September 16, 2001
THE WELL OILED MEDIA
Where are the moderating voices, the views of those who stand against the momentum of war, who challenge the self-serving rationalizations of empire? You are unlikely to find them in the major media.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is headed by Bob Coonrod, formerly deputy managing director of the U.S. propaganda station Voice of America. At the helm of National Public Radio is Kevin Klose, formerly director of the International Broadcasting Bureau, which oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, and Radio and Television Marti. [Klose in September 2002 was in Rhinebeck, New York, arguing the necessity of attacking Iraq.] The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is Michael Powell, son of the secretary of state.
[March 2003: Clear Channel, the Texas-based owner of more than 1200 radio and 36 television stations in the USA, with its own syndication and tour management divisions, has been organizing rallies in support of invading Iraq. They also maintain and enforce a list of banned songs and musicians for their stations. Vice chairman Tom Hicks made George W. Bush a multimillionaire by buying the Texas Rangers baseball team from him. As one of the creators and the first chairman of the University of Texas Investment Management Company (with Clear Channel founder Lowry Mays on the board) when Bush was governor, he turned over the control of its funds to companies close to the Bushes, including The Carlyle Group mentioned below. Clear Channel's growth has depended on continued deregulation and lax oversight by the FCC and has its own lobbying office in Washington.]
Secretary of State Colin Powell was on the corporate board of America Online, now merged with Time-Warner, which owns CNN. A member of AOL/Time-Warner's board of directors, Carla Hills, also sits on the board of directors of Chevron. She was the first President Bush's trade representative. On the board of directors of Exxon-Mobil sits J. Richard Munro, former chairman and CEO of Time-Warner. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was on the board of the Tribune Company, owner of the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, and many other newspapers as well as TV stations.
[November 2003: Hollinger International board members are charged with pocketing tens of millions of dollars received from other companies. Hollinger is a media company, owned by Conrad Black, that owns the Daily Telegraph in London, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the Jerusalem Post. Hollinger Digital is their investment division and is headed by Richard Perle, who is on the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, which is essentially an industry liaison office (Perle was chairman until questions of propriety forced him to another seat). He also heads Trireme Partners, which is aggressively investing in "homeland security" projects, and steered $2.5 million from Hollinger to Trireme. Gerald Hillman, also on the Defense Policy Board, invested $14 million in Trireme and became a partner. Henry Kissinger is a director at Hollinger and a Trireme advisor. Another Hollinger director is Richard Burt, a former arms negotiator. The Carlyle Group (see below) is considering bailing out Black.]
Oil companies often share board members with the media. The director of Texaco (recently merged with Chevron), former senator Sam Nunn, is also on the board of directors of GE/NBC (GE is the nation's sixth largest defense contractor). Texaco board of directors member Charles Price sits on the New York Times/Boston Globe board of directors. Corporate board member William Steere is on the board of directors of Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal. A member of the Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal corporate board, Rand Araskog, also sits on the board of directors of Shell Oil.
The connections of the current White House administration with big oil hardly need mentioning. Most notably, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice comes from the board of directors of Chevron -- which has a tanker named for her -- and Vice President Dick Cheney (secretary of defense during the first Bush presidency) was chairman and CEO of Halliburton, which provides construction and maintenance services to the oil and other energy industries as well as field support to the military. Although he sold most of his stock when he made himself Bush's running mate, he retains about $8 million in stock options and continues to get up to $1 million a year in separation pay. Over 200 former employees of Enron, the fabulously cynical and corrupt energy broker based in Texas, have found jobs in the current Bush administration. A significant investor in President Bush's early oil ventures was the bin Laden Group, a multinational construction conglomerate based in Saudi Arabia. The bin Laden Group has also invested in The Carlyle Group, a global investment firm headed by James Baker (the elder Bush's secretary of state) and Frank Carlucci (secretary of defense under Reagan and a close friend of the current secretary of defense). Former President Bush himself is a senior advisor. John Major (former prime minister of the U.K.) is the group's European chairman. Fidel Ramos (former president of the Philippines) is an advisor. One of their operations in Saudi Arabia is an official part of the government. Much of their focus is defense and energy, and they also own a stake in multinational conglomerate Vivendi's publishing operations.
All of these oil companies, with important ties to the U.S. media, have interests in the Middle East crucial to their profits. Another company, Unocal, was the major player in a January 1998 agreement with the Taliban to build a natural gas pipeline across Afghanistan. (The U.S. had covertly funded the Taliban to bring stability for the pipeline deal.) In December 1998, they put the project on hold "until an internationally recognized government was in place." Unocal runs its own political action committee and is a major donor to the Republican Party. They spend about $1.5 million every year for lobbying.
Robert Oakley, U.S. ambassador to Pakistan in the 1980's and instrumental to the CIA support of the Afghan Mujahedin (in which Osama bin Laden became a commander), now works for Unocal. One of the Mujahedin's leaders, Hamid Karzai, was the main intermediary between the Mujahedin and the CIA. He later became a top advisor to Unocal and after the ending of Taliban rule in Afghanistan was installed as prime minister. Henry Kissinger also works for Unocal. Secretary of the Air Force under the elder George Bush, Donald Rice, is on Unocal's board of directors. (Rice is also a former president of the military think tank RAND.) Another board member is Charles Larson, former commander-in-chief of the U.S. Navy's pacific command. Former RAND employee and Unocal advisor Zalman Khalilzad is now the National Security Council's advisor for southwest Asia. Afghanistan-born Khalilzad was also an advisor to the state department in the 1980's and is a close associate of Vice President Cheney and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. [On December 31, 2001, Khalilzad became special envoy to Afghanistan.]
The Soviet Union estimated that Afghanistan sits on 5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, 95 million barrels of oil, and 400 million tons of coal. Unocal has stated that "Afghanistan's ... potential includes proposed multi-billion-dollar oil and gas export pipelines." The vice president of Unocal testified in 1998 to a U.S. House committee about the importance of stabilizing the potential oil fields of central Asia and that the best pipeline route for transporting their oil is across Afghanistan to the Pakistani coast. A cheap supply of natural gas is needed by a huge Enron-built power plant in Dabhol, on the west coast of India.
As with our response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, and to the overthrow of Siad Barre in Somalia, a war in Afghanistan (or new ones in Somalia and Iraq) will not be to relieve the suffering of its population or to defend against a serious threat to democratic and civil rights. In the name of terror's victims, war will be pursued to protect future profits for those making, as well as those reporting, the decisions.
"Every nation has its war party. It is not the party of democracy. It is the party of autocracy. It seeks to dominate absolutely. It is commercial, imperialistic, ruthless. It tolerates no opposition. ... In times of peace, the war party insists on making preparation for war. As soon as prepared for war, it insists on making war." --Senator Robert M. La Follette, Sr., June 1917
The pirate class are creating the conditions in which they can convert U.S. power directly into capital. --The Black Commentator (Glen Ford & Peter Gamble)
The only “necessity” that drew the United States to Afghanistan was the desire to establish a military presence in this land that is next door to the Caspian Sea region of Central Asia – reportedly containing the second largest proven reserves of petroleum and natural gas in the world – and build oil and gas pipelines from that region running through Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is well situated for such pipelines to serve much of South Asia and even parts of Europe, pipelines that – crucially – can bypass Washington’s bêtes noire, Iran and Russia. If only the Taliban would not attack the lines. Here’s Richard Boucher, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, in 2007: “One of our goals is to stabilize Afghanistan, so it can become a conduit and a hub between South and Central Asia so that energy can flow to the south.”
Since the 1980s all kinds of pipelines have been planned for the area, only to be delayed or canceled by one military, financial or political problem or another. For example, the so-called TAPI pipeline (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) had strong support from Washington, which was eager to block a competing pipeline that would bring gas to Pakistan and India from Iran. TAPI goes back to the late 1990s, when the Taliban government held talks with the California-based oil company Unocal Corporation. These talks were conducted with the full knowledge of the Clinton administration, and were undeterred by the extreme repression of Taliban society. Taliban officials even made trips to the United States for discussions.
Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific on February 12, 1998, Unocal representative John Maresca discussed the importance of the pipeline project and the increasing difficulties in dealing with the Taliban:
The region’s total oil reserves may well reach more than 60 billion barrels of oil. Some estimates are as high as 200 billion barrels … From the outset, we have made it clear that construction of the pipeline we have proposed across Afghanistan could not begin until a recognized government is in place that has the confidence of governments, leaders, and our company.When those talks with the Taliban stalled in 2001, the Bush administration reportedly threatened the Taliban with military reprisals if the Afghan government did not go along with American demands. On August 2 in Islamabad, US State Department negotiator Christine Rocca reiterated to the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef: “Either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold [oil], or we bury you under a carpet of bombs.” The talks finally broke down for good a month before 9-11.