War and Pipelines

by Paul Donahue

If anyone wants to understand Obama's true position on solving global warming and moving to an alternative energy future, all they have to do is check out the speech he gave on December 1st 2009 at West Point……“As Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.” In this case, Obama’s “vital national interest” refers to a natural gas pipeline across Central Asia.

 When U.S. intelligence agencies report, as they have, that U.S. bombing and killing in Afghanistan is creating new terrorists faster than it is eliminating the present threat, and yet the bombing and killing continues, then you know the war is not about bringing security to Americans or peace to the war-ravaged country.

Despite the administration and corporate media smokescreen about fighting terrorism, bringing freedom to the Afghan people, etc., etc., etc., The wars on Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as the war on Iraq, are about the control of fossil fuel reserves and their transport. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, it’s not about making the countries safe for democracy, but about making the countries safe for a natural gas pipeline.

Sending U.S. troops off to die in the desert for fossil fuels is not something that plays well with the American public, so neither the politicians nor the mainstream media ever mention Afghanistan in the same sentence with the words "pipelines" or “natural gas”. It's quite remarkable. Instead, they talk endlessly about terrorism, security, and freedom, concepts that do play very well with the American public.

Unfortunately for the Afghan and Pakistani people, their countries lie along vital transhipment routes for fossil fuel resources. The country or alliance that controls the region controls the pipelines and the country that controls the pipelines controls who gets to sell the natural gas and who gets to buy it. Washington and NATO’s competition for control of the region’s pipeline routes is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a strategic alliance between China and Russia and the energy-rich former nations of the USSR, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan. The wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan today may be nothing compared to the energy wars that could well develop there in the future.

The U.S. is currently backing the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline (TAPI pipeline). The heaviest fighting in Afghanistan is in the south, in the region through which the TAPI pipeline will pass, and U.S. military bases line the pipeline route. This pipeline is scheduled to be operational in 2014. For anyone who wants more details or who doubts my interpretation of U.S. goals in Afghanistan and Pakistan, I strongly recommend you read the numerous articles on “Pipelineistan” by Pepe Escobar of the Asia Times. They are widely available on the internet. One of the more exhaustive on the subject is “Pipelineistan: Everything You Need to Know About Oil, Gas, Russia, China, Iran, Afghanistan and Obama” from May 2009. In Escobar’s words, the current struggle in Central Asia is the “New Great Game.” With the world rapidly running out of both oil and natural gas and, simultaneously, with a demand for those resources still going up, especially in places like China and India, the TAPI pipeline and others are not a small matter.

The wording of the U.S. Silk Road Strategy Act of 2006 (S.2749) is also very revealing of the true U.S. goals in Central Asia. While this bill, an update of the Silk Road Strategy Act of 1999,  never became law, just the fact that it was introduced speaks volumes. In among the bill’s stated support for “the economic and political independence of the countries of Central Asia and the South Caucasus” are numerous references to the region’s key role in U.S. energy security and the need to support the development of energy infrastructure in the region. The paragraphs below are direct from the legislation…..

“The United States has significant long-term interests in the countries of Central Asia and the South Caucasus. These interests concern security, economic development, energy….”

“It is the policy of the United States to aid in the development of infrastructure in Central Asia and the South Caucasus for energy and energy transit…”

“Consistent with the purposes of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, it is the policy of the United States to promote and protect the interests of United States businesses and investments in Central Asia and the South Caucasus.”

“The Governments of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, which have contributed to United States military deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo, are key United States partners in diversification of energy sources and transportation routes, enhancing and contributing to United States energy and security interests.”

“The pressing need for diversification of energy resources makes access to Central Asian and Caspian Sea oil and gas resources a high energy security priority of the United States.”

“Stability, democratic development, protection of property rights, including mineral rights, and rule of law in countries with valuable energy resources and infrastructure, including Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan, are important to safeguard United States energy security.”

“Preventing any other country from establishing a monopoly on energy resources or energy transport infrastructure in the countries of Central Asia and the South Caucasus that may restrict United States access to energy resources is important to the energy security of the United States and other consumers of energy in the developed and developing world.”

“Extensive trade relations with the energy-producing and energy-transporting states of Central Asia and the South Caucasus will enhance United States access to diversified energy resources, thereby strengthening United States energy security, as well as that of energy consumers in developed and developing countries.”

“Assistance in accelerating the broad and equitable privatization of state enterprises in a manner that does not promote oligarchical rule and the deregulation of national economies in a manner that allows equal access to nonresident companies to privatization procedures.”

“Expansion of activity under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), including reducing barriers to trade and investment, protection of workers' and property rights, fostering an environment of transparency and predictability, encouraging private sector growth and foreign and domestic investment, and removing impediments to increased intraregional trade and investment, particularly with respect to Afghanistan.”

“Promotion of the development of the Trans-Caspian Oil and Gas Pipelines (TCOP/TCGP), while encouraging the Governments of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and particularly Turkmenistan to improve their business climate and investor confidence by fully disclosing their internationally audited hydrocarbon reserves.”

“Support for activities that promote the participation of United States businesses and investors in the planning, financing, and construction of infrastructure for communications, transportation, and trade, including aviation, highways, railroads, port facilities, shipping, banking, insurance, telecommunications networks, and gas and oil pipelines.”

“Support for the construction of energy transit infrastructure, including the Trans-Caspian Oil Pipeline (TCOP) in Kazakhstan, from Aktau to Baku, which would carry oil from the Karachaganak field, and the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCGP), from Turkmenistan or neighboring areas of Kazakhstan to Baku, which would carry natural gas.”


I teach a lot of ecology classes, and the most important point I try to get across to my students is that everything is connected. It’s the first law of ecology. It is true if you are looking at ecosystems, and it is equally true if you are looking at social and environmental problems. Unfortunately, the media, even the alternative media, tend to compartmentalize and treat the major stories of the day - climate change, war, peak oil, corruption of our political system - as separate entities. In reality, they are all aspects of the same story.

Global warming is connected to a society dependent on fossil fuels, which is connected to the U.S. devoting hundreds of billions of dollars a year to a military tasked with protecting our access to fossil fuels, which is connected to the lack of money for social programs here in the U.S., and which is also connected to the U.S. brutalization of the citizens of countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, leading to the next generation of American-hating terrorists.

The connections continue. The supply of relatively cheap fossil fuels we've enjoyed has allowed us to grow accustomed to an endless supply of cheap consumer goods, cheap consumer goods which China is now supplying to us in bulk. This has allowed the Chinese economy to grow tremendously. Consequently, with all the manufacturing of cheap consumer goods for Americans, China has now surpassed the U.S. and become the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases. At the recent talks in Copenhagen the U.S. negotiators argued with the Chinese about who should cut their greenhouse gas emissions first.

While the U.S. is slowly going broke from paying for endless war in the Middle East and Central Asia, the Chinese have lots of money because of how much stuff we buy from them. So, China is loaning the U.S. money, about $1-2 billion a day, to finance the U.S. wars. At the same time, the Chinese need lots of fossil fuel to power their growing manufacturing industry. So, China is rapidly becoming our main competition for the world's remaining fossil fuel reserves, and they are a big part of the reason why we want to maintain a large military presence in the Middle East and Central Asia - a military presence financed by the same Chinese. And Iran has lots of oil, and lots of natural gas, and the Iranians are becoming very cozy with the Chinese and have signed cooperation pacts with them, so the U.S. threatens Iran and calls them potential terrorists.

Meanwhile, the planet is melting due to all the fossil fuel burning, but the politicians haven’t noticed because they're too wrapped up in their pipeline deals and fossil fuel wars. It's all so incredibly crazy! SOMEONE PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!

Pacifica, California

29 January 2010



Wars, all wars, are ultimately about resources, and the current conflicts in the Middle East and Central Asia are no exception to that rule. The resources at stake are fossil fuels. (See the article “War and Pipelines” in this issue and check out the recent oil deals signed by Exxon Mobil and other oil companies with the “government” of Iraq.)

Waging wars for resources is a clear violation of the United Nations Charter, and the U.S. is a signatory of the U.N. Charter.

The Supremacy Clause in the U.S. Constitution establishes that international treaties, like the U.N. Charter, of which the U.S. is a signatory become "the supreme law of the land" - i.e. U.S. law.

A crime is defined by Merriam-Webster as “An act or the commission of an act that is forbidden or the omission of a duty that is commanded by a public law and that makes the offender liable to punishment by that law; especially : a gross violation of law.” Illegal wars in which hundreds of thousands have died would certainly qualify as gross violations of law.

A criminal is defined as “One who has committed a crime.” As a former constitutional law professor, Barack Obama certainly knows the law and knows a crime when he sees one.

The FBI defines a criminal enterprise as “a group of individuals with an identified hierarchy, or comparable structure, engaged in significant criminal activity. These organizations often engage in multiple criminal activities and have extensive supporting networks.” To me, that sounds like a perfect description of the Obama administration and the Pentagon.

More than half of our tax dollars go to the Pentagon and war, so, unless I am missing some important detail in this story, when we send in our taxes in April, aren’t we are helping to prop up a criminal enterprise?

Pacifica, California

29 January 2010