Originally written for counterpunch.org
In the Western World there appears to be a concerted effort to have us believe that terrorism is the ultimate threat to our liberties and our safety.
We are routinely told to prepare for the next terrorist attack and to willingly give up our freedoms. These same government and privately owned media voices urge us to consider what liberties we are willing to lose while allowing and often helping corporations to actively pursue terror tactics at home and abroad to further enhance their lucrative business activities.
Here is a smattering of recent public relations exercises from the British press designed to get us in the mood for “vigilant behaviour” against terror attacks or in plain English – induce paranoia.
• March 26th 2004, the local UK paper of my old hometown carries a half page picture of police dressed in unmarked black uniforms carrying machine guns as they stop drivers at hastily assembled checkpoints around the city – the barrel of the gun guides the readers eye to the headline “Get used to it”
• On 26th of April across all media David Blunkett the Home secretary asks the British public which “rights or freedoms” they wouldn’t mind giving up to fight the war on terror.
• Monday July 12 and the Times of London runs the front page story “MI5 plants agents in the regions to fight terror”. The Home Office would like to “Hold suspects without charge” and “question them under compulsion”. Compulsion being a legal euphemism for coercion by threat or intimidation.
These are just everyday examples from the British press that reiterate the constant warnings about terror and how we should bend to the will of our governors in order to fight the dreaded ‘it’ – terror. Yet it is the very activities of government and business that first generate the dangers of terrorist attack. Secondly it is these same corporations and bureaucrats hidden behind a barely discernable PR façade that use means to justify ends that can only be described as terrorism.
The first sacred cow I would like to examine is the UK/US pairing of BP Amoco and their long involvement with terrorism. BP first entered Persia, now Iran, in 1901 and on discovery of large reserves of oil in 1909 formed the Anglo Persian Oil Company (APOC). By 1914, eager to avoid being overtaken by the Royal Dutch Shell group, the company ‘merged’ with the UK government, it’s new majority shareholder.
There followed three decades of instability with broken deals, repression, puppet regimes and two world wars in between. Britain and Russia had both invaded the country during WWII and after the war Iran refused to offer oil concessions to foreign powers and decided to exploit the resources themselves. Britain and therefore BP was kicked out of the country and even the International Court of Justice couldn’t find fault with the Iranian’s actions. By 1951 Iran was being torn internally between two factions, one defending the ‘old ways’ and the other, the new. Britain used this division to her advantage.
Playing on fears of the cold war the UK persuaded the US to join them in covertly gaining control of Iran’s oil fields. With the combined efforts of MI6 and the CIA, they assassinated and bribed their way to a position of influence. This is obviously denied by BP historians despite the following quote from The History of the British Petroleum Company.
“Having helped to overthrow Mussadiq, the Americans and the British could now try to negotiate a settlement of the oil dispute with his successor.”
A successor conveniently appointed by Britain and the US. An earlier example of similar mechanisms currently employed in neighbouring Iraq.
So was this the beginning of a beautiful friendship? Tragically, yes, it’s a level of co-operation that appears unabated to the present day. More recently the BP behemoth allegedly paid the CIA to write a report for them. The report persuaded the State Department to halt the Ex-Im Banks loan of $500 million to Russian oil company Tyumen for purchase rights to the Chernogorneff oil field on the Caspian Sea.
The Caspian has proved an easy place in which to implement the companies “dirty” policies. Intelligence reports from the 90’s show that BP have implemented the same tactics there as were used in 1950’s Iran.
Specifically installing a new president, this time a “KGB Hardman” in Azerbaijan in yet another coup. The new head of state just a few weeks later conveniently presented them with an oil concession described as “the deal of the century.” Not bad after bribes of $360 million and arms for oil deals in the area.
BP remains active in the Caspian with yet more reports in 2003 of bribery from the head of one of their Russian merger partners. They seem determined to maintain their current control in an area liable to represent the future frontline of possible oil wars between east and west.
They would obviously be foolish not to cover their Pacific back door, which is why for years BP has been engaged in supplying Columbian military forces with arms and information on peasant, trade union and environmental activists. Unsurprisingly these same military forces were implicated in human rights abuses and trained by SAS mercenaries employed by BP as it’s Columbian security department during the 1990’s.
British Petroleum continue to be implicated in what can only be described as terrorist activities around the world from actively supporting the Apartheid regime in the sixties to this year, where in Azerbaijan (known as BP country) with the help of the CIA and the complicity of British and US governments, they have pursued and terrorised oil workers families in their own countries in order to keep them quiet about the illegal activities of the corporation.
In 1987 the British Government sold it’s shares in BP which, it could be argued, distances it from the activities of BP. However when Blair’s former Trade Minister is in charge of the corporation during a BP backed coup and the UK government continues to find it’s most profitable arms deals with oil rich countries, it’s a covert relationship that continues to remain profitable for all involved.
It’s easy to imagine where the UK Government may have learned the lessons it now uses in overtly militarising the police and eroding the basic liberties of it’s own citizens. Perhaps the media voices in our heads do have a point, it may be prudent to prepare for the next terrorist attack.
Historically however the sources for these attacks aren’t just the distant intangible enemies we’ve become accustomed to, they are as likely to be our own business groups and governments with their own socially acceptable, politely packaged brands of extremism.
(CIA involvement in Iran) Gerald James | In the Public Interest | Little, Brown & Co., 1995
J.H. Bamberg | The History of the British Petroleum Company Vol.2 | Cambridge University Press, 1994
The Wetern Mail & Echo | Get Used To It | Front Pages Mar 22 2004.
World In Action | BP’s Secret Soldiers | Grenada Television, 1997
BP | A New Company Emerges |
BP | The Spirit of Enterprise Continues | http://www.bp.com/genericarticle.do?categoryId=2010123&contentId=2001205
Flying Fish: The Price of Oil, The Price of Life |
Sunday Times Insight | BP accused of backing ‘arms for oil’ coup |
McSpotlight | What’s Wrong with BP |
CATT | The Privatisation of Violence |
CATT | The Arabian Connection: The UK Arms Trade to Saudi Arabia | http://www.caat.org.uk/information/publications/countries/saudi-arabia.php
Norex | Conflict History |
The Guardian | Special Reports | CIA bribery claim hits BP’s Russian merger http://www.guardian.co.uk/russia/article/0,2763,1103568,00.html
The Guardian | A Discreet Deal in the Pipeline | George Monbiot http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,438134,00.html
The Guardian | America’s Pipe Dream | George Monbiot
BBC Online | BP Company Profile |
The Washington Post | The Strange Case of Russia, Big Oil and the CIA | David Ignatius 2000
Which Freedoms to Lose (David Blunkett):