Posts Tagged 'pipeline'

Why Afghanistan? It’s pipelines, not terrorism.

San Francisco Gray Panthers Newsletter, October 2009

Why Afghanistan?

Afghanistan lies in the path of a new proposed gas pipeline

Afghanistan lies in the path of a new proposed gas pipeline

In a nod to reality on the ground, the Obama administration put clearing al Qaeda from Pakistan high on the list of 46 benchmarks for tracking success in the war in Afghanistan. There are 68,000 US combat troops, 40,000 NATO troops, and 74,000 mercenaries in Afghanistan, with more expected to come. If al Qaeda has moved to Pakistan, why don’t the troops follow them?

One answer, rarely talked about in the US media, is—you guessed it!—oil and natural gas, this time in the Caspian Basin, and a planned pipeline that would carry natural gas from land-locked Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan, where it could be shipped to the West. To accomplish this, a strong centralized government willing to make deals with the West is needed, hence the attempts to prop up Hamid Karzai with US/NATO military assistance against the Taliban and war lords and with fraudulent elections.

Will this plan succeed? Probably not, given the Afghan opposition. Taliban attacks increased 59% in the first five months of this year over the same period last year. Death tolls are rising. Billions of dollars have already been spent. Bruce Riedel, a 30-year CIA veteran and adviser to four presidents, said, “Anyone who thinks that in 12 to 18 months we’re going to be anywhere close to victory is living in a fantasy.”


Mounting resistance of Amazon Indians in Peru against oil drilling, hydroelectric dams

New York Times, June 6, 2009
Note: On Tuesday, June 16th, Earl Gilman, of the San Francisco Gray Panthers will speak about his recent trip to Peru and Chile, including a visit with jailed political activist Lori Berenson, a background of some of the resistance groups in Peru, and the broader perspective of the Amazon Indian rebellions in the context of NAFTA.   More on the meeting.

LIMA, Peru — Clashes between indigenous protesters and security forces on a remote jungle highway in northern Peru left more than a dozen dead on Friday, including 11 police officers, heightening tension over intensifying protests by indigenous groups over plans to open vast tracts of rain forest to oil drilling, logging and hydroelectric dams.

Initial accounts of the clashes varied. Indigenous leaders here said the killings unfolded early on Friday after the police fired from helicopters on hundreds of protesters who had blocked the highway in the northern Bagua Province, with at least 22 civilians killed. The Chachapoyas Medical Association, in the region where the killings took place, put the number of dead Indians at 25.

Peru’s interior minister, Mercedes Cabanillas, said the police did not initiate the bloodshed but were “victims of the frenzy.” Prime Minister Yehude Simon said Friday night that 11 police officers and 3 Indians had been killed, and that 38 police officers and a civilian engineer were abducted by the protesters.

The protests are part of an increasingly well-orchestrated campaign by indigenous groups that have been inspired in part by similar movements in Bolivia and Ecuador.

Angered by the government’s failure to involve them in the plans, the indigenous groups in Peru have surprised the authorities with their sudden strength and organization and are now threatening to blunt President Alan García’s efforts to lure foreign investment to the region.

“The president thought we would be docile in accepting plans that could completely change the way we hunt for food and raise crops, and we are not,” said Juan Agustín, 41, a Shipibo Indian and a leader of the Peruvian Jungle Interethnic Development Association, an umbrella group here representing more than 300,000 people from dozens of indigenous groups.

The protests have disrupted oil production and pipelines, blocked commerce on roads and waterways, and halted flights at remote airports. While shortages of fuel and food have been reported in some jungle areas, the real concern is that the protests will succeed in cutting energy supplies to major coastal cities.

The killings in Friday’s clashes in Bagua, near an oil pipeline that was a target of the protesters, present a robust challenge to Mr. García, with indigenous leaders here describing them as “genocide.” Officials imposed a curfew in the region as they tried to prevent further violence.

Mr. García had already declared a 60-day state of emergency on May 9 in areas affected by the protests, which began in April. But the move seems only to have escalated tensions, with protests spreading from northern Peru to strategically important locations in the country’s south.

Last weekend about 200 Machiguenga Indians occupied valve stations on the pipeline that moves natural gas from the huge Camisea project in the southeast. Soldiers regained control of the sites, the energy ministry reported. But indigenous leaders said they would try again.

The protesters demand that Mr. García repeal decrees that have made it easier for companies to enter the Amazon Basin, and they have focused on thwarting larger projects.

For instance, leaders from the Asháninka indigenous group are trying to derail a plan by Eletrobrás, a company controlled by Brazil’s government, to spend more than $10 billion to build five hydroelectric plants in Peru.

“We want an immediate halt to every project that was conceived without consulting those of us who live in the forest,” said Daniel Marzano, 39, an Asháninka leader from Atalaya Province.

But it is the coordinated focus of the protests on energy installations that has most alarmed analysts and Peru’s business and political classes, who overwhelmingly live in coastal cities.

“The leaders have a strategic vision of hitting the country where it hurts,” said Alberto Bolívar, a security expert, who pointed out the potential for the protesters in some remote jungle areas to combine forces with a resurgent faction of the Shining Path, the Maoist group feeding off Peru’s cocaine trade.

On Friday, the guerrillas fired on a helicopter carrying troops in southern Peru, killing one soldier and wounding four others.

Aldo Mariátegui, editor of the daily newspaper Correo, speculated that the protests were being supported by the governments in Venezuela and Bolivia to oust Mr. García. It is a view held by some among Peru’s political and business elite.

Indigenous leaders interviewed here rejected the notion, however. Instead, they said conflict arose because the government had opened the rain forest to new investments without thoroughly consulting or involving the people who live there.

In the case of oil, for instance, at least 58 of the 64 areas secured by multinational companies for oil exploration overlay lands titled to indigenous peoples, according to a study last year by scientists from Duke University.

Explaining the government’s position last month, Mr. García said, “We have to understand when there are resources like oil, gas and timber, they don’t belong only to the people who had the fortune to be born there, because that would mean more than half of Peru’s territory belongs to a few thousand people.”

Such views resonate in a country of nearly 30 million people where almost three-quarters of them live in urban areas. But the protests, which show few signs of abating, offer a different vision of how Peru should develop.

Even before the clashes in Bagua, the government used the navy this week to break through blockades on the Napo River in the north to allow barges for Perenco, an oil company planning to invest $2 billion, to move deeper into the rain forest.

“Now we have a government resorting to using military force to spearhead development of the Amazon,” said Paul McAuley, an environmental activist in the Amazonian city of Iquitos with Christian Brothers, a Roman Catholic lay order. “This cannot be a strategy that is sustainable.”

Trying Harder in Pakistan and Afghanistan

Truthout Original, Monday 01 June 2009

Trying Harder in Pakistan and Afghanistan

by: Steve Weissman, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

“Master, how long will it take for me to reach enlightenment?” the eager student asked. “Perhaps ten years,” the teacher answered. “But what if I try extra hard?” the student asked. “How long will it take then?” The teacher thought for a moment and smiled. “Then,” he said, “it will take twenty years.”

Anyone who has studied Eastern philosophy or martial arts will have heard the story in one form or another, but it has special application to President Barack Obama’s escalating intervention in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The harder he tries to win a military confrontation in the two countries or to engage in a major effort to reform them, the longer and deeper he will find himself sucked into unwinnable wars and inescapable quagmires.

The reason should be obvious. The presence of American troops, aircraft and pilotless drones – or too much American money and too many American aid workers – will turn increasing numbers of Afghans, Pakistanis and their fellow Muslims from around the world against us and against those who appear to do our bidding.

Nationalistic and religious reaction is the one unchanging lesson of foreign intervention, especially in countries that have a history of having fought against the British, French or other colonial powers. Yet, the Pentagon never learned the lesson from Vietnam and refuses to learn it from Iraq, where top generals still speak of staying at least another ten years. Nor have Obama’s White House and the Democratic-controlled Congress gotten the message, believing they can soften any anti-American reaction by adding several billions of dollars more in non-military foreign aid.

In other words, we will try harder, work smarter and do more. It’s a can-do American response, neatly repackaged under brand Obama, as if his apparent decency and good intentions will be enough to change the way average Afghans and Pakistanis – and the Pakistani officer corps – will respond to what looks like unending foreign intervention.

Even those who should know better are swallowing the bait. Only three senators – Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin), Bernie Sanders (Independent-Vermont) and Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) – voted against the supplemental appropriations to escalate American military intervention in Afghanistan. Leaders of the formerly antiwar MoveOn also gave their blessing to Obama’s wars, while well-intentioned feminists and defenders of human rights are urging the State Department to use American intervention as a wonderful opportunity to remake foreign cultures in America’s image, as if anyone knows a good way to do that.

Almost no one in the narrow debate talks of Washington’s long-standing struggle to dominate the oil and gas resources of Central Asia and the pipelines to bring them to market. Everyone talks of the very real need to safeguard Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, without ever raising similar and inter-related concerns about Indian and Israeli nukes. And early calls for an exit strategy from either Afghanistan or Pakistan have been replaced by plans to build a monumental new American embassy in Islamabad. Our folly knows no limits.

We’re in for the long haul, and those of us who have seen the movie too many times before can only try to explain the drama as it develops. For starters, let me suggest a first reading or rereading of Graham Greene’s “The Quiet American,” in which he describes the similar overlay of innocence and naivet√© that led up to America’s massive intervention in Southeast Asia. One of his key characters is a truly idealistic CIA man who blows up women and children, all for a good cause. “Innocence,” warned Greene, “is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.”

Think about those words as you hear President Obama’s eagerly awaited speech this week in Cairo. He will undoubtedly embody our good intentions and fundamental decency as Americans. But, for all our self-deluding innocence and naivet√©, we will remain Graham Greene’s leper, and the harder we try in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the more our actions will sound as a warning bell and an anti-American recruiting call to Muslims all over the world.

The Soviets learned that lesson in Afghanistan and the Chinese seem to be avoiding similar pitfalls in most of their global interventions. But we are Americans, and we try harder.



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