(nil): Vasilis (vasilis(@)komvos-logistics.gr)
Ημερομηνία: Παρ 11 Απρ 2003 - 13:58:43 EEST
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The Iraq war and America's oil addiction
By Derrick Z. Jackson, 4/11/2003
I FLIPPED from the 131st replay of the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue
to catching five minutes of something other than war. What should there be
roaring all across the ESPN screen but an auto race. How American. For
months, Bush and his minions have told us Simple Simon critics that the war
was not about the oil. Then you turn and see the glorification of vehicles
that get as little as 2 miles per gallon of gasoline. The oil of Iraq
belongs to the Iraqi people? We will know that when we see the Baghdad 500
and the Basra Grand Prix. President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell,
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman
Richard Meyers have all said in slight variations that Iraq's oil ''belongs
to the people of Iraq.'' The most brazen of these claims came this week from
Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney said, ''We have no interest in the oil.''
It will be quite a while before Bush and an administration well-oiled by
industry connections and the $46 million in oil and gas contributions in the
2000 and 2002 elections that went to Republicans -- to $12 million for the
Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics -- can convince
anyone that this war was more for the people of Iraq and less for our
long-term needs on our highways, byways, and speedways. Even as many Iraqis
are understandably celebrating the fact that Saddam no longer rules them,
American foreign policy, oil policy, and our own behavior will have to get a
lot more than a proverbial 2 miles a gallon.
For one, Americans have done little at home to change our global behavior.
At 5 percent of the world's population, we consume between 25 and 30 percent
of the world's oil. Neither 9/11 nor Iraq has changed that. Bush has been in
office more than two years and has not asked Americans to curb a thirst
would suck the earth dry if the rest of the planet drank petrol the way we
For another, we have long demonstrated that as long as we get our oil, we
could care less about the people. Three of the top five nations the United
States currently imports its oil from are Mexico, Venezuela, and Nigeria.
All have either major environmental problems from oil, political turmoil, or
Nigeria has exported $300 billion in oil since 1975. But the Niger River
delta has been fouled with slicks, acid rain, and leaking pipes that have
caught fire, exploded, and killed hundreds of people. Human rights activists
have been killed, mothers have held protests, and the people in the delta
remain so poor that they sneak around to collect leaking oil in buckets.
According to Human Rights Watch, hundreds, if not at least 2,000, people
have been killed by the Nigerian military in a combination of ethnic strife
and repression in the delta over the last three years.
This week, in the wake of another month of fighting, Human Rights Watch
wrote Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo to urge him to stop the
violence. The organization also wrote to the Nigerian officials of Shell and
Chevron, asking them to protect their workers. Others have long asked them
to improve working conditions. But life for the people of the delta still
moves at a crawl while our auto racers roar into the pit stop for another
guzzle. While spectators at race tracks bask in the sun, the per capita
income of Nigeria has fallen by two-thirds in the last quarter century.
A 2002 report on the impact of oil development by Harvard Medical School's
Center for Health and the Global Environment cited the Mexican state of
Tabasco for generating $130 billion in oil revenues over 20 years yet
remaining the ninth-poorest state in the country. ''Unregulated oil
extraction has escalated living costs, skewed income distribution, forced
relocations, and led to hazardous living conditions,'' the report said.
''The release of toxic substances and disruption of water supplies have
damaged crops and depleted fish populations. Studies performed in the area .
. . indicate that cancer and leukemia are increasing in all age groups in
Tabasco, with the highest leukemia incidences reported in areas immediately
surrounding petroleum production sites.''
Even if you were for the war, there is no guarantee that the US victory will
mean anything for the people of Iraq unless President Bush, having gone this
far, is prepared to do the very nation-building that he said he was not
going to do as a candidate. All the prowar experts say it's no problem, that
Iraq sits on so much oil that it will eventually be a very wealthy country.
But when Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld, and Meyers all say the same thing
while not asking Americans to change our behavior, the question remains
dangerously open. Is Iraq's oil for the Iraqi people or is it really for our
interstates and the Indianapolis 500?
Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is jackson(@)globe.com.
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