A - I n f o s
a multi-lingual news service by, for, and about anarchists **

News in all languages
Last 40 posts (Homepage) Last two weeks' posts

The last 100 posts, according to language
Castellano_ Català_ Deutsch_ Nederlands_ English_ Français_ Italiano_ Polski_ Português_ Russkyi_ Suomi_ Svenska_ Türkçe_ The.Supplement
{Info on A-Infos}

(en) UK Solidarity Federation - DA #27 - The SpOILs of War

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 18 Jun 2003 08:49:52 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

Think of an empire, and what springs to mind? Greece or Rome? The
Spanish or Ottoman empires? Whatever it is, it probably belongs in a
school history book. It might be fairly recent history, if you can cast
your mind back to geography class and world maps with Africa and
much of Asia dominated by the British pink empire and the French
purple empires. Nevertheless, the French and British empires are now
no more than fading memories. So has the sun really gone down on
‘empire' as a form of political organisation? The short answer
is no – and the long answer…

Certainly, white colonialist ruling elites taking orders from London,
Paris or wherever were chased from country after country in the 1950s
and 60s. This was the era of national liberation, of pan-Arabism and
pan-Africanism. It was also the height of the Cold War, with America
and the Soviet Union vying to extend their ‘spheres of
influence’ and exerting, to a degree, political, military and
economic control over ‘client' states. While the colonial period
may be characterised by the plundering of natural resources and
outright economic exploitation to enrich the ‘mother’
country’s ruling class, the abiding memory of the Cold War is the
clash of ideologies that stood at its core – capitalism versus
‘communism’. That is not to say that the plunder and
exploitation of colonialism had halted. After all, both sides had an
arms race to fund.

America won the Cold War, in part because it could sustain a massive
defence budget without causing the kind of economic chaos seen
under the Soviet system. And behind this ability lie oil and
petro-dollars. Because the oil trade is based on the dollar, the resulting
need for dollars in oil importing countries allows the US to keep on
printing them with no fear of adverse economic effects. This enables,
among other things, an almost unlimited level of military spending.
Meanwhile, oil-exporting countries have billions of dollars to invest
back into the US economy.

The ending of the Cold War has had two major effects. Firstly,
capitalism now dominates the globe and its natural resources;
secondly, we are now witnessing the era of the single superpower, a
superpower that is, itself, bent on global domination. Although Europe
is a larger economy, only the US has the military might to back up its
economic and strategic interests.

This much has been clear during the invasion and subsequent
occupation of Iraq. Through this little imperialist adventure, America
will extend both its control over world oil supplies and its political
domination of the Middle East and beyond. Any lingering doubts that
this was the main impetus behind ‘regime change’ should have
been dispelled, on one hand, by the conqueror’s immediate
securing of Iraq’s oil installations and the Ministry responsible for
them, while, on the other hand, allowing its troops to stand aside for a
whole week until the rest of the Iraqi economy, schools and hospitals
included, was looted into oblivion.

Talk of using the exportation of Iraqi oil to help the Iraqi people is as
contemptible as Bush and Blair’s claims about weapons of mass
destruction. Instead, America’s capture of about one eighth of
world oil reserves (only Saudi Arabia, with about one quarter, has
more) will serve several purposes, none calculated to better the lives
of ordinary Iraqis, all calculated to line capitalist pockets and further
US economic and political interests.

Most immediate, and perhaps most visible, is reconstruction - aka
wholesale privatisation and profiteering. Potentially profitable parts of
the Iraqi economy, not just its oil industry, but also its general
infrastructure, now completely battered by bombs and looters, are
already being parcelled off to US multinationals (saving a few
subcontracted scraps for Britain and other collaborators like Spain).
The squabble between P&O and Stevedoring Services of America
(SSA) over the contract for Iraq’s only deep water port at Umm
Qasr (‘liberated’ by British forces) began the bun fight.
Predictably, the US Agency for International Development handed the
£3 million contract to SSA.

As for the Iraqi oil industry itself, sanctions have directly restricted
exports and indirectly resulted in underinvestment in production
facilities. With sanctions ended and £13 billion pumped into
modernising production, Iraq could approach Saudi Arabia’s export
capacity. However, encouraging such a level of investment and
by-passing production quotas to ensure the quickest possible return
will require withdrawal from OPEC, undermining the Arab-dominated
cartel’s influence on oil prices. Or as Larry Lindsey, Bush’s
former economic adviser, preferred to put it: "When there is a regime
change in Iraq, you could add three to five million barrels of production
to world supply [per day]. The…war would be good for the economy."

The next two decades will see three important developments. First,
many non-OPEC reserves, such as those in the North Sea, will be
depleted or will be approaching depletion. Second, economic growth in
China, India and elsewhere will raise global demand for oil by over a
quarter. Third, US energy imports will rise from about half of its
current requirements to about two thirds, due to declining home
production. Hence the need for guaranteed cheap oil for the future and
the great efforts to curtail OPEC.

A fourth development will be increasing economic rivalry between the
US and the EU spilling over into competition for control of resources.
The dollar’s role in the oil trade, and the impact of this on the US
economy and defence spending was mentioned earlier. However, the
euro threatens this position. Already, back in 2000, Saddam’s Iraq
switched from the dollar to the euro for its oil sales, forcing Jordan, for
one, to switch so it could buy Iraqi oil. And there is speculation
regarding Iran and Russia among others in this regard. While Iraq will
now be switched back to the dollar, the consequences of a loss of
control over this aspect of the oil trade is surely not lost on US
strategic planners.

All of this means that US threats of "regime change" in other
countries should be taken all the more seriously. Such states may be
unfriendly, like Iran and Libya (both important OPEC members), or not
yet unfriendly, like Saudi Arabia with its significant radical islamic
threat to the current corrupt regime – yes, an occupation of Saudi
oilfields has also been openly suggested in Washington. Whether or
not such scenarios come to pass, there is little doubt that we are
seeing the expansion of the American empire, an empire based on
control of oil, for which Iraq is a perfect outpost, be it as a guarantor of
future low prices, a launchpad for further "regime change", or a
convenient base from which to exert economic, political and military
control over the whole region.

What is more, Iraq is within striking distance of another important oil
region – the Caspian Sea basin. The former Soviet republics of
Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan lie above what is estimated
as the world’s third largest reserves. These have hardly been
tapped yet, but over the next two decades, they are expected to supply
almost as much oil as Iraq. Already about three quarters of current
Caspian operations are in the hands of US companies. It would suit
America very well to keep these countries out of OPEC and to use the
region as a further source of cheap oil.

The extent of US influence in the region can be gauged from recent
developments over the issue of oil transportation. America has backed
the infamous Baku-Ceyhan pipeline project which, from 2005, will
carry Azerbaijani oil (and eventually oil from elsewhere in the region)
through Georgia to the Turkish port, Ceyhan, on the Mediterranean.
Two shorter and cheaper options were unacceptable in
Washington’s eyes, one because it would have crossed Iran to the
Persian Gulf, the other because it would have involved the Black Sea
and Russia, which is already perceived to have too much say in the
transport of Caspian oil.

It is not wholly certain that the US will get its way in the Caspian.
Certainly, there are potential problems, like cross-border tensions,
inter-ethnic rivalries and islamic radicalism. Iraq too holds similar
obstacles to the imperialist ambitions of corporate America, ambitions
which will be satisfied with nothing less than complete control over
the oil that turns capitalism’s wheels. This powerful mixture of oil
and imperialism will explode into more wars, wars with even thinner
pretexts than in the case of Iraq, wars that must surely provoke even
greater opposition. To oppose war is to oppose capitalism and

****** The A-Infos News Service ******
News about and of interest to anarchists
COMMANDS: lists@ainfos.ca
REPLIES: a-infos-d@ainfos.ca
HELP: a-infos-org@ainfos.ca
WWW: http://www.ainfos.ca/
INFO: http://www.ainfos.ca/org

-To receive a-infos in one language only mail lists@ainfos.ca the message:
unsubscribe a-infos
subscribe a-infos-X
where X = en, ca, de, fr, etc. (i.e. the language code)

A-Infos Information Center