24 June 2013

Multinationals and American Foreign Policy


An interesting interview. Coll is a thorough investigator and his books are worth reading. While some decry him as liberal because he's critical of Exxon, I don't believe the truth can be politicized. They are what they are and you have to deal with it. Trying to explain it away doesn't help.

Pragmatists will simply point out that the reality is America needs the oil, our economy is absolutely dependent upon it and in fact we would do better to acknowledge that fact and put more energy toward acquiring it. Trying to deny it only hinders our ability to procure it.

The United States made a deal with the Saudis after the embargo in 1973. They were granted security and investment and the United States would be granted access. When the propaganda machine suggested Saddam Hussein was massing at the border in 1990 and about to invade Saudi Arabia the debate over 'wars for oil' arose in this country.

Many advocates for the war tried to insist it wasn't about oil and in a sense they were right. The scope was far greater and yet everything happening in the Middle East is also about oil. You can't ignore that fact.

Others spoke more bluntly and said that if the public really understood the nature of our economy and how it is existentially dependent on oil, then they would have no problem invading other countries and killing people in order to keep it flowing. Our very society, our way of life is dependent on it.

So for these folks it actually takes on a moral component. They assume that our way of life and our domination of the globe is valid and therefore we basically have a 'right' if not an 'imperative' to use military force to secure our access.

It's a hard argument though. When less than 5% of the world population uses 25% of the world's resources, can they argue they have a right to kill in order to sustain that?

Interestingly there are quite a few Christian organizations that defend this moral imperative. And it's no great surprise that if you peel back a layer or two you'll find they're receiving funding from Exxon.

Coll writes an expose of Exxon but in this book as well as 'Ghost Wars' still more or less toes the line. While others have long written about CIA action within the business world, Coll speaks in terms of competing interests. He speaks of Chad receiving $10 million in aid from the US government while receiving $750 million in aid from ExxonMobil. He posits that in this case Exxon has a greater influence over Chadian policy than the State Department. For him this is a troubling conflict of interests and he speaks of other instances where the oil company's agenda countermands US policy.

I don't see it that way. Despite the occasional tiff, I think the multi-national corporations and key players within them are largely working as agents of US government policy. I think there's extensive testimony to back up this fact. USAID has often been tagged as being an implementation arm of the CIA. It's a federal agency but works to bring together US corporations and financial interests with foreign governments. Instead of aiding them it often saddles these nations with massive debts while the money lines the pockets of private corporations. US policy is implemented and the foreign nation is effectively enslaved and dependent on US interests and power. When they can't pay back the loans, they are forced to allow military bases to be built, or open up their resources to American corporations. The corporations acting in concert with American governmental policy wield a massive influence within the subject nation's political structure.

While some view this as conspiracy, I don't think it is at all. This is the essence of the American empire and precisely the reason why the World Trade Center was hit in 2001. This is precisely the reason why the people working in those buildings were not viewed as innocent civilians by the Al Qaeda terrorists. The financial/corporate arm of American power works in concert with the political arm. They feed each other and both overlap with the Military wing. Together these project American power around the globe.

If anything it is an open conspiracy. There's not a shadow government. This is simply the way our system works. It's multi-layered and complicated and few are able to see it. The truth is few people even care. In fact most Americans are heavily invested in the system. I keep thinking of the financial investment firm I'm working for. I'm remodeling a new office space for them. The owners are heavily invested in the entire insurance and security industry. In addition the one partner has two sons in the American military. These guys are good patriotic businessmen driving around in big 4x4 trucks, living in fancy houses and chasing after the American dream. While they believe they are helping society and providing a service and certainly believe they are just humble middle class people, they are in fact a key component (at the nuts and bolts level) to the way the American empire works.

Anyway, Coll's works are worth reading. I've thoroughly enjoyed 'Ghost Wars'. And yet, I believe he's a bit naive regarding the nature of power. Of course he's a journalist and has to be careful. And it's difficult because the evidence does break down at a certain point. The circumstantial evidence can be overwhelming especially when combined with documented facts but as a journalist he has to be cautious. Sometimes I think journalists are leaving some of the last dots unconnected and allowing the reader to fill them in. Based off Coll's interviews I don't think that's the case.

I guess I'm just not one of those people who believe that most people in political office and the business world are good honest people and there are just a few bad apples. What I do believe is a lot of people are very deceived. Just like the firm I'm working for. They don't come across as evil people. In fact the one honestly believes that while selling insurance and making a fortune he's in fact 'helping people'. That's how he put it. I almost dropped my hammer. They don't view themselves as a societal cancer. They're just invested in the system and believe in it and so the same guy can laugh as he tells me about his son being part of a team that blew up a building in Afghanistan and how when they checked out the wreckage they only found a few limbs and body parts. He had a good laugh over that one and seemed puzzled when I just turned away and went back to my work.


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