Why our soldiers are fighting in Afghanistan

The blogosphere can be a strange place. Sometimes you make friends there and then just as quickly alienate them as I recently discovered.

I’d been involved in a blog debate with some newfound friends in the States. It was interesting, I thought, that Barack Obama had stacked his administration with the same bankers and financial advisers who were responsible for creating the 2008 financial crisis in the first place, and that the government bailout benefitted the financial elite—at the expense of ordinary people. It seemed to me that Obama had abandoned working class homeowners to save the big financial institutions. It was clearly a failed strategy. The U.S. economy is sputtering and the country has sunken deeper in debt—$14.7 trillion and counting—threatening to set off another financial crisis.

When my blogger buds defended Obama on the grounds that he made the best deal he could under the circumstances, I cited Iceland as a very different example. Iceland’s banks—which had been privatized—had also collapsed, far more dramatically than their U.S. counterparts. The minute the Icelandic government nationalized the banks, the country slipped into a deep recession. Finally the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stepped in offering to lend the country $2.1 billion to bail itself out. And then an odd thing happened. The 320,000 Icelandic citizens just said “no.” They refused to pay the debt, changed governments, told their creditors and the IMF to take a hike and are in the process of rewriting their constitution to prevent anything similar happening in the future.

Of course this hasn’t been reported in the international mainstream media. Instead we hear a lot in the news about the punishing IMF loans being inflicted on Ireland and Greece, and possibly Spain, Portugal, Italy and maybe even France, which all serve as a stiff warning to the Americans to get their financial house in order.

But America isn’t in debt because of its recent love affair with casino capitalism. After all, the $1 trillion U.S. bailout of its financial sector is less than 10 percent of its national debt. So where did the money go?

It’s not much of a mystery. Today, the U.S. military accounts for 47 percent of the world’s total military spending. That’s almost as much as the rest of the world combined. Put in another perspective, the U.S. spends 8 times more than the second place spender, China. The U.S. is currently burning through almost $700 billion a year on its armed forces, and with all hidden costs accounted, is spending 54 percent of the entire national budget on military-related expenses.

So why is the U.S. government giving its corporate class an easy ride while punishing its own working class people to support such a large military force with 737 military bases around the world?

Simply put, corporate America is acutely aware of the fact that the world is running out of fossil fuel. That’s why seven of the world’s top-ten largest corporations are oil-energy companies, and, surprisingly, three of those are Chinese state-owned corporations. The other four are Dutch Royal Shell, Exxon-Mobil, BP and Chevron. And all of these companies have major stakes in the Middle East.

Even before the attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush Administration had been planning a military intervention in Afghanistan. The corporate objective was the construction of a major oil pipeline through Afghanistan that was being blocked by the Taliban. Since 9/11 the rest is history.

Afghanistan and oil-rich Iraq have been subjected to a decade of war at a cost of several hundred thousand lives and trillions of dollars. But the U.S. and western corporations have been involved in the region for decades before that, starting in 1933 with Standard Oil in Saudi Arabia and soon afterward the British development of the Iranian oil fields. Today, the Middle East is still the biggest prize in the world’s dwindling oil reserve.

And a military map of the region tells the story. America and its allies are presently involved military ventures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan, and may be instrumental in funding “Arab Spring” uprisings elsewhere in the region.

Meanwhile, the Russians are actively involved on the northern periphery. And the Chinese have been building strong trade and military alliances with Pakistan, Iran and Turkey—now directly connecting themselves to the Mediterranean along the old Silk Road. And China also has growing relations with Algeria, Morocco, Chad, Nigeria and Ethiopia and the African Union, mirroring the U.S. strategy.

In other words, we have the makings of a major geopolitical resource war heating up between the U.S. alliance and China in the Middle East-North Africa corridor—with Pakistan and Iran as the most likely flash points.

How does that affect us here in Canada? Aside from our own cozy oil relationship (read: tar sands) with the U.S., the Canadian government told us it was going to war with Afghanistan after 9/11 to a) defend Canada’s national interests, b) ensure Canadian leadership in world affairs and c) help Afghanistan rebuild. Huh? Those can’t be the real reasons. And we were initially told that we’d be out of the war in a little over a year. But we weren’t told anything about the existing U.S. invasion-and-pipeline plans there.

So to date 157 Canadians—including 10 New Brunswickers and 24 other Maritimers—have died in Afghanistan since we entered the war a decade ago, and some 2500 to 2800 Canadian Forces personnel are still on the ground, with recent estimates pegging our cost for the war in excess of $18 billion.

Does anyone else think that our precious blood and treasure might be better spent developing viable fuel alternatives? Or are we just too far gone on our dirty addiction to fossil fuel to get that we’re ready to kill and be killed for the stuff?


  1. The vast majority of the world's fossil fuel and other critical resources have been nationalized and as such cannot be freely exploited.

    It should come to no surprise then that the countries that are protrayed positively by our government and press are those that corporate with our oil companies while those that do not are considered evil regimes.

    We are really big on regime change in Iran but you never hear anyone argue about regime change in Burma. But the Burmese military has a great relationship with Total, a French Oil company and Iran does not.

    Everyone complains that we do not allow our oil companies to extract oil where ever they want to in the United States but at the same time you do not hear anyone acknowledge that almost half the oil that is extracted within the borders of the United States is actually exported....

    But as long as politics determines the direction of this country, and as long as politics is nothing more than party and personalities then we will continue to pursue the same options we always have.

  2. The nationalization of oil resources is a good point. One Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, was moving in that direction 40 years ago and the western Canadian big oil (and pro-American) businessmen still haven't forgiven him. That long backlash, in fact, is responsible for the present (Conservative) prime minister's rise to power.

    The U.S. is unique in that, though it no longer has major oil reserves it once had, it does refine a quarter of the world's oil. But that makes sense in that North America consumes about 40 percent (or 12 billion barrels annually) of all the oil produced in the world (30 billion barrels).

    According to a basic Wiki page on petroleum: "Governments such as the United States government provide a heavy public subsidy to petroleum companies, with major tax breaks at virtually every stage of oil exploration and extraction, including for the costs of oil field leases and drilling equipment."

    The problem is not just politics but the control of politics—especially international politics—by private corporations. In today's world, oil is politics. And everything else.

    Party politics as played out in the U.S., as you suggest, is simply a smoke-screen for the bigger corporate game. As to America's oil future, it only has a 12-year supply of domestic oil reserves on hand. That poses a large and looming energy security problem for the U.S., and the same holds true for energy-hungry China...

  3. Good article, Jer ... HIC in BC

  4. "In today's world, oil is politics. And everything else."

    I don't personally know of pipeline plans in the Middle East, but I put nothing past America, Inc. Of COURSE there's been a long-range (and controversial) plan and strategic positioning. We don't have to see it in writing to know it, we'd have been crazy not to suspect it, and most of us read between the lines and lies of the Bush/Cheney years. But our addiction to politics and our crisis-oriented, ad-addicted press obscure the meaning of the big picture.

    We need the perspective our friends can give us, but we'll rarely thank you for it, I fear. We desperately want to believe our own propaganda. Who doesn't want to wear the white hat?

    Signed on to tell you that you won a t-shirt at Mature Landscaping! If you're wearing my motto, we've got to see eye-to-eye. I value your input and appreciate your comments there. Check in on August 31st for details on collecting your prize.

    Thanks for sticking your neck out. Popularity is overrated.

  5. Ah, well, that was a very warm thank you (he wrote with a smile). I won a t-shirt? How cool is THAT? I'll check it out...today.

    BTW, you might want to check out the video link I posted on the Zone this evening. It's deceptively simple, wonderfully comprehensive. We should be teaching it to our kids in civics class (or whatever passes for that these days).


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