The US Wants Syrian Oil, Not Democracy


Coat of arms of Syria -- the "Hawk of Qur...

Coat of arms of Syria — the “Hawk of Qureish” with shield of vertical tricolor of the national flag, holding a scroll with the words الجمهورية العربية السورية (Al-Jumhuriyah al-`Arabiyah as-Suriyah “The Syrian Arab Republic”). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News

 

18 June 13

 

 

 

“… the Persian Gulf, the critical oil and natural gas-producing region that we fought so many wars to try and protect our economy from the adverse impact of losing that supply or having it available only at very high prices.” –John Bolton, George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations

 

 

 

ll the hubbub over Syria is all about oil. And if you don’t believe me, believe John Bolton.

 

When there’s something being talked about in the news on a regular basis, and if one angle of the story is being consistently reported by various reputable news organizations, you can be sure there’s something else to the story that isn’t being told. Matt Taibbi called this “chumpbait” when referring to the media’s unified dismissal concerning Bradley Manning’s court-martial. The same applies to the latest corporate media stories speculating on US military involvement in Syria.

 

If the US were really concerned about spreading Democracy in the Middle East, we’d be helping the Occupy Gezi movement oust Turkish Prime Minister Ergodan and condemning his violent suppression of human rights, rather than assisting the Free Syrian Army. And the only reason the powers controlling the US would be interested in intervening in Turkey would be if Turkish protesters or government forces shut down the highly-productiveKirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which goes from Iraq through Southern Turkey.

 

All of the media has been atwitter about whether or not the US should get involved in the civil war unfolding in Syria by supporting anti-government forces. The atrocities recently committed by the Free Syrian Army are reminiscent of the kind committed against the Soviets in the 1980s by theAfghan mujahideen, whom we actively funded and supplied with arms. (Remember the movie Charlie Wilson’s War?) It should be worth noting that the same mujahideen fighters we funded to fight our enemies for us in the 1980s became our enemies even before the 9/11 attacks.

 

In a roundabout way, the US media is making the argument that because the Assad regime is using chemical weapons on the Syrian people, the US military should intervene by arming and training the Free Syrian Army in the hopes of overthrowing President Assad. On the surface, most Americans would agree that Assad is a brutal dictator and should be removed from office. But if you asked most Americans whether or not the US military should intervene in Syria to make sure the profit margins of oil companies remain strong, it’s likely most rational folks would say no. Digging just beneath the surface, it’s easy to see that US interest in Syria isn’t to provide Democracy to Syria, but to ensure the Kirkuk-Banias oil pipeline will be restored to profitable status. Even President Obama’s press secretary said that foreign policy isn’t driven by what the people want, but by what is best for “American interests.”

 

The Kirkuk-Banias pipeline runs from Kirkuk in Northern Iraq, to the Syrian town of Banias, on the Mediterranean Sea between Turkey and Lebanon. Ever since US forces inadvertently destroyed it in 2003, most of the pipeline has been shut down. While there have been plans in the works to make the Iraqi portion of the pipeline functional again, those plans have yet to come to fruition. And Syria has at least 2.5 billion barrels of oil in its fields, making it the next largest Middle Eastern oil producer after Iraq. After ten unproductive years, the oil companies dependent on the Kirkuk-Banias pipeline’s output are eager to get the pipeline operational again. The tension over the Syrian oil situation is certainly being felt by wealthy investors in the markets, who are thus dictating US foreign policy.

 

It’s easy to see why the oil-dominated US government wants to be involved in Syria’s outcome. The Free Syrian Army has since taken control of oil fields near Deir Ezzor, and Kurdish groups have taken control of other oil fields in the Rumeilan region. Many of the numerous atrocities that Assad’s government committed against unarmed women and children were in Homs, which is near one of the country’s only two oil refineries. Israel, the US’s only ally in the Middle East, is illegally occupying the Golan Heights on the Syrian border and extracting their resources. The US wants to get involved in Syria to monopolize its oil assets, while simultaneously beating our competition – Iran, Russia and China – in the race for Syrian black gold.

 

Big oil’s ideal outcome would be for US troops to back the FSA’s overthrow of the Assad regime, meaning that sharing in Syrian oil profits would be part of the quid-pro-quo the US demands in exchange for helping the Syrian rebels win. It would be very similar to when the US, under Teddy Roosevelt, backed Panama’s fight for independence in exchange for US ownership of the Panama Canal. But even after numerous interventions, including thekidnapping of Panama’s head of state, the Torrijos-Carter accords gave control of the Panama Canal back to Panama in 1999. The imperialistic approach to Panama turned out to be more costly than it would have been if we had just left Panama alone in the first place.

 

George Santayana said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. If we don’t learn from our past mistakes, like basing foreign policy goals on greed-inspired imperialism, Syria will blow up in our faces.

 

 

 


 

Carl Gibson, 26, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary “We’re Not Broke,” which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin. You can contact him at carl@rsnorg.org, and follow him on twitter at @uncutCG.

 

The continuing tragedy of the adivasis


 

Ramachandra Guha, May 28, The Hindu 

 

The killings of Mahendra Karma and his colleagues call not for retributive violence but for a deeper reflection on the discontent among the tribals of central India and their dispossession

In the summer of 2006, I had a long conversation with Mahendra Karma, the Chhattisgarh Congress leader who was killed in a terror attack by the Naxalites last week. I was not alone — with me were five other members of a citizens’ group studying the tragic fallout of the civil war in the State’s Dantewada district. This war pitted the Naxalites on the one side against a vigilante army promoted by Mr. Karma on the other. In a strange, not to say bizarre, example of bipartisan co-operation, the vigilantes (who went by the name of Salwa Judum) were supported by both Mr. Karma (then Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly) and the BJP Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, Raman Singh.

‘Liberated zone’

From the 1980s, Naxalites had been active in the region, asking for higher wages for tribals, harassing traders and forest contractors, and attacking policemen. In the first decade of this century their presence dramatically increased. Dantewada was now identified by Maoist ideologues as the most likely part of India where they could create a ‘liberated zone.’ Dozens of Telugu-speaking Naxalites crossed into Chhattisgarh, working assiduously to accomplish this aim.

The Naxalites are wedded to the cult of the gun. Their worship of violence is extreme. They are a grave threat to democracy and democratic values. How should the democratically elected State government of Chhattisgarh have tackled their challenge? It should have done so through a two-pronged strategy: (i) smart police work, identifying the areas where the Naxalites were active and isolating their leaders; (ii) sincerely implementing the constitutional provisions guaranteeing the land and tribal forest rights of the adivasis, and improving the delivery of health and education services to them.

The Chhattisgarh government did neither. On the one side, it granted a slew of leases to industrialists, over-riding the protests of gram panchayats and handing over large tracts of tribal land to mining companies. On the other side, it promoted a vigilante army, distributing guns to young men owing allegiance to Mahendra Karma or his associates. These goons then roamed the countryside, in search of Naxalites real or fictitious. In a series of shocking incidents, they burnt homes (sometimes entire villages), raped women, and looted granaries of those adivasis who refused to join them.

In response, the Naxalites escalated their activities. They killed Salwa Judum leaders, murdered real or alleged informers, and mounted a series of daring attacks on police and paramilitary units. The combined depredations of the Naxalites and Salwa Judum created a regime of terror and despair across the district. An estimated 150,000 adivasis fled their native villages. A large number sought refuge along the roads of the Dantewada district. Here they lived, in ramshackle tents, away from their lands, their cattle, their homes and their shrines. An equally large number fled into the neighbouring State of Andhra Pradesh, living likewise destitute and tragic lives.

It was to study this situation at first hand that our team visited Chhattisgarh in 2006. We travelled across the Dantewada district, speaking to vigilantes, Naxalites and, most of all, ordinary tribals. We met adivasis who had been persecuted by the Naxalites, and other adivasis who had been tormented by the Salwa Judum vigilantes. The situation of the community was poignantly captured by one tribal, who said: “Ek taraf Naxaliyon, doosri taraf Salwa Judum, aur hum beech mein, pis gayé” (placed between the Maoists and the vigilantes, we adivasis are being squeezed from both sides).

We also visited the State capital, Raipur, speaking to senior officials of the State government. They privately told us that Salwa Judum was a horrible mistake, but added that no politician was willing to admit this. Then we spent an hour in the company of the movement’s originator, Mahendra Karma. He told us that he was fighting a dharma yudh, a holy war. We asked whether the outcome of this war was worth it. We told him of what we had seen, of the homes burnt and the women abused by the men acting in his name and claiming that he was their leader. He answered that in a great movement small mistakes are sometimes made. (The exact words he used were: Badé andolanon mein kabhi kabhi aisé choté apradh hoté hain.”)

I was immediately reminded of a politician in another country, George W. Bush. In his holy war, too, there was no thought to the collateral damage that innocent civilians would suffer. Admittedly, the jihadis that Bush was fighting were as bloodthirsty and amoral as the Naxalites. But did a democratic government have to reproduce this amorality and this bloodthirstiness? Should it not fight extremism by saner methods? The tortures, the renditions, the displacement of thousands upon thousands of civilians — in all these respects, Dantewada seemed to me to be a micro version of Iraq or Afghanistan.

Palpable indifference

From Raipur we went to Delhi, where we met the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, and the National Security Adviser. Their indifference to the unfolding tragedy was palpable. So, in 2007, we filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court asking for the disbandment of Salwa Judum. Four years later, the Court issued an order chastising the Chhattisgarh government for creating “a miasmic environment of dehumanisation of youngsters of the deprived sections of the population, in which guns are given to them rather than books, to stand as guards, for the rapine, plunder and loot in our forests.” By arming poor and largely illiterate adivasis, the State government had, said the Supreme Court, installed “a regime of gross violation of human rights in a manner, and by adopting the same modes, as [have] done Maoist/Naxalite extremists.”

The strictures of the Supreme Court were disregarded by the State government, which recast Salwa Judum under another name and form, and by the Central government, which continued to put the interest of mining magnates above those of the suffering adivasis of the land.

The killings of Mahendra Karma and his colleagues are the latest casualties in a bloody war that began a decade ago in Dantewada. What will the State and Central governments now do? The knee-jerk reaction, doubtless encouraged by editorial writers and TV anchors in Delhi, will be to call for the Army, and perhaps the Air Force too, to launch an all-out war on the Naxalites, regardless of the consequences for civilians. One hopes wiser counsels will prevail. The times call not for further retributive violence, but for a deeper reflection on the discontent among, and dispossession of, the adivasis of central India, who are in all respects the most desperately disadvantaged of the Republic’s citizens, far worse off than Dalits even.

In the winter of 2006, after my experiences in Dantewada, I gave a public lecture in Bhubaneshwar. The State’s Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik, was in the audience. I urged that the rash of mining leases being proposed by the State government on tribal land be stopped. As it happened, foreign and Indian mining companies were invited into the State, without any attempt to make adivasis stakeholders in these projects. The consequence is that Orissa, a State once completely free of Naxalites, has seen them acquiring considerable influence in several districts of the State.

The social scientist Ajay Dandekar, who has done extensive research on the subject, observes that the rise of extremist violence is a consequence of “the complete mismanagement of democracy and governance in the tribal areas.” The latest bout of violence, he says, should come as a wake-up call to those “who place still some hope in the rule of law and constitutional governance.”

I entirely concur with Dandekar when he writes that “if even now the policy makers are willing to take the issues of justice to the tribals head-on the extremists will definitely be dealt a bodyblow in the process and their own legitimacy would stand questioned.” A first step here would be for the top leadership of the present government to reach out directly to the adivasis. The Prime Minister and the Chairperson of the UPA should together tour through the strife-torn areas of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Orissa, promising the full implementation of the Forest Rights Act, a temporary ban on mining projects in Fifth Schedule Areas, and a revival of the powers of gram panchayats. That would be a far more effective strike against Naxalites than sending in fighter planes or massed battalions.

(Ramachandra Guha’s books include India after Gandhi. He can be contacted atramachandraguha@yahoo.in)

Keywords: Mahendra Karma killin

 

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