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What is an appropropriate response?
Political and philosophical considerations after the attack on the Word Trade Center

What's It All About? Oil - the Central Asia Connection

This a draft of an article I have been putting together for a while.

There are still more pieces to put in place, but I will put it out
here for comments. - Jon Flanders

The World Trade Center attack:

Caspian Oil and Gas and the Afghanistan Pipeline Connection

By Jon Flanders

In the sound and fury of media coverage following the World Trade
Center attack, I have yet to see any serious examination of the
economic forces working behind the scenes in the Middle East and
specifically South Asia and Afghanistan. This in the United States,
where every up and down of the stock market makes headlines every
day, and we have TV channels devoted exclusively to economic

Most of us know that the Middle East is a center of activity for
world oil production. Some of us have heard about the Caspian Sea,
and the touted possibilities for great oil resources there. But
few would think that rocky, war torn Afghanistan might be part of
this energy production picture. Yet it most certainly is. And the
information about Afghanistan's role is readily available on the
World Wide Web to anyone who wants to investigate. Indeed, much of
the information comes from US government sources like the Voice of

Michael Klare, author of the book "Resource Wars", which has a
major focus on the Caspian region, was interviewed by Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty, Inc., on May 28, 2001.

Klare is the Director of the Five College Program in Peace and
World Security Studies based at Hampshire College in Amherst,
Massachusetts. In his book, Klare argues that it is not only the
United States that is preparing for resource conflicts. He contends
that all regional powers are focusing increasingly on how to protect
or enlarge their access to vital resources over the next generation.

Klare tells RFE/RL that vast energy reserves in Central Asia and
the Caucasus have made the region a priority for the United States
despite the area's generally poor progress in post communist reforms.

"I think in this case this is a national security consideration
that's driving all of this. The United States has to get that oil
from that region [Central Asia] and will make a deal with whatever
governments are there in place that are willing to work with us
[that is, the US], like the government[s] in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan
and Turkmenistan that are far from ideal with respect to human
rights and democratic procedure. And I think that's a reflection
of the view that I write about in my book--we [the US] view oil as
a security consideration and we have to protect it by any means
necessary, regardless of other considerations, other values." I
will argue that the current US government focus on Afghanistan is
part of the oil security consideration. The following is my attempt
to make sense of the Afghan energy connection.

The US government Energy Information fact sheet on Afghanistan
dated December 2000 says that, "Afghanistan's significance from an
energy standpoint stems from its geographic position as a potential
transit route for oil and natural gas exports from Central Asia to
the Arabian Sea. This potential includes proposed multi-billion
dollar oil and gas export pipelines through Afghanistan, although
these plans have now been thrown into serious question...."

These pipelines would begin in the former Soviet Republic of
Turkemenistan, which may have one of the largest gas deposits in
the world. The Washington Post reported in a 1998 article that "In
August 1997, in a bold move that conjured up memories of 19th-century
Turkmen khans staving off would-be Russian conquerors, President
(of Turkemenistan) Saparmurad Niyazov halted gas deliveries to the
Russian-controlled pipeline system that was built during the Soviet

The Post goes on to say that "Turkmenistan's potential was enormous.

Just inland from the Caspian shore were some of the world's oldest
oil fields, and Soviet-era geological surveys indicated that the
prospect for offshore finds was good. In the trackless Garagum
Desert, away from a thin line of irrigated valleys, geologists had
discovered one gas field after another beginning in the 1960s. By
1990, Dauletabad and the adjoining Sovietabad field were producing
1.6 trillion cubic feet a year, rivaling the gigantic gas fields
of Siberia."

Almost all of this gas was pumped north across Uzbekistan and
Kazakhstan into a Russian pipeline and on to markets in Europe and
the former Soviet republics. Niyazov said he "smelled old Soviet
ambitions" in Russia's use of its pipeline monopoly to keep
Turkmenistan's gas from competing with Russian gas in European

Advising Niayzov during the early nineties? None other than former
NATO commander and US Secretary of State Alexander Haig. In 1993
Haig actually formed a consortium to build a pipeline from Turkmenistan
through Iran. Haig's project did not involve U.S. companies; Haig's
pipeline enterprise was registered in the British Virgin Islands.
The idea foundered on the opposition of the Clinton administration.
But the idea of new routes for the Turkemenistan oil and gas did
not end with the Haig plan. In an article dated 11/25/97, Voice of
America reporter Joan Beecher writes that top government officials
and oil company executives from the United States, Turkey, Great
Britain, Russia, Azerbaijan, and Central Asia met to discuss an
issue of great mutual concern: Pipeline routes for Caspian oil and

The Washington Post in 1998 reported that "The initial enthusiast
for the Afghan route was not an American, however, but Carlos
Bulgheroni, the short, workaholic chairman of the Bridas Group, an
Argentine company. In 1993, a Bridas joint venture with Turkmenistan
had begun laying more than 2,000 miles of seismic lines to map the
geology of a potential gas field in eastern Turkmenistan. Two test
wells confirmed a huge gas deposit 150 miles from the Afghan border.

"In the spring of 1995, Turkmenistan and Pakistan commissioned
Bulgheroni's company to study the Afghan route. But that summer,
a rival entered the game. John Imle, president of California-based
Unocal Corp., wooed Niyazov and Benazir Bhutto, then prime minister
of Pakistan, throughout July with a vision of a Unocal pipeline
following roughly the same route as the one proposed by Bridas."

By early 1998 a Unocal led consortium had made a deal with the
Taliban to construct an Afghanistan pipeline from Turkmenistan to

On the question of the Afghanistan route VOA's Beecher says that
"the most obvious drawback of a proposed pipeline from Turkmenistan,
through Afghanistan, to Pakistan and down to the Arabian Sea is
that there is still a civil war going on in Afghanistan."

Nevertheless, all factions in the civil war have signed agreements
supporting the proposed pipeline, according to Bob Todor, executive
vice president of Unocal, the company that is leading an international
consortium to construct the central Asian pipeline through Afghanistan.

Speaking to the international conference, Mr. Todor argued that
the basic problem with the existing and proposed western routes,
across northern Russia, or to ports on the Black Sea, or under the
Caspian and down to Turkey, is that they all lead to European

"Western Europe is a tough market. It is characterized by high
prices for oil products, an aging population, and increasing
competition from natural gas. Furthermore, the region is fiercely
competitive. It is now being serviced by fields of course in the
Middle East, the North Sea, Scandinavia, and Russia... Although
there is room for Central Asia's oil, on the whole, it [western
Europe] is not a very attractive market, because substantial
infrastructure will have to be developed to bring that oil from
the Caspian to the Western European market, and that market is very

Much the same is true of Eastern Europe and the countries of the
former Soviet Union, according to Mr. Todor. But Asia is a completely
different story. Many speakers, not just Mr. Todor, argued that
Asia will be the fastest growing market for Caspian oil, even if
the region's present financial crisis should lead to a prolonged
economic slowdown. Three routes to Asian markets have been proposed:
Through China, through Iran, and through Afghanistan to Pakistan.
In Mr.

Todor's view, the proposed China route is too long, and will probably
prove to be prohibitively expensive. The major argument against
the Iran route is, quite simply, that the US government opposes
it. Among the many advantages of the Afghanistan route, according
to Mr. Todor, is that it would terminate in the Arabian Sea, which
is much closer than the Persian Gulf or northern China to key Asian

"There is tremendous international and regional political will
behind the pipeline. The pipeline is beneficial to Central Asian
countries because it would allow them to sell their oil in expanding
and highly prospective Asian markets. The pipeline is beneficial
to Afghanistan, which would receive revenues from transport
tariffs.... On a regional level, the pipeline will promote stability
and encourage trade and economic development between South Asia
and Central Asia. Finally, because of the combination of short
pipeline distance and the relatively low cost of tankerage, this
southern route will result in the most competitive export route to
the Asia/ Pacific market." Yet construction of this promising route
can only begin if and when an internationally recognized government
is formed in Afghanistan...."

Todor's argument for the Afghanistan pipeline was also made before
the US Congress in 1998, by John J. Maresca, Vice President,
International Relations of the Unocal Corporation in testimony to
the House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, February 12, 1998.

Maresca concluded his Congressional testimony with this peroration.

"Developing cost-effective, profitable and efficient export routes
for Central Asia resources is a formidable, but not impossible,

It has been accomplished before. A commercial corridor, a "new"
Silk Road, can link the Central Asia supply with the demand--once
again making Central Asia the crossroads between Europe and Asia."

The Unocal led Centgas consortium consisted of the following
companies. Unocal Corporation (US), 46.5 percent; Delta Oil Company
Limited (Saudi Arabia), 15 percent; The Government of Turkmenistan,
7 percent; Indonesia Petroleum, LTD. (INPEX) (Japan), 6.5 percent;

ITOCHU Oil Exploration Co., Ltd. (CIECO) (Japan), 6.5 percent;

Hyundai Engineering & Construction Co., Ltd. (Korea), 5 percent;
The Crescent Group (Pakistan), 3.5 percent.

The 48-inch diameter pipeline was to extend 790 miles (1,271
kilometers) from the Afghanistan-Turkmenistan border, generally
follow the Herat-to-Kandahar Road through Afghanistan, cross the
Pakistan border in the vicinity of Quetta, and terminate in Multan,
Pakistan, where it would tie into an existing pipeline system.

Turkmenistan was to construct a pipeline that will link with the
CentGas line at the border and stretch approximately 105 miles (169
kilometers) to the Dauletabad Field. A potential 400-mile
(644-kilometer) extension from Multan to New Delhi also was under
consideration. (source,

The Unocal-led initiative foundered in 1998, after the US cruise
missile retaliation against Bin Laden's Afghan camps for the bombings
of its African embassies. Brown University's William O. Beeman
wrote in 1998 that, "From the US standpoint, the only way to deny
Iran everything is for the anti-Iranian Taliban to win in Afghanistan
and to agree to the pipeline through their territory. The Pakistanis,
who would also benefit from this arrangement, are willing to defy
the Iranians for a share of the pot."

Beeman continues, "Enter Osama bin Laden, a sworn enemy of the
United States living in Afghanistan. His forces could see that the
Taliban would eventually end up in the American camp if things
proceeded as they had been. His (Bin Laden) bombing of US embassies
in East Africa (since there were none in Afghanistan) was accompanied
by a message for Americans to get out of 'Islamic countries.' By
this, he meant specifically Afghanistan. The American response was
to bomb bin Laden's outposts while carefully noting that his forces
were 'not supported by any state.' This latter statement was an
attempt to rescue the Taliban relationship, while at the same time
giving the Taliban leaders the message that they must ditch bin
Laden. For good measure, American missiles also took out a factory
in Sudan--a smokescreen for the real target of their action...."
(William O.

Beeman is a Brown University anthropologist specializing in the
Middle East. The piece first ran in The Providence Journal and was
distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services. Aug

At the same time Unocal came under fire from international women's
organizations for its courting of the Taliban, despite their
notorious repression of women's rights. The women's rights issue,
more than the embassy bombings, were used as an excuse to end the
Unocal-led consortium's deal with the Taliban. UNOCAL had entered
a one million dollar contract with the University of Nebraska to
train workers in Afghanistan specifically for pipeline construction.

Women's organizations focused on this arrangement for protests.

Unocal's defection did not end pipeline plans. According to the
VOA's Sarah Horner, "But the pipeline dreams have surfaced again.
In May 2000 there were reports of discussions of the issue involving
Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Iran and Turkmenistan. And the Taliban
newspaper, the Kabul Times, recently reported that the mine and
industries minister, Mullah Mohammed Isa Akhond, met representatives
of the Central Asia-based US company, Central Asia Oil and Gas
Industry. The newspaper quoted company representative, Rafiq Yadgar
as saying: "Central Asia Oil and Gas Industry is ready to invest
in Afghanistan in the field of oil and gas extraction and meanwhile
is willing to build an gas and oil refinery in Afghanistan." He
added that Turkmen authorities are ready to cooperate with his

But any plans still ran afoul of the civil war in Afghanistan.

According to Horner, "Should any pipeline actually get off the
ground it will be a prime target for sabotage the United Front
whose leader, Ahmad Shah Massoud, excels at guerrilla tactics." A
few days before the WTC attack, Massoud was killed by suicide
bombers posing as journalists.

So as matters stood before the "election" of George W. Bush, plans
for Afghanistan's role in world energy production were at an impasse.

As most of us know, the Bush-Cheney team that took control of the
US Government in January, 2001, was heavily influenced by the oil
industry. Bush himself is a veteran of a number of mostly failed
oil enterprises. Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton, a major player
in the downstream oil industry.

Cheney described Halliburton's role in a 1998 speech at the aptly
named "Collateral Damage Conference" of the Cato Institute, a
conservative Washington think-tank. According to Cato, "This all-day
conference explored the current and potential conflicts between US
foreign policy and the liberty and well being of American citizens.

The conference focused on the ways that US foreign policy infringes
on the freedom of Americans to trade, invest and communicate with
the rest of the world."

Cheney said in his speech that, "Halliburton was founded some 70
years ago in Duncan, Oklahoma, by one man and a truck, cementing
oil wells and casings inside oil wells. Over the years we developed
the capacity to do everything downhole that is necessary to produce
oil and gas: we drill wells, we do completions on wells, we cement,
we stimulate, and we undertake a host of other activities involved
in the production of oil and gas. We also own Brown & Root Engineering,
a company that began about 70 years ago with two brothers with a
road grader in Austin, Texas. Brown & Root is in the business of
building offshore platforms, undersea pipelines, refineries, and
other down-stream facilities. Brown & Root is also heavily involved
in the operations and maintenance business. They currently have
the logistics contract for the U.S. Army in Bosnia under which they
build and operate all the camps for the US Army deployed there. As
a measure of the company's diversity, I should also mention that
we are building the new baseball stadium in Houston.

Halliburton employs about 70,000 people. We are currently a Fortune
200 company, but are in the process of merging with Dresser
Industries. Once we do that, part of Haliburton will not only
include Brown & Root, but also M.W. Kellogg, one of the world's
premiere engineering and design companies. In addition, Dresser
also is heavily involved in manufacturing pumps, compressors, and
all kinds of complex mechanical equipment that services the energy

Overall, once we complete the merger, we will have about 100,000
employees. Our sales in 1999 should put us among the top 100
companies in America in terms of revenue. We'll be the largest
private employer in Texas and operate in over 130 countries all
over the globe. About 70 to 75 percent of our business is energy
related, serving customers like Unocal, Exxon, Shell, Chevron, and
many other major oil companies around the world. As a result, we
oftentimes find ourselves operating in some very difficult places.
The good Lord didn't see fit to put oil and gas only where there
are democratically elected regimes friendly to the United States.
Occasionally we have to operate in places where, all things
considered, one would not normally choose to go. But, we go where
the business is."

Where the business is, indeed. In an article by Kenny Bruno and
Jim Valette in Multinational Monitor magazine, dated May 2001 the
authors report that "...During Cheney's tenure, Halliburton created
or continued partnerships with some of the world's most notorious
governments--in countries such as Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Iran,
Iraq, Libya and Nigeria."

In order to do business with dictators and despots, Halliburton
has skirted US sanctions and made considerable efforts to eliminate
those sanctions. Halliburton's pattern of doing business with US
enemies and dictators started before Dick Cheney joined the company,
and may well continue after his tenure as CEO.

Halliburton's dealings in six countries--Azerbaijan, Indonesia,
Iran, Iraq, Libya and Nigeria--show that the company's willingness
to do business where human rights are not respected is a pattern
that goes beyond its involvement in Burma:

* Azerbaijan. Dick Cheney lobbied to remove Congressional sanctions
against aid to Azerbaijan, sanctions imposed because of concerns
about ethnic cleansing. Cheney said the sanctions were the result
only of groundless campaigning by the Armenian-American lobby. In
1997, Halliburton subsidiary Brown & Root bid on a major Caspian
project from the Azerbaijan International Operating Company.

* Indonesia. Halliburton had extensive investments and contracts
in Suharto's Indonesia. One of its contracts was canceled by the
post-Suharto government during a purging of corruptly awarded
contracts. Indonesia Corruption Watch named Kellogg Brown & Root
(Halliburton's engineering division) among 59 companies using
collusive, corruptive and nepotistic practices in deals involving
former President Suharto's family.

* Iran. Dick Cheney has lobbied against the Iran-Libya Sanctions

Even with the Act in place, Halliburton has continued to operate
in Iran. It settled with the Department of Commerce in 1997, before
Cheney became CEO, over allegations relating to Iran for $15,000,
without admitting any wrongdoing.

* Iraq. Dick Cheney cites multilateral sanctions against Iraq as
an example of sanctions he supports. Yet since the war,
Halliburton-related companies helped to reconstruct Iraq's oil
industry. In July 2000, the International Herald Tribune reported,
"Dresser-Rand and Ingersoll-Dresser Pump Co., joint ventures that
Halliburton has sold within the past year, have done work in Iraq
on contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq's oil industry, under
the United Nations' Oil for Food Program." A Halliburton spokesman
acknowledged to the Tribune that the Dresser subsidiaries did sell
oil pumping equipment to Iraq via European agents.

* Libya. Before Cheney's arrival, Halliburton was deeply involved
in Libya, earning $44.7 million there in 1993. After sanctions on
Libya were imposed, earnings dropped to $12.4 million in 1994.
Halliburton continued doing business in Libya throughout Cheney's
tenure. One Member of Congress accused the company "of undermining
American foreign policy to the full extent allowed by law."

* Nigeria. Local villagers have accused Halliburton of complicity
in the shooting of a protester by Nigeria's Mobile Police Unit,
playing a similar role to Shell and Chevron in the mobilization of
this 'kill and go" unit to protect company property. Dick Cheney
has been a strong advocate for preventing or eliminating federal
laws that place limits on Halliburton's ability to do business in
these countries."

The current hot spot for "where the business is" happens to be the
Caspian. In a column dated Thursday, August 10, 2000 in the Chicago
Tribune, Marjorie Cohn, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of
Law in San Diego writes... "Because of the instability in the
Persian Gulf, Cheney and his fellow oilmen have zeroed in on the
world's other major source of oil--the Caspian Sea. Its rich oil
and gas resources are estimated at $4 trillion by US News and World

The Washington-based American Petroleum Institute, voice of the
major US oil companies, called the Caspian region, "the area of
greatest resource potential outside of the Middle East." Cheney
told a gaggle of oil industry executives in 1998, "I can't think
of a time when we've had a region emerge as suddenly to become as
strategically significant as the Caspian."

Halliburton's Caspian investments include Turkmenistan.

On October 27, 1997, the same time period in which the Unocal
pipeline plan was in the works, a Halliburton press release announced
that "Halliburton has received a Letter of Intent from Petronas
Carigali (Turkmenistan) SDN. BHD. to provide integrated drilling
services for an exploration and appraisal program in the Caspian
Sea beginning in late 1997. Halliburton, in conjunction with alliance
partners, Dresser Industries and Western Atlas, will provide a
combination of 10 services. Halliburton will be the lead contractor
and project manager in addition to providing technical services.
The value of the award is estimated to be U.S. $30 million for the
total project. "This major new award will expand and solidify the
HES presence in the Eastern Caspian and position the company well
for both upstream and downstream projects which are rapidly developing
in this emerging market," said Zeke Zeringue, president, Halliburton
Energy Services. Halliburton Energy Services has been providing a
variety of services in Turkmenistan for the past five years.

P.V. Vivekanand, chief editor of The Gulf Today in the United Arab
Emirates sums up the pipeline picture in the Caspian/Central Asia
region in this way..."There are dozens of oil and gas pipeline
projects in Central Asia, some estimated to cost billions of dollars
and almost all sparking transborder disputes and controversies.
Most of the projects have been discussed for decades as the oil
giants wait for the right political conditions to move in. Because
pipelines are the best method to transport oil and gas over land,
the efficiency of such a delivery system is too tempting for energy
exporters and importers to let go of plans in a hurry. And for many
potential exporters and pipeline hosts, the realization of such
projects can mean economic survival."

So where are we in the post WTC disaster period? The Bush-Cheney
administration has taken full advantage of the shock and horror
aroused in the US populace by this disastrous attack. On every
front they are moving to implement a draconian conservative agenda.
Whether passing anti democratic domestic laws in the name of fighting
terrorism, or to mobilizing the military to fight "terrorism"
abroad, they move full speed ahead with their political program.

The focus on Afghanistan compels our notice. After all, the Middle
East is full of people and governments that have no love for the

The right-wingers of William Buckley's National Review call for
war to the finish against Iraq's Saddam Hussein. Others mention

But Bin Laden and the Taliban get the scapegoat's tail. Is this
based on a real case, with hard evidence? Or is it simply because
Bin Laden et al open the way for the full military might of the US
armed forces to be committed to make the Caspian and Central Asian
region safe for the US led oil and gas pipelines?

I think the evidence is overwhelming. The Bush administration plans
to use the WTC attack as an opportunity to use the US military as
pipeline police, with the current goal of splitting the government
of Pakistan and the Taliban from the Islamic militants led by Bin

If they can accomplish this, the way might be cleared for the
Afghanistan pipeline project, and the basis for further penetration
into the oil rich former Soviet republics established.

Source (unconfirmed):
"Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory"