November 2001

Not all of our enemies are hiding in caves

Counter conformity.

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As our missiles and cluster bombs
fill the air in Afghanistan, the lies
of our officials fill the air here at
home. The loudest of these lies
comes from the lips of President
Bush himself, who insists that his
is the noblest of wars, that he is the young
prince who has set forth on a historic crusade to
do nothing less than rid the world of terrorism,
swinging his mighty sword in a sweeping arc to.
in the words of a recent pronouncement,”save
civilization itself”.
Bless his heart, he might even believe it, for this
is what he’s been told
by Prime Minister
Cheney and by Rummy,
his Machiavelli. The
Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld
axis certainly is right
that this is a war triggered
by terrorists and
that Osama bin Laden
and his Al Qaeda network
(in Arabic, .the
Base.) must be stopped.
Nothing can ever justify
crashbombing crowded
jetliners into buildings
full of people, nor can
we sit around waiting for
them to attack us again.
As in many wars, however,
there is the political
objective, and then
there is the business
objective, which tends to
be less than noble. This
is the truth that Bush &
Company seek to hide
by their loud and glitzy
media campaign to keep us commoners focused on
the evil face of bin Laden, and on the relentless
pounding that the Bushites are administering to
Afghanistan’s Taliban and the poor people of that
impoverished, inhospitable, practically primitive land.
It’s time to ask, “Why?” Why have we singled out
a country that is already so devastated by decades
of invasions and wars that you can’t tell the
.before. aerial photos from those taken after our
bombs explode? We.re bombing donkey stables!
Well, yes, we.re told, but we.ve got to get the
insane terrorists who attacked us and continue to
foment hatred toward America. Fine, but the
Afghans are not now and have not in the past been
global terrorists. In the whole
bloody series of terrorist attacks
on America, the 1993 bombing
of the World Trade Center, the Al
Khobar Towers military-housing
bombing in 1996, the bombing of
two of our embassies in Africa in
1998, the attack on the USS Cole
in 2000, and most recently the
September 11 atrocities, not a
single terrorist was Afghani.

Until very recently, Afghanistan’s
Taliban rulers were hailed by our
government as .freedom fighters,
. and billions of your and my
tax dollars were spent to help
repel the decade-long Soviet
invasion of their country.
And while Bush is now waging a
propaganda war against these
theocratic thugs for their subjugation
of women, it was the U.S.
that backed these very extremists
when they came to power in
1996, knowing full well their
deplorable human-rights record.
As recently as last March, George
W..s administration shipped $43
million to the Taliban for being
valued partners in the drug war.
Yes, the Taliban has housed Al
Qaeda, but the truth is that we
are reducing Afghanistan to dust
simply because we can. It is a
politically weak nation, an easy
target. It also has no resources
that global corporations drool
over, no oil, no diamonds, no
forests, no fields of grain. It does
provide the pathway that U.S. oil
companies favor to pipe out the
oil and gas from Central Asia.
and those oil fields are possibly
the biggest in the world. (We’ll
come back to this in an upcoming
Lowdown.) But apart from
pipeline passageways, this desolate
country’s chief crop is caves.
In the economic scheme of
things, the Afghani people don’t
matter. Bomb them into oblivion,
oust our Taliban ex-pals, and
install some other nasties (the
Northern Alliance) as our preferred
government of the moment.
Think of Afghanistan as a rundown
tenement house in some
out-of-the-way part of town. The
Taliban are the live-in landlords of
the place, allowing a drug ring (Al
Qaeda) to operate there, doing
dirty deals. You can kill the landlords,
but this doesn’t stop the
dealing. If you really want to stop
it, you follow the trail of dollars
and go after the money bosses
who finance and profit from the
ring. But this is the crucial move
that Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld
aren’t making and don’t want you
and me even thinking about.

"The issue isn't just jobs. Even slaves had jobs. The issue is wages." --Jim Hightower


The global family of oil

Bush just recently made a highly
publicized fuss about a smallpotatoes
businessman in Dubai
who might (or might not) have
funneled some money to bin
Laden. This is another feint to
keep the public from focusing on
the key patrons of Al Qaeda’s terrorism:
the descendants and
wealthy retainers of the royal
Saud family, for whom the oil
fiefdom of Saudi Arabia is named.
Bush’s war council, however, has
gone to great lengths to divert
any scrutiny of the Saudi rulers.
Why? One word: Oil. The Saudi
elites happen to be longtime oil business
buddies of the Bush clan,
Cheney’s Halliburton Corporation,
and the giant oil companies of our
country.
What is Saudi Arabia? It began
and remains a totalitarian monarchy
that was carved out of old
Arabia in 1932 by Abdul-Aziz ibn
Saud, scion of a family of religious
warlords going back to the
15th century. King Saud had the
fabulous good fortune of enthroning
himself atop a desert land
that turned out to hold one quarter
of the world’s crude oil.
It is the United States that
developed and continues to sustain
the unfathomable wealth of
the Saud family. Franklin
Roosevelt’s administration decided
to tap into and control Saudi
Arabia’s ocean of oil for our
nation’s long-term needs, handing
the task to a newly created entity
called ARAMCO (the Arab America
Oil Company), a consortium of
the Saudi kingdom and our own
oil corporations, including Exxon,
Mobil, Chevron, and Texaco.
To assure that the oil boys
would have an uninterrupted supply,
FDR struck a Faustian bargain
with King Saud in 1945: The
royal family provides the crude,
and the U.S. provides protection
for the royals. Fifty-six years
later, that’s still the deal.
Our relationship is about oil
money. Period. Contrary to the
contentions of successive
American presidents who have
pretended that the Saudi regime
is an enlightened, moderate
monarchy and an ideological ally,
these guys share nothing in common
with our democratic ideals.
they have no parliament, no free
speech (they outlaw all forms of
political debate), no political parties,
no right of assembly. They,
too, repress women and behead
heretics.
The royal family of some 6,000
princes (women aren’t counted),
along with a handful of favored
business cronies, gobbles up virtually
all of the oil billions (not for
nothing are these payments
called .royalties.). Theirs is the
pampered life of the palace, with
chauffeured limousines, private
jets, and Western college educations
for their children. Not a few
of them wallow in conspicuous
consumption, which includes
drinking, gambling, consorting
with prostitutes, and other violations
of strict Islamic law that the
nation’s 22 million ordinary citizens
would have their hands
chopped off for violating.
The excesses of the royals have
left millions of Saudis impoverished,
angry, and restive. To keep
the lid on and the oil spigots
open for the Exxons, our CIA and
Pentagon have been directly
involved in crushing the economic
aspirations and political dissent of
the Saudi masses.
The kingdom’s internal-security
forces were organized, trained,
equipped, and even managed by
the Pentagon. America, which
presently claims to be fighting a
world war for freedom, has
aggressively and effectively
clamped down on freedom in
Saudi Arabia, stifling democracy
to maintain the monarchy. All
because of our oil companies.
If the terrorists responsible for
the September 11 attacks do a
similar operation in Saudi Arabia,
the price of oil could skyrocket to
one hundred dollars a barrel.
more than four times what it
costs today. That’s something oil
corporations couldn’t tolerate, so
presidents since FDR have
deployed trillions of dollars. worth
of U.S. military might and CIA
snoopervision to prevent both
internal and external threats to
the royal regime.
This includes the Gulf War
under Daddy Bush. It was not
tiny Kuwait that Bush I was so
intent on protecting, as our government
propaganda blared at
the time, but Saudi Arabia. None
other than Dick Cheney, then
defense secretary, was dispatched
to consult with the Saudi royals,
who quickly okayed the placement
of U.S. troops on Saudi soil.
This doesn’t seem like much to
us, for we.re used to our troops
being based hither, thither, and
yon. But not only is it considered
an intrusion on their sovereign
land by the Saudi people, it also
is considered a sacrilege, for
Saudi Arabia is the land of Mecca
and Medina, the two holiest sites
of Islam, the land where
Muhammad and the faith itself
were born.
Imagine if a Middle Eastern
army set up shop at the National
Cathedral, Bob Jones University,
or the Mormon Tabernacle.
Multiply that outrage by 1,000-
fold and you get the anger felt by
many Muslims.
To this day, at least 5,000 U.S.
troops remain in Saudi Arabia, a
raw sore for the millions of people
of faith (in a country that
uses the Quran as its constitution).
This sense of defilement,
made worse by the knowledge
that our troops are there to prop
up the increasingly unpopular
monarchy, has emboldened many
who want to overthrow the House
of Saud, including one firebrand
named Osama bin Laden.

Connections

It’s not merely the giant oil corporations
that have cozy business
relationships with the Saudi
elites. Indeed, while Osama
directs his holy war from the
depths of some cave somewhere,
a huge Binladin corporate empire,
which has enriched him and continues
to be run by his family,
has been doing business with
some astonishing partners right
here in the USA.
Let’s start with the guy who
says he wants Osama .dead or
alive,. George W. Bush himself!
In the 1970s, when young
George was cutting his none-too sharp
business teeth by starting a
West Texas oil company he called
Arbusto, among his first investors
was a Houston investment banker
and Bush buddy named James
Bath. He turns out to have been
acting on behalf of Osama’s
brother Salem, who then ran the
family’s far-flung operations.
Salem put $50,000 into Arbusto,
but it didn’t pay out, for Bush’s
venture quickly went bust-o.
No sweat for the Binladin family,
which runs a $5-billion-a-year
conglomerate and has the right
political connections to get such
juicy contracts as building the
mosque in Mecca and building
support facilities for U.S. troops
during the Gulf War. The family is
Saudi Arabia’s answer to the
Rockefellers.
In 1995, Osama’s family connected
with another Bush. George
I. The Binyamin Group bought a $2
million ownership share in the
Carlyle Group, which is something
of a retirement home for former
G.O.P. big shots. Former President
Bush is a principal in this firm, as
is former Defense Secretary
Frank Carlucci (Don Rumsfeld’s
college roommate), former
Treasury Secretary James Baker
(who directed George W..s dirty
work in the Florida vote recount),
and former White House operative
Fred Malek.
These political sparklies use
their influence to get construction
contracts from various governments,
ranging from the
Pentagon to the Saudi monarchy.
The elder Bush was dispatched
just last year to meet with the
royals in Riyadh and bring home
a load of loot for Carlyle.
Connections like this have catapulted
Carlyle from nothing a few
years ago to being the country’s
11th largest military contractor.
Among its contracts is one to
build the missile-launch systems
currently in use aboard our warships
firing at the Afghanis. It
also owns a company called
BioPort Corporation, which happens
to have a monopoly on making
anthrax vaccine in the U.S.
The Binladin Group has profited
enormously from its financial ties
to Bush et al. in the Carlyle
Group, and vice versa. Late last
month, however, there were glum
faces in both groups, for they
agreed to part ways, acknowledging
that it was a bit much (and
bad for business) to have U.S.
mucky-mucks making financial
hay with the 49 siblings and
other relatives of the world’s
most wanted villain, who we.re
told just masterminded the
slaughter of thousands of innocent
Americans.
Not that the Binladin clan has
any truck with Osama, you
understand. No, no, they loudly
insist, they disavowed him years
ago and even changed the
spelling of their name to emphasize
the separation.
Maybe, but the former chief of
counter-terrorism for the CIA
says that at least one brother and
two sisters continue to actively
fund terrorists tied to Osama.
The French daily Le Monde also
made a fragrant discovery that
brother Yeslam Binladin’s company, Avcon Business Jets SA,
offered pilot-training courses at
the same Florida flight school
where several of the September
11 kamikazes studied.
Saudi friends of the family are
involved, too. Khaled bin
Mahfouz, who controls Saudi
Arabia’s largest bank and is
known in Arab circles as .the
king’s treasurer,. was caught with
other wealthy Saudis in 1999 funneling
millions of dollars into bin
Laden’s bank accounts, much of it
through two Islamic charities.
Mahfouz, incidentally, is another
investor in the Carlyle Group.
Also in the charity game is the
government of Saudi Arabia. U.S.
intelligence officials told
Newsweek that the government
directly funds two charities that,
in turn, finance bin Laden. Yet
George W. left these two charities
off his list of terrorist-support
groups to be raided and shunned
because, reports Newsweek, the
Bushites wanted .to avoid embarrassing
the Saudi government..
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia,
through its ministry of religious
works, reportedly showers $10
billion a year on Islamic organizations
, to appease fundamentalists.

This payoff, drawn from
those royalties they get annually
from the oil corporations, is
designed to keep the broad rear
ends of the royals on their
thrones, for it demonstrates their
fealty to the mullahs who teach
the .true faith. and keeps irate
Islamic extremists focused on
hating the Israelis, Americans, or
others, anyone but them.
How much of this mullah money
goes directly to bin Laden’s terrorist
network is unknown, since
Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld don’t ask
and the Saudis don’t tell.
In the days after September 11,
our government even allowed the
Saudis to send private jets to
whisk 20 members of the Binladin
family from their luxury homes
here in the U.S. back to the
homeland and beyond the reach
of questioning.
So here we are, unloading our
ample national arsenal on penniless
Afghans riding donkeys,
while the Saudi pipeline of money
(oil money in, terrorist money
out) goes untouched. In fact, by
carpet-bombing hapless Afghans,
we are promoting the worst possible
outcomes for us and the
world at large:
. We’re recruiting millions more
supporters for the anti-Western,
hard-line branches of Islam and
making Osama a global hero.
. We.re increasing the likelihood
that our clients in power in Saudi
Arabia will lose their crowns and
their control over all that oil.
. And the worst case of all
would be that Osama quietly slips
out of Afghanistan and rides back
into Riyadh on a white camel as
the Ayatollah of Arabia.
And then there’s Pakistan. The
country is seething with resentment
against alternately corrupt
civil and military governments.
It’s ripe for righteous religious
uprising. Mullahs along the long
border with Afghanistan are whipping
up crowds with tirades
against the Americans who are
bombing and invading their
brothers to the north.
Pakistanis practice a more tolerant
version of Islam, but already
there’s talk of where to ship the
country’s nuclear weapons for
safekeeping in case a fundamentalist
uprising takes power. (The
most likely haven for the nukes?
China. Oh swell, I feel safer.)

Meanwhile, back at home

This war on terrorism is a
dream come true for corporate
interests and archconservatives.
It’s their long-sought replacement
for the old Cold War. By shrieking
“terrorism,” they’re able to:
. Get back to looting unlimited
billions from the treasury (they.ve
already ripped the lid off our
Social Security trust fund) to
build more arms and militarize
everything from our .homeland.
to outer space;
. Expand the CIA, FBI, NSA,
DIA, and other tentacles of the
police state, stifling our liberties
and democratic ideals;
. Squeeze America’s domestic
agenda (health care, affordable
housing, etc.), claiming every
dime must go to combating terrorism
or to corporate giveaways
to .stimulate. the economy; and
. Keep it all up for a loong time.
Rumsfeld warns that it will take
“decades” to vanquish terrorism.
So far, however, Bush & Company
aren’t waging a war against terrorists,
but a war against terrorists
who have no oil.
Bush squints into the cameras
with practiced solemnity and
intones that the world must
choose sides, either with us or
against us. Then he winks at Big
Oil’s partners in the Saudi kingdom,
assuring them that a little
war won’t get in the way of the
smooth flow of business.

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