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A Question for Dick Cheney

After thinking overnight about the materials from the conservative think tanks I blogged yesterday concerning African oil, it seems to me that Vice President Cheney needs to be asked directly whether the desirability of a regime change in Equatorial Guinea and the means by which such thing could be accomplished were ever discussed in the closed-door meetings of his National Energy Policy Development Group; if so what means were discussed; and who was party to the discussion.

The White House would, of course, refuse to answer such questions, but the nature of that refusal might be very illuminating. This question should also be asked since the NEPD is the obvious source of the formulation of the American Enterprise Institute's panel topic formulation and also the sentiments coming from the Heritage Foundation.

There's a nice piece in Foreign Policy Focus on the Report of the National Energy Policy Development Group, entitled Bush-Cheney Energy Strategy: Procuring the Rest of the World's Oil by Michael Klare:

The Cheney report is very guarded about the amount of foreign oil that will be required. The only clue provided by the report is a chart of net U.S. oil consumption and production over time. According to this illustration, domestic oil field production will decline from about 8.5 million barrels per day (mbd) in 2002 to 7.0 mbd in 2020, while consumption will jump from 19.5 mbd to 25.5 mbd (2). That suggests imports or other sources of petroleum, such as natural gas liquids, will have to rise from 11 mbd to 18.5 mbd. Most of the recommendations in Chapter 8 of the NEP are aimed at procuring this 7.5 mbd increment, equivalent to the total oil consumed by China and India.

One-third of all the recommendations in the report are for ways to obtain access to petroleum sources abroad. Many of the 35 proposals are region- or country-specific, with emphasis on removing political, economic, legal, and logistical obstacles.

For example, the NEP calls on the secretaries of Energy, Commerce, and State "to deepen their commercial dialogue with Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and other Caspian states to provide a strong, transparent, and stable business climate for energy and related infrastructure projects."

The Cheney report will have a profound impact on future U.S. foreign and military policy. Officials will have to negotiate for these overseas supplies and arrange for investments that will increase production and exports. They must also take steps to ensure that wars, revolutions or civil disorder do not impede foreign deliveries to the United States. These imperatives will be especially significant for policy toward the Persian Gulf area, the Caspian Sea basin, Africa, and Latin America.

Applying the Cheney energy plan will have major implications for U.S. security and military policy. Countries expected to supply petroleum in the years ahead are torn by internal conflicts, harbor strong anti-American sentiments, or both. Efforts to procure additional oil from foreign sources are almost certain to lead to violent disorder and resistance in many key producing areas. While U.S. officials might prefer to avoid the use of force in such situations, they may conclude that the only way to guarantee the continued flow of energy is to guard the oil fields and pipelines with soldiers.

To add to Washington's dilemma, troop deployments in the oil-producing areas are likely to cause resentment from inhabitants who fear the revival of colonialism or who object to particular U.S. political positions, such as U.S. support for Israel. Efforts to safeguard the flow of oil could be counter-productive, intensifying rather than diminishing local disorder and violence.
. . .
Another area the Bush administration views as a promising source of oil is West Africa. Although African states accounted for only about 10% of global oil production in 2000, the Department of Energy predicts that their share will rise to 25% by 2020. That will add 8.3 mbd to global supplies, welcome news in Washington. "West Africa is expected to be one of the fastest-growing sources of oil and gas for the American market," the Cheney report observes.

The administration expects to concentrate its efforts in Nigeria, its neighboring states in the Gulf of Guinea, and Angola. As in the Caspian region, however, U.S. hopes to obtain additional oil from Africa could be frustrated by political unrest and ethnic warfare. Indeed, much of Nigeria's production was shut down during the spring of 2003 because of ethnic violence in the Delta region, the site of much of Nigeria's onshore oil. Local activists have occupied offshore oil facilities to bargain for community project funding. Crime and vandalism have also hampered Nigeria's efforts to increase oil production.

The United States is not likely to respond to these challenges by deploying troops. That undoubtedly would conjure up images of colonialism, provoking strong opposition at home and abroad. But Washington is willing to step up military aid to friendly regimes in the region. Total U.S. assistance to Angola and Nigeria amounted to some $300 million in fiscal years 2002 through 2004, a significant increase over the previous three-year period. In fiscal 2004, Angola and Nigeria also became eligible to receive surplus arms under the Pentagon's Excess Defense Articles program. Meanwhile, the Department of Defense has begun to secure rights for the establishment of naval bases in the region, most notably in Nigeria and the islands of Sao Tom e Principe.

And The Progressive ran a piece on Cheney by Wayne Madsen in 2000, Cheney at the Helm with some newly relevant discussion of Cheney's involvement in Africa:

Cheney's links to defense contractors and the intelligence community have made him suspect among human rights activists. Halliburton and Brown & Root have played a role in some of the world's most volatile trouble spots. These include Algeria, Angola, Bosnia, Burma, Croatia, Haiti, Kuwait, Nigeria, Russia, Rwanda, and Somalia.

In 1998, while I was in Rwanda conducting research for my book, Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa 1993-1999 (Edwin Mellen, 1999), a number of U.S. military personnel assigned to that country raised questions about Brown & Root's activities. "Brown & Root is into some real bad shit," one told me. The U.S. Army Materiel Command has confirmed that Brown & Root was in Rwanda under contract with the Pentagon. One U.S. Navy de-mining expert told me that Brown & Root helped Rwanda's U.S.-backed government fight a guerrilla war. Brown & Root's official task was to help clear mines. However, my research showed it was more involved in providing covert military support to the Tutsi-led Rwanda Patriotic Army in putting down a Hutu insurgency and assisting its invasion of the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (Cheney and Halliburton declined numerous opportunities to comment on this story.)

Cheney was no stranger to covert activities in Rwanda. In 1990, during his tenure as Secretary of Defense, Rwandan strongman Major General Paul Kagame, then a colonel in the Ugandan People's Democratic Force, attended the U.S. Army's Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Kagame, with the likely knowledge of the U.S. Army and Cheney, suddenly dropped out of the school to assume command of the nascent Rwanda Patriotic Army, which later that year launched a full-scale invasion of Rwanda from rear bases inside Uganda. U.S. military advisers were present in Uganda at the time of the invasion, another fact that would have been known to Cheney and his Pentagon advisers.

While three separate commissions appointed by Belgium, France, and the Organization of African Unity have charged their own officials with complicity in central Africa's turmoil, no American panel has ever probed the involvement of the U.S. government, military, and defense contractors in central Africa's woes. If there were such a panel, Dick Cheney, the man in charge of both the Pentagon and Halliburton during various invasions of Rwanda and the Congo, would certainly have to be called and asked, "What did you know about covert U.S. military operations in central Africa and when did you know about them?"

But that's not all of Halliburton's questionable involvements. The other most serious charge against Halliburton comes from a group called Environmental Rights Action based in Harcourt, Nigeria. "In September of 1997, eighteen Mobile Police officers . . . shot and killed one Gidikumo Sule at the Opuama flow station at Egbema in Warri. . . . [elipses in original] Several other youths were injured during a protest," said the group in a report dated October 16, 1998. It implicated Halliburton in this repression, saying that the company was in collaboration with the police. Cheney was at the helm of Halliburton at the time.

Halliburton has worked with Chevron and Shell in Nigeria, which have been implicated in gross human rights violations and environmental devastation there.

Leaders like Equatorial Guinea's Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and Congo (Brazzaville) President Denis Sassou-Nguesso also use the revenues generated from Halliburton-built offshore oil platforms to enrich themselves and their families while ruthlessly suppressing ethnic and political opposition.


All this is, of course, old news, but it is old news with a new relevance. We have already been told by the Bush administration that sanctions and other peaceful means do not work to force out undesirable heads of state who rule countries that swim on a sea of oil. Yet there is this persistent magical thinking in conservative discussions of how Africa will help meet our rising energy needs. What options were discussed in meetings of the National Energy Policy Development Group? I think we're owed an answer.      

UPDATE: New Zealand's Sunday Independent reports that Eli Cahlil [also spelled Ely Calil elsewhere], the London-based Lebanese businessman accused of helping to organize and finance the coup attempt, is "close to " Halliburton:

Sources think the money for the coup attempt came from rival members of the ruling family, money that is stashed in the Canary Islands. Logo Logistics, the company that owns the aircraft on which Mann and his associates were arrested, has been linked by Africa Confidential to a Lebanese businessman, Eli Cahlil, who is also close to the United States oil company, Halliburton. Halliburton has an oil concession in Equatorial Guinea.


How close is he? What is meant by "close"?

The Christian Science Monitor is reporting it , too, though a bit more tactfully.

And there is some other interesting material in the CSM article on the situation of mercenaries in Africa:

Equatorial Guinea, nestled in the crook of Africa's west coast, is the region's third-biggest oil producer. In 1995, the year a big oil field was discovered, the country's per capita annual income was $370. By 2002, it had jumped to $5,000. But as in most of West Africa, much of the wealth is held by the ruling elite. This can spark envy - and coup attempts, thus boosting a government's desire to protect itself by hiring military muscle.

But oil is just one reason for West Africa's growing demand for guns for hire. The US, for instance, is now more engaged in West Africa. But with troops tied down in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, it's increasingly hiring private security firms to represent it.

In a recent speech, Theresa Whelan, a top official for Africa at the US Department of Defense, put it this way: "The use of contractors in Africa ... means that the US can be supportive in trying to ameliorate regional crises without necessarily having to put US troops on the ground, which is often times a very difficult political decision."

So, in Ghana, Ivory Coast, and elsewhere, private firms are training militaries to become more professional, courtesy of the US government.

These firms are also key to supporting peacekeeping efforts. The US has paid them to provide logistics support - transportation, fuel, and other supplies - to African-led peacekeeping units in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Ivory Coast.

"If you didn't have private companies doing what they're doing in West Africa, things would fall apart," says Doug Brooks, head of the International Peace Operations Association, an industry trade group based near Washington. He argues that private firms should be allowed to run full-blown peacekeeping operations, saying they could do it better and cheaper than the United Nations and regional peacekeepers. He once calculated that private firms could stop all Africa's wars for just $1.1 billion.

But many people worry private firms can be roguish and unaccountable.

Jan Breytenbach, founder of South Africa's infamous apartheid-era Battalion 32, a mercenary group, warns that today's seemingly upstanding private-security firms will employ ex-soldiers "under false pretenses" in order to get them involved in clandestine operations. "You can think you're being hired to protect a diamond mine," he says, "but then you end up fighting other people" - or participating in a coup. He cautions ex-military men: "It's better to stay out of this stuff all together; otherwise you'll get caught with your pants down."

(And for desert, read  Theresa Whelan's speech at the International Peace Operations Association dinner (pdf), speaking as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs, November 19th 2003, Washington, DC.)

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