet without consulting our Ambassador.”

(Letter from US Council on Foreign Relations member billionaire Nelson Rockefeller to President Eisenhower, January 1956.)

“We must at all costs maintain control of this oil.”

(British Foreign Secretary Selwyn Lloyd, to US Secretary of State Allen Dulles, January 1956.)

“Our interest lies in keeping Kuwait independent and separate, if we possibly can, in line with the idea of maintaining the four principle oil producing areas under separate political control.”

(Head of the eastern department of the British Foreign Office Derek Riches, August 8 1958. [Classic divide and rule again. The British separated Kuwait from Iraq in 1913.])

“Iran is the only source of Middle Eastern oil which is not under the control of an Arab government, and present production could be considerably increased in an emergency. This strengthens the West’s hand viv-a-vis the Arab oil producing countries.”

(British Joint Intelligence Committee, 1961.)

“It [Saudi Arabia] has no moral code of laws and its criminal justice is is of mediaeval barbarity… Corruption is widespread. The country sits on top of some of the richest oil resources in the world…”

(British Ambassador Colin Crowe, to Foreign Secretary Alec Douglas-Home, June 20 1963.)

“Aden is essential for our vital oil and strategic interests.”

(British commander in the Middle East Air Marshal Charles Ellsworthy, mid 1960s.)

“The economic health and well-being of the United States, Western Europe, Japan depend upon continued access to the oil from the Persian area.”

(US President Carter, Department of State Bulletin, April 1978.)

“The US deliberately constructed out of the ruins of the war an international monetary order based on the dollar… With its nuclear and armed forces, the US stood ready to guarantee this open economic system against threats from the Soviet Union on the outside and enemies that might close off certain markets and needed resources such as oil on the inside. As both banker and cop, the US was the guarantor of the postwar global economy.”

(Business Week March 12 1979.)

“Western industrialised societies are largely dependent on the oil resources of the Middle East region and a threat to access to that oil would constitute a grave threat to the vital national interests. This must be dealt with; and that does not exclude the use of force if necessary.”

(US Secretary of State Alexander Haig, March 11 1981.)

“As outlined in the paper, the strategy for Southwest Asia, including the Persian Gulf, directs American forces to be ready to force their way in if necessary, and not to wait for an invitation from a friendly government, which has been the publicly stated policy.”

(US Defense Dept, New York Times May 30 1982.)

“In the future, we are more likely to be involved in Iraq-type things, Panama-type things, Grenada-type things… Our position should be the protection of the oilfields. Now whether Kuwait gets put back, that’s subsidiary stuff.”

(Chairman of US Armed Services Committee Les Aspin, 1990.)

“Mideast oil is the West’s lifeblood. It fuels us today, and being 77 percent of the Free World’s proven oil reserves, it is going to fuel us when the rest of the world has run dry. … It is estimated that within 20 or 40 years the U.S. will have virtually depleted its economically available oil reserves, while the Persian Gulf region will still have at least 100 years of proven oil reserves.”

(US General Schwarzkopf, February 8 1990.)

“It’s been a leading, driving doctrine of U.S. foreign policy since the 1940s that the vast and unparalleled energy resources of the Gulf region will be effectively dominated by the Unites States and its clients, and, crucially, that no independent, indigenous force will be permitted to have a substantial influence on the administration of oil production and price.”

(US political scientist and academic Noam Chomsky, September 11 1990.)

“Shell’s operations are impossible unless ruthless military operations are undertaken for smooth economic activities to commence.”

(Ken Saro-Wiwa, from a secret Nigerian military memo, May 1994. He was executed in 1995.)

“If they turn on the radars we’re going to blow up their goddamn SAMs [missiles]. They know we own their country [Iraq]. We own their airspace… We dictate the way they live and talk. And that’s what’s great about America right now. It’s a good thing, especially when there’s a lot of oil out there we need.”

(US Brigadier General William Looney, June 24 1996, Washington Post, August 30 1999.)

“So where is the oil going to come from? … The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world’s oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies,”

(US Vice President Richard Cheney, CEO of oil company Halliburton, 1999.)

“Colombia is now the third largest recipient of U.S. military aid after Israel and Egypt. Direct U.S. military intervention looms on the horizon for this region
(Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru), which exports more oil to the U.S. than the entire Middle East.”

(CovertAction Quarterly magazine, 1999.)

“US aid is to improve U.S.-Kazakh military cooperation while establishing a U.S.-interoperable base along the oil-rich Caspian.”

(US State Department Report, 2002.)

“In oil’s name, the United States is immersed in a new kind of colonialism, for the resources that lie under foreign feet. They couldn’t care less about the people. Therein lies an even greater tragedy.”

(U.S. Dept. of State, Congressional Budget Justifications: Foreign Operations, 2003.)

“… we’ve got to win a real war, which involves using a lot of troops and building a nation, and that’s at the core of the president’s strategy for rebuilding the Middle East.

(William Kristol, chairman of the PNAC
(Project for the New American Century), 2004.)

“Whoever controls oil controls much more than oil.”

(US Senator John McCain, June 17 2008.)

“Our aim is not simply to appropriate oil in one way or another
(say in easily accessible Nigeria or Venezuela) but to crush OPEC. Therefore we have to use direct force in order to get hold of large and concentrated oil deposits which can be opened up rapidly so as to put an end to the artificial oil shortage and thus to lower the price… Since this is the ultimate and there is only one target possible: Saudi Arabia… Fortunately, these are not only rich oilfields but they are also concentrated in a very small area, a fraction of the Saudi Arabian territory… While Vietnam was full of trees and brave people and our national interest was almost invisible, what we have here is no trees, very few people and a clear objective.”

(Adviser to US Defence Department Professor Miles Ignotas.)

“The mistake of the West was to put the Sauds on the throne of Saudi Arabia and give them control of the world’s oil fortune, which they then used to propagate Wahhabi Islam.”

(British novelist Salman Rushdie.)

“We do not have any defence treaties with Kuwait, and there are no special defence or security commitments to Kuwait.”

(Margaret Tutweiller, US State Department, deliberately enticing the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, which was a few days later.)

“Venezuela has the biggest oil reserves in the world. And the biggest gas reserves in this hemisphere, the eighth in the world. Venezuela was a U.S. oil colony. All of our oil was going up to the north, and the gas was being used by the U.S. and not by us. Now we are diversifying. Our oil is helping the poor. … If the United States was mad enough to attack Iran or aggress Venezuela again the price of a barrel of oil could reach $150 or evan $200.”

(Venezuelan socialist President Hugo Chavez.)

“And finally, this notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. And having said that, all options are on the table.”

(US President George Bush.)

“[Genocide] certainly is a valid word in my view, when you have a situation where we see thousands of deaths per month, a possible total of I million to 1.5 million over the last nine years. If that is not genocide, then I don’t know quite what is.”

(UN humanitarian coordinator Denis Halliday on US sanctions on Iraq.)

“Natural resources and inanimate energy… are increasingly regarded as affected with public interest… Certainly they were left by God or geology to mankind and not to the Standard Oil Company of California. If this is not sound moral doctrine, I do not know what is.”

(US writer Stuart Chase.)

“The use of solar energy has not been opened up because the oil industry does not own the sun.”

(US activist and author Ralph Nader.)

“The good Lord didn’t see fit to put oil and gas only where there are democratically elected regimes friendly to the United States. Occasionally we have to operate in places where, all considered, one would not normally choose to go. But we go where the business is.”

(US Vice President Dick Cheney.)

“It is clear our nation is reliant upon big foreign oil.”

(US President George Bush.)

“Now you have people in Washington who have no interest in the country at all. They’re interested in their companies, their corporations grabbing Caspian oil.”

(US writer Gore Vidal.)

“Bahrain lies at the epicenter of Gulf security and any violent upheaval in Bahrain would have enormous geopolitical consequences. Global economic stability depends on the uninterrupted export of crude oil from the Gulf to markets around the world, a job that historically has been assigned to the U.S. Fifth Fleet.”

(King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, whose billionaire family have ruled Bahrain since 1780.)

“From the 1920s into the 1940s, Britain’s standard of living was supported by oil from Iran. British cars, trucks, and buses ran on cheap Iranian oil. Factories throughout Britain were fueled by oil from Iran. The Royal Navy, which projected British power all over the world, powered its ships with Iranian oil.”

(US journalist and author Stephen Kinzer.)

“Control over the production and distribution of oil is the decisive factor in defining who rules whom in the Middle East.”

(US critic and author Christopher Hitchens.)

“The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law.”

(English playwright Harold Pinter.)

“If you go into the Ecuadorian Amazon and you stick your hand in the ground, what you get is oil sludge. The oil companies continue doing whatever they please.”

(Equadoran President Rafael Correa.)

“In Iraq, [American administration] said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction endangering mankind. With this pretext, the U.S. intervened militarily, and all they did is take control over oil fields, and oil wells.”

(Bolivian socialist President Evo Morales.)

“My point is that it’s incorrect to say that the Iraq policy isn’t working. It is working. It is doing what they want. They have got control of the oil and they are exporting it, and they have stripped a government that was 90% state owned and they are privatizing it.

(US political economist, social scientist and author Michael Parenti.)

“…an oil policy with origins in the US State Department is on course to be adopted in Iraq… with no public debate and at enormous potential cost… allocates the majority of Iraq’s oilfields, accounting for at least 64% of the country’s oil reserves, for development by multinational oil companies.”

(In other words, mostly US companies. The Rip Off of Iraq’s Oil Wealth, British Non Government Organisation, Platform, 2005. Quoted in William Blum “America’s Deadliest Export. Democracy. The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything else.”)

“…an oil policy with origins in the US State Department is on course to be adopted in Iraq… with no public debate and at enormous potential cost… allocates the majority of Iraq’s oilfields, accounting for at least 64% of the country’s oil reserves, for development by multinational oil companies.”

(In other words, mostly US companies. The Rip Off of Iraq’s Oil Wealth, British Non Government Organisation, Platform, 2005. Quoted in William Blum “America’s Deadliest Export. Democracy. The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything else.”)

Brian was born in the bombed out wartime East End of London and developed an interest in political books early on. He worked in various technical fields for 20 years, all of which thoroughly bored him. He entered academic life (History and Classical Economics) and became an independent journalist, worked for the ANC (secret at the time) until the end of apartheid, and was a trade union representative in a large hospital. He is now retired and still works (when able) as an independent journalist.


1 Comment »

  1. If you look at e.g. the frankly imperialist editorials in the NYT etc. re the U.S. invasion of the Philippines 1899-1902 they are frank in their gloating about plunder–X many board feet of mahogany, etc.

    Despite a certain amount of halfassed gibber suggesting the recolonization of “shithole” countries, Trump & Co–while undeniably, terrifyingly destructive in everything they do–do not seem to have succeeded in reviving this piratical frankness across the board.

    What is different about the modern age–and for that matter what distinguishes our belated decadent phase of capitalist imperialism, with e.g. its emphasis on the superexploitation of foreign industrial labor, from circa 1900 imperialism given that the two have a clear material basis in common? Or indeed from e.g. the (IMHO wrong) Toynbee idea about the Roman alleged pure plunder slave economy.

    Are we speaking here of unalterable human nature based on greed or of sinful humanity even–or of unalterable, timeless evil in the US & US/”western” policies and bus. practices?

    Iraq and “middle east” policy are certainly still, as in the WW1 era, very much “about oil” as this piece reminds us tellingly. It’s easy to lose sight of this unalterable fact.

    But–one hopes without indulging in the idiocy of whataboutery (not intended)–what is it that objectively distinguishes the current period from its early 20th c. predecessor? Where are the left movements that even in the U.S. succeeded early last century in mounting a challenge to the then version of imperialism, but appear incapable of doing so at present? Is their defeat final? Are we left with only a moral basis for opposition?

    Great piece–this is not a complaint or any sort of accusation, but expression of a desire to take the discussion further (and further than I certainly could take it unaided).

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — March 28, 2018 @ 12:25 pm

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