Friday, October 27, 2006
Green Backs and Trojan Horses
GREEN BACKS AND TROJAN HORSES
Two and a half billion people have not had a cup of clean water to drink in their entire life. Two and a half billion people do not have sanitation…
Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States of America.
If the rate of consumption of the Earth’s natural resources continues apace, two planets will be needed to meet global demand by 2050, warns the environmental group WWF.
The nations that were shown to have the largest "ecological footprints" were the United Arab Emirates, the United States and Finland.
That just about sums up the part of the world I come from. It is to my people that President Clinton refers. The twenty-three year old American lady that won the journalistic essay in America put it so eloquently, when she spoke of her African experience on CNN’s ‘Larry King Live’, saying that she would never again be able to call herself poor, but by American standards she is poor and knows it.
She spoke about how she saw some Cameroonian mid-wife sit on a pregnant mother’s womb to induce birth. How they spent all their money to get to the maternity home with nothing left to pay her bills and how mother and child eventually died from lack of proper care. The thought that she considered herself poor humiliated her and she was truly apologetic. But this event that humbled her was not an African tragedy, it was the showing of the indignity that drives humanity to the wild. It was observing the animal nature of that delivery that repulsed our prize-winning lady and shocked her into the truthful reality of her good fortune. She could not understand or deal with the primitiveness that allowed for such outrageous insanity in the 21st Century or how our civilization could justify its modernity. Dark questions that bred even darker answers. She could not help counting her blessings; yes, we are poor but we had medication even when there was no money. There was food on the table and a roof over our heads, she confessed. In the silence, you could ‘hear’ her thoughts ever so loudly, words not spoken: they have nothing, really nothing! It’s like that, a more appropriate expression would be ‘the wretched of the earth’, her eyes said it, her gestures said it and her entire essence said so. She is a marvelous girl with a really good heart; human.
We were having a quiet drink and keeping it fairly intellectual. Reflecting on how the world could have been a better place, what a waste and that kind of stuff. But where we ended up was quite natural. Jason is an academic, a Harvard Law Professor, no, was an academic. He now runs a firm out of Ohio with two partners and has just six clients. We met in the course of my casual contacts with two of his clients. He’s a happy man, not wanting and he was being his contented self when he got judgmental and proclaimed,
“You guys are really screwing it up! Everybody wants to be a politician and become President!”
“I am not a politician, Jason, and I do not want to be President”
“Okay. But what’s wrong with wanting to be President?”
“All they do is steal the cash!”
It was a somewhat where-have-you-been-look that he gave me.
“Yes, that steals the cash.”
“You know who, corrupt African leaders!”
I did not understand his passion but I had to swim with its current.
“Okay. I guess we can forget about Nixon, Iran-Contra, the Carlyle group, Dick Cheney, Halliburton and sales of centrifuges to Iran, House of Saud, the rape of Iraq, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott’s cowboy boots and ranch vacation? How about acceptable Asian coups that topple democratically elected governments because they are corrupt? Tyranny as prescription for corruption? A new order that begins with dictatorial benevolence and monarchical endorsement. It isn’t who is, Jason, but who isn’t corrupt, for whatever reasons.”
I didn’t know how I felt; I don’t know that I felt a thing. Perhaps, may be pity.
“Jason, some aspire to be Idi Amin, George Bush or Ayatollah and others Napoleon, Marquis de Lafayette or even Hitler. Cash is made and stolen, everyday, everywhere, corruptly, by political leaders to entrench themselves in power perpetually and in their pursuit for absolute power. And consequently, as in most historical instances, this inflicts deep injuries and permanent damage on their societies. But those are the ordinarily dangerous types still seeking some leverage. There are those in power who see themselves as God-sent on divinely ordained missions and regard their utterances as gospel. They are twice as dangerous. Some want to change the world in their own image and by their own terms, these are the most dangerous kind of power gluttons. Still, a most significant and dominant fraction will vote to fight another man’s war to die in strange and far-away places. Most foolish, very silly and extremely conflicted.”
I told Jason, Man, had become the true reflection of the Beast and dwelling in its nature completes our metamorphosis from human to wild. Like domesticated animals taking to the wild, we bay for blood and life has become twice as worthless. I never tire to tell my friends, as I said to Jason, that the most significant impact of global terrorism was its ability to numb modern society into a state of irrational indifference in the full glare of massacres, terrible atrocities and human carnage. All so suddenly, we have become in several aspects like the terrorists and their native, subdued victims. We continue to disable the orderliness of our societies with policies that enact coercive brutality and the response of anarchy that is the retaliations, slyly instigated by the acute and continued despair that inspire them: the degradation of family and the wretchedness into which they have sunk; that existential component that makes for useful society.
It is global corruption that decays the essence of society, reducing them to the rubbles of human waste. Global corruption is an industry like no other that permeates every aspect of our socio-economic and political lives, globally dominant and incomparably replete with illicit balance sheets and dubious contrivance. But who or what corrupts African leaders? The cumulative mass of their plunder are stashed away in Euros and dollars, lodged mainly in Western banks and invested in institutions that speak to us in common condemnation of tyranny and oppression. Who or what instigated the mayhem in Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Congo (who started its disintegration with the cold-blooded murder of Patrice Lumumba?), Somalia, Rwanda, Sudan, Bosnia, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and most recently Lebanon? Who corrupts nations like Gabon, Angola, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea (please don’t tell me to ask the Thatchers), Kuwait and Saudi Arabia? Whose arms do rebels or freedom fighters bear in Sudan, Ethiopia, Chad, Nepal, the Middle East, Philippines and South America?
Who is muzzling Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Sudan, Yemen and Libya into a desperate sense of insecurity? Who is modeling Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates after their mercantilist image? Who turned a blind eye for Israel, Pakistan and India to acquire nuclear weapons and technology? Who is most insistent for Iran not to possess that technology for peaceful purposes, despite the fact that after twenty years of tight inspections indications to the contrary have not been found or established? Who commands the selective rationale that allows for these frightful acquisitions and which now looks set to blow the whole Middle East region apart? Why are weak nation that own vital or useful resources so harassed and harangued? Who benefits from the destruction and trades of war? They were all questions Jason wasn’t ready to answer honestly and without ambiguity.
The truth, simply, is that modern civilization has become a cocktail of hydro-carbon and other vital resources passed and blended through the mills of technology. Oil, in blunt terms, becomes technology and there is no technology without it. Just as there are no nuclear bombs without uranium, likewise, there is no modern civilization without technology. From pharmaceuticals, plastics, paints, computers, cyber-tech, optic fiber, pesticides, fertilizers, power generation, automotive propulsion, combustibles, explosives, avionics to literally everything we touch, see and do in the modern world are dictated, fashioned and driven by our dependency on hydro-carbon. It is this addiction that defines modern civilization, from our desperation to gluttony, question is; can modern civilization sustain itself at the going rate?
Hydro-carbon is a universal command and its acquisition in conjunction with technology directly translates to super-power status and its accompanying realities. Therefore, weak nations that hold these sustaining resources in the bowels of their lands and cannot protect them, from theft and global bullies, are run over and condemned to penury. They become nothing but vulnerable and prone to international subterfuge and intrigue. You may see it as incentive, for keeping such nations down and in that comatose state, to ensure they remain incapable of defending themselves and protecting their natural resources. You may also argue that starving us to death is one quick way to reduce fossil consumption and save on expenditures, not to mention the complete take-over of resources and manpower for next to nothing or nothing. Well said, but everyone has to die from something at one point in time and such attitudes go to make a strong case for the suicide bomber and martyrdom.
Earth temperatures are rising, glaciers melting with surging sea-levels submerging coastal cities to further constrict global space for an already over-populated world. Environments and global ecology are polluted with wild life endangered. Fertile lands are stripped of productivity for a near-starving world and in the face of continual ‘green’ campaigns and ozone depletion, fossil fuel is still being burnt at a dizzy rate by the so-called industrialized nations and enlightened societies that ought to know better and whose life-styles are most imperiled by such conduct. One space shuttle, ripping open our ozone layer and dumping pollutants atmospherically, shot into orbit burns two million liters of fuel to attain propulsion for take-off. Factor this figure into the number of space shuttles launched over the past four and a half decades and see what figures you arrive at for combusted fuel. The USS Reagan dispatches as much fuel as it takes an economy car to travel round the globe four thousand two hundred times or for four thousand two hundred economy cars to transverse our earth, in its fulfillment of ‘global protection’. Bear in mind, this is just one carrier for a country that maintains an armada of floating carriers, submarines, warships, gun-boats, jet fighters, bombers, AWACS and refueling air-crafts. Cumulatively, this represents some very serious consumption and one that dictates global shortage, excessive demand, high prices and rampant global pollution.
But like the lady says, technology is like saying; don't worry, soon we'll be making drugs that help you swallow drugs-it's never-ending. But not so for oil, where do go from here when it's all gone? It is the resultant demand and desperation for more oil that endanger nations such as mine. Local politicians are lobbied, bribed and bullied into passing ‘comfortable’ legislation that permit dubious commercialism. Governments are deposed or overthrown and vicious puppets installed as leaders. Western influences and their agents, ruthless crooks, agents-provocateur and cut-throat usurers, freaks of international law, are employed to over-rule and subvert national sovereignties and their policies. It’s hell that comes to town when weak nations discover oil or possess vital resources. A chaotic socio-economic sprawl which deprives these nations of their functional essence manifests and becomes prevalent. It shreds global understanding and trust amongst nations, neutralizing territorial powers and national independence, throwing such nations open to foreign policy terrorism and international usurers. It is the pedophile mentality; overwhelm, dominate, control and compel behavior.
Oil, long ago, stopped being a thing of joy, and especially for those communities that find the black curse gushing from beneath their soil. For them, it is the harbinger of untold miseries and a heavy curse laid upon their lands. When you strike oil, you brace yourself for the impending head-on collision; it is the one sure thing that’s guaranteed to happen and the driving spirit behind sovereign transgressions and the retributive rash that is global terrorism. War, in itself, has never been anything but ‘justifiable’ genocide and terror, with everything in between a racket. For me, it is terrorism of the most brutal and decadent type, justified and colored by wealth in its most sadistic hue; justifications obtained by the purchase of instruments and institutions that define, excuse and establish war.
The dominant corrupting influence in the world today is big business and there are no bigger businesses than war, uranium, oil and gas. Big businesses instigate wars, install and depose governments, influence and manipulate foreign and domestic policies but most importantly, they determine and power fiscal and constitutional momentum. It is the same pair of hands which corrupt that own the quick fingers that impoverish nations and make them desolate. To steal, gain immoral profit and undue advantage are the cause celebre for international corporate rogue-organisms and institutions that have done nothing all their registered lives but prey on the weak. They achieve this by buying into power oligarchies and political institutions and through them pressure diabolical change. Their facilitators (willingly, knowingly or not) include the American Congress (especially Republicans and their neocon accomplices), the African Union, AIPAC (most knowingly and willing), Committee on Foreign Relations, NATO, the UN, prestigious foundations (Heritage, Cecil Rhodes, Ford etc.), the IMF, World bank and most globally active financial institutions.
Truth is, Democracy was never this expensive or divisive, until big business came along to exploit its goodwill and through this, plunder continental resources and revenues. Corruption is a very expensive venture; you pay to install bad people in power and pass bad laws, to monitor participatory greed and influence or conjure public opinion. To disable popular government policies and correct institutional ‘errors’, punish ‘betrayal’ and reward ‘loyalty’ must require arbitrary impositions driven by undemocratic passion, or if you like, unconstitutional insistence a la TSP et al.
Coveted national resources are forcefully commandeered by primary consumer-nations without due consideration and, oftentimes, without proper consent. The lamentation is that Democracy shuts the door against such conducts and this compels the manufacture of 'justifiable' excuses or 'reasonable cause' that 'permit' such plunder. It was Democracy that made the rule of force extinct but today, it seems to be the strongest reason for its resurrection, from the perspective of power-glutton politicians. It is what the New World Order is all about; ditching Democracy. Rehearsed scenarios are being played out to show why it has become an ‘obsolete’ form of government for the 21st Century. More ‘powers’ are required, they tell us, to contain and confront the ‘dangers’ of the 21st Century and we are ‘necessarily’ expected to give up a good measure of our freedoms and liberties to allow for the free flow of government’s ‘protective’ course. And to whatever extent required, defined or demanded by them. But ask yourself; what manner of government is there that cannot guarantee and protect basic individual freedoms and liberties, without first subtracting from them? On what, are its legitimacy and relevance based? Simply said, these conditions and demands amount to the abdication of constitutionally defined government obligations and responsibilities; an outrageous disavowal of governmental values and a poke-in-the-eye departure from its reasons for being. This departure retrogresses towards the primitive for the rule of force and anarchy to become preeminent.
There will be no safe houses for dissent, especially corporate dissent, in what will become a hostile climate regulated by government, and so by this token, mainstream media will be compelled to publish and project government rhythm as popular public opinion.
Being born poor and into ill-fortune or into good fortune and wealth are all accidents of birth. The blessings of good fortune and upbringing do not prepare anyone the better for the rigors of life and existence. To the contrary, it softens and disillusions in the face of conflict and want; a telling disadvantage in our world of today. Did anyone ever stop to consider that reasons for the growing trend in suicidal bombings may well be escapist; a joyful relief from the squalor and wretchedness that is the life some have had to endure? A life worth nothing and without dreams? You may, therefore, rejoice at being born into privilege and wealth but it was not by your doing and earn it you certainly did not. It is the same story at the bottom of the ladder and I kid you not, a world full of misery for the majority only endangers the few without it. For it is the same space that we share here on earth, always to live one day and die the next.
Please God, bless all who read, that they may share in love and live in a community full of joy and peace.
An Oily Business
As if to confirm what most Nigerians have always believed about the oil industry, the confessions of Jim Bob Brown, an American and former staff of Wilbros Group Inc., that he bribed some members of staff of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to retain contract jobs and secure tax cuts, has once again established the massive fraud that goes on in Nigeria’s oil sector.
Under prosecution in America for breaching the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Mr. Brown admitted collaborating with officials of the NNPC for Wilbros Nigeria to submit vouchers for payment for fictitious imports into Nigeria by Willbros Group Inc. Over a period of nine years, the international arm of the company had been made to pay $1.5 million to service this fraud. The payments served as bribes so that the company can obtain and retain gas pipeline construction business, and to ensure that the officials of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) manipulate the tax figures of the company such that they pay far less than they ought to.
This kind of malfeasance is only a tiny fraction of the fraud that has continued to balk the nation’s oil industry. Recurrent as this kind of fraud is, there is hardly any sign that the authorities at the Nigerian end are doing much, if anything, to tame the graft culture. Not long ago, a similar oil servicing company, Halliburton, was also involved in scandals related to tax evasion.
Too often, there are cases of oil multinationals doing all they can to circumvent the Nigerian system, especially when it comes to tax, royalties and joint venture operations. The practice, old as it is, is to bribe a few personnel who would grossly reduce the tax figures due such companies, or cook oil lifting figures in their favor. As we write this, it is still not clear what the authorities are doing about the massive indictment of the oil industry earlier this year by a report of the Nigerian Extractive Transparency Initiative which detailed huge discrepancies in payments to the federal government by the oil companies.
Against this background, it is instructive that in the Wilbros affair, the US is already prosecuting American perpetrators for breaching their country's laws whose effects actually harm Nigeria more and America, less. Nigerians have been named as accomplices in the crime and the natural expectation is that, given the much touted cooperation agreement on criminal investigation and prosecution between Nigeria and the US, such Nigerians would have been in the dock by now. The reality however is that nothing of the sort is happening.
The real surprise in all this is that the underhand dealings are being recorded in a ministry directly under the supervision of Mr President, the apostle of transparency and due process. It is worse that the crimes, having been committed literally under the president’s nose, no concrete effort is being taken to bring the bad eggs, both in the petroleum ministry and the tax department to justice. That is the double irony to the administration's fight against corruption.