Neoliberal globalization and war are two sides of the same coin. So too are oil and imperialism. Former Shell scientist Claude Ake, described Shell’s activities in Nigeria, as a process of the “militarization of commerce and the privatization of the state”. In 2003, this process is sweeping across the world, perhaps most visibly in Iraq.
In 1999, neoconservative journalist Thomas Friedman wrote that the ”hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies is called the United States’ Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps.”
Among today’s transnational corporations, the modernday heirs of the colonial chartered corporations, the oil and gas giants are some of the most politically and economically powerful players in the world. The ancestor of the Royal-Dutch Shell group was 'Royal Dutch Company for the Exploitation of Petroleum Wells in the Netherlands East Indies'. With so much of the world’s economy dependent on oil, the colonial exploitation and genocide continues, on an unprecedented scale. The lyrics may have changed a little, but the tune remains much the same.
The U’wa people in Colombia believe that oil maintains the balance of the world and is the blood of Mother Earth - to take the oil is worse than killing your mother. To the US corporate/political/military elites, oil is the lifeblood of capitalist expansion, a national security concern, and a vital resource to be controlled by US corporate interests for American economic and geopolitical dominance. As well as being central to US imperial interests, the interests of the oil and defense sectors are closely intertwined.
Weapons production and the maintenance of US military and economic might across the world depends on massive consumption of oil and petroleum. In turn, massive defense and security spending boosts an ailing US economy, and is a boon to the profits of its defense and security corporations. We hear a lot of talk about weapons of mass destruction. But the so-called “war on terror” is a weapon of mass distraction away from the growing US deficit, from the naked corporate greed and colonial mindset that underpins the US and a model of development that is as exploitative as it is unsustainable, lurching as it does from one crisis of capitalism to the next. And this war kills.
Before this “war on terror”, there have been other pretexts to kill for oil. Behind the convenient cloak of “war on drugs”, Plan Colombia has provided US $98 million to train and equip Colombian military to protect an Occidental Petroleum pipeline. With a US presidential election looming let us remember that it was the Clinton Administration that between 1996 and 1999 quadrupled military aid for the Colombian government for the “war on drugs”, and recall the Gore family’s deep financial ties to Occidental. With making the country “safe” for US investors and regional geopolitical goals a real priority, Occidental, and defense contractor UTC –whose subsidiary Sikorsky’s Black Hawk helicopters are used there – have lobbied hard for increased US “aid” to Colombia. US military hardware has been used against the U’wa who opposed oil and gas exploration by Occidental and Shell on their lands, leftist guerrillas and many other communities.
When Conoco’s Mogadishu office became the de facto US embassy before the Marines landed in Somalia, it was not a war on terror, but supposedly a “humanitarian mission”. Protecting oil concessions to Conoco and other US corporations was a key factor behind this invasion, after major oil finds in Somalia. The president of the company's subsidiary in Somalia served as the US government's volunteer “facilitator” before and during the US invasion and occupation.
The operations of oil and gas corporations have long been characterized by militarization, human rights abuses, economic injustice and ecological disaster and obscene profits. Sometimes this means protection for drilling operations and pipelines by local military, police or private security firms, frequently backed by military aid. Increasingly it means the direct deployment of US forces, on some other pretext, just as we can see in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines, Iraq and Afghanistan.