13 July 2016

Texaco, Fascism and the US Establishment

Adam Hochschild has written a new book about the Spanish Civil War and the role played by Americans in the conflict on both the Left and Right. In particular he provides some very interesting and (for some) enlightening information about Texaco under Chairman Torkild Rieber who sold oil to and supported both Franco and Hitler throughout the 1930's.

Of course many Western businessmen supported Fascism. Initially figures like Winston Churchill and a great many British and American intellectuals and people on the street also supported it. The great fear was Communism and Fascism seemed like a healthy reaction and vibrant countermeasure.

Hochschild to my knowledge does not address the issue of the American Establishment, the OSS/CIA, and the history of Texaco both during this period and after. To be fair it was beyond the scope of what he was writing about and it's harder to prove the direct connections.

Texaco is presented as a rogue corporation pursuing its own agenda at odds with the Roosevelt administration and US policy in general.

I don't agree.

While Roosevelt may have been personally against Franco and Fascism in general, I think a strong case can be made that in general the US Establishment did not share these sentiments. US business and financial interests were intimate with the Third Reich right up until the outbreak of the war. There are some dark chapters here both in the United States and England that have been largely erased from history and certainly memory.

The US did not enter the war until Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Granted FDR was scheming long before this and helping the United Kingdom but there was a great deal of resistance to the US entering the war. Not all of it was out of some kind of love for Fascism. The street was Isolationist and many in the business world shared the sentiment but for pragmatic and business oriented reasons.

Texaco has a long history of connections to the US Establishment and the intelligence community. Though Rieber was shamed and forced out of Texaco he obviously maintained some significant connections due to his involvement with the post-war World Bank and the role he played in the aftermath of Operation Ajax in Iran, which removed Mossadegh and installed the Shah. Rieber was hardly treated as some kind of pariah by the US Establishment.

The US became a close ally with Franco and this continued right up until his death in 1975. The Leftists who had gone over to Spain in the 1930s were subjected to government investigations, the McCarthy and FBI/Hoover witch-hunts and questions about their loyalty to the United States in the decades after World War II.

Besides Rieber, consider figures like Michael Kostiw. His story is a strange one to be sure. After his removal from the CIA over an odd shoplifting incident he went to work for Texaco and later the shadowy and intelligence connected IRI before finally ending up once more in the executive wings of the CIA. His ascent was hindered by the previous infraction but he still became a top figure in the agency.

While in Texaco he worked the Latin American division and Texaco certainly has played a part in the long and sordid history of US corporate and governmental affairs in the region. Texaco specifically has been charged with the creation of Right-wing paramilitary units... death squads in the ongoing civil war within Colombia.

So what's my point about Texaco supporting Fascist dictators in the lead up to World War II?

I'm not convinced this was a rogue action. It may very well have been part of the plan and agenda put together by the Old Boys Network within the American Establishment. If their agenda was contrary to the FDR White House, that's nothing new or particularly shocking.

The US formally turned against Hitler at the outbreak of the war and yet with the fall of Berlin the US eagerly established relationships with many high ranking figures within the defeated and disbanded Third Reich. This wasn't just to make sure the USSR couldn't get their hands on Nazi scientists. I used to think that too. No, the US employed a wide array of ex-Nazis to establish intelligence networks as well as political and business enterprises. They happily used some very vicious and brutal men and in some cases the Old Boys as well as field agents more or less befriended some of these characters. They certainly didn't find them to be abhorrent.
*I also recommend the author's work 'King Leopold's Ghost'.

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