James Wan & Alice Barnes
EDGE Fall 2004
US involvement in world politics: Venezuela and Afghanistan
In this paper we will seek to investigate official US interference in the politics and policies of selected foreign countries. We have chosen to research this topic by focusing on two main case studies. The first case study we will look at will be Venezuela. In our research on Venezuela we will assess US involvement in the series of events that led up to the recent general election and the tensions between President Hugo Chavez and the US government. We will investigate the allegations against the US government of covertly supporting the opposition to President Chavez and of generally trying to overthrow the President and interfere in Venezuelan politics. In order to provide support for the allegations against the US government we will be highlight some examples of previous US intervention in the politics of various other South American and Latin American countries. The other country we will analyse is Afghanistan and in our research on Afghanistan we will also look at certain other key countries involved in the dispute over the oil of the Caspian region. We have chosen these two countries as our case studies because we can contrast the very different approaches of the US government to the two areas. Although in both cases there is substantial evidence that the US government has acted to influence the politics of a country in order benefit the US, there are very clear differences in the tactics used by the US in each example.
In Venezuela the US interference has been far more covert than it has been in Afghanistan. An obvious difference between the two situations is that the US has actually gone so far as to use military force to overthrow the Taliban government of Afghanistan whereas in Venezuela it has been restricted to using less blatant methods to try to depose President Chavez. What does not appear to change however is the fact that the US government has attempted to hide the real reasons why they have sought to alter the politics of these foreign countries. Also, another constant factor in many US interventions in worldwide democracy, oil, is hugely important in both of these cases. In this paper we will endeavour to uncover the truth behind the actions of the US government; why they officially say that it is necessary for them to take action and the real reasons why they have done so. We will also seek to identify the factors that enable the US to behave in such a manner, for example, how the vast majority of mainstream US media works as a tool for the government rather than actually reporting the truth and, how the US government uses propaganda to cloud the vision of the US people.
Firstly we will closely examine the Venezuelan situation, the background of US-South/Latin American relations, the policies of President Chavez and why they should concern the US government, the allegations of US support for the opposition party and general attempts to disrupt Chavez’s government and, the US media’s coverage of events. Following this we will turn our attention to the Caspian region and primarily Afghanistan, and seek to draw many comparisons and highlight some important contrasts between the two areas.
I would like to add at this time the acknowledgement that the US is by no means alone in the behaviour of meddling in other countries’ affairs. The UK, France, Germany and Spain among others are also guilty of interference however, in this investigation we have chosen to focus our attention solely on the US.
Examples of US interference in South/Latin American countries
Unsurprisingly the US government denies any undercover, underhand attempts to influence Venezuelan politics. President Chavez is convinced that the US government is trying to orchestrate his downfall and although he claims he has evidence nothing has been produced as yet. The lack of concrete evidence of any dubious US involvement in Venezuela should not, however, be viewed as proof of the US’s innocence. The US government has a track record of interfering in the politics of various other South/Latin American countries. Tellingly, in many of the cases that I will now highlight not only did the US censor and manipulate the media coverage of events to hide the real truth, but also, they often denied any wrongdoing and distorted the facts of what actually occurred. The three cases I will look at briefly are Guatemala, Panama and, Nicaragua. Although these cases are not directly related to the events in Venezuela they do highlight the US’s attitude towards the governments of South/Latin American countries and how they believe they can treat their democratically elected leaders.
In 1954 the US provided financial aid and weapons to the Guatemalan army to enable them to overthrow then president Colonel Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán. The US did not agree with Guzmán’s policies, which included the redistribution of land belonging to the United Fruit Company. The United Fruit Company monopolised the country’s banana exports and was ultimately a law unto itself. Why should the government of Guatemala’s attempts to disrupt The United Fruit Company’s dominance concern the US? Perhaps because, “Secretary of State John Foster Dulles' law firm had prepared United Fruit's contracts with Guatemala; his brother, CIA Director Allen Dulles, belonged to United Fruit's law firm; John Moors Cabot, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, was the brother of a former United Fruit president and, President Eisenhower's personal secretary was married to the head of United Fruit's Public Relations Department.”[ThirdWorldTraveller]. Although, of course, it is not possible to prove that these connections influence the US behaviour the fact remains that the US supported a military coup, which succeeded in overthrowing a democratically elected president.
In December 1989 the US government launched a military attack on Panama. Several hundred civilians were killed and countless more were left homeless. The US claimed that this military action was necessary to remove from power Panamanian leader General Manual Noriega and bring him to the US to stand trial on drug trafficking charges. The actual motivation behind the US invasion was “the destruction of the Panamanian Defense Forces which, under Noriega, had grown more nationalistic and less responsive to US interests” (TheWinds). The US not only sought to hide the real reason behind the attack but also the true nature of what took place, to ensure this they enforced “unprecedented press control in Panama where all forms of media were shut down, newspapers, radio and television.”(TheWinds). The invasion of Panama was by no means the first instance of US interference in Panamanian political affairs. Indeed General Noriega was an employee of the CIA before he became the leader of Panama, with full US backing, and he was, in fact, still on the CIA payroll for the first 3 years of his leadership. (Hinson) The US government’s cover-up of their behaviour in this example was, in part, made possible by their control of the US media which “was happy to display the distorted picture which the powerful interests behind the scene dictated.”(TheWinds)
Over a period of years the US government provided huge financially support for the contras in Nicaragua. The contras were a force officially known as the Nicaraguan Democratic Force who opposed the then government. They used brutal and destructive tactics to disrupt the government and terrorise the people of Nicaragua. The US supported their cause, as they did not like the so-called Marxist policies of the ruling party. The US was accused of altering the outcome of the Nicaraguan election by offering voters $40 for voting for the US backed candidate (WakeUp). The US’s behaviour in Nicaragua was condemned by The World Court who ruled that “the US, by training, arming, equipping, financing and supplying the contra forces…and aiding military and paramilitary activities against Nicaragua, has acted…in breach of its obligation under customary international law not to intervene in the affairs of another state.” (WakeUp) Crucially for our investigation, the US’s behaviour was described by critics as a “blueprint for successful US intervention in the Third World” (WakeUp). This is an extremely significant quote because it highlights the difference between the US tactics in Venezuela and Afghanistan. The US cannot use such extreme measures in Venezuela as it used in Nicaragua and Afghanistan partly, as will be explained later, because Venezuela is not a Third World country
These three examples were intended to show a history of US interference in other countries’ affairs. Numerous other examples of US activity in this area could have been chosen, for example Honduras and El Salvador. Based on this evidence it does not seem at all inconceivable that the US could have intervened in Venezuelan affairs.
Chavez’s policies that meet with US disapproval
President Hugo Chavez
Since his election in 1998 with an unprecedented 57% of the vote President Chavez has continually frustrated the US government with his policies. He has spoken out against the US on a number of crucial issues including free trade and oil. He also maintains a close friendship with the Cuban leader Fidel Castro and has sought to create a stronger allegiance between their countries. Obviously the US government does not wish to see that happen as any such union could prove damaging to US trade interests in the area.
One example of Chavez’s nationalistic stance can be found in his position on the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), a proposal to create the world’s largest trading zone. Chavez claims that the FTAA would only benefit the US and he called on the other countries of the Americas to join forces as “Only united can we break the chains that oppress us.” Chavez claims the FTAA is the latest incarnation of economic "colonialism" and vows to put any deal to a popular vote (Olson). Venezuela’s chief FTAA negotiator Victor Alvarez highlighted the hypocrisy of the US in that “while the Bush Administration was preaching free trade to their dark-skinned compatriots south of the border, the USA itself was facing one of the largest penalties in World Trade Organization history for raising tariffs on steel products”(Palast). These raised tariffs have already closed two steel plants in Venezuela. As usual Chavez does not hold back his feelings on this issue stating that the “FTAA is the path to hell”(Palast). The refusal of Chavez to sign the FTAA agreement is a source of much frustration to the US government.
Chavez has also very much annoyed the US government with his alteration of the Venezuelan policy on oil production and export and Venezuela’s spearheading of OPEC. OPEC (the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries) controls the production of, which ultimately plays a huge role in determining the price of, oil from all its member states. Prior to Chavez, Venezuela “had gained notoriety among OPEC members for habitually exceeding the OPEC production quotas and breaking ranks. This suited Washington as it kept oil prices down.”(Palast2) Now, Chavez has now nearly doubled all royalties that foreign companies have to pay on Venezuelan oil from 16% to 30%. This has seriously hurt the many US companies such as Exxon and Shell that operate in Venezuela. In addition to this Chavez has cut Venezuelan oil production to fall in accordance with OPEC regulations. This has obviously caused an increase in oil prices. Venezuela accounts for near to 15% of all oil imports to the US, making the third largest importer of oil to the US, and therefore, these policy changes have severely impacted the US (Chandrasekhar).
This factor alone separates Venezuela from Afghanistan, as Chavez is aware that the US is reliant on Venezuelan oil. At a recent rally Chavez stated that, “if (the US Government) tried to invade Venezuela or impose a trade blockade against his country, he would shut off Venezuelan oil supplies to the United States.”(Fletcher). Chavez is clearly aware of the power his country commands because of its vast oil resources and appears to be determined to end foreign exploitation of those resources.
As mentioned earlier Chavez has closely allied himself with Cuban leader Fidel Castro. His association with Castro obviously does not meet with US approval. He has given Cuba benefits including agreeing to “allow Cuba to pay for part of its oil imports from Venezuela with goods and services”. Also, Chavez has been quoted as stating that, “Cuba and Venezuela are, in effect, "one team."” He has also described Castro as “one of his closest political allies and personal friends”. (Crespo)
Chavez has also angered the US on many occasions with his open criticism of President Bush and his government. Following September 11th he criticised President Bush’s “you are with us or against us” statement. He also spoke out “against the killing of innocent civilians in Afghanistan in the United States' so-called war on terror” (Crespo). Rather amusingly and perhaps refreshingly Chavez has also been quoted as, calling Bush an “asshole”, Condoleezza Rice “a meddling illiterate” and accusing the US government of “sticking its nose in”(Pipeline).
US Government and media portrayal of Chavez
Obviously the US government keeps a very close eye indeed on the relationship between Castro and Chavez. Certainly if Chavez is as close as reports suggest to Castro then the US could have some reason to be worried however, the media and government does not hesitate to place massive emphasis on this friendship. Reading reports from various US media and government sources one cannot help but notice a familiar pattern of what can only be described as scare tactics designed to instill fear in the US public. The other very obvious instance of the use of these tactics occurred following the September 11th attack with regards to the country of Afghanistan and the entire Middle East region. In that case, as will be explained in the second part of this investigation, the government used the media to create an atmosphere of panic that enabled the US to invade Afghanistan and later Iraq. The media coverage of the events in Venezuela is nothing like that in Afghanistan but nonetheless one can certainly sense a clear stance that various US media sources have taken. One media reports claimed that Chavez is turning his “oil rich country into a base for international terrorism” (Crespo). Another, by US News entitled Terror Close to Home, explained how Chavez’s connection the Castro meant that the US should expect terrorist attacks to be launched from Venezuela. The theme of associating Chavez with terrorism is also common, the Chicago Tribune having accused Chavez of “praising Osama bin Laden.”(Coen), a totally false claim. The reports in the US media on the military coup of April 2002 also revealed a worrying bias. Newsday of Long Island ran the headline “Chavez's Ouster Is No Great Loss”, and even the normally reliable New York Times praised the coup claiming that, “Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator”(Coen). This is not to suggest however that all US media sources are anti-Chavez, the New York Times has run various articles questioning the US policies and behaviour in Venezuela, as has the Washington Post. However, the majority of US news reporting either written or televised emphasises the danger Chavez could present to the US.
Members of the US government have been quoted numerous times making what can be described as undemocratic statements regarding President Chavez. Following the 2002 coup a senior member of the administration was quoted as saying “He was democratically elected. He won a majority of votes. Legitimacy is something that is conferred not just by a majority of votes, however.” (NygaardNotes). Once Chavez returned to power after overcoming the coup the US National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice commented that Chavez had been “moving, frankly, in the wrong direction for quite a long time”. She added: “I hope that Hugo Chavez takes the message that his people sent him, that his own policies are not working for the Venezuelan people, that he's dealt with them in a high-handed fashion.”(Campbell). President Bush himself was also quoted as saying he hoped Chavez had “learned the lesson”, the Venezuelan coup had given him (Campbell). The US Government was also shockingly quick to accept the resignation of President Chavez whereas, other national leaders such as President Fox of Mexico, were immediate in their condemnation of the military coup (Campbell).
Venezuelan opinions on Chavez
The purpose of this paper is by no means to portray President Chavez as an ideal, faultless leader. Certainly he has made mistake and enemies, both in Venezuela and abroad, in his time in power. Aside from the obvious tension with the US government there are many other leaders who do not agree entirely with his policies. This said he survived the recall election and retains the undeniable support of the poor population of Venezuela. He has been democratically elected one two occasions with 57% and 58% of the vote and that is more than can be said for President Bush.
The media of Venezuela is well known to be anti-Chavez. Wealthy Venezuelan families own many of the largest broadcasting corporations and they would dearly like to see Chavez and his leftist polices defeated. The El Nacional group of newspapers does not hide its opposition to Chavez nor do many other leading media groups. The owners are supposedly angered by Chavez’s “alleged abuses of press freedom” however many claim that they are in fact simply using the media as tools in the elitists’ fight against Chavez. Indeed, the role the media played in, as Chavez alleged, inciting and misleading the public during the 2002 coup attempt appears to be undeniable, during the coup one media tycoon was reported to have told the coup leaders that “We can’t guarantee you the loyalty of the army but we can promise you the support of the media.”(The Economist). The morning after Chavez was removed, temporarily, from power the El Nacional newspaper, making no attempt to hide its allegiances, lead with the celebratory headline, "It's over!"(Ceaser).
Aside from the military coup Chavez also faced enormous adversity during the general strike of December 2001. Businesses across Venezuela ceased work in a reaction to 49 laws that Chavez had recently passed. By Venezuelan law it was within his power to have acted in this way but it was, nonetheless, a dramatic step to have taken. Many of the laws concerned land reform and oil production and most companies claimed they were, “hostile to private investment”(Easton). The strike was also called in support of “the PDVSA managers' protest against a new board of directors seen as appointees of President Chavez”(BBC News). The PDVSA is the largest oil production company in Venezuela and is governed by, as stated in their website, an “Alignment and subordination to the State”. Although the strike was, for the most part, peaceful it threatened to cripple the Venezuelan economy and succeeded in bring oil production to a virtual standstill. Eventually after seven weeks President Chavez succeeded in ending the strike. After time public support for the strike waned with Venezuela’s poor, loyal to Chavez, taking to the streets and demonstrating in support of the leader. Chavez used drastic measures to crush the strike including the sacking of 5,000 striking oil workers. As I have mentioned before Chavez’s methods have been questioned on numerous occasions however, the fact remains that he is a democratically elected leader and a general strike should not be used to remove him from power. (McDermott)
The result of the general strike and numerous political protests for and against President Chavez was the calling of a recall election. It was hoped that this would put an end to the political conflicts that had become commonplace in Venezuela. Early predictions showed that President Chavez would lose a recall election. The majority of the media sources, who as already explained, were extremely anti-Chavez, were claiming that the opposition would be victorious. Also voicing their support for the opposition were many of the large corporations who had been involved in the general strike. Amid concerns over possible corruption independent observers from The Carter Centre for conflict resolution were present. Ultimately they would be required to verify the results as first the opposition and then Chavez both claimed victory. However, it soon because apparent, that Chavez had indeed survived the recall election with a massive 58% of the vote.
Chavez’s victory in the election can be attributed largely to his huge popularity amongst Venezuela’s poor. He himself came from a poor background and throughout his political career has focused on using government resources to benefit the most needy Venezuelans. After his victory in the election he vowed to continue his “Bolivian revolution”. As part of his revolution Chavez has used money from oil exports to fund programmes for the poor including “literacy, health care, job training, land reform, subsidized food, small loans.”(Benjamin). Critics of Chavez claim that he has not actually significantly improved the lives of the poor population. It is true that unemployment sits just above 14% having risen from 12% in 1998, when Chavez was first elected. However, the results of the election would seem to speak for themselves and the opposition cannot deny that whatever President Chavez’s policies may be they have earned him the support of 58% of the population, which is a massive margin of victory.
Allegations against the US Government
In the previous section I spoke about how Chavez’s policies have “alienated him from Venezuela's traditional white ruling elite”(Becker), and how this can be seen as one factor in the coup against him. Whilst it is true that anti-Chavez Venezuelans were behind the coup, the strike and the recall election, allegations are rife of behind the scenes US government interference. The main accusation leveled at the US is that they have given massive financial support to those political parties that oppose Chavez. Obviously the US government denies any such involvement however, evidence has been produce that would appear to prove their guilt. Various reputable media sources have reported that “ Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that, in 2002, America paid more than a million dollars to those political groups in what it claims, as was reported by the Independent newspaper in March 2004, is an ongoing effort to build democracy and "strengthen political parties"”. The US government does not directly supply this funding, it comes from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) which is a non-profit organization designed to promote worldwide democracy. The NED does however receive all its funding directly from the US government and many claim it is simply a method by which the US can “routinely meddle in other countries' affairs” (Independent). Much of the controversy centres on Sumate, a group that, according The Miami Herald, is simply a “civic organization that promotes voter education, monitors elections and does independent exit polls”, but according to Chavez and many foreign news sources it is associated with political parties. On its website the NED does admit funding Sumate, but, only so that they could “develop materials to educate citizens about the constitutional referendum process and to encourage citizens to participate”. Other sources suggest however that Sumate’s actually organized the recall petition against Chavez and used the US government funds to promote the opposition parties cause.
As highlighted earlier in this paper the US government has many reasons to desire the removal of Chavez and much evidence has surfaced to support Chavez’s claim that they are actively seeking his removal. Following the coup “officials at the Organisation of American States and other diplomatic sources asserted that the US administration was not only aware the coup was about to take place, but had sanctioned it, presuming it to be destined for success”(Vulliamy). Chavez has consistently maintained that the US is trying to overthrow him and had full knowledge of the coup claiming that, “The Government of Washington is using the money of its people to support not only opposition activities but acts of conspiracy,”(Palast). As a telling side note nearly all of the articles I found regarding the coup were from non-US news sources. There is very little information to be found in the US media on the events of April 2002 and when the coup was briefly reported in the US the actual word “coup” is obviously avoided. Again, this does not provide any evidence of US guilt, however, it does highlight their general stance and attitude towards Chavez. Moreover, it once again highlights the extent to which the US media is merely a voice for the US government.
Conclusion and comparison with Afghanistan
In conclusion this investigation has demonstrated that whilst there remains little concrete evidence of the US government’s involvement in Venezuela there is much to suggest that they did indeed interfere in the country’s affairs. Based on the US government’s track record of meddling in South/Latin American countries one can guess that there is at least some truth behind the allegations against the US. These allegations include covertly funding the opposition to Chavez through the NED, having prior knowledge of the 2002 military coup and even supporting that event. For the most part the US media simply serves as the voice of the US government and distorts the facts and manipulates the accounts of events in order to conform to the official government stance.
At no time has this paper sought to suggest that Chavez is a perfect President. Certainly he has he faults, for example his close friendship with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro should not be overlooked. That does not however, mean that the US is justified in its constant attempts to over-emphasise this connection nor should it divert attention from the fact that President Chavez is democratically elected leader and not a dictator.
Many see the efforts of the US to create an atmosphere of fear surrounding Chavez, playing off the events of September 11th, as merely a smoke screen for the true issue at stake in Venezuela, oil. The US would like to see a more pro-US policy concerning oil exports and they know that Chavez will not give it to them. Therefore, as Chavez claims, they are seeking ways to remove him from power. This is where the connection with Afghanistan becomes apparent, as the US removal of the Taliban government has been closely linked to the Caspian oil reserves. As will be explained in the second half of this paper, the US government was able to use military force to achieve their goals in Afghanistan unlike Venezuela. There are various reasons that no such tactic could be use in Venezuela. For example, there are no terrorists hiding in Venezuela that could provide a convenient excuse for military action, Venezuela is not a third world country and has far more power that Afghanistan due to its oil resources and, the US relies on those oil resources and it is also in the US’s interests to maintain good trade agreements with Venezuela. Another possible reason, albeit extremely depressing, is that the Western world would care far more about the death of innocent Venezuelans, with whom we can associate more easily, than the slaughter of thousands of men, women and children in Afghanistan, with whom we feel little connection and for whom, evidently, we have little compassion.
If September 11th did not happen, then the United States would not have invaded Afghanistan. At least that is what Bush would have everyone believe. Bush mistakenly informs the American public time and time again that once the terrorist threat is over, the American troops will be withdrawn. Nearly everybody from the supporters of the war to the local bartender believes this to be the truth, and it isn’t entirely their fault. Bush administrators have worked arduously to propagate the notion that America must be inside Afghanistan for a matter of national security. The truth of the matter is that September 11th and the whole ‘War on Terrorism’ was used as a justification to enter Afghanistan and check up on their oil situation. Recent tasks such as seeking out Al-Qaida leaders, and gaining full access to terrorist training camps have acted as a catalyst to American involvement in the Middle East. Consequently, Bush propagandists have had a field day spinning the truth to the American public. For example, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said, “September 10th, 2001, was not the last day of world innocence. It was, however, the last day of America's lack of understanding of a worldwide extremist movement determined to terrorize, to defeat, to destroy civilized people everywhere (Rumsfeld 1).” Undoubtedly, there is no way any patriotic American would want to refute this statement. However, what some people fail to realize is the American government’s hidden agenda in Afghanistan. In this particular case, there is too much clear evidence that the United States has ulterior motives to be just, coincidence. The vast amount of oil in the Caspian Sea, Cheney’s statements about the importance of the Caspian in relation to national security, and the fact that the United States imports over half of its oil from foreign countries are all supposed coincidences in the War on Terrorism.
The Issue: Oil and the Caspian Sea
The issue of oil and Afghanistan has long been a topic of controversy. The reason being is that the Caspian Sea area contains a large amount of natural resources, or more specifically, natural gas and oil. In fact, researchers expect oil production to even surpass Venezuela, the current leader of South American oil exportation (Caspian 1). Thus, the potential power that Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan (states of the Caspian) residents could have is extremely big. Before Vice President Dick Cheney was Vice President, he was CEO of the oil company, Halliburton and during his reign he stated, “I cannot think of a time when we have had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian (Guardian 1).” The reason that Afghanistan is so significant is because in order for the oil to benefit the United States, it must be piped through a country to be distributed. Other countries around the Caspian are not options because the only countries that can complete this task are Russia and Iran. Both are countries that the United States has worked diligently to suppress their political and economic growth. It is distressing however to the United States that Iran is the most desirable route to pipeline oil out of the Caspian because not only is it the most direct route, but the oil could be processed in established Iranian oil compounds. The only logical country to pipeline the oil through would be Afghanistan. For a map of the Caspian Sea and its surrounding areas, see figure 1. Also, by pipelining the oil through Afghanistan it would allow sales to the south where the demand for oil is high, as opposed to the west (Europe) where the demand is low (Guardian 2). For a struggling economy, the largest monetary benefit is always a primary concern.
The topic of energy is always one of high concern to the United States. The reason being is obviously that we use an excessive amount of energy compared to other nations. The United States currently imports around 51 percent of its crude oil, which amounts to an astonishing 19.5 million barrels daily. By 2020, the Energy Information Administration approximates that the United States will import around 64 percent of its crude oil, or 25.8 million barrels daily (Hindu 1). The entire Caspian Sea region is estimated to have around 179 billion barrels of oil in its entirety. In terms of the dollar, each barrel of oil is worth $25 dollars. Simple math allows one to estimate the value of all of the oil in Caspian Sea, which amounts to about $4 trillion dollars. The amazing thing is that oil isn’t even the only natural resource in the Caspian. Natural gas that amounts to around $1 trillion dollars also resides there. This brings the total value of the Caspian Sea, including all of its natural resources to over $5 trillion dollars (Energy Basin 1). It is no wonder the United States is so interested in the region. However though, for obvious reasons they are not the only country or even company interested.
Throughout the 1990’s, three major projects went underway in an attempt to produce more oil from Caspian Sea region. Although none in Afghanistan, these developments were significant in the fact that they would allow previously unrecoverable oil to be recoverable. The first of these three projects happened in 1993 when Chevron conducted a $20 billion dollar deal in an attempt to aid the development of the Tengiz oil field. This oil field is estimated to contain anywhere from six to nine billion barrels of oil. The result of this investment was the joint company named Tengizchevroil. Because this region contains export pipelines with more being built, Tengizchevroil has steadily increased its production with a goal of around 750,000 bbl/day in 2010. The second project involves the Azerbaijan International Oil Consortium (AIOC). In what was nicknamed the ‘deal of the century,’ Azerbaijan International Oil Consortium bought the rights to three separate oil fields, Azeri, Chirag, and Gunashli, respectively for eight years. All for the price of $8 billion dollars. These three areas are estimated to contain anywhere from three to five billion barrels of oil. The final development involves the offshore Kashagan block. The company that is developing the area is known as the Offshore Kazakhstan International Operating Company (OKIOC). After initial drilling, estimates of this region are up to a possible 40 billion barrels (Caspian 3). With all of the developments in the regions surrounding the Caspian Sea, there is no doubt that once Afghanistan is able to obtain a stable government, it too will be used to its full potential.
Oil’s Influence on the War on Terrorism
In the world today, oil is one of the most valuable natural resources. In fact, many Middle Eastern countries survive solely because their land has oil within it. The United States isn’t very different. Instead of just surviving, the United States is looking to prosper further by controlling strategic points in the Middle East. In 1981, President Carter’s state of the union addressed the issue of oil and his point was simple. Denial of safe access to Persian Gulf oil would not only be a threat to national security, but a threat to worldwide security. In fact, Carter even named the Soviets as the most likely threat to American oil access in the Persian Gulf, however he did claim that he would protect the surrounding regions from anything and everything (Carter 1). It is obvious that the United States holds oil in its highest regard and will go by any means necessary to ensure its continued access to the Middle East.
In any case, in 1998, in an effort to gain more influence in the Middle East through oil, the United States supported the Taliban. The reason being that the Taliban was Anti-Iranian and the United States sought to do everything it could to hurt the Iranians. The catch was that the once the Taliban was in power, they would have to agree to putting in an oil pipeline for the United States. A single oil pipeline in Afghanistan could yield around $100 million dollars in revenues. Irony strikes when the one of the main reasons Osama Bin Laden even began his terrorist activities was because he realized the United States was attempting to gain influence in the Middle East through Afghanistan and he wanted to have no part of it. Interesting how his actions gave the United States an excuse to enter Afghanistan without fear of question. Irony struck again when Iran released a statement supporting the United States for their actions against the Taliban and Afghanistan.
In 2001, actions carried out by the United States Special Forces led many to believe that the Bush administration had a hidden agenda in Afghanistan. The Special Forces team was reported to have destroyed Iranian oil tankers transporting oil to Afghan cities (War 1). The problem was that this had nothing to do with Osama Bin Laden or any sorts of terrorists.
During the War on Terrorism in Afghanistan, the United States was given military bases by Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. The problem with that is that many of the surrounding countries in Central Asia are questioning the intentions of the United States. Specifically, they fear a permanent American presence in such a close proximity. Ahmed Rashid, author of Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil, and Fundamentalism in Central Asia says there have been rumors that a secret treaty between the United States and Uzbekistan stating that the United States would be able to have a permanent establishment in their state (Corporations 2).
With the downfall of the Taliban, the United States placed Hamid Karzai in charge. Within the past year, President Karzai has attempted to restart negotiations of a possible pipeline through Afghanistan. On December 9th 2003, the governments of Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and Pakistan signed a document to begin work on the pipeline, which has been wit fully named the Trans-Afghan Pipeline or TAP for short (Afghanistan 1). Even though this is natural gas news, it is still relevant that the new president of Afghanistan is working to use Afghanistan to transport the energy resources out of the Caspian Sea. This most likely was the goal of the United States all along. And by putting Karzai in power; their goal would more likely be reached.
The Pro-War Viewpoint
It can be said that the ‘War on Terrorism’ is actually a war on terrorism and to a certain extent that is true. The United States would love to find Osama Bin Laden and all of the Al-Qaeda operatives. In fact, if that had happened before the election, Bush quite possibly could have won by the biggest margin in history. But, how much does the capture of Bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda operatives really contribute to national security? The United States is the most prestigious country in the world and those less fortunate than America will always hate them. This is especially true when the United States is using its influence to control one of the only natural resources and source of a struggling economy in their region.
Recent studies have led many to believe that an oil pipeline in Afghanistan is not even possible for the United States. In fact, it has already by tried by an oil company by the name of Unocal. In late 1997, Unocal began negotiating with Afghanistan to begin the construction of an oil pipeline that would extend from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan (Unocal 1). The projected specifications for the oil pipeline were 42 inches in diameter, 1040 miles in length, and carry around 1 million barrels of oil per day. It was estimated that the project would cost around $2.5 billion dollars (Oil 1). Unfortunately, Unocal did not end up constructing the oil pipeline because of instability along with a variety of other reasons . At the time, Afghanistan was in amidst a civil war that tore the country into two groups, Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, who controls the Taliban and the United Front, who controls the Islamic State of Afghanistan. Whilst the fighting was going on, the United States was once again searching for Osama bin Laden. In August of 1998, in response to the destruction of two United States embassies, Nairobi and Dar es-Salaam, the United States bombed training camps near the border of Pakistan (Untitled 1). As a result, Unocal withdrew from Afghanistan without even starting construction on their oil pipeline with the reason that the civil instability of Afghanistan made it impossible.
Along with the main cause of Unocal ceasing construction, there were also many minor reasons as well. The first reason was the pressure of the feminists, led by Eleanor Smeal and Mavis Leno (Corporations 1). In 1998, the feminists protested the dealings that Unocal had with the Taliban by picketing outside of Unocal offices. The reason being that the feminists felt that the Taliban was guilty of ‘gender apartheid.’ Basically the Taliban suppressed women’s rights to an unbearable extent and needed to be fixed immediately. Some of the biggest problems the feminists had with the Taliban was that they did not allow women to read, thus causing the female literacy rate in Afghanistan to be a mere four percent. Other restrictions that were put on females included not being able to laugh in public and not being able to walk outside without a male accompaniment (Feminists 1).
Following Unocal’s termination of its construction in Afghanistan, no other oil companies, not even international have attempted to claim Afghanistan. According to Ahmed Rahsid, the Unocal situation caused a lot of unrest with a lot of other oil companies. For obvious reasons, the sentiment in the United States towards oil companies was sour. Rashid also states that the possible presence of Osama Bin Laden in the vicinity poses too much of a risk to safely establish ties with Afghanistan (Corporations 1). He does however admit that setting up shop in Afghanistan is on the back of every oil companies mind because of the vast profit that one could possibly make.
It can be said that the war supporters do have valid points that there is no way the United States could be scheming for oil, there are still a few arguments left unscathed. Most of the arguments that war supporters make are from the Afghanistan of the past, still ruled under the Taliban. Contemporary Afghanistan is governed by the president that the United States placed there strategically. Oil companies now have recently viewed an increased stability of the government and may once again attempt to harvest the natural resources Afghanistan has to offer.
The Impact of US Intervention
Prior to September 11th, the United States along with almost all of the established nations worldwide were in competition to try to establish themselves as the oil gods of the Middle East. The United States’ biggest rival was of course Russia. Not only because of its location of being right next to the Caspian Sea, but because of tensions still left behind from the Cold War. Former Prime Minister Boris Yeltsin said, “We cannot help seeing the uproar stirred up in some Western countries over the energy resources of the Caspian. Some seek to exclude Russia from the game and undermine its interests. The so-called pipeline war in the region is part of this game (JURIST 1).” Both the United States wanted a monopoly of the pipelines branching out from the Caspian because of the obvious monetary benefits.
Following the events of September 11th, an article in the New York Times was published, titled ‘Russia is Becoming an Oil Ally.’ The article states that Russia decided to be an ally of the United States in the war on terror, and as a result, political ties have been strengthened. Laurent Ruseckas of Cambridge Energy stated that, “The trend was already towards a depoliticization of Caspian energy, and this definitely advances that,” in an effort to show that the United States and Russia were truly becoming allies in the oil industry as well (Russia 1). The ‘alliance’ could be short-lived however because as quickly as they became allies, Russia broke the trust of the United States. Russia provided the United Front with arms and coaxed them to move into Kabul (JURIST 2).
The ‘War on Terrorism’ has had many interesting events occur during its duration. For example, the Taliban was overthrown. However, what isn’t widely known is that before it was overthrown, Bush was eager to do business with them. Bush’s ultimatum to the Taliban in threatening them if they did not turn over Osama Bin Laden was actually a hidden scheme to separate the two in hopes of befriending the Taliban (Hindu 4). Only when the ultimatum did not succeed was Bush forced to overthrow the Taliban and set in motion the plan for a democratic leader.
Regrettably, it is the easy thing to do nowadays to believe that the United States government is scrupulous in its actions. With all the propaganda thrown at the public from the Bush administration, it is no wonder people believe that the only reason we are invading Afghanistan is that we believe they are holding Osama Bin Laden. Sure that is one of their goals, however obviously not a priority of the United States.
The goal of this research paper was to highlight the growing problem of US interference in worldwide democracy or politics. The two examples we chose to analyse were picked specifically because they show two very different tactics employed by the US government. In Afghanistan the US were obviously able to use military force to remove the Taliban government. During the military campaign in Afghanistan the civilian losses were huge and yet the US was still able to continue with their actions. The vast majority of the US media groups and also the US public supported the invasion of Afghanistan and the general consensus appeared to be that the death of thousands of innocent Afghanis was merely a necessary evil. The US government used its almost total control of the media to convince the public that this war was not only justified as it was self-defense following the attacks of September 11th but also that is was a moral crusade to free the Afghani people from the terror of the Taliban government. Interestingly the US government had actually spoken out in support of the Taliban government just a few years prior to September 11th and had been seeking to cooperate with them on the building of a pipeline from the Caspian Sea through Afghanistan. The oil of the Caspian sea, as we have hopefully highlighted in this paper, is the real reason behind the US invasion of Afghanistan. The US government has deceived the American people using the media and a faux “war on terror” in an attempt to gain control of Afghanistan and therefore, control of the pipeline route.
The theme of the US government’s need for oil has been a constant throughout this entire paper. In Venezuela much of the true problem the US has with President Chavez centres around his policies on Venezuelan oil production. These polices have severely hurt the US which relies on Venezuela for 15% of its oil. The US is also concerned about the powerful role Venezuela has within OPEC. As we have emphasized during this paper although the main driving force behind the US involvement in each of these countries remains the same, oil, the behaviour of the US has been markedly different. The reason behind that, is much as the US media, which remember is always in the pocket of the US government, attempts to paint him as one, President Chavez is not a dictator and he has been democratically elected not once but twice, with massive margins of victory each time. The US has interfered as much as possible in the democratic processes of Venezuela providing funding for the opposition party, allegedly supporting the failed military coup of 2002 and continually portraying Chavez as a dictator and villain. They cannot however use military force in Venezuela because it is a relatively rich and powerful country thanks to its oil resources. In this example the US is simply forced to accept Chavez’s rule, whereas in other situations they have been known to wage economical warfare by placing ridiculous trade restrictions on a country Chavez has already ruled out the option by stating that if the US does that to Venezuela he will cases all oil exports. Unfortunately for the innocent men, women and children of Afghanistan they had no such power and so were defenseless against the brutal US military attack.
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