Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Volume 2, Number 2                   February 17 - 23,  2002           Quezon City, Philippines

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The War for Profit: From Afghanistan to Basilan
(First of two parts)

Behind the start of this week’s U.S. combat operations against the Abu Sayyaf on Basilan island is a global economic enterprise that is using the war on terrorism for profit. The fact that the decision to commit U.S. special forces in Mindanao came from George W. Bush who leads a pack of powerful men holding oil, natural gas and war industry connections bears out suspicions that this new Basilan front – along with Afghanistan and other countries where there are active U.S. military operations – is being primed for securing America’s vital economic interests in the region.


Two weeks ago, Bulatlat.com reported about a top director of the United States’ National Security Council (NSC) whose think tank has called for active U.S. military presence in the Philippines in the light of insurgency movements and Muslim extremism in Mindanao. The man, Zalmay Khalilzad, batted for greater American involvement in the country and the rest of Asia-Pacific where, he said, there are cross-border aggression, civil wars, internal aggression, armed uprisings and civil disturbances.

Last Dec. 31, Khalilzad, 51, who is actually an Afghan and now an American citizen, was appointed by President George W. Bush as U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan.

According to Patrick Martin of the International Committee of the Fourth International, in the 1980s, Khalilzad served as a conduit between the U.S. state department, where he later became a special adviser, and the Islamic fundamentalist mujahedin fighting the Soviet-backed regime in Kabul. Through his lobbying, the U.S. government stepped up military aid to the mujahedin from whose ranks rose Osama bin Laden, the Taliban and the Philippine Muslims’ Abu Sayyaf.

Khalilzad became undersecretary of defense under President George Bush, Sr., the current U.S. president’s father, when the Pentagon was headed by Defense Secretary, now Vice President, Dick Cheney.

Khalilzad also became corporate chair in international security at the Rand Corporation, a top U.S. military think tank whose policy recommendations carry weight at Pentagon. He was brought back to government by George W. Bush, Jr. last year as an NSC director.

At the NSC, he reports to Condoleeza Rice, the national security adviser, who has also served as an oil company consultant on Central Asia.

Unocal connections

Khalilzad, Martin says, himself used to be a former aide to another American oil company, Union of California (Unocal), whose Philippine subsidiary is the Philippine Geothermal, Inc. While at Unocal, he was involved in U.S. efforts to obtain direct access to the oil and gas resources of Central Asia – “largely unexploited but believed to be the second largest in the world after the Persian Gulf.”

He also prepared a risk analysis of a proposed gas pipeline from the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan across Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean and, in 1997, took part in talks between Unocal and Taliban officials on how to carry out a 1995 deal to build the pipeline across western Afghanistan. The plan, which also included a $2 billion project to market natural gas from the Dauletabad in southeastern Turkmenistan, one of the world’s largest, was put on hold when U.S. missiles rained on Afghanistan in 1998. “The oil interests,” Martin wrote, “began to look toward a post-Taliban Afghanistan, and so did their representatives in the U.S. national security establishment.”

On Dec. 15 last year, the New York Times reported: “The State Department is exploring the potential for post-Taliban energy projects in the region, which has more than 6 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves and almost 40 percent of its gas reserves.” During a visit to Kazakhstan during the same month, U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell estimated that $200 billion could flow into that country during the next 5-10 years, the newspaper also said.

In a visit to Russia the month before, U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham also pushed U.S. oil investments in Central Asia. Accompanying him was David J. O’Reilly, chairman of ChevronTexaco.

Bush men

Khalilzad, however, is just a junior player in the Bush administration’s multi-billion dollar oil and war industry connections. It is well known that 11 of the Bush cabinet’s 25 members belong to U.S. oil and gas interests. These are the people who steer the United States’ current aggressive policies in the Balkans, Middle East, Central Asia and the Caspian region and now, in the Philippines.

Bush’s oil connections are with Spectrum, Harken Oil & Gas. He also owns stocks in General Electric, BP, Duke Energy, ExxonMobil, Newmont Gold Mining Corporation, Pennzoil and Tom Brown, Inc. – companies that have, incidentally, figured in environmental or toxic waste damage cases.

Cheney, on the other hand, is chief executive officer of Dallas-based Halliburton, the world’s largest oil-reserves company. He also sits on the board of directors of Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor. Lockheed has been a major player in U.S. war efforts in the Middle East, the Balkans and Afghanistan.

As a congressman, Cheney co-sponsored a bill to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and voted against the Clean Water Act that required industries to release their toxic emission records. The defense secretary is also a member of a powerful group called COMPASS (Committee to Preserve American Security and Sovereignty).

When he first served as defense secretary of Bush, Sr., Cheney was chief prosecutor of Operation Desert Storm in 1991. He led the bombing of Iraq, which was primarily aimed at keeping the Persian Gulf safe for U.S. oil interests. After Desert Storm, he became instrumental in broadening U.S. military role in the region to hedge future threats to gulf oil resources.

Caspian Sea

Instability in the Persian Gulf prompted Cheney and his fellow oilmen to zero in on the world's other major source of oil - the Caspian Sea, where rich oil and gas resources are estimated at $4 trillion by U.S. News and World Report. The Washington-based American Petroleum Institute, voice of the major U.S. oil companies, called the Caspian region, "the area of greatest resource potential outside of the Middle East."

"I can't think of a time,” Cheney told a pack of oil industry executives in 1998, “when we've had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian."

Rice, meanwhile , maintains deep ties to the oil industry and right-wing think tanks such as the Hoover Institute. She served under Bush Sr. before joining the board of oil giant Chevron Corporation. Part of her 10-year stint at Chevron was as chief expert on Kazakhstan, where the company holds the largest oil concession.

Chevron, which along with other U.S. oil giants controls oil production in the Middle East, is a big player in Nigeria where there is increasing U.S. military involvement. An ultra-conservative, she described environmental and human rights organizations as “The Enemy.” Bulatlat.com

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