FLASHPOINT IN THE FLATHEAD

US-Canada War Looms Over Energy, Water

by Bill Weinberg, World War 4 Report

Washington’s new tensions with its northern neighbor and largest trading partner appear to be over perceived Canadian reticence to support US imperial adventures in the Middle East. But the vast resources of Canada itself—made more critical both by instability in the energy-rich Mideast and by shortages of such basic commodities as water brought on by climate change—may be providing a long-term source of conflict between the two giants of North America. While on the economic front all talk is currently of integration and falling trade barriers, battles are already being waged by the grassroots both sides of the border against resource plunder and mega-development schemes. These could eventually mean war between the two longtime allies if a populist government comes to power in Ottawa and tries to turn off the spigot of south-bound resources—and the Pentagon has already drawn up plans for this contingency. Rumbles are already being felt in such unlikely places as the rolling farmlands of upstate New York, the grizzly-haunted pine forests of Montana’s wild Flathead Valley, the windswept high plains of northern Alberta, and the remote passages of the Arctic Sea.

Middle East Oil Wars and the Northwest Passage

This summer, global warming for the first time opened the long-sought Northwest Passage, as area covered by sea ice in the Arctic shrank to its lowest level since satellite measurements began 30 years ago. The normally ice-bound passage was now navigable to commercial ship traffic—and will likely become more so in the years to come. A new study from the National Center for Atmospheric Research finds that the Arctic Ocean could become nearly devoid of ice during summer as early as 2040.

A navigable route between the Atlantic and Pacific as an artery for trade and resource exploitation had been sought for centuries, and was the elusive goad of the Lewis & Clark expedition. Now that it has been opened—if inadvertently—it will mean easier access to the Arctic and its resources, including oil. Ironically, it could thereby exacerbate global warming. It will likely also exacerbate the geopolitical struggle over the far north. Russian authorities have already announced they will open new ports on the Arctic Sea as major petroleum hubs for the 21st century.

This development comes just as Canada has been asserting sovereignty over Northwest Passage—in an unsubtle message to Washington.

The US Navy has for years sent its nuclear submarines under the ice through the Arctic Sea passage—a route that passes hundreds of Canadian islands, through straits as narrow as 20 kilometers. But when Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper took power in Ottawa last year, he immediately announced it must stop. The US said no dice.

Parliamentary Secretary Jason Kenney said: “Any foreign government should ask permission before entering our territorial waters.” Sean McCormack of the US State department retorted: “We believe it is an international strait. It’s a longstanding policy of the US government.”

Ottawa announced it was dispatching troops to the Arctic to assert tis sovereignty claim: up to 52 soldiers in five snowmobile patrols to cover 4,500 kilometers, building airstrips on the sea ice, installing electronic sensing equipment, and laying the groundwork for two High Arctic bases. Harper’s government also proposed to build a new deep-water port for three armed icebreakers on the Arctic Sea.

Ottawa’s rift with Washington has been little abated by the switch from a Liberal to Conservative government last year. Canada has 2,500 troops in Afghanistan under NATO command—where they have sustained more than 70 fatalities, including one in a “friendly fire” incident when Canadian positions were strafed by US jets in Kandahar last September, leaving dozens more wounded. But Ottawa has declined to join Washington’s “coalition of the willing” in Iraq. And Canada is considering withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan, according to an interim report by the Canadian Senate committee on national security and defense. The report demands more money for the operation and a bigger commitment from other NATO countries within a year. If these demands are not met, Ottawa should reconsider its mission, the head of the Senate committee Colin Kenny said upon release of the report. He asked: “Are Canadians willing to commit themselves to decades of involvement in Afghanistan, which could cost hundreds of Canadian lives and billions of dollars with no guarantee of ending up with anything like the kind of society that makes sense to us?”

President Bush angered some northern neighbors this February when his speech calling for an all-out allied effort against the Taliban failed to mention Canada. Bush singled out for praise the UK, Denmark, Norway, Poland, Turkey, Greece and Iceland. While the Foreign Affairs ministry was conciliatory (“I’m certain it’s just, maybe, a little error,” said Minister Peter MacKay), opposition leaders were far less sanguine. “Maybe with Harper leading Canada, he thinks it’s become the 51st American state,” said Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe. “That might explain it.”

In 2005, Liberal PM Paul Martin declined to participate in the missile defense system the US is building for North America. “This is our airspace, we’re a sovereign nation and you don’t intrude on a sovereign nation’s airspace without seeking permission,” Martin said. Paul Cellucci, the outgoing US Ambassador to Canada, saying he was “perplexed” by the decision, made clear that the US would not respect Canadian airspace in the event of an attack: “We simply cannot understand why Canada would in effect give up its sovereignty—its seat at the table—to decide what to do about a missile that might be coming towards Canada.”

A joint US-Canadian “Americas Command” proposed by the Pentagon after 9-11 has also failed to come into fruition, with Ottawa accusing Ambassador Cellucci of undue pressure on Canada to raise its defense budget.

Pressure from below was definitely felt in Ottawa in these matters—and especially from Canada’s increasingly restive First Nations. For over six months in 2001, the Dene Suline Indians of Cold Lake, Alberta, reoccupied their traditional territory at the Primrose Lake Air Weapons Range in protest of the NATO bombing of their territory. The Dene established a camp at the main entrance of the weapons range, accusing the Canadian government of illegally holding the land in violation of an expired 20-year lease—with Dene burial sites, and hunting and fishing grounds destroyed by daily bombing practice runs, and the Dene reduced to poverty in their own land, with alarmingly high rates of alcoholism and suicide. In June 2001, the Dene Suline also blocked an Alberta Energy Corporation (AEC) access road in the area and established a camp there, re-asserting their title to their homelands under the 1997 Delgamuukw Canadian Supreme Court decision, which affirmed the inherent rights of Native peoples. AEC is exploiting oil in the area, and has access to the Weapons Range, while the Dene do not.

In July 2007, First Nations activists held protests across Canada over the Canada Day holiday weekend in a National Day of Action against the Conservative government emphasizing land claims and other disputes. In Ontario, camouflage-clad Mohawks, some reportedly armed, blocked Highway 401 between Belleville and Napanee for more than 10 hours June 29 and also halted passenger and freight train service along the Canadian National Railway’s busiest corridor. Rail service between Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa was shut for several hours.

Energy Wars

On the face of it, tensions notwithstanding, the trajectory since NAFTA has been all towards integration—in both the economic and military spheres.

This August, Harper, Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon met in Montebello, Quebec, for a third session on the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP, or ASPAN in Spanish), an agreement increasing military and police cooperation between the three NAFTA partners. About 5,000 protesters, some dressed as clowns or guerrilla fighters, chanted “Bush go home!” near the Chateau Montebello, where the three leaders were meeting. Riot police, used tear gas, pepper spray and club to drive the protesters back at the gates.

In June, several were arrested at a protest in Halifax, Nova Scotia, against a conference to promote the “Atlantica” free trade zone proposal, with police using pepper spray and electric stun- guns. The Atlantica project, officially known as the International Northeast Economic Region (AINER), envisions new ports, transmission lines and superhighways to integrate Canada’s Maritime provinces with New England and upstate New York.

Massive new energy transfers are already planned—and are meeting local opposition both sides of the border.

The US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman Oct. 3 finalized designation of two controversial Mid-Atlantic Area National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor. Canadian power developers had been awaiting the Washington’s approval to supersede almost unanimous New York and Pennsylvania state and local objections to the corridors. The move was immediately protested by New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. “This designation will allow the federal government to pre-empt New York’s legitimate oversight and process for reviewing and siting transmission projects within our state borders,” Spitzer said in a statement.

Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Secretary of Energy has the power to designate National Corridors, under which the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) can issue permits for new transmission facilities over the heads of state and local authorities.

At immediate issue is the New York Regional Interconnect (NYRI), a proposed 190-mile 1,200-megawatt line of 130-foot pylons linking Marcy to New Windsor, NY, following the Delaware Valley, to deliver Canadian power to the New York City metropolitan area. NYRI Inc., which proposes to build the lines, is a secretive group of private investors headed by a Canadian entrepreneur, Richard Muddiman. Much of the right-of-ways for the line are to be seized by eminent domain. NYRI Inc. has threatened to sue New York State over legislation signed by outgoing Gov. George Pataki last year limiting NYRI’s use of eminent domain.

When the Marcy Line, the first major link between the New York and Canadian grids, was built in the 1970s following the first big thrust of hydro-electric development in northern Quebec, there were angry protests—especially at the Akwesasne Mohawk reservation straddling the New York-Canadian border of the St. Lawrence River, where Indians blockaded construction equipment. But critics point out that the NYRI would cut far closer to towns and homes than the Marcy Line did.

Also at issue in the Corridor is a plan by Allegheny Power of Pennsylvania to build a 37-mile line through the west of the state, delivering power from its coal-fired generators to out-of-state markets.

The Energy Department additionally approved a Southwest Area National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor, which will allow a 230-mile transmission line to connect Arizona’s Palo Verde nuclear plant to the California grid—over the veto of Arizona state authorities.

But it is in the northern Rockies of Montana and British Columbia that acrimony over planned energy transfers and resource exploitation have resulted in a government surveillance scandal—and alarmingly bellicose cross-border rhetorical sniping by local politicians.

Surveillance Scandal Hits the Heartland

A front-page story by reporter Jessie McQuillan in the Oct. 11 issue of Montana’s weekly Missoula Independent reveals that members of the Alberta Energy Utility Board (EUB) this year hired four private investigators who infiltrated meetings and eavesdropped on conversations of landowners and their attorneys as they discussed opposition to proposed new international transmission lines in the region.

The project in question is a new Calgary-Edmonton line proposed by Altalink, Canada’s largest electricity transmission company. Altalink says the new transmission capacity is needed to supply Calgary’s power in coming years, but critics believe the line—to be built with taxpayer money but owned entirely by Altalink—would be used primarily to export power to the United States. Opponents have teamed up with other landowners who are organizing against another transmission line—proposed by Montana Alberta Tie Limited (MATL)—that would link Lethbridge, Alberta, to Great Falls, providing the first Canadian link to the Montana grid and a possible connection to the Altalink line.

Landowners had suspected that someone was spying on them during numerous hearings in spring 2007, but both Altalink and the EUB denied it. Finally, activists obtained documents under Canada’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) that revealed that a private EUB investigator posing as a concerned landowner had (at least) joined a conference call between Albertans and Montanans opposed to the Altalink project.

One of the legitimate callers, Katrina Martin, who lives on a farm near Dutton, MT, along MATL’s proposed route, told the Independent: “The fact that a quasi-judicial agency would hire agents to do intelligence gathering on citizens engaged in an open, public process is scary and appalling. Obviously that board has decided who the enemy is, and that the people who have audacity to question these issues should be infiltrated and spied upon.”

Joe Anglin, president of the 800-member Lavesta Area Group in Alberta that’s fighting Altalink’s proposal, is among those who filed for the documents under the FOIP. He told the Independent: “We knew they were infiltrating our group from the beginning because we knew everyone in our group… in the middle of a bunch of grandmothers sat some 300-pound ex-RCMP-looking guy eating all the cookies!”

The EUB insists it hired the spies to help ensure security at tense public meetings—at one of which an elderly woman swung (and missed) at an EUB commissioner. But two separate investigations by the Canadian government concluded the EUB’s actions were illegal and “repulsive.” In September, the scandal resulted in the appointment of a new EUB chairman, William Tilleman, and the disbanding of the agency’s security unit. But farmers say EUB commissioners themselves should be held accountable—and on Sept. 30 chairman Tilleman announced it was voiding all the proceedings on the Altalink line. The review process that began in 2004 will start fresh once Altalink reapplies to construct the project.

“This EUB decision is the equivalent of granting a mistrial,” Tilleman said in a statement. “Albertans must be confident that this Board acts fairly, responsibly and in the public interest. Mistakes have been made on this file, and I believe the only way to re-establish public confidence is to go back to square one on this process.”

Hearings on the MATL line, meanwhile, opened in October at Lethbridge, Alberta—attended by wary activists from the local Citizens for Responsible Power Transmission. Said Lethbridge llama rancher Margaret Lewis: “It will be very difficult for us going into this hearing to forget what happened and to believe we’re having a fair hearing.”

And there will be plenty of opportunities for more such political battles in the years to come if the continental energy planners get their way. Energy giant TransCanada is planning a new massive series of power lines collectively known as NorthernLights, to facilitate future power transfers. The NorthernLights project envisions three new 3,000-megawatt arteries: one linking Montana to Los Angeles across the Rockies, a second stretching from northern Alberta down the West Coast to California, and a third connecting the oilfields of northeast Wyoming to Las Vegas, with possible extensions to LA and Phoenix.

While the MATL is being built ostensibly to export wind power, Canada’s vast hydrocarbon resources play explicitly into the NorthernLights plan—despite the boast on its website of “environmentally attractive” electricity. The Alberta leg of the NorthernLights project would start in the oil sands boomtown of Fort McMurray. Planned massive expansion of Canadian hydrocarbon exploitation provides another source of trans-border tension.

The Battle for the Flathead

Canada is the USA’s largest foreign supplier of energy. In 2006 Canada exported south 2.3 million barrels per day of oil and petroleum products (11% of U.S. supply); 3.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (16% of US supply); and 41.2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity (1% of US supply).

The biggest chunk of Canada’s energy resources sit directly north of Montana, in Alberta—including 80% of its natural gas and the bulk of its crude supply. The crude, sunk deep in the tar sands below northern Alberta’s subarctic boreal forests, were long considered too difficult and expensive to access. But recent soaring oil prices have changed this.

The tar sands contain a thick substance called bitumen—a mix of oil, sand, water and clay—and the northern forests of Alberta are being rapidly razed to get at it. The process means scooping up two tons of tar sands for every barrel of oil that will finally be produced. The process also requires two to three barrels of clean water for each extracted barrel of bitumen, which then must be further refined. Much of the water needed for bitumen extraction is being drained from the Athabasca River. Alberta’s Pembina Institute boasts that oil sands production more than doubled to 1.1 million barrels per day between 1995 and 2004. The Alberta government anticipates oil sands production will grow to three million barrels per day by 2020 and five million barrels per day by 2030.

While development of the oil sands centers in Alberta’s far north, Montana’s Gov. Brian Schweitzer has proposed a series of seven new bitumen refineries for the state to process the imports.

Additionally, where coal is concerned, Alberta’s new thrust of energy development is sparking yet another cross-border imbroglio. Gov. Schweitzer himself is aggressively pushing a big expansion of the coal industry within Montana’s borders, but a proposed new coal mine just above the Montana line in Alberta is causing controversy—because of its proximity to Glacier National Park, and potential impact on a scenic river that flows south into US territory.

US and Canadian officials met this October in Paris to discuss how the international park on their border could be protected from a proposed coal mine nearby. Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was designated by the UN as a World Heritage site in 1995. The mine, proposed by Canada’s Cline Mining Co., would be north of Montana’s Glacier National Park, which abuts Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, where the province meets British Columbia. The two parks make up the international park—and topped the agenda at the World Heritage Convention that convened in Paris Oct. 24-25.

Montana Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester have urged that Washington work to add Waterton-Glacier to the UN’s list of endangered World Heritage Sites. Of some 850 World Heritage Sites, about 30 are classified as endangered. In a letter to the US Interior Department on the matter, Baucus and Tester said the mining could “contaminate one of the park’s most pristine rivers, destroy the habitat of endangered species, and compromise the natural character that makes the peace park a world treasure.”

Locals are especially worried about the impacts of the mining on the Flathead River, which flows from British Columbia into Montana. The wild Flathead Valley lies adjacent to Glacier National Park on the west. South of the park it broadens to make up the heartland of the Flathead Indian Reservation, which protects some of the USA’s last native bison range. South of the reservation, the Flathead meets the Clark Fork River, a tributary of the Columbia.

Cline Mining is currently seeking British Columbia’s approval for a mountaintop mine just above the headwaters of the Flathead’s North Fork. The mine would produce an annual 2 million tons of coal per year, to be shipped to China.

Cline is nearly done with the first step in British Columbia’s permitting process, outlining the issues that have to be addressed in a formal application. The state of Montana, the US Interior Department, State Department and Environmental Protection Agency have all commented, voicing concerns about potential downstream impacts—but “most of the comments were not included in the [permit] document,” according to Rich Moy, chairman of the nonprofit Flathead Basin Commission. That omission prompted Montana’s Gov. Schweitzer to draft a letter to the Canadian government calling for a more extensive environmental assessment.

Meanwhile, the grassroots is mobilizing. The towns of Whitefish, MT, and Fernie, BC, are currently considering a joint resolution urging Gov. Schweitzer and BC Premier Gordon Campbell to meet and discuss “trans-boundary issues”—specifically, potential threat to the Flathead River by coal-mining upstream in Canada.

There are indications other, bigger corporate players could be following Cline into the Flathead. This year, BP opened an office in Fernie, with an eye towards exploring for oil and coal in the valley.

In February 2007, British Columbia’s top mining minister Bill Bennet stepped down amid outrage at his anti-American sentiments—and Montanans who had been negotiating with the province over the controversial coal project were openly happy to see him go. “Mr. Bennett’s resignation may clear the way for a more constructive government-to-government discussion,” said Whitefish state senator Dan Weinberg, whose district adjoins Bennett’s, with only the international boundary separating the two.

In January, Bennett, a provincial lawmaker and who then held the Cabinet-level post of BC minister for mining, received an e-mail from a Fernie constituent, Maarten Hart—a veterinarian, hunter and president of the local Rod and Gun Club—who expressed concern about the coal project, charging that the BC government “bows to the almighty dollar and faces east three times each day (not to Mecca, but to Wall Street.)”

Bennett shot back cybernetically: “Let me be very direct with you, as you were with me. It is my understanding that you are an American, so I don’t give a shit what your opinion is on Canada or Canadian residents.”

Bennett’s response focused on the fact that Hart, as a “landed immigrant,” was once a US citizen. He called Hart a “fool,” “dumb” and a “self-inflated, pompous, American know-it-all.” Bennett wrote he was “not about to take that kind of bullshit from someone who, for all I know, is up here as an American spy who is actually interested in helping the US create a park in the Flathead.”

When news of the e-mail was leaked to the Vancouver Sun, Bennett resigned his Cabinet post. Premier Campbell called Bennett’s e-mail “unacceptable,” and even Bennett admitted it was “stupid and wrong,” attributed his “earthy” response to a rough life of bar brawls and knife fights, and of never finishing high school. But Hart responded that Bennett’s tirade was inappropriate—especially “for a man who is charged with representing sensitive mining and environmental negotiations with Americans.”

Bennett has championed the proposed mine, and repeatedly launched verbal assaults on lawmakers—including Sen. Baucus, who he once said was not welcome in Canada. Weinberg—who went camping in the contested wilderness last summer with a group of Canadian lawmakers—put a positive spin on the flame-out, saying he remained encouraged that “we have a great deal more in common than we have disagreements.”

He insisted that recent meetings between Montana and BC officials “showed that an overwhelming majority of local residents agree that the transboundary Flathead Valley is a great place that should not be mined.”

But the incident betrays the passions that can be unleashed when fortunes are to be made. And the conflict is likely to be even more impassioned when the resource in question is one which is necessary for life itself: water.

Water Wars

Water levels in the Great Lakes, a key artery for cross-border trade, are dramatically falling, with Lake Ontario about seven inches below where it was a year ago and levels in all five below long-term averages. For every inch of water that the lakes lose, the ships that ferry bulk materials across them must lighten their loads by 270 tons. As a result, more ships are needed, adding millions of dollars to shipping companies’ operating costs, experts in maritime commerce estimate.

The International Joint Commission, which advises the US and Canada on water resources, is conducting a $17 million, five-year study to determine whether the shrinking of the Great Lakes is a result of climate change.

With almost a third of the Southeast now covered by an “exceptional” drought—the worst drought category—the notion of trans-border water transfers from Canada is likely to be floated once again. This idea, a perennial of Western water-brokers and engineering giants, has for decades been dismissed as technically unworkable—only to be revived in times of water crisis.

In July 2001, President Bush told reporters the United States would be interested in piping Canadian water down to the thirsty Southwestern states and that he would raise the issue with then-Prime Minister Jean Chretien at the upcoming G8 Summit in Genoa. The Canadian government immediately responded by insisting bulk exports of water from Canada weren’t on the table.

The Council of Canadians, which has led the campaign against water exports with the support of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Canadian Environmental Law Association, expressed outrage at Bush’s statement. The Council’s chair Maude Barlow accused Chretien of being willing “turn the tap”—despite his denial. “Canadians wanted bulk exports banned and the Liberals are opening the floodgates,” she charged.

Judy Darcy, CUPE’s national president, raised the prospect of a mass privatization of Canada’s water resources. “What is more fundamental to democracy than control over the water we drink?” she asked. “Access for all Canadians to a basic source of life is what’s at stake. Multinational corporations are trying to privatize water services in hundreds of Canadian municipalities and turn our water resources into an export commodity. They can’t buy the air we breathe, so now they want to buy and control the water we drink. What we are saying is simple: No water for profit.”

Journalist Philip Lee, in a series on the global water crisis for the Ottawa Citizen, noted that several Canadian politicians continued to openly push for water exports. A company called McCurdy Enterprises was seeking to export 49 billion liters of water a year from Newfoundland’s Gisborne Lake—with the support of the province’s Premier Roger Grimes

A California company, Sun Belt Water Inc., took Canada to court to force British Columbia to sell bulk water to the US, and claimed millions of dollars in damages for the business it says it has lost through Canada’s refusal to adhere to what it claims are the terms of NAFTA.

The great-grandfather of such proposals was the North American Water and Power Alliance (NAWAPA), designed by the Southern California engineering firm Parsons in cooperation with the provincial utility BC Hydro in the 1960s. NAWAPA called for reversing the flow of British Columbia’s Fraser River and diverting it into the Columbia system, and thence via a series of tunnels and canals to California and the Southwest.

An eastern branch of the scheme was devised in the ’70s by then-Quebec premier Robert Bourassa, whose massive James Bay hydro-electric complex was then under development. Bourassa’s proposal, dubbed the GRAND (Great Replenishment and Northern Development) Canal, called for damming the mouth of James Bay—a vast southern inlet of Hudson Bay, 100 miles across—and turning it into a giant fresh-water reservoir, fed by the rivers that Hydro-Quebec was already damming for power to be exported to the US Northeast. The GRAND Canal would divert the James Bay water into the Great Lakes, and thence (via a miracle of mega-engineering) into the Missouri River and points west.

The conventional wisdom is that the tide has turned against such hubristic schemes. In 1998 when Ontario granted the private Nova Group approval to export millions of liters of Lake Superior water by tanker to Asia, there was an immediate outcry on both sides of the border. The following year, the Canadian government announced a water export prohibition policy, introducing amendments to the International Boundary Waters Treaty Act to bar bulk-water removal from the Great Lakes.

The Canadian and US governments asked the International Joint Commission—established by the Boundary Water Treaty of 1909—to prepare a report on the bulk exports issue. After holding public hearings, the commission’s report recommended that governments “should not permit any new proposal for removal of water from the Great Lakes Basin to proceed unless the proponent can demonstrate that the removal would not endanger the integrity of the Great Lakes Basin.” The commission said there should be “no net loss” of water from the lakes—and argued that the era of major water diversions and transfers had passed, with dams across the American West being dismantled in the interests of ecological restoration.

The NAWAPA idea was kept alive by such fringe organizations as the far-right Lyndon LaRouche cult. But Bush’s 2002 comments indicate the resiliency of the concept in the corridors of power.

Another ominous sign is the revival of mega-scale hydro-electric development in northern Quebec—the so-called “James Bay II” project. The first series of hydro-dams on the rivers feeding James Bay under Bourassa in the 1970s provided the power for export to Con Edison and other Northeast utilities that necessitated construction of the Marcy Line. When Bourassa returned to power in 1984, he immediately announced the next phase of development, which called for damming all the remaining rivers flowing into James Bay, and lined up new contracts with Con Ed for the provincial utility Hydro-Quebec. As Bourassa’s book Power From the North made clear, his envisioned next phase would be the GRAND Canal project.

But the contracts were canceled (before the “grace period” ran out) in 1991 following an activist campaign both sides of the border. This was undertaken in solidarity with the Cree and Inuit indigenous inhabitants of the James Bay region, whose traditional lands were inundated in phase one of the project. The Cree had signed on to the first phase in return for economic benefits after the Canadian courts had ruled they could not stop the project, and the provincial government claimed that agreement also covered phase two. The Cree disagreed; the campaign was launched, the contracts axed, and James Bay II put on hold. Now Quebec, under Premier Jean Charest, has announced a downsized version of James Bay II, which calls for diverting the flow of the Rupert River a hundred miles north into the system of phase-one hydro-dams already built on the Eastmain River. While the Cree Grand Council has signed off on the project, the proposal has bitterly divided the Cree nation.

Meanwhile, the already-existing dams and reservoirs conceived as arteries of NAWAPA are sources of cross-border conflict. Lake Koocanusa, behind the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Libby Dam on the Kootenai River, a Columbia tributary, straddles the BC-Montana border, and was envisioned by NAWAPA’s architects as a key link in their ultra-ambitious scheme. The Kootenai is the next major river to the west of the Flathead, some 50 miles away over the Salish and Whitefish mountains—and also a source of US-Canada tension.

The Columbia River Treaty, negotiated to apportion waters to be affected by the Libby Dam in 1960, had already expired when the dam came online in 1975. Now, with environmentalists demanding sufficient water levels downstream to maintain threatened trout species, British Columbia has complained about insufficient water in the north end of the lake. BC Hydro has even threatened to divert the Kootenai River (spelled Kootenay in Canada) over the divide at Canal Flats into the Lake Columbia, the source of the Columbia River proper—which would leave Lake Koocanusa, the Kootenai and the Libby Dam dry.

Since the signing of NAFTA, Canadian energy exports to the US cannot fall below 1993 levels. Does that include water? Legal scholars argue that once any Canadian water is exported south, it would become a commodity subject to the provisions of the trade agreement. NAFTA guarantees equal access to natural resources on either side of the US-Canadian line. So once the faucet is turned on, it may be impossible to turn it off: it could be a treaty violation and cause for war.

Once infrastructure—and therefore subsistence and survival in a highly organized society—is dependent on imported water, Canadian water resources become a US national security issue. Whether it is oil, electricity or water, any future Canadian effort to re-assert sovereign control over resources could be challenged by Washington as NAFTA-illegal—and, ultimately, a casus belli.

Real Wars

The Canadian press has already reported secret Pentagon contingency plans to use upstate New York’s Ft. Drum as a springboard for a US invasion of Quebec. Details were also revealed in the Washington Post of Dec. 30, 2005, in an article amusingly entitled “Raiding the Icebox.” It revealed a 94-page document called “Joint Army and Navy Basic War Plan—Red,” with the word SECRET stamped on the cover. The document calls for a Naval force to capture the port of Halifax, blockade Vancouver and secure the Great Lakes, while a land invasion starts by seizing the Canadian power plants near Niagara Falls. Army columns are then to advance on three fronts—marching up the shores of Lake Champlain to take Montreal, and across the Great Plains to take the railroad center at Winnipeg and the strategic nickel mines of Ontario.

War Plan Red was actually designed for a war with Great Britain. In the 1920s, US military strategists developed plans for a war with Japan (code name Orange), Germany (Black), Mexico (Green) and England (Red). Military theorists imagined a conflict between the US (Blue) and UK over international trade: “The war aim of RED in a war with BLUE is conceived to be the definite elimination of BLUE as an important economic and commercial rival.”

Since then, the plan has been repeatedly updated to changing political circumstances—most recently to a War on Terrorism context.

A 2002 study by a Toronto think-tank, the C.D. Howe Institute, warned that the US could use the military to seal the Canadian border if officials fear national security is threatened by loose Canadian immigration policy and policing. Said military historian J.L. Granatstein, author of the report: “Although terrorism poses a real threat, it is not the most serious crisis. The danger lies in wearing blinkers about the United States when it is in a vengeful, anxious mood… The United States is deadly serious about homeland defense. The Americans will act, alone if necessary.”

The US has already deployed specially-trained customs agents to detect explosives and unconventional weapons at Canada’s three busiest ports: Halifax, Montreal, and Vancouver—an unprecedented undertaking that media accounts openly said “would have been unthinkable prior to Sept. 11.” US troops have been assigned to northern border posts, and military helicopters patrol what was once hailed as the world’s longest undefended border.

Canadian intelligence services warn that at least 50 international terrorist groups—from al-Qaeda to Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers—operate in Canadian cities, and officials on both sides of the border now warn Canada is unprepared. “Montreal has a large multiethnic population into which it is easy for North Africans and other Muslims to disappear, but the real attraction is its location right on the Great Satan’s doorstep,” said David Harris, former chief of strategic planning for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and now chief of consulting firm Insignis Strategic Research. “Until Canada deals with an out-of-control immigration and refugee situation, the situation will deteriorate. We are heavily penetrated…forcing [the US] to take ever more defensive measures at the northern border.”

But as in Afghanistan and Iraq—where the facade of opposing “terrorism” and “weapons of mass destruction” has crumbled to reveal a naked grab for strategic oil reserves—designs on Canada’s vast natural resources may be the real imperative that underlies the tensions, militarization and war plans.

——

RESOURCES

Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America
http://www.spp.gov/

Atlantica
http://www.atlantica.org/

Stop the Power Lines
Citizen opposition to the Mid-Atlantic Area National Corridor
http://www.stopthepowerlines.com/

Say No to NYRI
http://www.sayno2nyri.com/

NYRI
http://www.nyri.us

MATL
http://www.matl.ca/

Altalink
http://www.altalink.ca/

NorthernLights
http://www.transcanada.com/company/northernlights.html

Flathead Basin Commission
http://www.flatheadbasincommission.org

International Joint Commission
http://www.ijc.org/

Pembina Institute
http://www.pembina.org/

CD Howe Institute
http://www.cdhowe.org/index.cfm

LaRouche-ite Schiller Institute on NAWAPA
http://www.schillerinstitute.org/economy/phys_econ/phys_econ_nawapa_1983.html

REFERENCES

Abrupt Ice Retreat Could Produce Ice-Free Arctic Summers by 2040
Geophysical Research Letters, December 12, 2006
http://www.ucar.edu/news/releases/2006/arctic.shtml

Power play by feds has Spitzer unhappy
Albany Times-Union, Oct. 6, 2007
http://timesunion.com/ASPStories/Story.asp?storyID=627841&newsdate=10/23/2007&BCCode=MBTA

Feds approve controversial power corridor
Pike County Courier, PA, Oct. 4, 2007
http://www.strausnews.com/articles/2007/10/06/pike_county_courier/news/1.txt

US rule jolts power line foes
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Oct. 3, 2007
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07276/822430-55.stm

Feds, state at odds over California-Arizona transmission line
Business Journal of Phoenix, Oct. 2, 2007
http://www.bizjournals.com/phoenix/stories/2007/10/01/daily28.html

Behind the Blackout
Thanks to deregulation, Queens merely a pawn in the utilities’ board game
by Bill Weinberg, Village Voice, Aug. 8, 2006
http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0632,weinberg,74118,5.html

Power Surge:
How a government spying scandal and Alberta’s energy boom hit home in Montana
by Jessie McQuillan, The Missoula Independent, Oct. 11, 2007
http://www.missoulanews.com/index.cfm…

US and Canada to discuss coal mine near Waterton-Glacier Int’l Peace Park
Canadian Press, Oct 2, 2007
http://canadianpress.google.com/article/ALeqM5jdvAXr1JOtloG1uQYKc1AvQg1ccg

US, Canada to discuss Glacier-area coal projects
The Missoulian, Oct. 3, 2007
http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2007/10/03/news/mtregional/news08.txt

Whitefish-Fernie resolution would call for coal summit
Whitefish Pilot, MT, Oct. 11, 2007
http://www.whitefishpilot.com/articles/2007/10/11/news/news03.txt

Battle line on the northern border
High Country News, May 9, 2007
http://www.hcn.org/servlets/hcn.Article?article_id=17022

Inch by Inch, Great Lakes Shrink, and Cargo Carriers Face Losses
New York Times, Oct. 22, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/22/nyregion/22oswego.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Cost, not emotion, likely to kill export idea
by Philip Lee, The Ottawa Citizen, Aug. 16, 2001
Online at EnvironmentProbe
http://www.environmentprobe.org/EnviroProbe/index.cfm?DSP=content&ContentID=2422

Raiding the Icebox
Behind Its Warm Front, the United States Made Cold Calculations to Subdue Canada
by Peter Carlson, Washington Post, Dec. 30, 2005
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/29/AR2005122901412.html

See also:

QUEBEC: PROTESTS ROCK NAFTA SECURITY SUMMIT
As Reports Reveal Free Trade’s Empty Promise
from Weekly News Update on the Americas
WW4 REPORT, September 2007
/node/4365

HYDRO-COLONIALISM ADVANCES IN CANADA’S FAR NORTH
Cree Nation Divided Over James Bay Mega-Project
by Bill Weinberg, Indian Country Today
WW4 REPORT, June 2007
/node/3980

THE QUEENS BLACKOUTS: KENNETH LAY’S REVENGE?
by Bill Weinberg
WW4 REPORT, August 2006
/node/2258

From our weblog:

Canadians march against Afghan mission
WW4 REPORT, Oct. 29, 2007
/node/4595#comment-307474

Ecology scapegoated in Southern California disaster
WW4 REPORT, Oct. 25, 2007
/node/4586

Montana to Kurdistan: global oil prices react
WW4 REPORT, Oct. 18, 2007
/node/4577

Global warming opens Northwest Passage
WW4 REPORT, Sept. 16, 2007
/node/4431

NAFTA security summit held in Ottawa
WW4 REPORT, Feb. 25, 2007
/node/3230

Canada reaches sovereignty deal with Cree nation
WW4 REPORT, July 17, 2007
/node/4235

Canada: Mohawks block roads, rail lines in National Day of Action
WW4 REPORT, July 3, 2007
/node/4172

Native nations protest US-Canada border restrictions
WW4 REPORT, Feb. 16, 2007
/node/3156

Canada to withdraw from Afghanistan?
WW4 REPORT, Feb. 16, 2007
/node/3153

Montana flashpoint for looming US-Canada war
WW4 REPORT, Feb. 15, 2007
/node/3150

Afghanistan: thousands displaced in Kandahar fighting
WW4 REPORT, Sept. 7, 2006
/node/2435

Canada asserts sovereignty over Northwest Passage
WW4 REPORT, Feb. 24, 2006
/node/1650

From our archive:

Chretien waffles on “Star Wars” participation
WW4 REPORT, Dec. 16, 2002
/static/64.html#canadian1

Ottawa-DC sniping slows military integration
WW4 REPORT, Dec. 9, 2002
/static/63.html#canada1

Alberta Indians resist NATO
WW4 REPORT, Dec. 9, 2002
/static/63.html#canada8

Who’s next: Canada?
WW4 REPORT, June 23, 2002
/static/39.html#who’snext6

——————-

Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Nov. 1, 2007
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingFLASHPOINT IN THE FLATHEAD 

Issue #. 139. November 2007

Electronic Journal & Daily Weblog IRAQ: EXPOSING THE CORPORATE AGENDA by Antonia Juhasz, Oil Change International DARFUR: NOT A “CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS” Global Capital Connives with African Genocide by Ba Karang, The Hobgoblin, UK EL SALVADOR: MARCH FOR WATER RIGHTS… Read moreIssue #. 139. November 2007

RADICAL NOIR

Sam Spade Meets Emiliano Zapata in Mexico’s Twilight Zone

by Chesley Hicks, WW4 REPORT

Book Review:

The Uncomfortable Dead (What’s Missing is Missing):
A Novel of Four Hands
by Paco Ignacio Taibo II and Subcomandante Marcos
Akashic Books, New York, 2006

The search for the “Evil and the Bad” is the quest that underlies The Uncomfortable Dead, an epistolary mystery, leftist political primer, and love letter to Mexico’s eternal soul.

Mixing surrealism with real-time realism, authors Marcos and Taibo write alternating chapters, each of them taking the voice of one of two detectives who meet in modern-day Mexico City as they unravel the truths behind a murder and cryptic phone messages from a dead man, leading them deeper into the search for the Evil and the Bad.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, strategist and public voice for the longstanding rebel Zapatista movement, probably needs no introduction here. Atop his periodic communiqués, he’s also written numerous books and essays, often noted for their parabolic approach to conveying his global messages on the plight of indigenous peoples, human rights, and environmental justice.

Paco Ignacio Taibo II, a Spanish-born author and activist who has made Mexico his home for over forty years, is a writer of fiction and nonfiction, especially known for penning Che Guevara’s biography, Ernesto Guevara: Also Known as Che, as well as his pulp noir mysteries. The Uncomfortable Dead features one of Taibo’s recurring protagonists, the philosophical, world-weary, one-eyed, lame-legged detective Héctor Belascoarán Shayne.

Shayne is based in Mexico City, where he crosses paths with Marcos’ protagonist, Zapatista detective Elías Contreras, who has journeyed from the rural southeastern mountains to the city (ambivalently nicknamed “The Monster”) on the orders of one Commandante Insurgente…El Sup, a barely-veiled Marcos.

Shayne is hired to investigate the cryptic phone messages—ostensibly from a dead man, a left-wing dissident who was imprisoned and murdered 34 years earlier during Mexico’s Dirty War.

Contreras—who had been on the trail of a disappeared follower of Mexico’s new rebel movement in the southern mountains—is now traversing Mexico City, meeting urban Zapastista compadres, picking up secret packages, and following El Sup’s instructions based on coded communiqués and messages in the packages.

The two gumshoes’ separate pursuits eventually find them both tracking a man named Morales, an everyman of evil, who, it soon becomes apparent, threads the novel as both a metaphor and real person.

All The Uncomfortable Dead‘s characters and settings are playfully sculpted out of real events, real people, and fiction. For instance, it is revealed that the Osama bin Laden the world sees on TV is actually a Los Angeles taco vendor who moonlights as a porno star, and is unwittingly hired by the US government to create the infamous terrorist’s videotapes. This—coming from Marcos, himself a media mystery figure who relies on broadcast communiqués—falls in line with The Uncomfortable Dead‘s patterns of layered commentary and pointed ironies. It’s absurd: and alongside the novel’s other deadpan send-ups on world events and parochial, paranoid certitude, seems nearly plausible.

The authors also name-check Ernesto Zedillio, president of Mexico from 1994 to 2000; former Mexican federal security chief Miguel Nazar Haro; former ambassador Carlos Tello Macías; right-wing secret society El Yunque; President Bush; and Gustav Mahler, among many, referring to them with both humor and historical accuracy.

Despite its layers, The Uncomfortable Dead is a pithy page-turner, and more of whoisit than a whodunit. In one passage, Contreras says, “Everywhere I went, I ran into people like us Zapatistas, which means people who are screwed, which means people willing to fight, which means people who don’t give up.” These are The Uncomfortable Dead‘s heroes—heroes in a story where the passionate downtrodden and misfits sometimes win the day, where righteousness finds a voice if not always victory, where haplessness finds redemption, textured by both writers’ love for the stuff of close-to-the-ground Mexican life: for pozole and chorizo, for principled people, for smoking tobacco and sensually inhaling beauty in the form of a slow, smoggy Mexico City sunset.

Both writers’ literary humor belies the medicine they take to stomach the inequality and corruption they’ve made their lives confronting. Marcos’s writing is more vernacular and stream-of-conscious and occasionally tends toward proselytizing, where Taibo’s style is more descriptively direct and narrative-forward. Still, the authors share plenty of common ground, especially in Mexico, absurdity, a deep rage against injustice, and a taste for therapeutic jest. For instance, When Shayne learns of the taco-terrorist-tape theory, Taibo writes: “Juancho-bin Laden was more than he could take. This was a planetary intrusion. It was like all of a sudden, Mexico would run off with the World Cup, the Olympics and the Davis Cup. It was like, without the like, a Mexican taco vendor had taken over CNN.”

And Marcos’s wry humor works especially well when he spoofs the things he clearly holds dear. In one such example, when a beef-and-cheese dish cooked by an Italian Zapatista supporter (named August) based on a Sup recipe, turns out to be barely edible, Marcos writes, “but August is one of those people who believes the Zapatistas are never wrong, so he claimed the problem was the salsa brand he used.” And his real villains sometimes catch a kind-of break: “The evil is the system and the bad are those who serve the system,” he reveals midway through the book.

Both writers know that both evil and good come in many shades and grades, a theme which plays out in their characters’ relationship with their home country: Mexico is corrupt, Mexico is pure; it’s destructive and its nurturing; it’s poor and it’s rich; it’s soul is worth saving—and might more easily soar the heights of greatness if it were cleansed of few unsavory technocrats, bigots, and corrupt politicos.

Overall, the alternating chapters crossover gracefully, and the two writers’ voices meld well as they send their all-too-human heroes in pursuit of people, things and meaning, which ultimately finds them following the unraveling of human integrity via frayed strands of political and corporate intrigue in Mexico. The pages simmer with anger and move ahead with hope, which give way to nothing save for the inevitability of death. And in The Uncomfortable Dead, even death does not stop the righteous fighter. The dead might be uncomfortable, but they haven’t lost their sense of humor—reminding us that he who laughs last, laughs best.

———

From our weblog:

Subcommander Marcos unveils Osama bin Laden theory
WW4 REPORT, Oct. 4, 2006
/node/2588

—————————-

Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Nov. 1, 2007
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingRADICAL NOIR 

EL SALVADOR: MARCH FOR WATER RIGHTS DEMANDS “BLUE DEMOCRACY”

by Jason Wallach, Upside Down World

After tens of thousands of Salvadorans marched against water privatization on Oct. 5th, the Legislative Assembly voted to advance a measure that would guarantee all Salvadorans the right to water access and ensure environmental controls over water usage. The bill was supported by the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), Christian Democratic Party (PDC), and National Conciliation Party (PCN). A final floor vote on the bill could come as early as next week, though some analysts voiced skepticism that right-wing PDC and PCN were sincere in their support of the legislation.

Demanding “blue democracy,” Salvadorans, led by a coalition of over 125 unions and social organizations, crowded tightly into the plaza outside of the Chamber of Deputies. The march was attended by former US Ambassador to El Salvador Robert White and Maryland politician Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Ana Sol Gutierrez, who represents Maryland’s 15th District in that state’s House of Delegates and was born in Santa Ana, El Salvador, also attended.

“The law should be a legal vessel that allows everyone” water access, said Gutierrez, “We cannot stand silent knowing that 12,000 children are dying because of diseases caused by the lack of hygiene and health that clean water provides.”

FMLN Deputy Lourdes Palacios, a member of the legislative Assembly’s environmental Committee, concurred: “This has been a huge march, a clear manifestation that the public rejects water privatization.”

Palacios questioned whether there was sincere political will to pass the anti-privatization measures into law, but explained the importance of doing so, “This country needs to regulate water usage in a way that guarantees it as a right. There should be access, quality and [an adequate] quantity [of water] for Salvadoran families in a way that doesn’t privilege economic interests.”

Legislating Water

The left-wing FMLN, and the right-wing PDC and PCN supported the bill, which was scribed in large part by environmentalists, consumer advocates, and human rights workers in the faith community. PDC and PCN support of the water bill mimicked a strategy employed in January by those parties to spur Salvadoran President Tony Saca into action on water reform.

Saca has supported water “decentralization”-a euphemism, say detractors, for privatization. However, his Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party has been hesitant to push specific proposals since August 2006, when Saca tried to submit a bill that would have allowed for local municipalities to contract water services with private companies for up to 50 years. Activists caught wind of the proposal and generated a firestorm of opposition.

Interviewed last week by the left-leaning Diario Co-Latino, PCN deputy Orlando Arévalo expressed disdain that the executive branch had not yet presented its water management reform proposal.

“The executive [branch] has spent many years studying and elaborating a proposal, and nothing ever gets to the Assembly.”

That claim echoed statements Arévalo made in January 2007, which were published in the national daily paper La Prensa Gráfica. At the time, his statement was largely seen as an effort to kick-start executive action.

Funes: “Hey, we tried!”

In January of this year, the chief of the Salvadoran national water company, known as ANDA, grabbed headlines at one major news daily exclaiming, “The water law is 80% complete!” The declaration was a signal to all that ARENA was willing to flex its political muscle and move toward privatization. ANDA director Cesar Funes, who is a possible presidential candidate in the upcoming 2009 election, forwarded a proposal for a “General Water Law” to Saca, but nothing has came of it.

Shortly afterward, reports surfaced that Saca was holding back due to internal disagreement between industry leaders, some of whom favor a restructuring of industrial water tariffs and others who benefit from the current fee structure. The resulting stall in legislative momentum was a windfall for activists opposed to such legislation. They spent the time slowly organizing community-based opposition to any potential Saca plan.

That resistance came to a head on July 2, 2007 when police attacked an anti-privatization protest in Suchitoto-30 miles northeast of San Salvador and charged 14 protesters, including four prominent movement leaders, with “acts of terrorism.” The arrests catapulted the issue into the national spotlight.

In late August, members of SETA, the water workers’ union at ANDA (Sindicato de Empresa de Trajabadores de ANDA), met with Funes to check in about the delay in legislation. Funes told them the political situation was too hot for him present anything before the end of the year.

With the 2009 presidential campaign just around the corner, any attempt by ARENA to present a controversial bill would be considered political suicide for their candidate on the campaign trail. However, observers close to the situation said that civic groups are unlikely to let their guard down.

Considering the massive character of October’s march, the Assembly’s action toward progressive water management reform, and the upcoming “terrorism” trial of the July 2 protesters, it doesn’t seem as if things will cool down any time soon.

———

This story first appeared Oct. 10 in Upside Down World
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/936/1/

See also:

EL SALVADOR’S WATER: NOT FOR SALE
Popular Movement Stands Up to Privatization
by Jason Wallach, Upside Down World
WW4 REPORT, October 2006
/node/2576

From our weblog:

El Salvador: anti-privatization protesters jailed
WW4 REPORT, Sept. 17, 2007
/node/4443

—————————-

Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Nov. 1, 2007
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingEL SALVADOR: MARCH FOR WATER RIGHTS DEMANDS “BLUE DEMOCRACY” 

DARFUR: NOT A “CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS”

Global Capital Connives with African Genocide

by Ba Karang, The Hobgoblin, UK

Going by the most recent estimates, in Darfur more than 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million displaced as refugees. But, despite rhetorical pronouncements against the genocide, the world seems to be more preoccupied with other business and “values” (sic) than the lives of Black Africans dying in the desert.

This is not a clash of civilizations; it is common in war that oppression creates and mixes with racial arrogance. Yes, it is the Arab ruling class of Sudan who have unleashed the Janjaweed militia against poor Black Africans. But the brutality is not fundamentally about ideology—control of resources and the interests of global capital lie in the background.

The poverty, decadence, and oppression in Darfur is the result of many years of marginalization—first by the colonial masters, Britain; and then by Arabs. Darfur was effectively an independent state after 1898 following the British war against the Mahdi [Sufi anti-colonial rebel Mohammed Ahmed]. During World War I, the British invaded Darfur to prevent Turkish influence and in 1916 incorporated Darfur into Sudan.

In Darfur’s total estimated population of 7.4 million, largely engaged in subsistence farming and cattle rearing, the semi-nomadic and mainly pastoralist Bedouin Arabs have established themselves in a relatively privileged position through access to grazing lands. In 1980 they established the Tajamu al-Arabi in Darfur, a Pan-Arab Nationalist movement, inspired by Libyan strongman Mommar Qadaffi. Their main political message was nothing other than Arab supremacy. At the time of the war in neighboring Chad, a back yard was created in Darfur for the Libya-supported Chadian rebel movement. The Arab vigilante group now known as the Janjaweed was born out of the Tajamu al-Arabi as a rearguard support network allied with the Chadian rebels.

In 1989, the Sudanese Islamists lunched a military coup and established the present Islamic state of Sudan. The Islamist government started rearming the Janjaweed, who wasted no time in unleashing their terror against the already marginalized Black population. The Janjaweed, by now very powerful, and winning greater state recognition, was assigned to deal with the Black population who had been in constant confrontation with Arab nomads over pastoral land. By this time, the war in Southern Sudan was the preoccupation of the Sudanese government, which was very confident that the low-scale peasant revolt against Arab racism and brutality in Darfur could easily be put under control by the vigilante groups.

In Southern Sudan, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) was delighted by the news of the emerging Darfur resistance movement in 2003, when a military assault was launched against government targets by the newly formed rebel groups.

Land grabs, the drought, hunger and increasing brutality from the Janjaweed forced the villagers of Darfur to form the Sudan Liberation Army (SLM). Another rebel movement, the JEM (Justice and Equality Movement), led by Khalid Ibrahim, also joined the armed struggle as an independent group.

While the SLM was eventually brought to the negotiating table, the JEM was marginalized in the internationally-brokered Darfur peace process. Last year, the JEM and a hold-out faction of the SLM brought together other groups and individuals involved in the armed struggle at Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, to form the National Redemption Front. This organization consists of people who never recognized the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA), which was negotiated by the African Union, EU and the USA and signed in Abuja, Nigeria, on May 5, 2006 by the Sudanese government and SLM.

The National Redemption Front’s founding document says the group seeks to “Uphold Sudan as multicultural, multi-religious and multiethnic country where diversity constitutes the basis of citizenship for individuals, and unity of our nation.” For now, an independent Darfur is not on either the agenda of the rebel movements. The genocide is a result of the demand of the Black African Darfurians for their rights to the land to be recognized, and to be rid of Arab racism.

Despite the 2005 peace accords with the SPLM, the conflict in Southern Sudan is not yet truly over, and Darfur poses an interesting puzzle in that conflict. By 2009 there will be an election in Sudan as part of the 2005 peace plan, and the SPLM is without doubt going to control the South. Darfur consists of almost a quarter of the Sudanese electorate, so the votes from Darfur will play an important role in the composition of the parliament. More importantly still, by 2011 there is to be a referendum (also mandated by the 2005 peace plan) on the question of an independent Southern Sudan—and as things stand now, there is no doubt that the Southern Sudanese will vote for an independent state. This would put more pressure on the Darfur rebel movements to move towards independence—potentially opening a new round of bloody conflict.

Any thing more genuine than the periodic pronouncements against the genocide by European and American leaders will have to come to a direct confrontation with the interests of global capital. Sudan is the backyard of Chinese and Russian capital, and Western Europe and America are very much sensitive to this fact. They have Iraq and Iran to contain and rely greatly on the support of both China and Russia In the so-called war against terrorism.

Recently, Amnesty International accused China and Russia for selling arms to Sudan, and there is no secret in the military cooperation between China and the Sudanese government. As always, arms follow oil investments. China, through the China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC), is planning an investment of $1 billion to create Africa’s largest refinery, which will expand the Khartoum refinery from 50,000 barrels a day to 90,000 barrels a day. Oil revenue has contributed about $2 billion to the racist Sudanese state’s coffers. Thus the oil in Sudan, which the Chinese are confident of controlling and which the Russians are sniffing at, will determine to what extend capitalism values human life.

China met with 48 African states in November 2006 to form a new strategic partnership, with trade deals worth of $1.9 billion and plans to increase it to $100 billion in four years. There can be no serious discussion on Darfur while Chinese-made bullets are killing Dafurians and AU members struggling to make a difference. When Amnesty International accused the Chinese government of supplying arms to the racist Sudanese government, Lord David Triesman, British minister for African affairs, insisted that China is doing all it can to help resolve the crisis in Dafur.

The stance of the USA is also hypocritical in this conflict. The periodic threats and hand-wringing about Sudan by the US administration and in the media do give the impression that they are very concerned. But it is time to ask why is it that US sanctions against Sudan are not effective—and even if they are meant to be. If the US is serious about sanctioning Sudan, sanctions against the oil industry alone will be enough to bring the Khartoum government to its knees. But the USA has never made any serious attempt to hurt the oil industry in Sudan, because of US industrial interests.

Take gum Arabic, a substance used in the production of soft drinks and other consumer products; the company that produces this product was “mistakenly” put on the US sanction list in 1997 only to be removed from the list after a protest from American industries who depend on the supply of this product from Sudan. While sanctions have effectively barred US oil companies from Sudan, Western companies that operate in the US also invest in the CNPC. And Washington realizes that any serious move against this will antagonize sectors of US capital as well as leading to a direct confrontation with China.

Sudan has now agreed to a peacekeeping force of 20,000, which will be comprised of both UN and AU forces. However, the newly elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy organized a conference in Paris on the way forward for Darfur June 25—without a single African nation or even the AU invited to attend. What is actually known to have come out of that meeting is nothing new—just another statement from the West intended for public consumption, while the terrible condition of millions of Black people remains the same. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the end of the meeting declared in a press conference that the world is failing Darfur. But it is not the world that is failing the people of Darfur—it is those Great Powers who have a direct interest in Sudan who are failing the Dafurians.

———

This story first appeared, in slightly different form, in The Hobgoblin, British journal of Marxism-Humanism
http://www.thehobgoblin.co.uk/#darfur

RESOURCES

Death in Darfur:
Analysis of factors confounding previous estimates leads to the conclusion that hundreds of thousand of people rather than tens of thousands have died as a result of the conflict in Darfur.
by John Hagan and Alberto Palloni
Science Journal, September 2006
http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/313/5793/1578

Darfur Death Toll is Hundreds of Thousands Higher Than Reported, Study Says
National Geographic News, Sept. 14, 2006
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/09/060914-darfur-deaths.html

Darfur and the Olympics: A call for international action
Testimony by Eric Reeves, Adviser to the “Olympic Dream for Darfur Campaign,” to the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, Washington, DC, June 7, 2007
http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article22273

US Energy Department page on Sudan oil sanctions
http://www.eia.doe.gov/cabs/sanction.html

Darfur Minority Rights
Minority Rights Group, 1995
http://www.angelfire.com/space/almassar/new_page_12.htm

See also:

DESTINATION DARFUR: A NEW COLD WAR OVER OIL
by Vijay Prashad, Frontline, Chennai, India
WW4 REPORT, October 2007
/node/4497

From our weblog:

Darfur rebels boycott peace talks, target oil industry
WW4 Report, Oct. 28, 2007
/node/4598

What is Eritrea’s Sudan strategy?
WW4 Report, Oct. 5, 2007
/node/4527

From our archives:

BP-AMOCO linked to Osama’s Sudan protectors
WW4 REPORT, Oct. 6, 2001
/static/2.html#whoisosama3

—————————-

Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Nov. 1, 2007
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingDARFUR: NOT A “CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS” 

IRAQ: EXPOSING THE CORPORATE AGENDA

by Antonia Juhasz, Oil Change International

Antonia Juhasz, a fellow at Oil Change International, spoke at All Souls Church, a venerable Unitarian-Universalist institution on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, on June 6, 2007, upon the release of the paperback edition of her book The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time (HarperCollins). In her talk, she dissected the corporate interests that have driven Bush’s Iraq adventure, and explored how the quest for global control of oil to assure continued US hegemony in the 21st century interlocks with these interests. Finally, she discussed strategies for building an effective movement to end the occupation of Iraq. This transcript is provided by WW4 REPORT from a video taken by independent journalist Zaya Haynes. Bracketed clarifications and elaborations were added by Juhasz via e-mail. Audience questions have been paraphrased.

I finished my book a year ago, and sadly the analysis has only gotten more pertinent. I remember having conversations with my publisher before the book came out, where he was saying, “You know, I think the war is going to be over, and all these issues are not going to be relevant anymore, and nobody’s going to be concerned about oil anymore, and I’m not sure how this is gonna fly.” And I said, “I hope you’re right, I hope you’re right!” Unfortunately, the war continues, the issues have become far more pressing as we edge closer to a potential war against Iran, we face conflicts around the world—increasingly more violent, and spreading—over, I would argue, economic issues, many of which have their basis in oil.

The analysis I put forward attempts to put an economic face on these issues that we’re confronting, and to help direct our activism—because I wrote this book to help create, sustain, build out movement, and to give us some clear targets for our activism. And the targets I keep coming back to over and over in my long history of doing this work, are a handful of corporations, and their relationship to a handful of government leaders. And I entitled the book The Bush Agenda not to give undue credit to George Bush, but also to make clear that he’s in no way a random character in this story. It’s under his administration that a series of very powerful trajectories and ideas have culminated and—hopefully—reach an apex. But I must add that it’s an agenda that preceded him, one that its advocates certainly hope will outlast him, and its one that it certainly behooves us to understand so we can resist it…

This is the first time in history that the president, vice president and secretary of state are all are all former oil or energy company officials. In fact, the only other president to come out of the oil industry is… [waits for audience response] Yes, his father, George Bush Sr. Now while its very well appreciated at this point that Condoleezza Rice had a Chevron oil tanker named after her, the Condoleezza—it is less appreciated (as is frequently the case for women) that she earned it. She spent ten years on the board of directors of Chevron. She was the head of their policy committee. She is an expert in the former Soviet republics, the Caspian region, which is awash—although it was thought to be far more awash in oil than it actually is, but in any case a source of great interest for oil companies. And she helped facilitate the movement of Chevron in particular into that region. She is intimately connected to the industry, and is a very skilled tactician and deserves a good deal of credit—credit that she’s not often given.

I think it’s well known that President Bush comes out of the oil industry. I think its also well-known that he has a tendency to run oil companies into the ground. But nonetheless that is his background, it is where he comes from and where many of his connections still remain. And of course Vice President Dick Cheney’s background in the Halliburton corporation is well known. Halliburton is the largest energy services corporation in the world.

To understand the agenda put forward by this group of men (and woman), it’s useful to look back. I go back in the book quite far in tracing the history of US economic interests in the Middle East and in Iraq, but I’m going to start tonight just going back ten years, and just understanding the different links between the first Bush war on Iraq and the second Bush war on Iraq.

With the first Bush war, I believe the motivation had a great deal to do with the fact that from 1984 the United States had been successfully and increasingly making headway into Iraq. President Reagan opened up economic relations with Saddam Hussein, he aggressively pushed an economic agenda with Hussein, and was helped along quite well in that course by Henry Kissinger. Kissinger’s new group at that time, Kissinger Associates, advised companies seeking access to Iraq. The Bechtel corporation of San Francisco managed a chemical complex for Saddam Hussein that made the precursor to mustard gas. Halliburton built oil infrastructure. Lockheed-Martin sold him helicopters. Chevron was able to market his oil. The list goes on and on of US companies that were able to get in.

But they were denied one very important thing, and continued to be denied even after Reagan pushed to get greater entrance, even after Bush pushed even harder, loaned Saddam Hussein a billion dollars worth of cash, did all sorts of thing to help Saddam Hussein. Hussein would not do one very important thing. He wouldn;t let US oil companies into Iraq. He wouldn’t give foreign companies ownership of his oil. And his oil is—or was, now it’s Iraq’s—the second largest oil reserves in the world. Very, very important oil reserves that the US is being denied access to.

Now, the urgency for getting this oil increased over time. Right around the mid-’70s, the United States hit itw own peak of oil production, and from that point on we’ve been on the down slope. That mean we’ve been looking further afield for oil. We also increasingly realized that the [largest concentration of the] remaining oil in the world—about two thirds of the world’s oil—is in the Middle East. And the United States increasingly built an agenda that stated quite clearly that it would use its military to get its hands on Mideast oll.

But that’s a hard thing to do when you have to project your military all the way across the world to get your hands on a resource. The United States needed a reason to get troops on the ground in the Middle East. We also had Saddam Hussein increasingly resisting the agenda put forward by the first Bush administration. For instance, the Bechtel corporation didn’t just want to manage petro-chemical plants, it wanted to build a pipeline to get Iraqi oil out of Iraq to the port of Aqaba, Jordan. And George Schultz, Reagan’s secretary of state and a former president of the Bechtel corporation, worked aggressively to try to get that pipeline for Bechtel. Many other people worked, Kissinger worked. Hussein said no.

He also threatened Israel. He also kept saying, “I’m gonna be the big guy on the block in the Middle East.” And the United States decided it would be a very good idea to replace Saddam, and to have a reason to bring US troops into the Middle East.

So the United States went to war against Saddam Hussein—unsuccessfully, however, was not able to unseat him, realized it wasn’t going to be worth the effort to stay in place, didn’t want, in the words of Dick Cheney, to “own Iraq” at the time.

So half a million US troops went into Saudi Arabia at the time of the first Gulf war, and a lot of them stayed. And the United States began to build up its military presence in the Middle East from that point forward.

Some very important thing changed in between the first Bush war on Iraq and the second. One of the most important things that changed was the collapse of the Soviet Union. Suddenly the United States was the lone superpower, and suddenly the United States was trying to figure out what did that mean and what did we want to do in that position. Some people thought we should enjoy the “peace dividend,” right? And have full healthcare for all, and free education, and all these great ideas—none of which came to pass.

Others, who increasingly came to put into a school called the neoconservatives, believed that we should use this position to become not just the lone superpower, but to become a truly imperial power, and they stated it as such. A full 16 members of the current Bush administration worked in the Project for the New American Century in between the first Bush and the second Bush war on Iraq, and that’s where they wrote specifically that the United States is an imperial power, like Rome, should be an imperial power, like Rome, and should be such an economic and military force that no country in the world would even consider challenging us. And we should do the things that Rome did, including invading, including fundamentally transforming the countries we went into, so that they would resemble us and serve our economic interests. And that was a very different frame from the realization of the world that the first Bush administration had,

Another thing that happened in the intervening years was Clinton. One of the wonderful things Clinton did for the world [smirks], was to aggressively push corporate globalization policies—through the World Trade Organization, through the North American Free Trade Agreement, through the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (and if you don’t realize, I’m being sarcastic that this is a wonderful thing). The effect that this had was a tremendous consolidation of power and political influence and monetary influence in the hands of…who? [Waits for audience reaction.] Corporations! Corporations became much, much more powerful. A shift in power—of economic power, of political influence—happened.

Clinton also, by the way, implemented the brutal, horrific, deadly sanctions against Iraq—and military interventions, bombings. I would argue, however, that the sanctions were very, very different in terms of the agenda of the Clinton administration. I think the Clinton administration wanted to keep Iraq at arm’s length. The Clinton administration serviced—and the future Clinton administration, if there is one, will also service—different corporate interests. The oil and gas industry is the industry of the Republicans. There have been outliers, but it mostly always has been, and is. The Democrats have different corporate interests that they service, but oil isn’t generally one of them. I don’t think the Clinton administration was particularly interested in advancing a war for oil.

A number of consolidations happened at this time, and were particularly advanced when the second Bush administration came to power. At this time, Exxon merged with Mobil. Chevron merged with Texaco, and bought Unocal. Conoco merged with Pillips. Where there used to be hundreds of oil companies, there were now just a very small handful, and they became uber-companies. ExxonMobil is the largest company in the world. It surpassed Wal-Mart last year to earn that title. In 2003, ExxonMobil earned the highest profits of any corporation in world history, ever. Adjusted for inflation, period. Then it topped in 2004, topped it in 2005, and topped it again this year—$40 billion in pure profit. What does $40 billion buy you? An administration that is part and parcel to yourself and your own interests. An administration that’s willing to go that extra mile and get you that oil.

Now, US oil corporations—and BP and Shell—face a particularly difficult situation, and did entering into this administration. There’s not much oil left that they own. There’s only about ten years left of oil that they own, in their reserves. That’s very troubling for an oil company. They need more.

Another very troubling thing happened right when this Bush administration took office, the first ten days into the Bush administration. Vice President Cheney organized the Cheney Energy Task-Force. This was the group that was going to decide future energy policy for the United States. And who was on it? Was it the Sierra Club? [Laughter.] No. Exxon. Chevron. Bechtel. Halliburton—they were all in the room. Also coal, and also nuclear power. And they said, “Hmmm, what should our future energy policy be?”

And they took a map of Iraq and they laid it out on a table. And they looked at where all Iraq’s oilfields were, and how much oil they had. And a phrase that I’ve used to describe Iraq—and I’ve actually received e-mails asking me to stop doing it, but darn it, I’m gonna do it anyway—I think they see Iraq as a pimple of oil that has yet to be plucked. [Laughter.] OK? It is bursting at the seams with oil. It is right below the surface, it is inexpensive to get at.

For US oil companies, the average cost to get a barrel of oil out of the ground is between 10 and 20 dollars a barrel. In Iraq, it costs 60 cents a barrel to get it out of the ground. What a good deal that is, right? Iraq has about 80 fields of oil; only about 17 have even begun to be developed. It is literally a bonanza of oil. They know where it is. They know how much is in each field…

Now, they’re looking at this map of oil, right? They’re also looking at a list that says “foreign suitors to Iraqi oil.” Saddam Hussein had been signing contracts for that ting that the United States had been denied all this time, this oil under the ground—and he was signing these contracts with companies from China, France and Russia. Does anybody know what these three countries have in common? They’re all members of the Security Council. He was signing these contracts with the members of the Security Council to try to get the sanctions removed. He was dangling lucrative oil contracts in front of their faces and saying “If you want these, you have to cancel the sanctions.”

The companies were signing contracts, but their governments hadn’t quite gotten around to standing up to the United States to end the sanctions. So these guys were standing around this table saying, If the sanctions are removed and Saddam Hussein remains in power, all of this oil is going to go to all of these other companies. all these other countries, and we are going to be shut out.” Not desirable.

Contrary to public opinion, there was a very clear, detailed post-invasion plan for Iraq. It was an economic plan, it was ready before the war, it was written by private companies, it was implemented to a T by Paul Bremer, the head of the occupation government of Iraq. He issued 100 orders—they’re known as the Bremer orders. They are so neatly delineated in my book, that they’ve appeared out of my book on websites for industries that are trying to get US businesses excited about going to Iraq and doing reconstruction there and taking over. They list my analysis of the Bremer Orders and say “See, it’s a free-market haven, you can go there!” Not the purpose that I wrote this book for, so I’m eagerly hoping you will take it and use the analysis to better purpose!

[Several oil companies were involved in the drafting through their positions as advisors to the U.S. and Iraqi governments at the start of the war. More directly, all of the largest oil companies are on the board of the International Tax and Investment Centre which is very public about its direct participation in drafting the oil law. All of the oil companies were also represented on the Cheney Energy Task Force. Thus, I surmise that Exxon, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Marathon, Shell and BP all had a hand in the drafting.]

This plan was put in place by Bremer. The plan implements, for those of you who are familiar with corporate globalization policy, every wish of every World Bank policy, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization—everything they couldn’t get but wanted to get—was implemented in Iraq.

What is explicitly excluded is the oil—not for lack of trying by certain sectors of the conservative movement in the United States. But how do you fight a war for oil? What does it look like? Do the tanks come in and then Exxon comes behind with a flag and puts the flag in the ground and says “Our oil”? Well, there were certainly some people on the right who wanted to do that. They wanted Bremer to privatize Iraq’s oil, straight up. Saner minds prevailed—realizing that the Iraqis might not really take to kindly to this particular thing. One of the things Bremer did was to fire the entire Iraqi military and send half a million men home with their guns. And some people thought this might not be such a good combination, you know? [Laughter.]

So they said, we should use a subtler process. And that process started before the war as well. What it looks like is, you write a law. And the law takes Iraq from a nationalized oil system, essentially closed to foreign oil companies, particularly US ones, and privatizes it. Turns it over to foreign oil companies. Here’s the law, we’ve got it. Now the Iraqis need to implement it, so it looks like it’s their law.

So the Iraqi government is put in place, and the Bush administrations starts to put pressure on the Iraqis immediately to pass this law. The Iraqis resist, resist, resist. Then in January, President Bush finally announces publicly—on the same day he announces the surge—the Iraqis must pass the oil law. Essentially, although he didn’t say these words, the Iraqis must privatize their oil, they must turn it over to US oil companies. We’re going to introduce a surge of US troops to insure that you do it. And the language he did use, was that the surge will provide the political space for the Iraqis to work on what he called the “benchmarks.” And this was one of the benchmarks.

Now how many of you have heard of the revenue-sharing plan for Iraqi oil? The revenue-sharing plan is three sentences out of a 40-page law. The 40 pages take Iraq’s oil revenue and give it to US oil companies. The Iraqis get to share among themselves the five dollars left over when the five billion has gone out the door. [Figurative, not literal—no actual figures available.] And that’s not even guaranteed. The revenue-sharing part is three sentences that say the Iraqis should start looking at plans to maybe think about one day sharing the revenue, if they change the constitution and pass another law… That’s what the three sentences say.

So, the president announces the benchmark. Now, I just wrote the new afterward to The Bush Agenda in February, and I was very excited in the afterward about the Democrats taking over the House and the Senate. [Laughter.] One of the main reasons I was excited was that the Democrats taking over the House and the Senate was a reflection of tremendous activism and organizing—a resistance by the American public to the war, to the Bush administration, to the administration’s policies. Getting people out to vote, voicing their opposition to the war, organizing against the war, getting the Democrats in… The Democrats came in, we were all excited. I was one of half a million people who marched in Washington DC [Jan. 27, 2007]. I was able to speak at a panel organized by Congressman [Maxine] Waters and [Lynn] Woolsey, where I told them that the next time we come if the Democrats haven’t ended the war, we’re gonna sit down around the capital, and we’re gonna bring or sleeping bags, and we’re gonna stay until you end the war! And they responded very positively to that idea. They were excited, that that’s what they were there to do, was end the war.

Then what happened? Lots of politics, lots of politcking. And the Democrats adopted the language of the benchmarks. And there was all this debate going back and forth—”the Democrats want Bush to include the benchmarks, Bush doesn’t want to include the benchmarks…” The benchmarks were the oil law, and a bunch of other really ridiculous stuff… The Democrats adopted the language of the benchmarks, and they said Iraq has to pass the oil law, and if it doesn’t… first they said, when the negotiations were happening—we’ll end the war! That was OK! Good! [Laughter.] Then they said, Oh wait a minute, we didn’t mean that. Then they said, Pass the oil law or…we will cut off the reconstruction funds! And that’s the language that was included in the supplemental war spending bill, that’s the language that President Bush signed, and that’s what we’ve got today: A very clear message to the Iraqis from the United States Congress.

Iraqi oil workers went on strike yesterday. [Applause.] They went on strike for better wages, for better benefits, for better working conditions—and in opposition to the oil law, and in opposition to their government’s consideration of the law. The oil law has now passed the Iraqi cabinet, and is now sitting in the parliament. There is tremendous resistance to it in the parliament. What Iraqis have asked us to do is to continue to push, continue to demonstrate that we absolutely refuse to in a war being fought for oil.

Now just to be clear—a war for oil is about corporate profits, its definitely about that; its about Chevron and Exxon and Conoco. But its also about a lot more than that. Its about the imperial designs that this administration has, its about hegemonic power, its about denying the oil to other countries that might want to buy it, its about being the most powerful country in the world that owns it. And it is a moment in time when we’re being asked by the world to say that we, the American public, don’t agree with that.

People, I know, are getting tired of protesting… People feel at this point, we got these guys elected and they failed us, we march and it fails… And our friends and family members say, “What’s the point of all this political activism you’re doing?” The answer is that this is the only thing that’s ever ended wars. Activism, social change, is hard. It’s slow. You don’t always get your picture on the front page of the paper. You don’t always get accepted by your friends and family. You don’t always march on Saturday and then the thing you wanted happens on Sunday, and you get to go home and it’s great! No, its not like that. Not at all. Sometimes you don’t even see the change you want in a whole lifetime of working. But it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. And when we protest, people around the world also see it. It may not come up in our newspapers—but believe me, it gets carried everywhere else. And they get to say, “Oh, there are people in the United States who are different from their government! Wow!”

And that’s what they say, they say “wow.” Because I go around the world, and I meet people who say “I didn’t know there were Americans who felt this way, I feel so much better!” So that’s one of the things we get to do, we get to have the privilege of doing this work here—and not trying to do it in Iraq, and not trying to do it in Iran, and not trying to do it in Syria, and not trying to do it in Afghanistan.

Question: Can you talk about the reconstruction contracts and the permanent military bases that are supposedly being built?

There has been $50 billion spent on reconstruction in Iraq. Who do you think got the money…? Bechtel and Halliburton. US corporations, 150 of them, have received all the reconstruction money [up to 2007]. I detail in the book how the money’s been spent, and who spent it. One of the most important things in the reconstruction story if the Bremer Order that said Iraqis could not be given preference in the reconstruction effort, but US companies could. Now, US companies have gotten that money, and they have failed miserably at the reconstruction. However, because of the soldiers on the ground, because of the captains and commanders complaining every day for four years that this is insanity, that the Iraqis have to do this work, this has slowly begun to shift. And Iraqi companies and Iraqi workers have increasingly—not nearly enough—started to receive reconstruction money. And every positive example you’ve ever read about in the reconstruction in Iraq. it’s always been an Iraqi company.

Now there’s at least tow things that need to happen. The first is, US companies that received money for jobs they have not done in Iraq have to return the money. Period. Simple. Easy. Done. That money needs to go to Iraq. There are desperate reconstruction needs. Before the war, there was water, there was electricity, there was sewage. There was healthcare, there was education. Now there are none of those things. Before the war there was 24 hours a day of electricity. Today there are between four and six. The electricity runs the water systems, runs the sewer systems. Without one you can’t have the other. There’s no electricity in the hospitals. This has nothing to do with the violence right now—nothing. This has to do with the failure of the reconstruction. It’s a travesty. That money needs to go to Iraqi companies and Iraqi workers.

The money has also gone to build permanent military bases. Now, there’s been Congressional language introduced saying no permanent military bases. [This language has been included now in several appropriations bills.] Here’s how they’ve gotten around that is in the definition of “permanent.” They’re building a base and its “secure”—there’s lots of cement and big buildings. But it’s “secure,” its not “permanent.” They can bulldoze it at any time.

That’s a problem. And the way to solve it isn’t to say you want less safe military bases, but to bring the troops home so they won’t have a need for the military bases. And we need to say that we actually know the difference; this is game of words…

The other strategy is being put forward is the Korea strategy. Yeah? We’re going to stay there to keep the peace and separate out the warring forces, just like we are doing between South and North Korea. We’re gonna be there for 50 years.

One of the details of the oil law is 30-year contracts for foreign corporations. If you’re gonna have a 30-year contract and you’re in a war zone, what are you gonna need? [Audience: “Permanent military bases.”] Yeah.

Q: How can we address our addiction to automobiles and airplanes, that consume so much of the oil that we use?

I’m writing a new book. And that’s gonna be called The Break-Up: The Case for Taking Apart Big Oil. And I think one of the main things that we have to do to be able to kick those addictions is to get rid of the political forces that are making it impossible to have this discussion on an equal basis. And that’s a big point. [Applause.]

So that’s putting pressure on the producers. At the same time, we also have to put pressure on ourselves, the consumers. We have to be given alternatives, though. For most of us—though if you live in New York City it’s a slightly different situation from the rest of the country—public transit simply doesn’t exist. The country was built intentionally to use cars. We know the history of how the industry killed attempts at public transit, how it killed existing public transit. However, much of the United States was built using federal highway dollars to intentionally move us out [of the urban centers], to get us to use the car. We have to do a lot of re-investing, rethinking, to move ourselves into communities where we can walk.

Q: Why hasn’t Bush been impeached?

I was working on the Hill for Congressman [John] Conyers during the Clinton impeachment proceedings, and my job became reading the Starr Report. And I decided that wasn’t particularly what the Detroit tax-payer wanted me to be doing with my time. That was one of the reasons I decided it wasn’t such a good idea for me to be working on the Hill.

There is an amazing impeachment movement alive and well in the United States. We are also seeing this administration crumble before out eyes. That’s not random. That’s through years of activism and organizing. Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz. Libby. And that’s just the beginning, and it’s important. We don’t nearly enough celebrate our victories and declare them as our own. Rumsfeld wasn’t fired because Bush woke up one day and saud, “Gee, I guess it’s time to get rid of Rumsfeld.” That was four years of organizing and effort. Who here was part of the “Give Rumsfeld the Pink Slip” movement? Code Pink dressed up in pink slips to demand they give Rumsfeld the pink slip!

So the impeachment movement is working and needs to be heralded. I think talking about impeachment is a critically important step in the road to what I actually think is the most important thing, which is ending the war. And we need to link the two as much as possible in our discussion. I worry somewhat when impeachment is seen as an end in itself, and not a tool to help us achieve other ends. Because if Bush is impeached and Cheney’s impeached, and a wonderful representative from San Francisco, Miss Pelosi became president, the war wouldn’t be over.

Q: Is this war about privatizing oil, or about America’s rivalry with China, as some say?

It’s bigger than oil. Oil. as I said, isn’t just about “oil.” Oil is about China. Oil is about making sure that the United States remains the hegemon. And the way to do that is to make sure that we have the oil, not China. Now, when I give this talk in front of more conservative audiences, they raise their hand and say, “We have to get the oil, because China will get it otherwise. Don’t you understand, Antonia? This is important. China is our big rival. If China gets the oil, then they’ll become a superpower…” And then, I don’t know, they don’t finish the sentence so I don’t know what happens next, but it’s bad! [Laughter.] Definitely bad.

Getting the oil is about China. It is about denying other powers form challenging US supremacy. That’s what it’s about. Guaranteeing US supremacy.

Q: What do you think would happen if the US left Iraq, and how do you respond to the propaganda that it would create a regional conflagration?

What I can say is that the Iraqis don’t want us in Iraq. A poll was taken of the broad Iraqi public, and it found about 72% want the occupation to end. But a poll taken of Baghdad residents found that around 75% said they would feel safer if US troops left. Not just they want us to go, but they would feel safer. A year ago, a poll taken of US troops on the ground found a similar percentage said US troops should be gone within a year—that we’ve done our job, we’ve done the best we could. And that is an incredibly unprecedented sentiment by troops on the ground.

So the Iraqi public doesn’t want us in Iraq. The troops on the ground don’t want us there. A number of generals have come out to say we shouldn’t be fighting the war. The American public doesn’t want us in the war. So we know one thing… There’s really just about five people who want us in Iraq. And they’re the ones who are seeking to profit from this war.

Now, Iraqis don’t say, “Leave, because tomorrow we’ll have peace if you leave.” No, they say, “The first thing we need to get things moving in the right direction is for you to stop occupying our nation. And then we’ll figure out the rest from there.”

That’s the answer. Nobody can tell you what’s going to happen. But we know that the occupation has to end.

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RESOURCES

Oil Change International
http://priceofoil.org/

Interview online at Google Video
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3012158261260226138

See also:

VOICES OF IRAQI OIL WORKERS
Oil & Utility Union Leaders on the Struggle Against Privatization
from Building Bridges, WBAI Radio
WW4 REPORT, July 2007
/node/4160

From our weblog:

NYT op-ed: no to Iraqi oil “denationalization”
WW4 REPORT, March 14, 2007
/node/3344

Alan Greenspan vs. Naomi Klein: who has rights to Iraq’s oil?
WW4 REPORT, Sept. 27, 2007
/node/4481

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Transcribed and edited by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Nov. 1, 2007
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingIRAQ: EXPOSING THE CORPORATE AGENDA